Save a Tree, Make Your Own Cloth Napkins

The average person uses around six paper napkins per day — that’s over 2,000 per year! And that doesn’t even count paper towels. I’ve always used cloth napkins at home, and make it a point to search them out at vintage, antique and second-hand stores — the patterns and textures always intrigue — so when I first saw that statistic, I thought “there’s no way I could possibly use that many!” but then I thought a little harder. There’s the napkin I always grab with my morning coffee, the couple I use at lunch, then the few I need to dry that freshly-washed lunch container… before I knew it, my number had grown far higher then that original six. So, in keeping with my Earth Month intention, I decided to take control of that number and make a few sets of my own cloth napkins to bring with me to work, on the road, and anywhere else I may have to contend with that all-too-convenient dispenser.

Unlike paper napkins, these can be used over and over again and, if washed in cold water and line-dried, are far more environmentally-friendly than their disposable counterparts. Try searching out organic fabric at the craft store or take your eco-friendliness one step further and source some natural-fiber fabric from the thrift store. Make a few sets and they’ll last you for years to come! Check out the DIY, below:

Cloth Napkins

Cloth Napkins


1 yard 100% natural fiber fabric (linen, cotton, bamboo, hemp…)


Iron and ironing board

Sewing machine or needle & thread

Cloth Napkins

First wash and dry your fabric to remove any sizing and account for any shrinkage. Once removed from the drier, use a warm iron to press out any wrinkles. Cut or rip the fabric along the grain into 12 x 12-inch squares. I chose to leave the edges raw, but you could also easily create a folded hem if you wanted your napkins to look more polished.

Using your sewing machine (or a needle and thread), sew a straight stitch 1/4-inch in from the edge along all sides, pivoting the needle so the stitching does not run off the edge. When you arrive back where you started, tie off or back-stitch to secure the ends. Repeat with each napkin until you have a set.

These are so simple and quick to make, I can almost guarantee you’ll want to make a few different sets for different times of year and different occasions. Try using heavier-weight fabric to take the place of paper towels, too.

Cloth Napkins

Cloth Napkins

Cloth Napkins

Cloth Napkins

+ What projects are you working on for Earth Month? 

Check out more Earth Month projects, tips and tricks from BLDG 25!

Follow FPJulie on Twitter and Instagram!

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9 years ago

Love them! Great DIY :)

9 years ago

I adore this! It’s such a sweet way to add more class to the home too. I’ve been spending much more time outside this past week – hoping for some hikes soon!

Warm Regards,

9 years ago

This reminds me I have quite some cloth napkins at home and soon I will go get some of them here (I’m a student and I live in another city).
Also, I hope will have some time for new designs, who knows. I find the ones with embroidery very fancy.

9 years ago

Cloth napkins are gorgeous! Do you only have to use cloth for this DIY?

9 years ago

those are really cool and easy to make! Do they also work well? Linen does not absorb fluids too well if i’m not mistaken …
Best regards, Biene

9 years ago

I love this! I have been trying to do more sewing crafts lately and i’m totally going to try this:) Thanks for the post!

9 years ago

I’m not a very good sewer, but I haven’t bought napkins in ages and I’m trying to reduce paper towel consumption. I keep handy dandy bar mops around and wash them when dirty but it would be nice to have something aesthetically pleasing for mealtimes! This might be a fun project to do with my handy mom who is most definitely a sewer.

9 years ago

Sweet tutorial, and even sweeter Singer! I learned to sew on one of those babies almost 60 (yeah, really!) years ago, and she was old then! FABULOUS sewing machine! How did you find it?

Hutton H
9 years ago

Love that FP is always putting a new spin on things! Great way to celebrate earth day!

9 years ago

I find that buying them at the thrift store is much more cost effective. I always find my cloth napkins there for 10 cents a piece or in a set of 6 for 50 cents. No one ever wants them and they always have a lot, sometimes they even have really nice ones that are embroidered.

9 years ago

I love this idea! I just inherited my grandma’s old singer so I am so jumping on this DIY!



7 years ago

When I saw the title of this post, I had to read it. I love the idea of saving trees and this got me really interested in making cloth napkins. Now using a sewing machine might be a little more challenging, but I am up to the task.