Making cloth napkins, savor the stitching
My friend and co-worker, Regan, spent the night at our place recently, a girl’s night of sorts, except we were out by 9. And when I say out, I mean asleep. She arrived on a Sunday afternoon, and, first-things-first, I gave her the tour since it was her first and last visit here. More on that later.
Our house is small, so the house part of the tour was brief. We wandered outdoors and she oohed and ahhed over the expansive deck, wooded pasture, and the sound of rushing water into the cattail-choked pond. Regan is the kind of friend who refrains from commenting on the overgrown weeds in your garden, hence my affection for her runneth over.
Our homestead boasts eleven apple trees, or is it twelve? The last one, a Golden Delicious offspring, was still laden with fruit, so, empty coconut oil pails in hand, we picked apples and then a few figs to nibble. Have you ever stood in warm sunshine and tasted a ripe fig with a good friend? It is a special kind of glory that you have to experience at least once. But one can hardly get full on figs, so we returned to the kitchen for supper, which was soup.
Oh, but it was so much more than soup! It was Vietnamese Pho. For those that don’t know, Pho is pronounced “fuh,” and it is a complete and magical meal in a bowl. It has everything: crave-worthy broth flavored with fish sauce and aromatic spices; chunks of tender beef, slippery rice noodles, and choice toppings.
Toppings can easily elevate a soup from bo-ring to ahh-mazing, and Pho is already amazing. So, getting to add diced hot red peppers, snipped green onions, cilantro leaves, and freshly squeezed lime only adds to the fun. Wow, I have got to do a post on Pho - or at least link to a good recipe.
We filled our bowls with broth, beef, and noodles, added our toppings and sat down at our locally-made farm-style trestle table with tall glasses of water. What’s the first thing you reach for - after your spoon - when eating soup? A napkin. Boots and I have a two-tier fruit basket on our table that doubles as a napkin holder. The napkins change seasonally, and it’s fun to choose a pretty fabric napkin when we sit down to eat. Small things.
Regan was enchanted with our napkin selection and said so. She chose an heirloom tomato-themed square and used it with satisfaction. Later, as in 7:30 p.m., we decided we were hungry again and she and I whipped up a batch of Spiralized Sweet Potato and Cheddar Cheese Puffs for a “midnight” snack. The napkin was pressed into service again, so when Regan told me she was moving to Utah I knew immediately what I had to do. Make napkins.
Below are directions for stitching up your own batch of pretty cloth napkins. Regan and I went shopping for batik prints in her favorite colors worthy of a going-away present, but mine are usually made from scraps of fabric leftover from quilts and other sewing projects. You could even use fabric claimed from clothing you no longer want or pick up yardage at a yard sale for cheap.
The act of making your own cloth napkins is ridiculously satisfying. Pray tell, enjoy the process. Fabric selection, pressing, cutting, hemming, all of it. They’ll be done before you know it, so don’t hurry. That small oasis of time you spend sewing can nourish your soul if you just slow down and savor the stitching.
How to make cloth napkins:
Fabric (new, leftover pieces from other projects, or secondhand clothing)
Rotary cutter, cutting mat, and quilt ruler
Scissors, thread, straight pins, sewing machine
Iron, ironing board, and spray bottle of water
Decide how large you want your napkins. I think larger napkins feel luxurious, so I usually cut 16 or 17 inch squares. You’ll lose a little of the size to your folded hem, so keep this in mind.
If fabric is new, you may want to pre-wash it and press it before cutting. If not, skip to step 3.
Use the rotary cutter, cutting mat, and quilt ruler to cut fabric into squares.
Heat the iron. Fold a 1/4-inch hem along one edge, press, then fold again to make a finished hem that won’t fray. Pin corners and put a pin in midway along the edge, too, to hold the pressed him in place. Repeat for the remaining three sides.
Choose a stitch on your sewing machine. You can use this an an opportunity to try out decorative stitches or keep it simple with a straight stitch.
Place napkin right side up and stitch a scant 1/4-inch seam along the edges, removing pins as you come to them. When you reach a corner, lower the needle into the fabric, lift the presser foot, and swivel the fabric, then line up the edge at a scant 1/4-inch again, lower the presser foot, and continue sewing. This will ensure crisp corners.
Backstitch several stitches at the end of the fourth side to give the stitching strength. You’re done with one napkin! Now make as many as your heart desires. As mentioned, they make lovely and thoughtful gifts.