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Sewing double sided fabric napkins for a fabulous picnic set

by Julie Plotniko

Welcome back to day two of 5 days to a fabulous picnic set.

In yesterday’s post, I had a wonderful time making a reversible weighted tablecloth. Today I’ll continue to fill my picnic basket with supplies as I make a set of double-sided fabric napkins using notions from Heirloom, SCHMETZ needles, Sulky threads, Gütermann threads and fabrics from the April showers collection by Northcott.

I’m excited so let’s get to work.

The picnic basket is starting to fill.

materials (set of four napkins)


  • 1¼ yds each of two different fabrics; April Showers  22595-61 and 22591-61 was used in this sample

My double-sided cloth napkin fabrics from the April Showers collection.

Heirloom quilting plastic head pins

Gütermann 50wt cotton

SCHMETZ 75/11 Quilting needles

Sulky Poly Deco


  • rotary cutter, quilting ruler and cutting mat
  • sewing machine with all-purpose foot and ¼” piecing foot

Preparation and sewing

The beauty of fabric napkins is they can be used over and over so they are not only pretty but good for the environment as well.

Another thing I love about them is you can make exactly the size you want. Common sizes are 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20” square. I’ll be making our fabric napkins a luxurious 20″.

To begin, straighten an edge on your first fabric and cut two strips 20½” by the width of fabric.

Repeat for the second fabric.

Straighten the short edge of the first strip removing the selvedge at the same time. Leave the strip folded and cut 20½” from the edge just trimmed. Cut two 20½” squares at the same time.

Set aside and repeat for the other three strips. There will be four squares of each fabric for a total of eight squares.

Layer two squares of two different fabrics with their right sides together and all raw edges even. Use your Heirloom quilted plastic head pins and pin well all around the outside edge.

Pin well to keep the edges even.

These are my favorite style of quilting pins. The plastic head is the perfect size for me to hold on to for precision pinning. At 1¾” long these quilting pins always hold my pieces securely in place. They are nickel-plated steel so they don’t bend or break easily and will not rust. This is especially important for anyone who lives in an area of high humidity or close to saltwater. Heirloom plastic head quilting pins even come in a little reusable container.

Stitch around the outside edge leaving two or three inches unstitched on one side so the napkins can be turned right side out.

TIP I like to cross a set of pins where I leave this opening just to remind myself not to get carried away and stitch there.

Crossed quilting pins remind me where to start and stop stitching.

Prepare your sewing machine with a ¼” piecing foot and a new SCHMETZ 75/11 quilting needle. Made especially for piecing and machine quilting this is the perfect needle for sewing with cotton fabric.

Thread your machine with Gütermann 50wt cotton and you’re ready to stitch.
The stability of this thread will ensure that our napkins last through repeated washings while the wide range of colors makes it easy to match your chosen fabric.

Starting on one sideline your ¼” piecing foot up to the edge of the fabric and stitch around the pair of napkin squares. Backstitch at the beginning and end to secure the threads and pivot at the corners.

Don’t forget to leave the opening to turn your napkins!

Stitch the napkin squares together

Repeat for the remaining three napkins.

Carefully trim a little off the corners so they will turn well and be nice and sharp.

Trim the corners

Reach through the opening and turn the napkins right side out. Gently use your finger or a point turner on the corners to create a nice sharp point. The tip of a pair of scissors or a chopstick also work well.

Iron your napkins making sure the edges are nice and even and the seam allowance for the open section fold to the inside.

Hand stitch the openings closed.

Once again use your Heirloom plastic head quilting pins, pin well all around the outside edge. Pinning will keep the edges in place for topstitching.

Pin the edges in preparation for topstitching

I like to topstitch around the edges of the napkins to stop the edges from rolling in when washed and give them a nice professional finish. If you don’t enjoy hand stitching then this step will actually catch the open edges so you don’t have to.

Our Gütermann 50wt cotton could also be used for the topstitching. I decided to add some extra interest to my napkins and used Sulky Poly Deco thread for the topstitching.

Though this thread is normally used for machine embroidery and decorative stitching it can also be used for machine quilting, thread painting and topstitching. Poly Deco is a strong, high sheen, colorfast trilobal polyester that will not fade even with repeated washing so I know my napkins will stay beautiful for many years.

Switch to the all-purpose foot on your sewing machine and thread with Sulky Poly Deco in the top and bobbin.

Line the edge of your foot up to the edge of the fabric and topstitch all the way around pivoting at the corners. If not hand stitching the opening, then be sure you are close enough to the edge to catch the seam allowances.

Topstitch close to the edge

Are you wondering how I keep my fabric napkins looking like new?

Typical picnic condiments like ketchup, mustard and relish can, of course, leave stains but you don’t need to be afraid to use your napkins. If you live in an area that experiences cold winter nights or even just a bit of frost, simply wash your napkins as normal then hang out overnight. Like magic your whites will be white, your brights will be bright and all the stains, even grass, will disappear. If you don’t live in a cold enough climate simply put your napkins in a zip lock bag in the freezer for a little while prior to washing.

Our set of double-sided fabric napkins are complete and ready to use. Look how pretty they are.

Completed double-sided fabric napkins

It was so much fun creating these double-sided fabric napkins with you!

With Heirloom quilting pins, SCHMETZ needles, Sulky and Gütermann threads they’re so fast and easy to make. I love how fresh and cheerful they look with the April Showers fabric from Northcott.

Now that you know how, I bet you’ll want to make more not just for picnics but for dinner parties, lunches and gifts as well. You can even use theme fabrics for the holidays, special events or kids parties.

Our project for tomorrow is a wonderful set of reversible fabric bowl covers. Come back then as we continue to fill the picnic basket.

You won’t want to miss it!

This is part 2 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 1: 5 days to sewing and quilting a fabulous picnic set

Go to part 3: What it takes to make the best reversible fabric bowl covers

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