DIY napkins – currently ranking high on everybody’s fear list because of the dreaded mitered corner technique… It’s basically origami combined with sewing, so the fear is real. Mitered corners do look super neat when done correctly and they’re not actually that hard if proper steps are followed, I’ll post a step-by-step at some point, promise! If you’re not ready to take the plunge, rest assured, there are other ways to finish the hem of napkins. I’m here to show you how to make napkins with sharp corners but without the headaches, right on time for a cool and colorful spring tablescape!
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- Medium weight cotton or linen
- Sewing thread (polyester works better than cotton for this project!)
- Empty sewing bobbins
How to Make Napkins: step-by-step
Step 1: Pick your color gradients
To start off, choose a few colors you like for the threads. The trick is to start with two complementary colors and select a gradient of colors between them. I choose 5 colors but don’t feel locked in that number. You can definitely select fewer colors in your gradient although choosing more than 5 or 6 might get time-consuming since you would have to switch threads very often.
Once you have selected your color gradient, find empty bobbins and load them up with matching threads. Each thread color should have its own bobbin.
Step 2: Cut the napkins
Next, cut your cotton or linen fabric into 16″ (40cm) squares. Make sure the edges are straight, use a ruler or a rotary cutter if you have one.
Then, divide the edges by the number of threads in your gradient, for example, with 5 threads you should mark out the edges every 3 1/4″ (8cm) with a pencil. This will help you know how far you can sew before switching to a new color.
Step 3: Sew the corners
Set your sewing machine to a medium width zig-zag stitch with a length of 0.5 or less. You can use a rolled hem sewing foot if you have one. I tried both the normal foot and the rolled hem foot and found out that although the rolled hem foot seemed easier to use, they’re both valid options!
Your needle should go into the fabric only on one side and cover the edge on the other. I recommend you try it out on a piece of the same fabric you’re using for the napkin. This will let you adjust until you find the perfect setting.
To begin sewing the corner, select one of the complementary colors in your gradient (either one of the farthest colors on each side of the gradient). Place your fabric under the sewing machine foot and start at the first 3 1/4 inch mark away from the corner.
When you start, go back and forth a few times to secure the thread and start sewing toward the corner. When you get to the corner, go back and forth again and stop sewing while the needle is in the fabric. Lift the foot and swivel the fabric so that you can continue sewing down the other side of the corner. Don’t forget to lower the foot before you go on!
When you reach the 3 1/4 inch mark on the other side of the corner, go back and forth to tie the thread in and stop sewing. remove the fabric and cut the threads short.
Woohoo, you’ve completed one corner! With the same color thread, repeat the steps on the opposite corner.
After that, swap threads to the other complimentary color in your gradient and hem the other 2 corners.
Step 4: Hem the edges
Now that the corners are done, you need to fill in the napkin edges with the other colors in your gradient.
Starting from the end of the corner hem, sew a 3 1/4 inch with your next color. I prefer to repeat this on all my napkins so I don’t have to swap threads. So I’ll gradually hem all the fabric edges rather than work on hemming a single edge fully and swapping threads every 2 minutes!
Once you get the sewing speed right, these napkins work up very fast. You might actually spend more time picking the right rainbow colors than sewing!