DIY Cloth Dinner Napkins

Make these DIY cloth dinner napkins from budget-friendly linen, and give your table a classic and upscale vibe. The more these napkins are washed, the better they look!

place setting with cloth dinner napkin and liberty blue plates

These DIY cloth napkins, which I promise are super easy, give your table settings a tremendous bang for your buck. Linen napkins are the best. The more they are washed, the softer they get!

This post was originally published in 2018. I am still using that first set of cloth napkins, and I still love them. For the purpose of updating, I purchased linen, and made another set of napkins. The second set is featured in this post.

diy cloth dinner napkin linen with fringe

Easy-to-follow instructions

  • Decide what size you want your napkins to be, and then cut squares one inch larger. I cut my squares 20 inches on each side, so my napkins are about 19 inches square.
  • DO NOT PREWASH THE LINEN.
diy cloth dinner napkins no fringe
  • Starting on one side of the first square, start pulling threads along the edge. Linen ravels quite easily, so it won’t be hard.
  • Pull the threads until you get one continuous thread that runs along the entire side. At this point you will need to trim your fringe so it is even. 
diy cloth dinner napkins making fringe
  • Pull enough complete threads so your fringe is at least 1/4 inch wide. I pulled 10 threads per side.
  • This isn’t an exact thing…and don’t worry if every napkin isn’t the same. Remember…these are handmade!
cloth dinner napkins with fringe
  • When all the sides on each napkin are fringed, it’s time to wash and dry them. When they come out of the washer, there will be a lot of stray strings. This is normal, and actually what you want! Just trim them off with scissors.
  • After drying, use a hot iron to press the freshly laundered cloth napkins, but don’t be too particular. Linen has incredible texture, so let it shine.
  • After pressing, trim the fringe again if needed.
free printable thanksgiving napkin ring

How much fabric to buy?

This is a hard one! There are many factors that go into determining how much fabric you will need to make these cloth dinner napkins. Let’s start here…

To make six 20 inch squares, I recommend that you purchase 2.5 yards of fabric. The fabric needs to be at least 45 inches wide. I had a little left over after I cut out six napkins.

Source for Linen

Now it’s time to share my linen source, so you can make your own custom DIY cloth napkins. Many years ago, when I opened my Etsy shop, I looked and looked for 100% linen that I could afford. Believe me, it was not easy to find. I started out buying on eBay, but that soon turned into an unpredictable situation. I knew I needed a dependable place where I could get the same linen on a consistent basis.

JoAnn Fabric turned out to be the answer. This Sew Classic linen comes in 3 colors. Natural, White and Black. The natural is a darker, flax color and is my favorite. The white is actually a soft ivory, and not a bright white. I have never purchased the black, but I’ve seen it in the store, and it’s just as nice as the other colors. This linen currently sells at full price for $21.99 per yard, but I never pay that. I always buy it when it’s on sale, or I have a coupon. It’s very affordable and excellent quality. 

diy cloth napkins

When I bought the linen for this second set of napkins, I noticed that it was quite different than what I had purchased in the past. As you can see in the image above, the weave is looser, and the color is darker. I love the way this second set turned out. They’re bigger, the fringe is beautiful, and after washing, the napkins are very soft. They will, of course, soften even more every time they are laundered.

Frequently Asked Questions

After the first few launderings, the fringe will stop raveling. There will still be threads and stray strings, but not as many as in the beginning.

Probably. If you pull them from the dryer immediately, and shake them out good, they will fold nicely. There may be a few wrinkles, but that’s normal with linen.

Yes! My best advice is to stick with a washable, all natural fabric with a large weave. A good choice is 100% cotton.

stay connected

Join the OSP Family

Subscribe to our newsletter to get
new posts and special offers!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

55 Comments

  1. Have you ever made th no sew napkins with drop cloth canvas?

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Beverley…no I haven’t. I think the drop cloth would be a bit too heavy, and I’m not sure you could get the edges to fray. If you decide to try it, let us know!

  2. MARY-ANN (FROM CANADA!) says:

    Thanks, Ann, for the info for buying the linen! Next time we are in the USA, I will definitely buy a few yards. You are always so helpful! Have a great week!

  3. 4 stars
    Thank you for sharing! My only question is why you do not advice to prewash the linen? TIA

    1. Ann Drake says:

      In my opinion, the linen is easier to cut before it’s washed. Also, the threads pull much easier in linen that has not been washed. Definitely wash and dry the napkins after they are cut and fringed. Thank you!

      1. Thank you!
        Would you add an extra cm to each napkin for shrinkage?

        1. Ann Drake says:

          Hi Mada…yes that would be a good idea!

  4. Nancy L Pickard says:

    The linen in this tutorial looks like it is the white/cream linen. Am I correct in thinking this?
    Thanks!

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi! It’s between a cream and a taupe. On the Joann website it’s called Natural. If you want something lighter, there is white. It’s not a bright white, but a soft creamy white. My napkins have softened and faded quite a bit. I still use them all the time!

  5. Hello! How wide generally is their bolt of fabric? Wanting to make 100-110 napkins and trying to decide how many yards I need

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Hannah…it’s been a long time since I bought some of this linen, but I believe it’s 45 inches wide. Good luck with your napkins!

  6. Hi Ann, is it necessary to do anything to keep the linen from continuing to fray?

    1. Ann Drake says:

      I didn’t do anything. Each time I wash my napkins, there are some strings to trim, but the frayed edge hasn’t really gotten any wider. Hope this helps!

  7. Thank you for sharing! Do you do anything to prevent the fringe from fraying any more?

  8. Fabric-store.com has a very good quality linen, in multiple weights and colors. It is also cheaper than Joanne’s on a regular basis, so you don’t have to wait for a sale or a coupon. I use it a lot and love it.

  9. Aaahh thank you so much for this tutorial, Ann :)
    I dont have a dryer at home, can I just wash it and air dry them?

    Thank you once again!

  10. Hi, I am hoping to create napkins for my wedding using this method and block print them. I really love an Essex cotton/linen blend, so that is what I’m considering using, but do you think this method would work still even if it isn’t 100% linen? Hoping to save time not having to sew them all, since I’ll then have to block print them all. Thank you!

  11. How many yards would you buy to make 50 napkins?

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Mia…the linen in this post (from JoAnn) is 53 inches wide (approx.) If you cut 20 inch squares, you will need about 14 yards of fabric. You will have a strip of fabric about 13 inches wide left over, but I don’t think there is any way to avoid this. If you can find 100% linen that is 60 inches wide, you can get three squares width wise. Then you would need about 10 yards of fabric. I hope this helps!

  12. Evelyn Schipper says:

    Thank you for the link to the best linen for raveling.

  13. What temperature of water did you use to wash your napkins?
    Dryer temperature? I just don’t want my napkins to shrink too much. My finished size with the fringe edge is approx. 17 inches.

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Karen,
      I wash them in warm water and on the normal dryer cycle. It’s perfectly fine to wash them in cold water and on a delicate dryer cycle. They will shrink a little but hopefully not too much.

  14. Love the natural -looking linen napkins with the natural elements on your table. And, oh, those green ball glasses are great!

  15. mila bassett says:

    I think these napkins are timeless, and will fit in many styles. Would love to add these to my collection of napkins.

    Ann, how do you deal with stains (grease, pasta sauce, etc.) on them? Is it safe to use bleach?

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Mila! I don’t use bleach. I like Oxiclean stain remover spray. It comes in a blue bottle. It gets almost anything out. The only thing that was a fail was ink. I agree…linen is timeless!

  16. I am a linen fanatic and buy my linen from fabrics-store.com. Their prices can’t be beat, they have great customer service, and their linen comes in a variety of weights and many colors. They are in LA and I’m in San Diego so if I order early enough in the day, I will get the fabric the next day otherwise it is usually the following day. Try them out.

    1. I ordered these and they’re very different than what her photo shows. Feeling disappointed. Hopefully it pans out ok.

      1. Ann Drake says:

        Hi Erin…I’m not sure what you are referring to. I don’t actually sell the napkins. They are a DIY project. What did you order?

  17. What a great project and super easy! Thanks for sharing. Hugs and blessings, Cindy

  18. I love these napkins. I actually searched your shop a few days ago to see if you sold any napkins. Looks like I’ll be making my own. Thanks for the simple tutorial.

  19. Sharyn Davis says:

    Thank you for sharing this project, Ann. Another source for linen is fabrics-store.com

  20. These are the perfect napkins for every occasion, and I now want those green jars.

  21. Yvonne @ StoneGable says:

    Ann, these napkins are really exquisite! They look very very expensive. Thanks for the tip about you best linen source. I think I’ll make a set for me and one for each of my girls.

    These have to be my favorite no-sew yet!

  22. Hello there, I just stumbled onto this site for the first time, and just love the idea of those napkins! My question though, wouldn’t the linen continue to unravel with each time you wash them?

    I have quite a bit of linen that’s been hiding in my closet and would love to put it to use. But I’d hate to waist it on a project that would eventually fall apart. Thanks!

    1. Ann Drake says:

      I’ve washed my napkins several times and they are just fine. The weave tightens quite a bit after laundering so they really don’t ravel much more. There are stray strings that I just cut off.

  23. Cindy Mittlesteadt says:

    Thanks Ann for this nice “anyone can do it” post. My daughter and her husband use cloth napkins everyday. This is a great idea for a gift or something Natalie can do to “fluff her nest”. I love picking up vintage linens at Estate Sales so I am right with you on their appeal. They can be dressed up with embroidery, lace, applique. I never trust the cut edge the store makes. So everybody, never cut out a bunch of squares then start fringing. It will be out of square and your napkins will be cocktail size by the time you are done. And you will have to say that was the plan all along!

  24. Jeanette Duke says:

    You ladies are so much fun!! I love all these goodies you all are making—so now I have to get busy.
    I made some napkins many years ago but not linen. I will give them a go, yours are so pretty.
    Thank you, Ann

  25. debbiedoos says:

    The frayed edges look awesome. I may have to go do that to my drop cloth napkins. These are so pretty Ann!

  26. I love those napkins! Anything “no sew” gets my attention. Thanks for sharing your source for the material. There is a Joanne’s about 30 min from my home. I like that store but don’t get over there that often.

  27. Thanks so much Ann. Blessings, Becky

  28. Cute napkins and thanks for the linen source. I agree that it is difficult to find good quality affordable linen and now I know where to find it!

  29. I know it’s almost spring but those napkins would make great Christmas gifts!

    Your blog is great. Thanks for sharing.

  30. Confessions of a Plate Addict says:

    I love your linen napkins, Ann! It is always such a wonderful fabric…and who knew how easy it is to turn it into napkins! I am loving working with our no-sew group!…hugs…Debbie

  31. Colleen Lang says:

    What is the fabric width on this linen? And, does is shrink a lot? I bought some linen napkins and when I washed them they shrunk quite a bit. Not enough to be an issue, but more then I thought they would. Thanks for the info! :)

    1. Ann Drake says:

      The width is 54 in. It does shrink a bit and I usually prewash if I’m sewing with it so it’s not an issue. It even thickens up a little after it’s washed and dried. Thanks for stopping by!

  32. Atta Girl Amy says:

    Your table is beautiful and so are the napkins, Ann. I’m clicking over now to buy me some green mason jars — they’ve been on my to-buy list for a while — and I’m also eyeballing those chargers!

    Excited to be no-sewing with you again this month! So fun to see everyone’s projects.

  33. Hi Ann, The napkins are lovely. You are so kind to share how to make them and the source for the fabric. I love your blog. You are so talented and so kind in sharing.

  34. Suzy @ Worthing Court says:

    These are lovely , Ann. Linen always looks so elegant, however and wherever it’s used. I never knew making napkins from it could be so simple! Thank you for sharing your source too.

  35. Jane @ Cottage at the Crossroads says:

    Ann, I love your linen napkins with the frayed edges and thanks for sharing your source. I just happen to be going to JoAnn’s tomorrow to pick up a few other supplies so I will look for the linen. And your new chargers are beautiful!

  36. Nan Alderson, Odessa, DE says:

    So do we ask at Joanne’s for 100% cotton fabric by the yard? Details!
    They are lovely. Wanna try it!

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Ask for Sew Classics 100% linen. Don’t get the “linen look.” Have fun!

  37. Barb @ The Everyday Home says:

    Ann I would have never know you could wash the linen after it was raveled. I love that. There is nothing quite as pretty as real linen is there? That is also one of my favorite colors, too. I have those same white chargers. I had a gift card and used it to buy 3 of them and splurged on the other 3. I love them! Pretty table as always. xxoo, Barb

  38. Ricki Jill Treleaven says:

    Pretty napkins, and they would look great with Yvonne’s no sew table runner. Great projects y’all are featuring!

    xo,
    RJ

  39. Your napkins are beautiful. I’ll have to stop by my local JoAnna.
    By the way where did you find the green mason jars? I have been looking for them. Blessings…. Becky