How to Sew Linen Dinner Napkins

22 Jul How to Sew Linen Dinner Napkins

I confess to my growing fondness for creating posh napkins, and blame it all on the pandemic. If you follow my Instagram account, you know what I mean….

A table set with crisp linen napkins is a lovely sight. Once reserved for formal dinners, linen napkins have found their way to more relaxed environments as part of the casual elegance movement.  I love this style, yet my only linen napkins were white and formal.

After the wedding of our youngest daughter, Mimi, our final wedding 🎉🥂🍾🎉‼️ we invested in a set of Royal Copenhagen china for everyday use. My goal was to create a set of linen napkins to use with the china.

Creating linen dinner napkins was trickier than I initially expected, but I quickly learned to handle the fabric with care.

I ordered a lightweight white linen from Mood Fabrics and dyed it with Rit Dye  Denim Blue powder. In a perfect world, I would find the exact color of linen I’m looking for, but this is the next best thing. 😉 Rit’s webpage is very helpful with instructions, color formulas and offers lots of useful tips.

  • For best results, cut the fabric into pieces slightly larger than you need for each napkin. Small pieces are easier to dye.

The finished napkins are 20 x 20″.

I cut each piece 22 x 22″. Two yards of fabric = 6 napkins.

I believe a mitered corner is a must for linen napkins and it is easy to make.

After cutting the napkin, I placed it on a grid to check for accuracy. I marked 1/2″ around the edge with a Frixion marker and pressed along the marked line. Again I rechecked for accuracy on the grid and carefully made adjustments.

Since linen can stretch it’s important not to pull or tug.

To make a mitered corner, you measure in twice the distance of your hem once the raw edge is folded. I like a 3/4″ hem on a 20″ napkin so I measured 1 1/2″  on each side of each corner.

I connected the markings along the folded edge (not the raw edge),

folded the corner, matched the lines and stitched.

This is all very easy, but the tricky part was turning the corner without stretching the fabric. After sadly sacrificing my first napkin due to stretched out edges and other mishaps, I understood the importance of handling with care.

For the perfectly turned corner:

  1. Snip the seam allowance leaving approximately 1/4″.

2.  Cut the corner at a right angle.

3. Open with your fingers the 1/4″ seam allowance and trim each side separately close to the seam.

It will look like this.

4. Turn gently and shape with your finger only – no tools.

5. Lightly press into place.


Once the corners were turned, I pressed the 3/4″ hem with the assistance of the Clover Hot Hemmer.

No matter the project, embellishment is always the most fun for me! With the exception of the holidays, I keep a blue and white dotted tablecloth on our round table and decided to have a little fun with a dotted monogram.

Before monogramming the napkin I stitched the hem. The Pfaff Creative Icon offers every imaginable decorative stitch. I selected a simple stitch, compatible with the monogram for the hem around the perimeter.

The hem needed be at the edge of the fold. Yes, I could use the edge foot and stitch on the underside , but I wanted the with the bobbin thread on the bottom of the napkin .

I pinned from the underside of the napkin to mark the fold and serve as a supplemental guide, and also to hold the fabric in place.

Below is the hem on the underside of the napkin.

The monogram is from Herrington Designs.  I  l o v e ,  I  a d o r e  the Pfaff Creative Metal Hoops!

For the napkins, I used the Petite 100 x 100 Hoop. The fabric is secured to the hoop by magnets, eliminating the need for adhesives and hooping.

I used a mid weight tear away stabilizer and lightly marked the fabric before embroidering.

Decisions, decisions……………. Did you know many retailers allow you to select only one color monogram for you napkins?

I chose light blue, grass green, cobalt blue and white using Coats & Clark embroidery thread 😊

You see only five napkins due to sacrificing the first one, but more linen is on the way, as I want a full set of two in each color. Five down, three to go ……….
Until soon.


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  • TinaD
    Posted at 09:12h, 22 July Reply

    Very cool. Loving your napkin projects. I didn’t see you say whether you starched the linen after dyeing; would that help make the fabric more resistant to stretching while marking out, maybe? I’ve never done it, so I don’t know what I’m talking about—it’s just a thought.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 09:17h, 22 July Reply

      Thanks so much, Tina! Yes, I starched big time, but in the end it was a gentle hand that made the difference in those corners😊

  • Patricia Gourieux
    Posted at 09:59h, 22 July Reply

    Your napkins are very lovely. Thank you so much for the tutorial and the reminder that we can dye fabric if we don’t find the color for which we are looking. I absolutely love cloth napkins, monograms, and my ICON!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 10:07h, 22 July Reply

      Thank you, Patricia! You’re good to go with the Icon 😊 We have always used cloth napkins, but mainly the William Sonoma white restaurant cotton. I may never go back!

  • Joan
    Posted at 10:19h, 22 July Reply

    Thank you for the mitered corner tutorial, Sarah. I purchased some beautiful tomato red cotton jacquard for a tablecloth while in Strasbourg, France and will need to get it right the first time for my corners! I think cotton will be a good bit easier than linen 😉
    Lovely fresh table for summer!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 10:39h, 22 July Reply

      Oh, I can only imagine how beautiful your jacquard is, Joan! I wish I had practiced on a scrap piece of linen before plunging in headfirst………. Live and Learn.
      Many thanks for your comment 😊

  • Rebecca
    Posted at 10:23h, 22 July Reply

    These are lovely! I think thatI need to upgrade my machine so that I can create similar custom napkins.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 10:41h, 22 July Reply

      Many thanks, Rebecca! You won’t regret an upgrade 😉 Good luck!

  • stella sinclair
    Posted at 10:38h, 22 July Reply

    I follow your emails from South Africa and get great pleasure from them. I have reached the stage where I no longer sew. But and a big but, I love what you are doing. Your are creating heirlooms for your children. I am waiting with baited breath to see a posting of making embroidered LINEN sheets for your bed.
    Stella Sinclair Cape Town

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 10:43h, 22 July Reply

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Stella. The napkins are such fun to make but it may be a while before I get around to embroidered linen sheets 😉

  • Brita
    Posted at 10:42h, 22 July Reply

    Very nice! I too love embroidering napkins. My guests get a personal one with their name embroidered on it and then it gets washed and ironed until the next visit. Everyone loves it and feels special.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 10:45h, 22 July Reply

      That is so cute, Brita! It’s certainly an idea to tuck away for post pandemic entertaining 😊😊 Many thanks!

  • Rebecca Bagwell
    Posted at 11:07h, 22 July Reply

    Oh my goodness, Sarah! These are beautiful!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 11:32h, 22 July Reply

      Thank you so much, Becky!

  • Mette Haulund
    Posted at 11:13h, 22 July Reply

    I follow your blog from Copenhagen, Denmark and have done for some years now -your are a great inspiration and made me love sewing even more. I have today just received a copy of The Tunic Bible – longing to make some new tunics – but the jumbo tear-out pattern is missing from the book – what do I do????
    Congrats with your new Royal Copenhagen China -had mine for 40 years – a daily pleasure
    Love Mette

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 11:32h, 22 July Reply

      So very sorry to read this. I’ve responded by email.

  • Alice Elliot
    Posted at 12:26h, 22 July Reply

    Your napkins are lovely. I’m in love with niters. I put them everywhere I can! SIP has driven me to all the fiddly techniques!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 12:28h, 22 July Reply

      Thank you, Alice! What is SIP ?

  • Carol Boyles
    Posted at 14:03h, 22 July Reply

    Loved the napkins!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 15:40h, 22 July Reply

      Thanks so much, Carol 😊😊

  • Janice Moore
    Posted at 17:54h, 22 July Reply

    Lately I’m absolutely obsessed by tablecloths and yours is just beautiful, and of course styled perfectly. In my latest copy of Veranda magazine they featured three designers with theirs ,,, linen, Brabant cloth, Damask … all beautiful but hardly inexpensive.
    Your napkins are the added elegant touch to your table.. Must try them myself. Thank you for your inspiration. We’re learning to love our homes in a new way. Habuce

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 18:47h, 22 July Reply

      Many thanks, Janice for your comment. I’m with you – a little obsessed, but hopefully productive! I’ll check out the current issue of Veranda 😊

  • Maggie Edger
    Posted at 20:05h, 22 July Reply

    Your table setting is so attractive. Napkins are great.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 20:40h, 22 July Reply

      Thank you, Maggie!

  • Susie
    Posted at 21:42h, 22 July Reply

    Mouth watering! They are beautiful. I’m jealous of your thoroughly modern machine. I’m still sewing with my grandmother’s Bernina, which I actually love, but it doesn’t do embroidery. I have loads of leftover linen from curtains, and have been secretly plotting to make some napkins when I get a break, Same initials as my husband and son, by the way.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 06:13h, 23 July Reply

      Thank you so much, Susie! I sewed on a Bernina my husband gave me in 1990 for 35 years and it was a warhorse! I could hardly believe the new technology of today’s machines which I made the switch.
      Once you make that first napkin, you might be hooked, and how serendipitous to have the same monogram as your husband and son 😊

  • Ĺinda
    Posted at 14:48h, 23 July Reply

    Hi…don’t know if you are familiar with,
    They have all kinds of linens at great prices, often on special.
    Also very iinteresting articles on various artists , highlighting a specific colour of linen they are profiling, which relates to the artists paintings.
    Also free patterns ,(look down at the bottom, I think they are under ‘in the thread’, or somewhere down there!
    Check it out….😊

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 17:06h, 23 July Reply

      Thank you for introducing me to – I love this website and the descriptions!
      I never knew that sapphire defined the paintings of Alexej von Jawlensky or of the significance coral played in the paintings of Joan Miro, both as a patriotic symbol for his native Spain and a potent carrier of raw, overflowing emotion that spills out from his canvases..
      This narratives alone make visiting this website worthwhile! Hopefully I find a few pieces of fabric too 😊

      • Linda
        Posted at 21:23h, 23 July Reply

        I know! I love the blogs and photos of the artists and their paintings almost more than the fabric!

  • Karen Helm
    Posted at 23:51h, 23 July Reply

    Great post, Sarah! I love what you’re doing with these napkins. Projects like this are so satisfying, aren’t they?

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 20:10h, 26 July Reply

      Thank you so much, Karen! They rather addictive but yes, the word “satisfying’ is a perfect choice of words on so many levels!

  • Sharon E
    Posted at 10:38h, 27 July Reply

    I just made some linen napkins from fabric leftover after completing some pants. While I did not embroider a monogram, I did stencil the napkins to add a bit of style. I did have a hard time finding straight of grain on the linen. Do you have any tips for making sure that I come out with a square rather than a parallelogram?

    I have used cloth napkins for years. They just make sense to me, and they feel better than paper.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 21:32h, 27 July Reply

      Sharon ~ I pull the crossgrain thread to make sure the linen is cut on grain. As I mentioned throughout the post, I found the secret to keeping the napkin square was by careful handling detailed in the steps.
      I too love cloth napkins and have always used them on a daily basis 😉

  • Sharon R Killian
    Posted at 13:50h, 29 July Reply

    Hi Sarah, love these napkins. Think I will make some. May I ask if you prewashed the linen prior to dying? Thanks so much!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 21:40h, 04 August Reply

      Thank you, Sharon! Yes, I prewashed the linen (twice!) before dying 😊

  • Jeanne-Marie Sutton
    Posted at 13:11h, 11 August Reply

    Great blog. Thank you for inspiring me to sew again!

  • Kathy King
    Posted at 13:27h, 17 August Reply

    Thank you for the inspiration and the directions for beautiful mitered corners. I made 8 cocktail napkins (8″ sqr finished) out of cute pumpkin fabric folding the mitered corners to the back. I also made 8 coasters, but I folded the mitered corners of the background fabric to the front and then “inserted” the cute pumpkin fabric before edgestitching the hem on the front. I tried to post a pic, but I don’t think we can in blog world. Looking forward to Fall to use them! Thanks, Kathy

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