Dress Up Your Dinner Napkins

IMG_8709bI love using cloth napkins to dress up our dinner table, and through the years I’ve grown even more fond of their sustainability and cost effectiveness. Though, I’m not sure how cost effective it is if you keep buying more and more cloth napkins each year! This holiday season I thought it would be fun to look at how I could dress up the napkins I already own to give them an extra festive vibe. Check out three simple ways you can give new life to your table linens. And hey! Two of them are even no sew!

IMG_8698bIMG_8703Ribbon Trimmed Napkin

This look is so (no sew) simple! Select a spool of ribbon in a color that coordinates with your napkins, and get to ironing. Doesn’t it kind of look like gift wrapping?

heat bond in width of ribbon
-cloth napkin (i bought mine here)
-fabric scissors (not shown above)

IMG_8675Step One: Trim pieces of your ribbon to be about 1.5 inches longer than the width of your napkins.

Step Two: Fold down the edges of each ribbon segment about 1/4″ and iron flat.

IMG_8677Step Three: Iron the heat bond to the ribbon (pressing with hot iron for two seconds), then peel off the paper backing.

IMG_8688Step Four: Iron the ribbon in place on your napkin front with the heat bond facing down. (Hold iron in place for 10 seconds to adhere the ribbon.) Make sure you don’t iron the overhanging ribbon to your ironing board cover! Flip the overhanging portion under and iron it into place as well.

IMG_8703bPom-Pom Trimmed Napkin

This is my favorite napkin style by far! I just love pom poms these days, and gold and yellow might be my favorite color combination. It’s a perfect combo for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s—you name it! I didn’t want the pom-poms to be too obnoxious, though (people have to wipe their faces with these!), so I selected the smallest pom-pom trim I could find, and I think it turned out perfectly.

pom-pom trim 
-cloth napkin
-thread to match cloth napkin color
-straight pins (optional)
-fabric scissors
-sewing machine

IMG_8672This napkin was the simplest of the three—a breeze to stitch together!

Step One: This step is optional, but if you are working with a wide enough trim, I recommend pinning it into place before sewing. I didn’t cut the trim to size because as you sew, it can shift, and I hate to be short at the end. I also hate waste. So I waited to trim it until I got to the end of the napkin.

Step Two: Stitch the trim into place with a zipper foot so you can get very close to the edge of the napkin and the edge of your trim.

That’s all there is to it! It just requires beginner sewing skills.

IMG_8703cScreen Printed Napkin

Why not get a little typographic by “screen printing” a seasonal message on each napkin at the table? This is a great idea for any time of the year. You can get as traditional or as cheeky as you like.

-freezer paper
-template (make your own, or use mine by clicking here)
-X-Acto blade
-cutting mat
-masking/drafting tape (not shown above)
fabric paint
-sponge dabber
-press cloth (not shown above)
-fabric napkins (i bought mine here)

IMG_8659Step One: Print out the template. Click here to download mine—do not resize when printing if your napkin is 6.5″ wide. Make sure it fits your napkin before continuing! Resize and reprint if necessary.

Step Two: Lay a section of freezer paper over the template (dull side up) and tape in place. Then use an X-Acto blade to carefully cut out each later. Save the islands—the insides of the Rs, Bs, and the Gs if they fall out.

IMG_8662Step Three: Iron the freezer paper stencil into place on your napkin, making sure it’s sealed at the edges of each letter. Add the islands of the Rs, Bs, and Gs (if your Gs came apart, as mine did while cutting), and carefully iron them into place.

Step Four: Dab fabric paint onto each space in the stencil, being careful to keep your sponge mostly dry. No seepage allowed!

IMG_8690Step Five: Allow the paint to dry completely, then peel off the stencil and the islands.

Step Six: Cover the printed area with a press cloth and iron for 30 seconds. This will make the paint safe for washing.

IMG_8724There ya have it! Three semi-homemade napkin ideas that are just enough DIY for you to feel crafty, but not so crazy that you end up having to order takeout for Christmas dinner because you were too busy getting your craft on to worry about cooking food. (Story of my every day life! Gah!) But I mean…if that’s your plan, more power to you.

IMG_8721cI hope you’ve found some inspiration to bring new life to your table linens! If you don’t use cloth napkins in your home, maybe you could dress up a table cloth or even curtains with these ideas. –Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

  • Love the screenprint ones! I just bought “plain” gold napkins for the holidays, and may have to test this project out!

  • This is such a cute DIY!! Can’t wait to try this out!!

  • Such a lovely idea and nice detail for the napkins.

  • Simplebut absolutely great!

  • these are so cute! the pompom and the screen printed ones are my favorite! i need to use cloth napkins more often!

  • These are just too cute! I love the idea of turning something blah into something wow! Great job Mandi!
    Julie | http://www.xfallenmoon.com

  • Cute!!!! the pom and printed ones are my favorite!


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  • Yay, this is great. I too find I am illusioned into thinking I need more cute napkins everyone I turn around!
    Favoring your pom-pom addition:)

  • I love how colorful they are, wonderful DIY! Thanks for sharing!

  • What a seriously lovely idea. I love the idea of using pom poms on napkins the most, i’m a big believer in never having enough pom poms in ones life though. 😉

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