Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sew Your Own Cloth Napkins

Looks like I'm going on a picnic doesn't it?

In our never ending search and journey of penny pinching, Hubby and I discovered something rather simple, yet overlooked, when it comes to saving money in the household budget. Being a new year, and in these financially difficult times, (when everyone is looking to save some money), I thought I would show you how we save an estimated $52.00-$78.00 a year. How do I come up with that figure? Well, I have a large family that can very easily go through an entire pack of paper napkins in one week. Given the cost of that pack of paper napkins can run anywhere from $1.00-$1.50 each, and there are 52 weeks in a year, you can multiply to see where I came up with the $52.00-$78.00 a year total spent on paper napkins. If I had bought more expensive brands of napkins, I would have spent more than $78.00 a year.

Guess what? I don't spend over $50.00 a year on napkins anymore.

I travelled to my neighborhood department store and purchased one yard of fabric from the $1.00 discount table. The black and white checked fabric in the pictures is what struck my fancy that day. Read on to find out how you can save money too.

Materials Needed:

One yard (or more if preferred) of a tight knit and heavy homespun type material (cotton only)
Sewing machine (or serger)
Scissors (or rotary cutter and mat)
Washing machine/dryer


Purchase at least one yard (more if you want to make a lot of napkins) of a close knit cotton fabric that shares the same colors on each side. Homespun is a good fabric to look for but make sure that you purchase the thickest homespun you can find. If you don't know what homespun is, ask someone at your local fabric store and I am sure they can help you out. Beware, I purchased a cheap homespun fabric in a blue plaid, made my napkins and the fabric was so thin and flimsy that they crumpled into a heap in the wash. In order to use them, I would have had to iron them each time I washed them. Ironing napkins is not something that I want to do so, I now have a nice set of cleaning rags because of my bad fabric decision. Just make sure you get a thick and heavy fabric. Pre-wash your fabric if you are worried about color bleeding (homespun tends to do this) and shrinkage.

Decide what size napkin that you would like. We use napkins that are somewhere around 12-14" square. Iron your fabric. I have a rotary cutter and board so I just folded my fabric and lined up the measurements and cut away. If you do not have a rotary cutter, just cut you a template from a piece of cardboard or manila folder and use that.

After your napkins are cut out. You will need to finish the edges so that they will not unravel. I do not have a serger so I used my regular sewing machine to do the job. A serger would save you some time in the long run but a sewing machine does the job quite nicely. I can not remember the exact number of napkins I got out of that one yard of fabric but I know it was somewhere between 12-15 napkins. Depending on the width of the fabric and size that you cut, you will have more or less than I did.

Using a tight zig zag stitch, sew as close to the edge on all four sides of the napkins as seen in this picture. Trim off any extra fabric between the stitches and end of edge.

Now, throw your napkins in the washer. Wash them in a regular cycle and then tumble dry. Depending on if you used a serger, you may have perfect napkins come out or if you used a sewing machine, you might have a mess of strings hanging off of your napkins. Don't panic. Trim the strings off of your napkins and they are done. I only had a few strings handing off of the edges the first time they were washed. The tighter the zig zag stitch that you use will prevent extra strings hanging off in the long run.

Now, you have a nice set of cloth napkins to use everyday! Technically, of course, you will end up spending some money on energy expenses (washer and dryer), but to me, napkins do not take up much room in the washer and I am always washing a load of towels anyway. In the long run, I don't figure it costs much for upkeep when I toss the dirty napkins in the wash.

Congratulations, you made it yourself and you will save enough money this year to support your coffee addiction!


  1. And you'll be selling these, right? :D

  2. Honestly, I hadn't thought of it. You never know what I'll be up too though!

  3. Great! Because some of us can't sew...or rather, do not have a sewing machine.

  4. Hehehehe Curly... I was going to ask the same thing :)

    Great tutorial Rosemary.. thanks for putting it out there.

  5. Fabulous! Thanks for sharing.