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Before I began working with Fiskars, I had never used a rotary cutter or cutting mat. My trusty orange-handled Fiskars sewing scissors and measuring, (and remeasuring) with a measuring tape had always been sufficient. I did not understand just how valuable the time savings was using these tools, and now that I own them, if someone told me I couldn't use them I'd probably stoop to folding my arms across my chest and pouting. I'd definitely whine.
My husband and I recently decided we wanted to switch from using paper napkins to cloth. They feel nicer, reduce waste, and over the lifetime of a set of cloth napkins, cost less than what you would spend on paper napkins. These are simple to make so they are a great project for someone beginning to sew. They are also a great way to demonstrate how useful a rotary cutter, cutting mat, and an acrylic ruler can be.
If you are using 100% cotton fabric and wrinkles are a concern, unless you plan to iron your napkins after each washing, you may want to choose fabrics that are little heavier in weight. Generally speaking, these will cost more than thinner cotton fabrics but the extra expense may be worth it to you.
Begin with 1 1/4 yards of fabric. Prewash and dry your fabric. Iron if desired.
Fold your fabric lengthwise with the selvages (the finished edges of the fabric) together and press the fold with your iron. Lay your cutting mat so the long edge is parallel to the edge of your work surface. Lay the fabric with the ironed fold lined up with the top-most horizontal measurement line on your cutting mat. To square up the fabric, use the vertical lines on the cutting mat to guide you in trimming one of the ends (the raw edges of the fabric), so that it is perpendicular (at a 90 degree angle) to the fold. Keeping the fabric folded and using the lines on the cutting mat to guide you, cut the fabric into sections that are the desired width of your napkins. Turn one folded section 90 degrees so the fold is now running along the vertical lines. Place the acrylic ruler as close to the fold as possible without covering it up and cut the fold off. Cut the opposite side to the length that leaves you with square. You now have 2 unhemmed napkins. Repeat this with the remaining folded section of fabric. Each of my napkins was cut as a 19 inch squares.
Square a napkin, right side facing down, on the cutting mat so that the 45 degree angle line runs through the center of the corner. Using a temporary marking pen, place marks at 1/2 inch from the corner along each edge as shown.
Next, align your acrylic ruler with the 45 degree angle line, measure 1 1/2 inches from the corner, and place a mark.
Use the acrylic ruler to connect the first 2 marks (placed at 1/2 inch from the corner) and cut off the corner using the rotary cutter.
Fold the clipped corner up so the center of it matches the third mark you made (1 1/2 inches from the corner) and iron the fold.
Fold each side up 1/4 inch and iron.
Fold each side up 1/4 inch again and iron. This will create a mitered corner. Machine stitch the hems close to the edge of the hem. You can also stitch the mitered corners down to make them more durable if desired.
These steps can be used to make napkins without the use of a cutting mat, ruler, and rotary cutter but these tools allow you to make your marks quicker and more accurately.
When finished I had turned 1 1/4 yards of 6 different fabrics into 24 napkins. Since some of my fabrics were on clearance at $2.50 a yard, I was able to make all 24 napkins for around $25 which is about what I would spend in a year on paper napkins. And these will last longer than a year so they will save me money in the long run.
1 1/4 yard of fabric for 4 napkins, coordinating thread