Fabric napkins for the win.

Friedlander Fabric Napkins . Carolyn Friedlander

Fabric napkins for the win. Are you a cloth-napkin user? I am and have been since college. In fact, I’ve been using the same cloth napkins since college, which means my cloth napkins are quite old. So old, that every time I find myself folding and putting them away I’m thinking–I should really make some new napkins… It’s always been one of those “some day” tasks, but finally, I’ve made myself some new fabric napkins, and it basically took no time at all.

Friedlander Fabric Napkins . Carolyn Friedlander

This is hardly even a weekend project. For me it was a I-need-a-break/distraction-to-feel-productive-for-maybe-an-hour kind of project. And boy are they.

Friedlander Fabric Napkins . Carolyn Friedlander

Even though the colors look curated, they are the result of pulling fabric in order off my shelf, which I guess is curated…and in color order, but still. It was an easy effort. I grabbed and cut fabrics until I felt done grabbing and cutting, which apparently was 9 pieces.

Friedlander Fabric Napkins . Carolyn Friedlander

To back up a bit, the idea came after seeing these from Purl. For anyone wanting to follow a tutorial, you can totally follow that one, it’s good. On mine, I simplified the steps a bit and changed the overall size.

Friedlander Fabric Napkins . Carolyn Friedlander

I first made a snip at 19″ with scissors and then ripped the full width of fabric, which means that my fabric was 19″ x width-of-fabric (44″ish in this case). Ripping the fabric ensures you’re following the grain of the fabric, which does make a difference when you’re planning for frayed edges. (Plus, ripping fabric is a surprisingly fun task.)

Friedlander Fabric Napkins . Carolyn Friedlander

I then threw those 19″ strips (ripped on 1 side) into the washing machine and dryer before ripping them into 18″ squares, by making a snip at 18″ and ripping each side, basing all subsequent sides on the first ripped side.

Friedlander Fabric Napkins . Carolyn Friedlander

After getting all of the squares made, I frayed the edges, but unlike the tutorial, I didn’t do an overall stitch around the sides. I figure the fraying will be fine. After you fray some edges, you start to see how unlikely more of it will be from becoming more un-frayed. Or, if it does become crazy in the future, I can always add some stitching. No prob.

Friedlander Fabric Napkins . Carolyn Friedlander

Of course, some stitching could be a lovely decorative element if using a contrasting thread or interesting stitch. It all depends on the look you’re going for! In my case, it was a no-muss, no-fuss situation. I like the looseness.

Friedlander Fabric Napkins . Carolyn Friedlander

I know that some people have some concerns with fabric napkins. First, to address the wrinkle issue, these napkins haven’t been ironed at all. I took them straight from the dryer, ripped to size and then just hand smoothed them before this photo shoot. Not bad, huh?

Friedlander Fabric Napkins . Carolyn Friedlander

And this was just the first wash, they’ll get softer and softer with each wash. If you’re into ironing or have some guests to impress, you could certainly give them a good press before setting them out. Otherwise, I find them to be totally acceptable straight from the dryer.

Friedlander Fabric Napkins . Carolyn Friedlander

Another question about fabric napkins has to do with stains. This is a good question since you will be using them around food. There are a few ways you could look at it. First, if you’re really concerned about stains, you could just pick out really dark and/or busy fabrics that could easily camo some stains. Second, I haven’t noticed too many stains that really stick in my experience with cloth napkins, and I’ve been a cloth napkin user for almost 15 years. Third, if you do happen to get a pesky and unrelenting stain, just make a new one! This is a low-commitment project that only gets better and more exciting with new fabric.

Friedlander Fabric Napkins . Carolyn Friedlander

Fabrics included are from my collections, friedlander, architextures and doe.

Yay for fabric napkins!

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18 Responses to Fabric napkins for the win.

  1. Linda June 27, 2017 at 10:25 pm #

    I LOVE cloth napkins – probably because I don’t feel a need to iron our everyday ones. Seems crazy to use something once and then throw it out.

    • carolyn friedlander June 28, 2017 at 3:03 pm #

      I totally agree, Linda!

  2. jody June 28, 2017 at 10:07 am #

    thanks for this Carolyn – I have been making and using and HEMMING napkins longer than I want to admit. But the idea of letting the edges be frayed is very appealing. Cannot wait to get home tonight and try it out!

    • carolyn friedlander June 28, 2017 at 3:03 pm #

      Awesome, Jody! Yes, I’ve done the hemming thing too…it’s quite the chore! Hope you enjoy these. 🙂

  3. erin July 3, 2017 at 7:18 am #

    We are cloth napkin users, too! About 12 years ago, I bought two sets of 7 Martha Steward dish towels and cut them in half, hemmed the cut edge, yielding 28 napkins. They are still going strong! Your version would be fun to make and make a fun gift.

    • carolyn friedlander July 11, 2017 at 5:18 pm #

      Oooh, that’s a smart idea, Erin!

  4. Susan Grancio July 5, 2017 at 11:14 am #

    Love the idea of frayed edges- thanks for the great suggestion. I use Dreft Baby Stain spray on my cloth napkins (and on any other item with spots, too). It gets out everything!

    • carolyn friedlander July 11, 2017 at 5:17 pm #

      Thanks for the tip, Susan!

  5. Ann July 5, 2017 at 8:18 pm #

    I just made 8 sets of 8 napkins for friends and family. First 4 sets I hemmed four side and left the frayed selvage on the one side. Second set I was much smarter sewed 1/4″ on each side and into the washer to fray. I like the second set best. I love your napkins but my Carolyn Friedlander is too precious to be wiping gravy from chins.

    • carolyn friedlander July 11, 2017 at 5:17 pm #

      Ha! That’s great to hear. 🙂 Thanks, Ann!

  6. cathyvoight July 10, 2017 at 6:17 pm #

    I am making a grouping of napkins for my daughter and her friends. I like to use 5 or 6 oz fabric, preferably yarn dyed. I am having a horrendous time sourcing such a beast! What is the weight of your cotton that you used here? Love yours.

    • carolyn friedlander July 11, 2017 at 5:15 pm #

      Hi Cathy! My Euclid collection is 5.6 oz, and my quilting cotton collections (such as this one) is 4.3 oz. Hope that helps!

  7. lara December 11, 2018 at 10:33 am #

    I love the frayed edges and I think this is a very good idea

    • carolyn friedlander December 12, 2018 at 9:12 am #

      It is fun! Thanks, Lara!

  8. Cristina December 13, 2019 at 2:58 pm #

    I still love the fabric napkins I made last year using your tutorial. I just bought fabric to make some wedding gifts for a couple friends and I’m going to use the tutorial again. This time using Carkai #15792 in black and blush which is a classy lookin’ combo. Thank you for being so inspiring!
    Happy Holidays! Cristina

    • carolyn friedlander December 13, 2019 at 3:26 pm #

      Oh fun, Cristina! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the project. Happy Holidays to you too!

  9. Karin Kelly Burns November 2, 2020 at 11:57 am #

    I made a couple hundred napkins for my son and daughter in law’s wedding with fabric she chose. I suggested making a quilt out of them at a later time. I gathered up most of the napkins after the wedding…..people were invited to keep theirs if they liked them. I stored them for a year until Melanie, the bride was ready to take on them task of making a quilt out of them. I would have been happy to do it but I knew she would enjoy the process herself. She did a beautiful job and now has a lasting remembrance of their beautiful wedding day.

    • carolyn friedlander November 20, 2020 at 10:25 am #

      Oh, I love that! What a great project and way to commemorate such a special event. 🙂

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