National Picnic Month continues with a set of stitch-trimmed cloth napkins. Paper napkins can be such a bummer when you’re snacking outside and a gust of wind sends you chasing after your airborne napkin. This cute, eco-friendly, picnic-party must-have can be used again and again, and since we made our napkins from old pillow cases, it’s also a budget-friendly project. With a little prep work by an adult, crafters as young as six can get in on the cloth napkin-making fun.
1-2 King-sized pillowcases (check your linen closet, local thrift store, or clearance aisle of a home goods store for your favorite colors and patterns)
Straight edge or ruler
Sewing Machine and thread
Embroidery hoops (optional)
Wooden butter knives for color palette reference (optional)
Before your crafters wander in to ask what they are making, wash, dry and iron the pillowcases for them.
Use your scissors (or a rotary blade) to cut off the “cuff” of the pillowcases.
Place your ruler in the center of one of the cases, match up the opposite ends of the pillowcase to fold it in half over the ruler. (Fold length-wise so that your pillowcase goes from a rectangle to a square when you fold it.)Run your chalk along the edge of the ruler. Hold the ruler in place firmly as you chalk the line down the center of your pillowcase.Open the case, and cut along the chalk line. Depending on how much cuff you cut off initially, you should end up with two square sleeve halves that measure approximately 20 x 18 inches.
Cut along the seams of each pillowcase half. You will end up with four (roughly) 18 x 18 inch squares.
Measure and chalk a border that is one and a half inches in from the edge of the fabric. With the prep work now complete, plug in your sewing machine, and round up your wee crafters.Our napkins are not mitered, which makes them a super quick project, but since they will fray a bit with wear and wash, stitch along the chalk line, to prevent them from fraying into oblivion. Once you’ve machine stitched the border, you’re ready to embellish the napkins with some pretty hand stitching. We opted for dashed and diagonal lines on our borders, but there are a wide variety of stitches you can experiment with!
Whatever pattern you decide to stitch, it’s a good idea to put it down in chalk first so that your young ones have a path to follow. For more complicated stitches, you may find it necessary to use an embroidery hoop to prevent puckering.
Thread the needle with embroidery floss as long as your arm. Knot the end and start your stitches on the wrong side (back side) of your project.
If the thread runs out, just knot the floss on the wrong side (back side) of the project, re-thread your needle, and start a new stitch from the wrong side of the napkin.
If your kids are working without an embroidery hoop, help them keep an eye on the tension of their stitches.
Once the hand-stitched border is complete, use scissors to snip along the fabric edge until you have a basic fringe.Pull out the stray threads before using your napkins.
Preserve the hand stitching and keep the fringe from getting tangled by machine washing in a gentle cycle, or wash the napkins by hand and line dry.
Cloth napkins make a great addition to any table or picnic blanket, they last for years, and best of all, your kids will enjoy making them and using them. Hooray for no more face-wiping on sleeves!
All photos by: Megan Andersen