Paper or Fabric? Napkins, that is.

Photos, images & text ©Tracy L. Chapman & Sew Thankful Inc. January 2008. All rights reserved.
Permission to copy and distribute this complimentary pattern at no charge to others, for personal or NON-PROFIT use, for guild and group projects or for making small quantities to sell at craft fairs and such is granted provided all copyright information and references to Sew Thankful are kept in tact on each and every copy printed/distributed. The above permissions do NOT include or permit the re-packaging or sale of this pattern itself.


Sign up for the FREE eNews to receive notice of future complimentary projects


Which do you prefer?


Isn’t it time to treat yourself to better quality?  Pretty fabric napkins add a special element to your table.

Using fabric napkins instead of paper is great stewardship of your resources.  You save money, you keep some paper out of the landfills and it doesn’t really cost anything extra to throw the napkins in with a load of clothes you’re going to wash every week anyway.

One of the best reasons…if you actually use some of that fabric stash, you’ll be able to buy more fabric!  Making fast & easy fabric napkins from your already existing stash, you can have a BUNCH for next to nothing.

Note:  There are many ways to make fabric napkins, to include using rolled hems and serged edges.  This pattern/project is meant to offer my simple, preferred finish for casual fabric napkins.

This project is PERFECT for beginning sew-ers and requires no special sewing machine feet or tools.

Click here for a printable PDF file

NOTE:  You must have a *recent* version of Adobe Acrobat Reader available for free from — sorry, we are unable to provide tech support for adobe software products

Please read entire project carefully all the way through before beginning

16 thoughts on “Paper or Fabric? Napkins, that is.”

  1. Hi Jane, I’m so glad you like the idea. Yes, using ready-made fabric is much quicker than stenciling. Stenciled napkins would also be very lovely and make a very special personalized gift. Happy sewing!

  2. Tracy, I love the napkin idea. Thanks for the reminder. I have added this to my christmas sewing list for a few friends and family members! My oldest daughter just got married a few months ago and that is one thing she didn’t get as a shower or wedding gift. They own a working ranch out west (and are involved with the stampeed every year) so am going to look for cowboyish fabric to make them out of!

    Instead of stenilling, I have used fabric felt pens. Much easier and quicker! I have had them for years and have used them over and over. I initially purchased them to make a bathroom curtain to match the shower curtain. Over the years, I have used them to create personalized t-shirts, designs on plain fabric, at the bottom of pants and skirts. Designs on cuffs. The nice thing is, easy to follow to use, instructions and the colours have lasted over all these years!

  3. Hi Vicki,

    Unfortunately, I don’t have much personal experience to draw from for this sort of thing. I’d suggest googling for “stencil” on fabric.

    I just did a quick search on google and found several hopeful listings there. Also, perhaps check at your local library for book resources.

    Best wishes & congratulations to your daughter!

    Smiles from New Mexico,


  4. I need advice. My daughter is getting married and I want to make cloth napkins for the guests that can then be taken home as favors. I also want to use them as name placements by stenciling each guests name on the napkin in an elegant script, then the napkins will be placed, name up, at each place setting. Any tips for the stenciling to make it neat and professional? thanks in advance

  5. Hi Gail,

    Thanks so much for your note and extra ideas. You are so RIGHT!!! I had not thought of using them to line a cabinet — or maybe even as a lining under the utensil/silverware holder in a couple of my kitchen drawers — but that would be perfect!

    Hugs & smiles from New Mexico, USA,


  6. Tracy. Cloth napkins are wonderful. I made up a bunch of them about 8 years ago, it is all we use and our guests always think it is so special.

    My grandchildren love picking ones they like. I cleaned up some of my older stash including children’s prints. I also use them to ‘line’ my cabinet, under my cups, easy to change and adds color. Line a basket, place your rolls inside and cover to keep warm.

    Thank you for the great pattern.


  7. My family has used cloth napkins since our youngest child, who is now 39, was a baby. I make my napkins by purchasing 3 1/8 yds of 45″ fabric, tearing 18″ from each salvage and then cutting 18″ napkins. The center that is left is great for my “stash” and I sometimes use designs in it to decorate napkin holders, i.e. clay pots to put the napkins in. I then use one of my sergers that I have set up for rolled hems and use woolly nylon on the upper looper and corresponding serger thread on the lower looper and needle. It makes a very sturdy and “fluffy” colorful edge. They also make wonderful, inexpensive gifts.

    Alyce Phillips
    Glendale AZ

  8. Nancy, that is a GREAT idea!! I will have to try that on some future napkins. Thanks for sharing.

  9. When we visit CA we eat at Huston’s in Pasadena. They have wonderful large cloth napkins..but the smartest feature of these napkins is a button hole in one corner. Just the thing to hold your napkin is place through even the messiest ribs.

  10. You make a good point that hand-dyed or batik fabric will provide a more “reversible” appearing finish, “better” is rather subjective to personal taste. My boys LOVE their “one-sided” napkins. Making them used up stash that was just sitting around and even “one-sided” napkins look better than paper. PLUS, using them saves paper from being dumped into a landfill. We rarely entertain or set a truly formal table, so I’ll probably be making more one-sided napkins for a while. Certainly everyone should make what suits them best.

  11. The napkins would look better using hand dyed or batik fabrics since they would look great on both sides.

  12. Thanks for this reminder of how great fabric napkins are. I have a drawer full of ones I had purchased that are light colored, so had stashed them away so my toddler would not get them all stained. Now I just know I need to find some fun and funky fabrics and make him some of his own!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.