With Thanksgiving around the corner (whaa? How did that happen?!), many of us are beginning to give some brain power to an upcoming Thanksgiving meal. Typically, this involves a fine dining experience that involves plenty of family and gratitude. If you’re hosting this year or are simply looking for a great dining table setting addition, these DIY polka dot napkins might be just the thing.
I will warn you; if you’re starting from scratch like this tutorial shows, these aren’t the fastest DIY project. But if you use some existing napkins and simply use the polka dot idea to add a bit of festive appeal, it’ll speed up your process a great deal. Let’s begin.
DIY Level: Beginner
- Fabric for napkins
- Matching thread
- Gold acrylic paint
- Small (1/2” or 3/4″ recommended) foam pouncer
Begin by laying out the fabric on a large flat surface. Match selvedge edges perfectly.
Measure to determine how many napkins you can make with your fabric (standard dinner napkins can be 16” to 18” finished; formal dining napkins can be around 22”). Also, square off the raw edge at this point.
For 18” square napkins, measure 9” from the folded center point of your fabric. This will be your first cutting line.
Use a rotary cutter to cut your fabric at the 9” mark (away from the folded center), then measure 18” from the raw edge and use a rotary cutter to cut a 90-degree edge from the fold to the first cut.
You’ve got your first napkin cut out. Now use the rest of your fabric to cut more 18” square pieces, beginning with the fabric between your first napkin and the selvedge of that same section.
After you’ve cut out as many napkins as you want for your set, you’re ready to give the napkins their spots.
Place a piece of cardboard or drop cloth down on your work station. The paint could bleed through the fabric, depending on how loose the weave of your fabric is, so you’ll want to protect your work surface.
Grab your gold acrylic paint. You could also use specialized fabric paint for this project, although acrylic paint never comes off fabric, so it’s a great less-expensive option.
Decide how big you want your polka dots. One suggestion is to keep the size of your polka dots and the size of your project proportionate – for napkins, a smaller foam pouncer is generally a better idea than a very large one. But this, of course, depends on the overall look you’re going for. Do what you want with this, actually.
Fill a disposable plastic lid with your paint, and dab your pouncer into the paint. You’ll want to make sure there is paint on the entire foam circle.
Starting in one corner, begin making paint polka dots.
Play around with what works for you and your fabric. You might find that you can get four or five good circles out of each paint-dab, or you may find that it’s easier for you to dab the pouncer in paint after each polka dot. Whatever works for you to create filled in polka dots the best.
There’s no set pattern to this; go with what seems best for your specific polka dots as far as white space between them. Let paint dry thoroughly…and then let them dry some more. You want these guys completely dry before moving on to the pressing.
Heat an iron to the setting that is appropriate for your fabric. One method is to fold over all the raw edges about 1/2″ and press them.
The corners will look something like this with this method. You’ll want to turn the edges in one more time before sewing.
Fold the edges over and press. The napkin edges can be sewn in place like this for a quick method; however, chances are the corners won’t be as crisp as they could be with this method.
A second option is to fold and press each corner in 1”.
Lay the napkin, right-side down, on the ironing board. (Try not to be jealous of this decades-old iron board cover. I know it’s hard. But try.)
Fold the raw edge up about 1/2″ and press.
Fold that edge up another 1/2” and press.
You can see here that the raw edge is completely “tucked” inside the pressed edges. Repeat for the other three sides of the napkin.
Your corners will be much crisper with this method.
With the edges of your napkins pressed into place, head down to your sewing machine and stitch them in place.
I love nicely connected corner, don’t you?
With your stack of finished napkins in place, it’s time to fold them in such a simple way that it hides any corners from sight.
First, lay your napkin right-side down on the table.
Fold the top half of the napkin down at the slightly-less-than-half mark.
Fold in the two side edges, leaving a small gap between the ends in the center so they don’t bunch up when you fold the napkin one more time.
Fold the napkin one more time at the center line.
The seams are staggered and corners tucked away with this folding method, which is why I like it.
With fantastically festive polka dot napkins such as these (gold, even!), it’s time to get a table set and a party started, wouldn’t you say?
I wish I had people over the age of 10 joining me this afternoon, but they’ll feel special anyway. That’s what counts, right?
The smaller polka dots on these napkins, with closer spacing, looks nice because it allows for plenty of polka dots to show when the napkin is folded. Larger polka dots or ones that are further apart would mean less gold polka dottage.
Darker napkins are an interesting, grounding, and fairly unexpected addition to a lighter tablescape.
We hope you enjoy creating your own DIY polka dot napkins for the upcoming holiday season…and that they get plenty of use.