Learning to be less wasteful means learning to become eco-friendly. An excellent way to start is to go retro to the days before paper towels. Don’t be afraid to use them as many people are, especially visitors to your table who still live by the disposable lifestyle.  These are simple to make and pay for themselves quickly.

To answer the question “How many should I make?“, here is some simple math: Make 3 napkins per person for each day of the week.  This may sound like a lot, but you’ll find that not every meal leaves the napkin unusable for the next meal, particularly if each family member ‘claims’ their napkin. Trust me, the claiming will happen with children.  Use these in place of the paper napkins for whenever you would use the paper ones, but it never hurts to keep a spare roll of paper towels in the cabinet, pantry, or cupboard.

Have fun!


Measure your napkin. This can be a casual 7″x14″, like our efficient paper towels have become. This can also be the classic full square napkin, ranging from 13″x13″ to 16″x16″. The best size for the average 42″/44″ wide cotton and cotton/blend is 14″x14″ or the narrow 7″x14″.

Two of a kind.

For this method, every napkin has 2 pieces, identical in size. They can be cut from the same cloth, cut from contrasting cloth, or cut from complimentary cloth. This is completely up to you and your decor needs. Busy prints hide more stains than solids as darker colors do better than lighter.


Seam allowance is a mere quarter inch. Stitch 3 sides. If your making the rectangular napkins as we are here, then those 3 will be 2 long sides and 1 short side.
If you are sewing multiple napkins, then chain sewing is a faster method than sewing each napkin individually.

CLipping corners

After stitching the 3 sides, the 2 stitched corners should be clipped at a 45° angle to permit the seam allowance to lay as flat as possible once it is turned inside out.


Turning the napkin inside out.

Ready for pressing.

Once turned, iron the seams crisp and flat. This makes top-stitching much easier.

Pinning the open end

After pressing the turned napkin, a 1/4″ to 3/8″ edge should be folded in at the open end. Use a couple of straight pins to hold it in place for top stitching.


With the pressing and pinning done, give a simple straight stitch 1/8″ from the edge all the way around. For a fancier look, a decorative stitch can be chosen but on busy fabrics, like this one, a simple straight is fine.

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