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DIY Cocktail Napkins

The napkin holder is still a reliable center-piece on many dinner tables. When someone starts crying over their spilt milk, its convenient placement allows for a quick clean-up; a stack of 23 paper napkins should do the trick! Convenient? Yes. Wasteful? Incredibly. I’ll be the first to admit that those pick-a-size paper towels are a staple in my home, but I’m becoming more aware of my own wasteful tactics. Recently, I was inspired to find a new wave of individuals that have replaced their paper napkins/towels with reusable cloths. This isn’t anything mind-blowing, I know. But disposability has become way too easy and comfortable. After scouring the internet for some reusable napkins, I decided to make my own.

I’m happy to say this environmentally-friendly DIY will meet you where you are! Whether you want to go the full nine yards and sew your own napkins (no, I’m not going to teach you how to sew) or you would rather focus on stamping and purchase cloth napkins in a store, the result is a way better center-piece than a sad stack of Bounty napkins. Boring paper napkins are so 2019. Don’t be afraid to mix and match different colors and experiment with an assortment of stamps!

Materials \

  • Cotton or linen napkins 
    • $ Either buy cotton or linen fabric to sew (1 yard equates to ~6 cocktail napkins) 
    • $$ Or purchase cloth napkins 
  • Rubber Brayer (optional) to assist in evenly rolling ink 
  • Iron for heat-treating the ink
  • Sewing machine, if you plan to sew your own (obviously)

The Process \

1 Stamp Carving

SKIP this step, if you’re purchasing stamps that require no additional altering. But if you want to make your own, the world is your oyster. Draw your design on the rubber stamp or a potato that’s cut in half. Household objects can be great for tracing and creating shapes. If you plan to use multiple colors and different shapes, you’ll want to create a stamp for each separate shape. This will be much easier than trying to paint on different colors to one stamp. Reference the rainbow and cloud pattern, towards the bottom of this article, for an example.

A potato stamp doesn’t allow for as intricate of stamping and will be tossed, after the stamping session. Food for thought, as this starchy choice can be limiting! However, it’s great for making simple stamps – and cheap! Simply use a knife to cut around your stamp shape. 

If you decide to make your own rubber stamp, purchasing a kit with the correct carving tools is your best bet. The lines you drew out on the rubber is likely what you want your stamped image to be, so you’ll use the cutting tools to cut AROUND your lines. Rubber cutting tools usually come with different tips, so you can better control the width of your carvings. If your stamp is not the size of a full rubber block, use a knife to cut out your stamp.

2 Stamping

TEST YOUR STAMP! I can’t stress this enough. The last thing you want is diving into stamping on your fabric, when you have no clue what your stamp looks like. Grab a piece of scratch paper/fabric, ink your stamp and stamp it. More often than not, you’re going to find that your stamp isn’t doing quite what you wanted and will need a lil’ more cutting or carving.

Once you’re satisfied with your stamped image, you can move onto stamping your fabric. A couple things, before you start: Getting a solid, perfect stamp every.single.time. is nearly impossible without professional screenprinting equipment. I’m not saying you can’t try, but I chose to accept the imperfections and made the faded quality part of my design! Also, if you have a pattern that you want recurring on each napkin, plot that out ahead of time. The rainbow print was a scattered take on stamping with no rhyme or reason, whereas the striped pattern below required a bit of measuring.

There’s two ways you can go about inking your stamp. The first option is to roll ink onto your stamp directly. The other option is to set up an inking space, where you can evenly roll ink onto a piece of glass or plexi-glass and then ink your stamp from that surface. This second method will allow for a more consistent inking process. You’ll ink and stamp on repeat, until you’re satisfied with the pattern on your napkins or fabric. Then stand back, admire your work and let it dry!

3 Heat Treat the Ink

This is the part of the process that requires a bit of patience. Before you can start using your practical pieces of art, you need to let the ink dry for 24 hours. After this time, you can heat treat the ink – to do so, set an iron to medium heat, cover the stamped fabric with a thin sheet, and iron your future napkins. Keep the iron moving to prevent scorching in one area. Don’t skip this step, or you’ll risk ruining your stamped design! After heat treating, you’ll need to wait some more before washing … approximately 4-5 days. This longer wait time will ensure your ink doesn’t fade!

4 Sewing

Only applies, if you need to sew! Like I said above, I’m not going to teach you how to sew via a DIY article. I’m not even sure I know how to sew – But here are some guidelines, if you are creating your own napkins!

First, iron your fabric and get all the wrinkles out. You’ll want to cut your napkin sizes at least an inch larger than you intend for the finished napkin to be – for instance, I wanted a 9” cocktail napkins, so I cut a 10” square. This allowed me to have a ½ “ seam on all sides. Once you have your napkins sized, you should iron the seams down to allow for an easy sewing experience. Lastly, I think it’s fun to pick a thread color that contrasts the fabric color! Even if your sewing imperfections show, it adds another homemade design element. And it’s highly unlikely napkin users are going to critique your sewing skills when they’re eating!

5 Bon Appétit

Now, you and your table guests get to put your hand stamped napkins to use. Having these homemade items on your table will elevate even the most casual of meals – Taco Tuesday just got fancy! I also believe this DIY could result in some thoughtful, handmade gifts for the holiday season. Homemade items can be hit or miss, but everyone can use a set of napkins!