Saturday, June 6, 2015

Making Linen Napkins

Recently I have decided to switch to cloth napkins instead of paper. I'm not entirely sure why, as it does entail quite a bit more work, washing and ironing them every week. But being retired, I have more time for that sort of thing, right?

I decided to make 12 large, linen napkins, finished at 20 inches (51 cm) square. I also wanted to hem them with a pin stitch, to make them look just a bit nicer than with a plain topstitched hem. This first piece is tested with several thread and a size 120 jeans needle. From left to right is Mettler 60 weight, YLI 70 weight, and Madiera 80 weight.

Then I tried a wing needle, with the same thread sequence. The wing needle makes just a tiny bit bigger hole, but I'm afraid of damaging the fabric, so I decided to stick with the jeans needle and the Madiera 80 thread. I know this is hard to tell from these photos, but I don't have a tripod with me to help stabilize the camera.

Notice the sample, how it is skinny on one end and fat on the other. This is due to sloppy cutting at the fabric store, which annoys me no end. I alway build in a bit more than I need to account for this. When I cut this fabric, I did so by pulling a thread, in both directions. I don't expect a store to do this, but I would appreciate better cutting.

I cut the fabric 22 1/2 inches (57 cm) in diameter, to allow for a 1 inch (2.5) hem with a 1/4 inch (0.6)  turn under. To make a nice mitered corner, I pressed the hem all around, then opened the pressed edges and pressed the corner in right at the edge to be hemmed.

Then I turned it right sides together, and marked the seam line. It was pressed, but I had trouble seeing it on the machine while I was stitching. Much easier with the line.

Sewn and trimmed,

then finger pressed open.

Perfect miter! Well, it needs to be pressed a bit better.

On the fourth napkin, not even an inch from the end, I ran out of thread. So until my order comes in sometime next week, this project is put on hold. Which is just as well, as I have other projects that are stacking up. I found that I needed to baste the hem as this linen seems to have a tiny bit of stretch to it. This is one project in which I'm ironing more than I'm sewing.

I used the pin stitch on my Husqvarna Viking Diamond Royale, D46, reversed to be able to use it with the D hemstitching foot. Also, I stitched wrong side up. I made a sample using black thread, and there is a difference between the right and wrong sides with this stitch.  When I tried to stitch from the right side, I kept missing the hem and had to secure the missed spots by hand. Since I can barely see the difference using ecru thread on this off white linen, I figured what the heck, I'll stitch from the wrong side and at least get all the stitches on the hem.


  1. Linen napkins just feel nicer than paper, don't they - worth a bit of effort!

  2. I love cloth napkins and linen ones are wonderful. I have sets of cotton napkins that I wash and don't iron, just fold. I use those for every day. They are just so much nicer than any paper products. Beautiful miter.

  3. The YLI 70 wt looks quite good too. I've been thinking of trying it for quilt piecing. How do you like it?

    The napkins looks great, and will certainly be lovely to use. Why not have a little elegance, right?

  4. Hi Monica, I think the 70 wt may be a bit too fragile for piecing, especially for a quilt that will be used on a bed or as a throw. It might be fine for a wall quilt, however. For piecing and general sewing, I love Aurifil, a long staple cotton thread from Italy. I haven't tried Master Piece by Alex Anderson, but I am told by a quilt shop owner that it is similar to Aurifil but less expensive. YLI 70 is pretty pricy to be using for piecing.


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.