weekend project: fringed napkins

by Amy


I’m sort of a cloth napkin evangelist. If you are still regularly using paper towels or paper napkins on a daily basis and only pull out the cloth napkins for special occasions, I will probably try to convert you. Cloth napkins are not just a greener, more environmentally friendly option than paper, they bring a special hand-made touch to your table every day. There are lots of ways to make cloth napkins, and we have talked about some of them here and here, but my favorite way to make cloth napkins is to use a yarn died fabric (as opposed to a printed one) and fringe the edges.

The great thing about these napkins is that it is as close as you can get to a no sew project. At the moment my living situation does not easily accommodate a lot of measuring and rotary cutting. Fortunately, all I needed to make this set of napkins was my fabric, a tape measure, a pair of snips, and my sewing machine. Since I don’t have room for a cutting table, I gravitate towards projects like these napkins which I can easily tear to size.

Almost any fairly substantial yarn-dyed fabric will work for these napkins, but this time I chose a striped hemp/cotton blend that we regularly have in stock. At 60” wide, I can get 3 generous 20” napkins across the width. No need to even measure here! Just fold the width in even thirds, snip at the folds, and tear. (Note: most plain woven fabrics will tear well on the grain, but not all, so snip that selvege and give it a pull. I always love hauling off and tearing into a bolt of heavy canvas at the shop. If you have never had the pleasure yourself, I highly recommend it for working off stress in a productive way!)

I find that a tiny zigzag stitch is perfect for this since it is forgiving over many washings if your stitiching line isn’t precisely on grain. Here I’ve used a contrasting thread so that you can see what’s going on, but you can use a color to match your fabric and it will almost disappear. Once you have sewn around the raw edges, settle into the couch and start pulling threads. It pleases me to see the nature of a particular material, be it wood, clay, leather, or fabric, honored in a finished object, as it is in the fringes of these napkins. I hope you will enjoy them too.