Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tutorial: Fat Quarter Cloth Napkins

If I could dress the girls in raincoats at dinnertime, with drop cloths under their chairs, and a Roomba and a medium-sized dog to clean up after them, I would.

If I could get them to stop wiping their fingers on their shirts, or their bare chests, or the underside of the table, I would think fewer evil thoughts quietly inside my head, I have no doubt.

I'm currently, slowly, building up our collection of nicely-sewn cloth napkins to use at mealtimes. I'm not really into white linen, though--my favorite napkins are ample, double-sided, and made from mismatched quilting cotton. I like each napkin to be different, and I like to use fat quarters to make them, so that they sew up quickly and end up identical without me having to measure. I like to have a lot, though, because I like to wash them often, and so every time I make a new set of four and put them into the dinner rotation, it's not long before I think to myself, "We could really use at least one more set of napkins!"

If I happen to be at the store when the fat quarters are on sale, I'll have the girls help me pick out a selection to make a few more napkins, and Willow is happy to help sew them.

First, you have to wash and dry and iron your fat quarters, then match them up. I like to use two different, but complementary, prints for each napkin, but the girls are the most fond of novelty prints and combinations that in no way match or look good together, but hey, if it gets them to use their napkin...

Match up two fat quarters, then lay them out, right sides together, on a cutting mat, as lined up as you can get them. With a clear plastic ruler and a rotary cutter, square up the fabric by trimming all four edges, using the gridded cutting mat to make sure that you've got right angles at all four corners:

Pin the napkin all the way around--

--leaving about six inches that will be open in the middle of one side. I use chalk to mark the ends of that unsewn part:

Starting at one chalk mark, sew all the way around the perimeter, making good turns at corner, and stop when you get all the way around to the other chalk mark:

Clip your corners!

Use the opening to turn the napkin right side out, and use a chopstick or an unsharpened colored pencil to poke out the corners. Iron the napkin flat, turning the raw edges of that unsewn opening to the inside and creasing them so that they're even with the hemmed-and-turned rest of the napkin.

Edge stitch around the entire perimeter of the napkin, catching the folded-under raw edges of that unsewn part and sewing it shut as you go:

These fat quarter napkins are so big that I like to quilt them a little, so that they stay flat and properly shaped in the wash:

We currently have enough napkins to last us about half the week, which is technically plenty since I do laundry at LEAST twice a week, but...it's not enough. I really need at least one more full set!

For breakfast and lunches, I sew my lunchbox cloth napkins, which are about a quarter of the size, and I definitely need more of those, because the girls are ALWAYS eating, and it's always something messy. Since they generally help themselves to their own meals during the day, my dream is to sew a couple of rainbow sets of lunchbox napkins for each of them, so that each girl has a fresh napkin for each meal, color-coordinated by day, that she can put into her own laundry, which she does herself.

While I kick back on the couch, eating chocolate and watching "Days of Our Lives," of course...

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