How to Make Linen Napkins: 3 Ways

Do you love the look of natural linen? I like the rumpled casual feel. This year for the holidays I thought I’d make linen napkins. As you might expect, purchasing the material is a lot cheaper than buying the napkins outright, but you do have to prep the fabric, cut, and finish the edges. Today I’ll show you three ways to finish your edges when making linen napkins.

How to Make Linen Napkins


For this project I purchased 100% linen from The Fabric Store. This particular fabric was a little over $10/yard. I ended up with nine napkins which was a little over 1.5 yards of fabric. I ordered 2 yards of fabric so there is some left over if I want to make a few more. 


When I received the linen through the mail, it was very stiff. After running it through the washer and dryer it came out nice and soft but pretty wrinkled, with lot of threads and frayed edges.

To make the napkins you first need to trim off the excess threads and iron the fabric. Then cut it to your desired size. Standard napkins are 18 inches square, so that’s what I used here. Since the fabric I purchased was 58 inches wide I was able to cut three napkins per width.  Then all you have to do is finish the edges. Actually, you really don’t have to finish the edges, but if you do, here are three ways to accomplish this task.

3 Techniques



The first technique is done by folding over 1/4 inch of the edge and then folding it over again so that the raw edge does not show. You may want to use an iron to press the hem first. Then sew a top-stitch around all four sides. This looks really nice from the top but not as nice underneath. (see image above)



The second, and easiest technique, is using pinking shears to finish the edges. I’m not sure how these will launder but they are a great way to achieve a finished edge if you are short on time.



The third technique is a serge or overcast stitch. This is a special setting on the sewing machine. It requires a good deal of thread and requires a little patience to run through all four sides, but I think it looks the best. You may want to use a thread that is close to the same color as the fabric so that the stitching blends in well. I used a lighter thread so you can easily see the stitches in this article.


The best part of this linen fabric is that it looks great in all kinds of settings. 


A causal party, or an elegant dinner, either setting looks great with natural linen.


Use the napkins to line bread baskets, trays, or place mats in a pinch.


All 3 finishing techniques work well on this beautiful linen fabric. You can also use the same techniques on a variety of other fabric, especially cottons and cotton blends which, like linen, have enough weight to make them easy to work with, and at $3 a piece they may be worth the effort.

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About Patti Estep

Patti is the creator of Hearth and Vine, a home and garden blog filled with projects to inspire your creative side. She loves crafting, gardening, decorating and entertaining at her home in Pennsylvania. When she is not working on a project at home or searching for treasures at nurseries and thrift stores with her girlfriends, you’ll probably find her with family and friends, at a restaurant, or home party enjoying new and different food adventures.

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  1. Very nice project Patti and I love those colors and those stitching options. Linen napkins are the best! All of our holiday and fancy dinners were served with them. Then when we went to grandma’s house that was all she used for nice and everyday. There were the fancy linens and then the everyday ones. Here’s something she also did, she would take old table clothes that may have had a stain or worn space and turn it into napkins by just using the nice pieces of material. I still have some of these and then sometimes she would crochet around the edges. Everything matched, she and my mom took such pride in setting a nice table as I bet you do too. She hand washed her linens too because she didn’t want the machine to ruin them. When I think about it all the lessons I was taught growing up are simply endless and most of it was just a way of life not really a lesson. Enjoy a beautiful Sunday!!

    • Hi Carole,

      What a great story. You were so lucky to have such a fabulous grandmother and mother. I’m sure they are very proud of you. I love your idea of re-purposing stained tablecloths. In fact, it just gave me an idea for something I’m doing in January.
      Thanks for stopping by friend.
      Enjoy your weekend!

  2. I really like the serge/overcasting way you finished some of those napkins. Sewing really isnt my favorirpte activity, but this would be a worthwhile project. Quick, easy and inexpensive! Thanks for these easy to follow napkin ideas!

    • Hi Susan,

      I like making easy projects with fabric but I don’t always have the patience for sewing and am by no means a good seamstress, so you can rest assured that if I post about it anyone can do it.
      Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!

  3. Nicely done and a very needed tutorial. I had no idea that I could make my own linen napkins.
    There is nothing quite as lovely as quality linens at a dining table.

    • Hi Jemma,

      We often entertain with family which is really too large (in the 20+ range) to expect linen napkins. However, once we will have a nice dinner for just a few and the linen napkins are a nice touch. Also, I find myself using them for lining baskets and even food shoot props so the do get used.

      Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!

  4. I love linen…somewhat addicted you might say.
    I’ve been making things out of linen…like tablecloths. My favorite edge is the totally rustic one…just a stay stitch (straight) and let is fray a bit over time….
    My favorite thing about linen….is that it seems to wash out better than cotton. Have you noticed that? Yes, eventually there may be stains that show….but I’ve purchased cotton napkins that stained first time out. Besides the fact that linen gets softer and softer.
    Yup …..linen all the way…

    • Hi Nancy,

      I love your stay stitch idea and will have to try it. I agree linen is just one of those special things that are so nice to have.
      Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!

  5. Good linen napkins are expensive. This is a great! Thanks for sharing at the Inspiration Spotlight party. Shared

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