Homemade Cloth Napkins

A fun, frugal project to complete at home with a simple twin flat sheet! This can be given as a nice homemaking or Christmas gift as well! One twin sheet at my local Goodwill cost just $4. Eliminating the use of paper napkins around our house and replacing with cloth napkins has been a simple way to be a better steward of our environment. It also makes for an elegant table at all times!

1. Take one twin flat sheet and fold in half length wise. My sheet is polyester (65%) and cotton.

2. Cut into five 17” strips. You will have a little excess at the end which can be used for rags or wash cloths or baby wipes.

3. Cut each strip in half along the fold.

4. Fold each strip in half again and cut along the new fold, making four squares per strip, totally 20 squares.

5. Iron the edges of each square under twice to make a nice edge and finally sew on your sewing machine. Ironing is not necessary but does make the sewing job a bit easier and the end result neater. I used a zig zag stitch for fun!

Now you should have 20 elegant and simple cloth napkins, approximately 15” square in size, plus a few cloth wipes or rags!

For more frugal tips, visit Frugal Fridays.

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

46 Responses to Homemade Cloth Napkins

  1. HardestyMom01 September 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    Awesome idea! I did the same thing this past Spring. I went to Goodwill and purchase a queen size sheet for $1.99. We ended up with 72, 9×9 napkins. To continue to cut down on washing laundry I am going to purchase another flat sheet to make more (queen/king) for my family of five soon-to-be six. I have also been thinking of making them double-sided using terry cloth. For soaking oven-fried chicken or things like that I have a pack of red shop rags I received for free (regular price $5 for 25) from Norhern Tool & Equipment. When their spills we use homemade dish cloths that are double-sided.

  2. heather March 21, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    For those who have trouble completely getting rid of paper towels, I found a few solutions for reasons to keep that roll around. For cleaning up grease, I made black unpaper towels, (larger napkins with some absorbent material) and we use them to clean up grease, and gross things (dog vomit, dirt, cleaning out the fridge and microwave) if what you clean is greasy, just wash it out by hand in the kitchen sink with grease cutting dish soap like dawn. Then wash in your regular wash. We use cloth diapers here, and all the hesitancy of cleaning up gross things with cloth is gone. You can scrape your Bacon grease into an old jar. There’s no reason you can’t clean up , pretty much everything with your napkins, and wash them with your laundry. Also, if you are worried about chemicals from cleaners mixing in with your other clothing or towels, simply make your own cleaners! There are tons of online sites with recipes, and everything is so much safer to use and they are more green.

  3. Elizabeth January 3, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    I have been using cloth napkins for a few years now. I adore them. I wash them with the regular wash and they take up no extra room. I have found that bright flowery and deep color paisley patterns are very forgiving for stains. Red wine and balsamic vinaigrette drips now and then. Solid color napkins are the worst.

  4. macbook pro 2011 June 26, 2011 at 8:10 am #

    pretty practical stuff, overall I consider this is worthy of a bookmark, thanks

  5. victoria June 20, 2011 at 11:01 pm #

    I’d like to sew on binding instead of folding a hem… there could be some nice opportunities for creativity there!

    If you don’t have a sewing machine, just go out and buy the thread and needle and do two running stitches (make them equal though: the same size stitch on each side of the fabric). Do your first running stitch, then go back over it with an opposite running stitch (so the stitch looks the same on both sides). It has the same strength and look as a machine sewn stitch, and with napkins it could be done within 20-40 minutes per napkin.

    • Katie June 4, 2012 at 6:41 am #

      Thanks! I don’t have a sewing machine and since I’m trying to save money, buying one isn’t an option.

  6. Gwen August 28, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    If only we all made all made some of our own re-usable napkins. It would be a better world. Very nice, clear photos. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. John K. July 23, 2010 at 3:08 am #

    Awesome your post and also publishing rocks ! continue the good work. To be sure along with you 100%, I’d exactly the same issues. Stay the best I will probably take place back again quickly.

  8. LisaB. July 24, 2009 at 9:15 pm #

    M could use heat and hem bond tape for a no sew napkin! You just need an iron.

    here’s a great tutorial: http://www.re-nest.com/re-nest/how-to/how-to-make-your-own-cloth-napkins-with-zero-sewing-skills-062513

  9. ~M June 19, 2009 at 7:06 pm #

    Hi Lindsay,

    I never use my top sheet as we use a fitted sheet + down comforter in a duvet cover. So we have some extra top sheets in our home. However, I also don’t know how to sew (or own a sewing machine). Do you have any ideas for making napkins without sewing? Thanks!

    • Lindsay June 22, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

      I am sorry but I don’t have any recommendations here.

    • Hope October 23, 2009 at 7:14 am #

      There is a wonderful product called Stitch Witchery which is a roll of gauzy tape about 1/4-1/2 inch wide. You put it between the two layers of cloth you are wanting sewn together, and iron it. The heat from the iron melts the Stitch Witchery and creates a strong, but completely flexible, cloth-like bond. It’s a good solution when you don’t have time to sew, or don’t know how. The above project is easily adapted to this project. Just place tape at the edge of napkin, tuck the edge just a bit over the tape, and fold over once. Then iron. Easy as pie!

      • Michelle September 8, 2010 at 6:10 am #

        great tip, thanks Hope. I’m going to try this because I do not sew often.

    • Gwen August 28, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

      If you can borrow some pinking shears (they cut a zig-zag pattern) and cut the napkins out using them, it will slow the raveling process.

  10. Kate November 16, 2008 at 8:14 am #

    For all who have cable/digital Martha Stewart on demand has different ways to fold napkins for your holiday table. Lessening the need of napkins rings.

    Or I guess you can google her and watch a video demo.

  11. Shannon L. Fowler November 15, 2008 at 3:17 pm #

    My mom made me some cloth napkins and matching place mats about 15 years ago & I still use them! I also inherited some from her when she passed away. I learned how to make them myself as well & have oodles of material to pick from to make more. I prefer the softness of a cloth napkin over a scratchy paper one any day! I need to revvv up my sewing machine and make more, otherwise I have to wash every other day to be able to use them. :) Dinner guests feel more “special” when they use the cloth napkins. :)

    GREAT post!!

  12. Kate November 15, 2008 at 7:47 am #

    We use cloth napkins at holidays. My mother gave me all her cloth/holiday napkins/table cloths when I got married. She no longer needed them as she and my father were divorced. So I got tons of napkins, napkin holders/ table cloths etc. I even have my mother’s infamous “sweater” napkins for Christmas. As the name implies, they feel like they were made from a sweater.

    I think every bride should put cloth napkins, holders, table cloths on her registry instead of other items, like a hair dryer or tools lol Yes, I’ve seen them on more than ONE registry.

    Nothing is more elegant on a holiday table than beautiful napkins, holders and a table cloth. And finally dress that table w/your china. It’s special touch! And don’t forget a center piece!

    We haven’t gone cloth all the way, we’re not even big recyclers. Maybe one day.

  13. Shannon November 15, 2008 at 6:01 am #

    I’m really glad to see people using cloth napkins. When I got married, my mother-in-law gave me a stash of old cloth napkins which had mostly been made by her mother. They are pretty, mis-matched, some faded – all vintage! I am so glad to have them. Last year I chose a few and cut them up to make a pretty set of coasters, and gave them to my mother-in-law. She was so touched, b/c she recognized the fabric her mother had used in the napkins. So when you’re taking the time to make your cloth napkins, remember you might just be leaving a legacy.

    • Katie June 4, 2012 at 6:44 am #

      Love this! Nothing is home made anymore. My mom made me cloth burpees instead of buying some the store. They are so much for meaningful and I will save them for my children and friends and family. I wish cloth napkins were a normal too!!

  14. Candice November 15, 2008 at 12:24 am #

    Awesome idea! I love cloth napkins. I never thought of making them out of a sheet, what a great idea. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Shellie November 14, 2008 at 3:26 pm #

    We purchased a bunch of 6 for $1 dishrags to use as everyday cloth napkins. Your idea is great for company napkins. We switched to cloth a few months ago. At first my hubby was hesitant, taking a paper one from the stash we had left. Now, he thanks me for them every time we pass up the paper isle without buying anything. :-)

  16. Risha November 14, 2008 at 1:44 pm #

    I’m so glad you posted this! I’ve been wishing that I could stop spending money on paper napkins, especially since I stopped using paper towels a few months ago. I didn’t want to buy fabric to make napkins, and I never would have thought to use a sheet! I’m sure that between my mothing and me, I could come up with an excellent stash of napkins! Thanks for the tip!

    • Sherri M November 15, 2008 at 8:02 pm #

      I would LOVE to stop using paper towels, but don’t know what to replace them with. These are the things I use paper towels for:
      - patting dry an uncooked chicken to prepare for a butter spread to roast
      - patting dry uncooked steaks
      - wiping oil on my cast iron cookware to keep it seasoned
      - the boys put one under the measuring cup when cracking eggs (otherwise the whites run all over the counter)
      - the quickie clean-up of under the toilet seat
      etc., etc, etc.

      Any ideas?

      • Shannon L. Fowler November 15, 2008 at 9:19 pm #

        you can make some cloths like the napkins, just don’t use fabric softener so the smell/flavor doesn’t transfer to the food item. I made some nice flannel double thick cloths that work GREAT for cleaning. Just make them big enough! :) I would suggest a totally unique pattern for the toilet ones, so they don’t get used for kitchen stuff. ;)

      • Risha November 16, 2008 at 2:22 pm #

        I just bought a package of 18 white washcloths from Walmart that cost me less than $5. I use them to wipe the counters/stove, I put them over a bowl of food that I microwave to keep from splattering. I use them for everything I would used paper towels for. I wash them with my towels. Some of them are pretty stained, but it doesn’t really bother me since presentation is not the point. Plus, they were cheap, so I won’t feel bad about replacing them. I also use my husband’s old undershirts as cleaning rags, so that would work well for your toilet seat cleaning.

      • Amelia July 30, 2010 at 9:26 am #

        for quickie cleanup under the toilet seat use biodegradable “clorox” style wipes and compost them when ur done!

  17. Nikki November 14, 2008 at 12:48 pm #

    I never thought about using a flat bed sheet! What a wonderful idea! I’ve been wanting to make some more cloth napkins. Now I’m really excited!

  18. Joelle November 14, 2008 at 10:14 am #

    Don’t you find that the napkins end up getting stained?? I have a problem using my “good” cloth napkins for messy meals. Especially when I’m making curry with tumeric, or even spaghetti sauce. I’m afraid they’re going to get irreparably stained. Do you bleach your napkins??

    • Lindsay November 14, 2008 at 12:56 pm #

      I have been pleasantly surprised at how well these get cleaned. If you are having an especially dirty meal, just make sure to soak them right away, or use a darker color cloth napkins for these occasions. We also have a set of red ones that hide pretty much anything. I prefer to avoid bleach, but oxygen bleach is a non-toxic alternative that works good as well (Oxi Clean is my usual brand of choice). Just soak them all in it if necessary. In the year that I have been using cloth napkins I have only had to turn one into a rag as a result of stains.

      • Kate November 16, 2008 at 8:09 am #

        I tried OxiClean when it first came out, (10 yrs ago?) I didn’t have the best of luck with it. Some yellowing, or just not getting our stains.

        Maybe I’ll give it a try again, and soak things. I love my bleach tho. Does the oxiclean kill the germs and stuff?

        • Lindsay November 19, 2008 at 10:49 am #

          Yes, It is a all natural oxygen bleach, accomplishing the same affect without the harmful chemicals.

    • Sara M. January 30, 2009 at 7:21 am #

      You should try a product called Oxy-Boost … I’ve been using it for almost 2 years and it works even better than Oxy Clean. The company is in Wisconsin and will ship, but they do have it in some stores across the country. It is biodegradable and environmentally-safe. You also only use 1 oz per gallon of hot water to soak stains, and it does a much better job than Oxy-Clean. You can order it on http://www.ecogeeks.com. Six pounds of it (a pretty big container) for $20. A little expensive, but well worth it because you’re using less of it to do the same job as the other brand. It gets out mustard … that says a lot!

  19. Erin November 14, 2008 at 10:06 am #

    I love these and can’t wait to make some! Do you know of a frugal way to make baby bibs? I’m always running out and would like to have more, but I don’t want to spend a lot of money.

    • Melissa November 17, 2008 at 7:50 am #

      My favorite homemade bib is made from a tea towel or dish towel. It’s large enough to catch the biggest messes, but soft and comfy. Placing the towel up and down length wise, you would cut a slit from the top (if you want it to fasten in the back, or from the side for side closure), into the middle and cut a circle just big enough to comfortably fit around your child’s neck. You can either sew a rolled hem on all the cut edges, or use a matching fabric and fold it around the edge, with the selvage rolled under and top stitch all around. At the closure point, apply velcro, a snap, or short lengths of a shoe lace or ribbon.

      Another alternative with the same materials- Cut the circle for the head, without the slit, and large enough to pull over the child’s head. Then add a “collar” to the inside of the circle. Less steps, but possibly a little trickier to work with.

      For no sewing, you can always use a basic towel or cloth napkin, wrap two corners loosely around their neck and pin with a clothes pin.

    • Lora November 18, 2008 at 12:23 pm #

      I just got an idea for baby bibs today from another website. Use an old t shirt, cut off the arms and the back of the shirt and just slip it over your little one head.

  20. Andrea in Alaska November 14, 2008 at 9:52 am #

    That is a beautiful napkin and holder. It reminds me of the kind you find at a fancy restarant. I haven’t gone the way of all cloth YET as I don’t have a washer and dryer. I will never take having them in my home for granted again!

    I was looking at sheets at a thrift store the other day to use for our up coming home birth, but I just couldn’t get them, even knowing I’d probably only use them once and get rid of them. They looked too “used.” I think if I made napkins this way, I’d have to either find a very cheap unused-in-package sheet or bleach the sheet very well!

  21. lizzykristine @ Uplifted Eyes November 14, 2008 at 8:13 am #

    I have been thinking about making cloth napkins (thinking about things is always easier than doing them…) but didn’t want to fork over the money to buy cloth. But I could Goodwill a sheet for cheap….

    I still might hold off until we get our own appliances. Right now the laundromat is costing $2.75 per load of laundry — I have no desire to add another load a week!! :)

    • Lindsay November 14, 2008 at 10:04 am #

      I just throw my cloth napkins in with other loads so I am not doing an extra load. They take up very little room, as we don’t necessarily need to use them at every meal. For these white napkins I would throw them in with the white loads.

  22. tammie November 14, 2008 at 8:11 am #

    we have a lot of fabric given to us, and i use almost all the burgundy,pink, and blue to make napkins for my own home, and all the green for my daughter’s home. now we each have an artsy, eclectic assortment of cloth napkins.

  23. Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home November 14, 2008 at 8:01 am #

    Oh, good idea! I’ve been needing more napkins, and not wanting to fork out the money for them. I’ll add this to my (ever growing!) list of sewing projects for the winter!

    Any ideas on napkin holders for cheap? That’s what I really need to find!

    • Lindsay November 14, 2008 at 8:06 am #

      The best place I have found here in the states for napkin holders is Walmart or Ross Stores. Not sure if you have those up north. You can definitely get away without napkin holders though and still have an nice elegant table. Enjoy!

      • Holly April 6, 2009 at 8:36 am #

        First of all, thank you so much for this practical and lovely post. It’s all the things I try to be… frugal, elegant, and green… all in one go! This is about to be a very long post for someone who is de-lurking.

        Two things I would like to add to this discussion….

        One… If you can’t find a sheet at the thrift store or tag sale to meet your needs, watch the “White Sale” ads for your local chain retailers… both Shopko and Walmart around here have had twin flat sheets for $3.88 each over the last month or so. This is great fun of course because you can choose from more colors, and also really nice if you’re looking into these as housewarming, shower or other gifts. I was able to find lavender, pink, burgundy, navy and sage at our Shopko (I’m looking ahead to green, practical/useful gifts for some women in my life who are precious and trying to live more simply and responsibly) Even if you count in the cost of thread and your time, this is a very elegant and impressive looking gift that is easy on your budget.

        Napkin rings: There are lots of fun DIY options out there. In elementary school my sister made some with felt that looked like flowers when they were done… you could probably google and find a similar pattern… I’m hazily recalling that it was two pieces… one that was shaped like a dog bone, and one that was shaped like a 4 or 5 petaled flower with a slit in the middle that the two ends of the “dogbone” passed through. The other method I have employed with great success is to buy the smallest size of pre-formed brass rings (used for macrame or dreamcatcher type crafts) from Hobby Lobby, (or Walmart if your local still has crafts) they are a great size for napkin rings. I made a whole set for autumn (we host VERY large friend and family Thanksgivings) by using floral wire to attach a few silk leaves and acorns… (hello Dollar Store!) then wrapping them with inexpensive Offray Spool O’ Ribbon. You could adapt this to any season, or your decor, to match you china, or just leave them plain brass. A similar “found” object that I’ve saved up lots of over time… the clear plastic rings that are often used to hang scarves for display at retailers. Fabric or wallpaper samples used to cover sections of tp tubes, or anything that you can find in a small ring shape that you can embellish with beads, ribbon, wire, bells or whatever. Some of these can be found that would be really fun craft projects for kids to do on a rainy day as well… great gifts, or let everyone at your house make their own personal napkin ring for every day. I have also kept an eye out at thrift stores and garage sales for silver and gold metal colored rings that I use in an eclectic assortment for my more “upscale” gatherings. Finally, if you can find those older plastic looking ones from the 80′s (and beyond) they are a great base for embellishment.

        Whew. Thanks Linday for this great site, and for letting me share. Congrats on your new little man as well!

        • Sarah November 3, 2009 at 6:19 am #

          We use cloth napkins and have clothespins for the holders. You can embellish them any way you want, although we just have our names on them. The definitely aren’t very upscale or elegant for gatherings though.

  24. Amanda November 14, 2008 at 7:48 am #

    This is a GREAT idea! I just labored over a cloth napkin decision for a table I hosted at church. I couldn’t bring myself to spend $16 for 8 napkins on sale. (I ended up buying 8 at Dollar Tree for $4 total. A good deal, but still not as good a deal as this.) I’ll be making some of these for our family, keeping some aside for special occasions.

    Thanks again!

  25. Alison November 14, 2008 at 6:33 am #

    My family has been making cloth napkins for a couple years now. Our method is even easier! Buy some cheap homespun from Joann’s, cut into desired square size, sew around all sides of square, on the outer edges use a needle to fringe all the sides. they end up looking great, and a little less formal than your beautiful napkins above.

    • Shannon November 15, 2008 at 5:54 am #

      I like this idea, especially using fun kids’ fabric or for a more “country” look for picnic dinners. I can imagine some nice red and white checked cloth for this – fun!