DIY Cloth Napkins: Soft, Cute and Reusable (to Save the Trees!)

There’s so much to love about DIY cloth napkins. They are quick and easy to make, eco-friendly, and a beautiful addition to your table.

With the right fabric, handmade napkins can add color and style to your dining room to make every meal feel extra special.

Note: This article contains affiliate links. See my disclosures for details.

How to Make Cloth Napkins


  • Soft, absorbent fabric (like cotton, linen or a mix of both)
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Sewing pins
  • Sewing machine (or needle and thread)

I found a vibrant selection of seersucker and bubble gauze fabric at Joann’s. The gauze comes in modern gray, classic pink and lots of colors in between to fit your decor.

Joann's selection of soft fabric that would work well for making dinner napkins

There’s also a variety of mid-century patterns and organic cotton fabric on Amazon.

Step 1: Cut Fabric

Wash and dry your fabric so it won’t shrink later on. Then cut it into squares one inch bigger than you want your finished napkins to be.

For example, if you want standard 20×20-inch dinner napkins, cut 21-inch squares. If you want 18×18-inch napkins, cut 19-inch squares.

Reusable cloth napkins made from rainbow grid fabric and blue and white striped fabric

Since I had one yard (36 inches) of the rainbow grid fabric, I cut 18-inch squares to make the most napkins.

Step 2: Fold and Iron Edges

Next, with the back of the fabric facing up toward you, fold over the edges by a quarter-inch and iron them in place all the way around each napkin.

Ironing fabric napkin edges

If you can’t tell which side is the front or back, it probably doesn’t matter. I just picked a side before cutting the fabric to keep all the napkins consistent. 🙂

Step 3: Fold and Iron Edges Again

Now fold those edges over by another quarter-inch, so that the frayed edges of the fabric will be hidden under the seams. Iron the edges all the way around each square.

Ironing fabric to hide frayed edges for dinner napkins

Step 4: Create Mitered Corners

At this point, you could skip ahead and sew your napkins with the corners folded over twice. But the corners can be pretty bulky that way, so I prefer to miter them.

To do that, just unfold each napkin corner and cut off a triangle (a quarter-inch above where the final corner of your napkin will be) to remove some of the extra fabric.

Then fold that diagonal fabric section over by a quarter-inch, and fold the adjacent sides of your fabric over twice like before. Iron each mitered corner to secure it in place.

Cutting fabric to make mitered corner on handmade napkin
Mitered corner on a fabric napkin, before sewing

You can see this process in action in my video.

Step 5: Pin and Sew Your Napkins!

Finally, pin the sides and corners of your napkins to help hold the edges down. Then sew a simple seam around the border of each napkin.

Finish off the stitching, and your napkins are ready to hit the dinner table!

Sewing a simple line around the border of a cloth napkin

Cloth Napkins to Save the Trees

It’s easy to cut back on disposable napkins and paper towels when you have handmade cloth napkins. I’ve been making bunches so we always have some available.

They make any meal feel fancy, and you can embellish them with your favorite accessories to dress up the table.

DIY fabric napkins on table

DIY cloth napkins with mitered corners
Handmade cloth napkins ready for dinner

6 thoughts on “DIY Cloth Napkins: Soft, Cute and Reusable (to Save the Trees!)”

  1. I enjoyed your “how-to” video and attention to detail. I admire your trying to save the trees! (I know Andy has used cloth napkins forever and no paper plates or paper towels in his house.) We are guilty of paper plates, paper towels, kleenex etc. (We came from the era before they figured out all of the save the trees and quit using all this paper stuff.) You are doing your part and I applaud you for it!! Go Tara!!

    • Thanks, Judy! Yeah, Eric was telling me that Andy has always done a great job of using cloth napkins! I really like using them as long as they have a nice texture. It’s feels fancy. 🙂 And it’s fun to use my favorite colors and unique fabric designs.

  2. This tutorial is a good prompt for many of us. I’m 62 and have had a plethora of bad store bought napkins, useless ones that look pretty when the table is dressed for meals but not much good at actually wiping ones hands or mouth.
    I found your site early this year and have felt a kinship. I grew up with MCM surroundings, until my dad very thoughtfully had our new military housing filled with brand new furnishings, down to the dishes, lol, in early American ugly. I was distraught.
    So, all these years later, I am jumping backwards to claim the spirit of my early memories living in a home filled with atomic era MCM. I was always too timid to do so before, instead going mainstream.
    Thank you for sharing your journey.

    • Aww, thanks Kristen! I’m glad you’re liking the site. 🙂

      Haha, going from MCM to “early American ugly” must have been rough! I’ve always been baffled that people had such beautiful modern homes in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and then they left it all behind in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I’m glad MCM is coming back though! I grew up with gaudy ‘80s, so MCM is a breath of fresh air for me. 😀

      That’s great that you’re recapturing your early memories in your home decor now. I love that aspect of MCM and in my case feeling closer to my relatives who got to experience the mod era firsthand.


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