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A Tutorial: How to Make Homemade Napkins Using Terrycloth

Homemade Cloth Napkins using Terrycloth




Paper Napkins

An average American uses six paper napkins a day...or 2,200 each year.



We finally have some cloth napkins that work and absorb really well. We've had some store bought cloth napkins for a few years now. While they have done their job, I am ready to move on. They hardly absorb anything...and they just aren't, well, too cute. Not that being cute matters, but a little extra color in the kitchen is always welcome.

I made a new set of napkins. I used a cotton cloth fabric on front and terrycloth on back. These turned out great! The terrycloth was priced at $9.00 a yard at our local Jo Ann's Fabrics. I used about a half of a yard to complete this project. Terrycloth is made of little tiny loops that is made for absorbing liquid. That's what this messy family needed!


The fabrics I used in this project are:

  • the red fabric: Amy Butler's Wallflower in Cherry
  • the blue fabric: Michael Miller's Stitch Circle in Navy
  • the green fabric: Bonnie Christine's Sweet Nostalgia in Vintage

Terrycloth Napkins


Getting a little creative.

What started out as a simple project of making some simple napkins soon turned into a sewing endeavor of creativity. I guess I forgot I was sewing napkins at one point and started in on making some quilt blocks. Either way, you can make your napkins as simple or as ornate as you choose.

The most simple way to make a terrycloth napkins is to use a solid square of fabric on one side and terrycloth on the back.

Basic Napkin

To create your most basic napkin, pick one kind of fabric for the front. I wanted my napkins to measure about ten inches square.

  • Cut a piece of fabric measuring 10 1/2 inches square.
  • Lay the fabric you just cut face down on top of your terrycloth.
  • Using your fabric as a template, cut the terrycloth to the exact same size as your fabric.

Leave your fabric stacked on top of the terrycloth. With your fabric facing down, pin your fabric and terrycloth together. Stitch around the perimeter of both fabrics LEAVING A THREE INCH GAP. I used a quarter of an inch seam allowance. You need to leave a hole so you can turn your napkin right side out. Remember, this is not a competition to see who can leave the smallest gap and still turn your napkin right side out. :) Shoving and pulling fabric through little tiny gaps can become quite tedious very quickly.

Trim your corners before turning your napkin right side out. Cutting a blunt corner will make for a sharper corner once you are finished. Be sure not to cut through your stitching at the corners!

Once your napkin is turned right side out, iron the natural crease that formed where you left your gap. Stitch border around you napkin to sew the gap shut. I sew a border about an eighth of an inch in from the edge.

Flying Geese Cloth Napkin


Flying Geese Napkin

This is where my quilting brain started taking over. I've been eyeing a flying geese style quilt for quite some time. I decided making a flying geese napkin was good practice for a possible future quilt.

Feel free to follow these instructions if you are up for a small challenge in your cloth napkin creating.

Scroll to Continue

Part 1: Flying Geese Napkin

Find a fabric that you want to use for the triangle or 'goose' portion of your block (Fabric #1). You can use my measurements if you want an approximate ten inch napkin.

Cut 3 inch strips of fabric. Cut those strips into 3 inch by 5 1/2 inch rectangles. you will need six of these these rectangles.

Choose a different fabric (Fabric #2) for the smaller triangle portion of the block. Cut three inch strips out of that fabric as well. Cut those strips down into 3 inch by 3 inch squares. You will need 12 of these 3 inch by 3 inch squares.

In summary, you need six rectangles measuring 5 1/2 by 3 inches of Fabric #1. You need twelve squares measuring 3 inches by 3 inches out of Fabric #2.

Paper Napkins

Part 2: Flying Geese Napkin

Take all your 3 inch squares cut out of your Fabric #2. On the backs of your squares, draw one diagonal line from one corner to the opposite corner on each of the blocks.

Take one rectangle made out of Fabric #1 and lay it face up. Take one of your three inch blocks made out of Fabric #2 and lay it face down on top of the rectangle. Line it up accurately with the left side of the rectangle. Lay Fabric #2 down so the diagonal line goes from the bottom outside of the rectangle up to the middle. (Please refer to my pictures if anything is confusing.)

Sew along the diagonal line.

Using a sewing ruler and rotary cutter, cut a quarter inch away from the line you just sewed. Cut the top left corner displayed in the picture.

Fabric #2 should fold up and out. Iron the seams.

Repeat these steps on the opposite side of the rectangle made of Fabric #1.

Take another 3 inch square and line it up on the same rectangle. Line it up with the right side. Be sure your 3 inch square is facing down. Ensure the diagonal line is going from the bottom right to the middle of the top of the rectangle.

Sew along the diagonal line.

Cut away the top right had corner of the rectangle using a quarter of an inch seam allowance. You should be able to fold this triangle up and out now. Iron the seams.

You should now have your first flying geese block.

Half Square Triangle Cloth Napkin


Half Square Triangle Cloth Napkin

Here's another simple yet fun pattern to create when quilting (or when making cloth napkins). Half square triangles come together quickly.

Half square triangles can be arranged any way you choose. You can see the pattern I chose on the right.

Hopefully the following instructions can help you create a small half square triangle napkin.

Part 1: Half Square Triangle Cloth Napkin

In order to create the half square triangle pattern I used, you will need to cut ten squares. Each of them needs to be 4 1/2 inches by 4 1/2 inches. You can see I used three different kinds of fabrics in my napkin.

Once all of your squares are cut, arrange them into pairs. On the back of one square of each pair, draw a diagonal line from one corner to the other.

Part 2: Half Square Triangle Cloth Napkin

Now that you have a diagonal line drawn on one square from each pair, take one pair of squares and put them together with the right sides of the fabric facing in.

Using your sewing machine, stitch down either side of the diagonal line using a quarter of an inch seam allowance.

Once you have finished sewing down each side of the diagonal line, cut your square in half right on your diagonal line. You should have two triangles until you unfold your fabric.

Unfold your fabric, iron your seams, and you should have a new square made out of two triangles.

Sew your new squares together however you choose and you have a half square triangle napkin.

Homemade Cloth Napkins


A little tip about sizing your napkins.

All my napkins are approximately ten inches square, but once I made my first napkin, I used it as a template to keep my size consistent.

In other words:

  • I made my first napkin and finished it.
  • I sewed my blocks together to create the front of my flying geese napkin.
  • I laid my first napkin on top of my the pieced flying geese front.
  • I used the first napkin as a template and cut around it with a half inch seam allowance.
  • Then I finished the napkins with the terrycloth as I explained above.

This process kept my napkins all the same size.


Cygnet Brown from Springfield, Missouri on January 31, 2016:

I will!

Preston and Kate (author) from the Midwest on January 31, 2016:

Hi cygnetbrown! We have used cloth napkins for a few years now, and we still recommend them. We re-use them for meals when they don't get too dirty, and with kids, they are so much better for clean up and wiping extra dirty fingers. Be sure to let me know if you end up making some with your friend!!

Cygnet Brown from Springfield, Missouri on January 31, 2016:

I too have been thinking about making cloth napkins. I have a friend who has a serger who would do these for me (I'm sure) if I bought the material.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on May 08, 2015:

PrestonandKate, congrats on your send HOTD! What a clever idea on how to save money and trees by using homemade cloth napkins with patterned fabric. So festive for any holiday or special occasion. Voted up for useful and awesome!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on May 08, 2015:

I just hate store bought napkins. I always have to iron them, and I am not fond of ironing anything! Just wondering if your cotton fabric will shrink and will wrinkle?

I do like terrycloth, and have made many facecloths and towels.

Congrats on HOTD.

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on May 08, 2015:

I love cloth napkins and never thought about using terry cloth on one side. Clever - and pretty! Congrats on HOTD!

RTalloni on May 08, 2015:

Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for this useful and nicely done post!

Virginia Kearney from United States on May 08, 2015:

I need to make some of these. The store bought napkins wrinkle in the wash. So it occurs to me that I can gear wrinkle free fabrics. One idea for readers is that they should wash the fabrics first before sewing, especially if they are cotton and you have two different fabrics. That way they won't shrink unevenly.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on May 08, 2015:

Congratulations for the HOTD!

A very creative idea and the cloth napkins look beautiful as well. You presented the hub very well in detail with helpful pictures. Thanks for sharing, voted up!

The less paper napkins we use, the better for our environment. Cloth napkins are best options anytime for any purpose.

mySuccess8 on May 08, 2015:

These are creative and colorful napkin designs that are also wonderful table decorations. I have never made napkins myself, and this great well-explained tutorial will help me start my new DIY project soon. Congrats on Hub of the Day!

Summer LaSalle from USA on May 08, 2015:

What a great idea- and what a wonderful gift to give! Thanks for the article!

Preston and Kate (author) from the Midwest on April 11, 2014:

Hi KimberlyLake, I had never thought of doing ones for themes! That's a great idea. Thanks for sharing!

Kimberly Lake from California on April 11, 2014:

This is a great hub! The napkins you made are great these seem like they would work for kids especially. I was thinking that it would be fun to make them with themes for birthday parties. Excellent idea and well written hub. Voted up awesome and pinned.

Preston and Kate (author) from the Midwest on April 11, 2014:

Hi Seafarer Mama! Thanks for your wonderful compliment! We love them and use the cloth napkins all the time. Thank you for stopping by!

Karen A Szklany from New England on April 10, 2014:

Wow...what a useful and gorgeous hub. I can't wait to make my own napkins. Now I am generally not a seamstress but have a friend who is and I will learn from her. Love the little blurb about how many napkins are used each year. What a fabulous way to go Green and add splashes of color to one's home. I know that I will return again and again to this hub.

Definitely voted Up, Tweeted, and Pinned!

Preston and Kate (author) from the Midwest on February 28, 2014:

Hi grand old lady. Using old towels....that's a GREAT idea. I didn't think of that. Glad you stopped by and left another idea. Have fun making your napkins! -Kate

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on February 28, 2014:

I love the idea of using terrycloth, which is so absorbent, and then covering it with your choice of fabric. This is a great idea. I'm thinking of doing the same thing, but using my old towels instead of terrycloth. That way, I can re-purpose stuff I already have, and save money, too.

Preston and Kate (author) from the Midwest on February 26, 2014:

Hi sallybea! Thanks for the compliment. Glad you stopped by! -Kate

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on February 26, 2014:


That is a great idea. A beautiful hub with some really colorful designs.

Congratulations on your well deserved achievement today.

Preston and Kate (author) from the Midwest on February 25, 2014:

Hi moonlake! Good to meet you. Yes, people go through lots and lots of napkins. While we keep them on hand when company comes, we've stopped using paper napkins as a family. It's nice to have one less grocery item to keep track of too. Thanks for stopping by!

moonlake from America on February 25, 2014:

Cloth napkins are green too not so much paper going to the landfill. I have been wanting to make some for a long time, maybe later I will get time. Enjoyed your hub. Good idea to practice flying geese on napkins I personally hate doing flying geese but they are so pretty. Voted up

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