Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Monogram Napkin Project

Several years ago, actually, I think it was 1996, how time does fly, I attended a family reunion in the Detroit area. My family migrated from Italy to Detroit in the 20's and 30's, so that's where much of the family is still located. While hitting the antique stores (one of my favorite, but expensive, pastimes) with my cousin, I came across a set of 12 linen napkins with the initial G embroidered on them.

And of course, I just had to have them. Isn't the monogram lovely? And executed beautifully! These are huge napkins, measuring 24 inches square. See the few holes? As I come across them, I darn them on my sewing machine using Madiera Cotona No. 80 heirloom sewing thread, size 60/8 needle, and the darning stitch, No. A33 on my Husqvarna Viking Designer I. The monogram is centered on the napkin, making folding options fairly limited.

For several years now, I have taken many Whitework Monogram classes and haven't seemed to build my skill very much, probably because I take the class, finish the sample, then drop it. My mother had been to Ireland and brought back an Irish linen tablecloth and napkin set, so I finally decided to monogram them.  These napkins aren't quite as luxurious as the others, being only 18 inches square.

I'm using the G from the Old English Alphabet in Monograms, by Susan O'Connor available through Chadwick Heirlooms. There are also a few used copies available on Amazon. I haven't checked eBay. I am centering the monogram on a corner, which will allow me several options when folding them.


Here is is traced out on cardstock with the stitch directions sketched in. I've embroidered three napkins so far:

I decided to embroider the dates in backstitch on the opposite corner from the monogram so I could check progress. Pretty ragged looking aren't they? Although I do detect a noticeable improvement on napkin No. 2.

While cleaning out the sewing room, a very long and extended project, I came across napkin No. 3 that I started some time ago and decided to finish it up quickly.

I finished this on the anniversary of a very sad day in our history. This is also pretty ragged looking, probably because I finished too quickly and didn't pay enough attention to all the details. So I'm sure you're thinking, why on earth is she showing such awful work? Because I hope to show some improvement as I progress through all 12 of them.

To work the embroidery, I am using white DMC floche and #7 betweens for the emboidery, and white floss for the padding. I used to use #10 sharps, but now I think the the #7 betweens work a bit better, by making larger holes and thereby reducing the rubbing of the floche through the fabric.

I think my embroidery  problems are that 1), I'm not tracing accurately. I am using a blue wash away pen, which tends to bleed on the fabric. Although on this last one, I did use pencil, then botched the embroidery so badly I picked it out and worked it on another corner. 2) I am not outlining the initial as accurately as I could, and 3) I am padding too much. So I resolved to mark more carefully, and outline it just inside the marks. I've been rereading the book, and am being more careful to follow the padding directions. I am making sure the second layer of padding is inside the first, so as to make a dome, not just a fat initial.

And here is napkin No. 4. This is much better looking, and will be even more so upon burnishing the threads and washing the napkin. These monograms can be so addictive, especially if I have a good book I'm listening to on the iPod.  I hope to finish them and eventually will have a complete set of 12 monogrammed napkins for my table.

If any of you have any tips, comments, or better directions, please leave a comment! I need all the help I can get!

I'll keep you posted as I embroider more of them!


  1. I admire your perseverance in completing the monogrammed napkins. I adore napkins like these, but admit to mostly buying them in antique stores! From the padded satin stitch classes and projects I have done, I do believe you have identified some of the major challenges. I was also instructed that the direction of your needle when piercing the fabric, from either top or bottom, was important. I believe the thought was the needle needed to be angled -- not just stabbed through the fabric straight up and down. When taking the needle and thread from the top to the backside, you would angle the needle toward your initial. When bringing the needle to the topside, you would angle your needle away from the initial. It is much easier to watch some of the masters, then to describe! I also believe a few good sessions with washing and pressing does wonders to most embroideries! Many of the projects I stitched used cotton a broder, which I found easier to use than floche. My grandmother was a wonder with floche, but failed to pass that gene to me! The cotton a broder does seem a little more difficult to obtain. I can't wait to see your completed set!

  2. what a beautiful set of napkins for special occasions! Nice job!


  3. These are beautiful napkins. Love the ones you found in the antique shop but the set you are creating will have even more meaning to you. I'm not sure about what thickness etc floche is but when I did my sheet set last year I used DMC cottons and did the padding with three strands and the satin stitch with one if that helps. I found that the lighing had to be exceptionally good otherwise mine went wonky. Yours are looking great though and I love how you have dated them too.

  4. For more accurate tracing have you considered Prick and Pounce method? I found that the best website discussing this method is Mary Corbett's Needle and Thread Mary also demonstrates stitch tracing using tissue paper - check out her website

    Another method of attaining a nice padding is trailing instead of pad stitching. Trailing allows for padding threads to be added or removed during the entire stitching process.

    Love your blog :)


I love to hear from readers! Please let me know what you think of my posts. If you ask a question, I will reply here on the blog, so others can see the answer.