DIY: Cloth Napkin Tutorial

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Lately, my 2.5 year olds have been using napkins. With the exception of a few times, most meals they eat now aren’t so messy that food is dripping and spewing out of their mouths.

Their bibs, those that they’ve used since they started on solid foods, haven’t seemed necessary. No food gets on them! On the contrary, milk drips off their spoons, peanut butter gets on their fingers – and they’ve asked for napkins. Fair enough, we all use napkins at every meal.

The problem was that they’d wipe one drop of milk on their napkins and that would be it. While cleaning up the table after dinner, I’d be tossing barely-used paper napkins into the trash can. What a waste!


To cut down on the amount of trash we were producing and to save a few bucks, I made cloth napkins. Personalized, cute, soft and practical, the twins took to them right away and I’m super pleased with how they came out.

I’m really not a sewer – over the past year and a half, I’ve made only a few things: alphabet letters, baby blanket bunnies, and buckle pillows, and out of all these, my cloth napkins were hands down the easiest to make. I’ve found that the more I sew, the more I feel comfortable with my sewing machine, which is similar to THIS one.

I used another tutorial to help me get started, and you can find it here.

If you have any old fabric lying around, use it! I splurged and paid $14 for a few new fabrics, but the rest of my napkins were leftovers from old projects. (HERE are some super cute fabric prints!) Also, I decided to layer my cloth napkins so there was a front and a back side so that they would stand the test of time (I’m hoping to get multiple years out of them!). However, you don’t have to add a back to them.

Here’s how to make them:

First, cut your fabric into 9.5 inch squares (both the front and back fabrics). Layer them right sides together, then pin all around to keep both pieces in place.


Stitch around all sides, leaving about half of the last side open (unstitched).


Snip all four corners off and flip your napkin inside out (which will now look correct). Iron the creases down, including the side you have still unstitched (fold the edges down first).

Back to the sewing machine: sew all four sides together, and that’s it! Really, it’s that simple. I decided to sew a line right down the middle of the napkins after for two reasons: 1) to keep them from getting clumpy in the washer and dryer, and 2) to teach the toddlers how to fold napkins when setting the table, as they will fold along the line.


Here’s how it looks when it’s done! I don’t regret spending the extra few minutes to put a backing on them, they feel super sturdy! This airplane pattern was one of my favorites.


You can see the long stitch going down the middle in this photo, and it’s perfect for folding practice! As I got the hang of it, each napkin took me about a half hour. I made 10 to start, and we’ll see if that’s enough.


One of the best parts of doing a sewing project is picking out the fabric! There are so many cute patterns to choose from, and as I said, 6 out of 10 of them came from fabric I already had.


The 9 inch size seems to be perfect for my toddlers right now, but you can choose to make it bigger.

The first time I presented the napkins was at lunchtime. We ditched the bibs and the twins were super excited to choose a pattern of napkin they liked. I explained how these napkins wouldn’t be trash but would instead go in the hamper with the dirty clothes and bibs.


B chose the cars and trucks napkin, of course, and spent his meal identifying all the various tow trucks and taxis.

DSC_0203C enjoyed exploring both sides of her napkin and not only wiped her hands and face multiple times, but also her neck and arms! I guess it really was soft!


You can see how big the napkin is when it’s open – it could almost double as a placemat.


B might’ve just had the best lunch ever!

After this lunch, the napkins were barely dirty. And considering it took me one evening and one morning to do a project that will last us years, this was totally worth it. Now I just need to cut down on our paper towel waste!


6 thoughts on “DIY: Cloth Napkin Tutorial

  1. randomsqueaks says:

    Great idea! My two don’t need bibs most meals but I’ve been using baby wipes after meals to wipe their hands after meals. Their hands are so messy that just a napkin won’t do. But some day!

  2. Gaynor says:

    Love the pattern’s of the material for your children .
    I know longer use paper towels thanks to seeing wipe down cloths on Pinterest .
    Not only cutting down on waste but money to I would spend at least £200 a year on
    Paper towels ..

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