Got your fun food fabrics out and ready? Let's get started.
For this tutorial, I've chosen three fruit fabrics ~ black cherries for the center front square, strawberries for the borders and a grape print for the backing. I would definitely prewash your fabrics for this project!! The finished napkin will be 14½" square.
The sizes of the pieces needed are as follows:
- Center front: 9½" square (cut 1)
- Side borders: 3¼" x 9½" (cut 2)
- Top & bottom borders: 3¼" x 15" (cut 2)
- Backing: 15" square (cut 1)
Most of my napkins were cut from strips with my rotary cutter, but when I wanted the border prints to fall in one direction, I found it easier to use these templates I made from scrap cardstock. Tracing around them with soft pencil, I'd then use my rotary cutter to cut out the pieces. It definitely results in a more efficient use of fabric and works well, too, when you're using up scraps.
Lay out your pieces as above. Using a ¼" seam allowance throughout the project, start sewing with the side borders.
On your first side (it doesn't matter which you start with), stitch along for about 3", then stop and lift your presser foot. Gently push your square back so that you skip the next 2½" - 3". Drop your presser foot and continue stitching to the end.
Clip those free-floating threads, front & back, and discard, leaving opening as shown above. (Backside...the stitching showed up better on the black.)
Sew the second side border piece, stitching from top to bottom with no break. Press outward, toward borders.
Stitch top and bottom borders onto piece and again, press seams outward, toward borders. Trim to square.
Layer top and backing pieces together, right sides facing. Pin to keep from shifting...just 3 or 4 pins per side will be fine. Sew completely around the outer edge, using ¼" seam allowance.
Clip corners and trim away all loose threads. This is important, especially if any of your fabrics are light in color, as you don't want floating threads sandwiched between the layers and showing through.
Here's the clever part. Insert your fingers into the border opening and pull the napkin right-side out.
Smooth out the napkin and press. As I do this, I usually use a long quilter's pin to gently prod the corners and edges out fully.
We're almost done now, though as you can see from my fancy, hand-drawn arrows, we have a gaping hole along one border edge. The next step is illustrated by a photo I took in June when I was making my first napkins....different fabric, same next step!
While this part sounds fussy, it's not! It only takes a minute. Thread a needle with a neutral or matching thread, knot it and bring it up through the fold in the edge of the border fabric. You will be trying to avoid having any of these stitches show, so close the opening by scooting the needle along between the border fabric and the center square, catching a few threads of each, back and forth. Try not to stitch into the backing fabric as you go, especially if the thread is a contrasting color. A few small catches are often inevitable, however, and not a problem.
Thread your machine with a compatible color and position your needle just inside the edge of the border, on the center square. Before I start stitching, I bring the bottom thread up through the top and pull both threads to the side to prevent balling up of thread on the reverse side of the napkin when I start stitching. Slower is better than full pedal-to-the-metal here, but it is pretty easy to just chug along, stitching the center square down to the backing. Once you've stitched around, just take a few little backstitches and clip. This step holds your layers together nicely.
Voila! Here's the finished napkin...all seams enclosed, no binding, no fiddly mitering of corners. Neat, fun, square (14½" finished) and ready to use!
But you won't want to stop. You'll want some for your cookouts!
The possibilities are endless. While I think they're most fun using all food prints, I can imagine so many variations on themes...holiday, sports, birthdays, family events. In my opinion, they're most successful when the print mixes are a bit raucous. And from a practical standpoint, small, difficult stains (which are sometimes unavaoidable) will be much less noticeable on a busy dark-ish print. If you choose lighter colors, I'd suggest sticking to a busier print for maximum usability.
Let me know if you make some. I dare you to resist!