Sunday, November 14, 2010

Napkin with mitred border frame tutorial

I am in the process of making 12 napkins as a gift to my generous work colleague who's hosting Christmas lunch for our team at her house.  There are 12 of us in the team so its a big ask from anyone.  I had the perfect napkin in mind, one with a mitred border on one side only.  But how to make?   This is the story of my journey to turn the vision into a reality.

Cue: One length of off white linen purchased at an op shop for $4 aeons ago.
When I purchase fabric I overlock the edges, wash and mark with the price I paid so I can get all smug later when I sew it up.   But back on track.

The linen was 150cm wide x 2m so I calculated that the fabric I had could make 3 x 50cm (19 inch) napkins along the width, and 4 x 50cm (19 inch) along the selvage.  That is 12 napkins all up at 50cm square.   The actual measurements in real life were a bit looser than this, after trying to true them up, they came in about 48cms square-ish.   The size of the napkin is generous and you can go with whatever works for you, but I prefer one that sits over my whole lap.

I had to buy the contrast border fabric, and got far too much because I wasn't thinking.  I got 1.5 metres at $9.95per metre.  Next time I'll figure out the measurements before I buy.   If you are doing a 5cm (2 inch) border then you need this times the four sides.  If the fabric is 112cms wide, then you need 10cms to do one napkin, and you'll have a bit left over.   So I had 12 napkins x 10 cms = 1.2 metres.   So I got 1.5 in case something went horribly wrong.  Or if my maths on the fly was completely out.   As it happened I was right in the first place.

So now onto the construction. 

As my napkins weren't square, I cut 4 strips x 2" wide for each side of the fabric and then sewed them together mitreing the corners.   I made myself up a little template to make life easier, as I didnt want to sew it completely to the inside edge - preferring to fold that inside to finish it off.  I made this little 45 degree triangle and marked it at half inch.  I created this with the help of my quilters ruler which has a 45 degree angle marked on it.  You dont need to create this template of course but its a lot easier to lay this little card on the fabric, rather than getting out your chunky ruler each time.

Then I put it on the fabric where 2 strips are butted up against each other and mark the angle line.
Then marked the 1/2 inch point where I should stop stitching
Sew the 4 corners.
Cut the ends off
Press the seams open and press down the inside excess towards the inside.
I marked the top edge with an 'x' and did the same on the fabric to avoid having a 'which way does this go?' moment.
Pin it on all the way around and sew with a quarter inch seam.
Clip the corners
Turn it to the inside and press into place.   Sew close to the inside edge.  Make sure you have one colour for the top fabric and one colour for the plain napkin.  I had red in the top and beige in the bobbin.
 Like thus:
Give it a final press and marvel at the front:
and the back
Especially your neat mitred corners.
And now, as a bonus for you sticking with me this far, I'm going to show you how I streamlined the process and went hard at it Production Line style.
Just one extra long 2" strip this time.   Butt against one edge - make a marking on the trim and the napkin so you know which is the top edge (not necessary if you have a true square).   Mark a dot at at each of the next three corners, and cut the trim to be equal with the final edge.

Take it to the machine and every time you come to a dot do this:
  Take it under your presser foot and sew just alongside your template and stop at the 1/2" line.  I found it easier to do it this way rather than start at this bit and go to the corner.  You can do either way, but you must securely back stitch at the inside edge where you stop.
I punched some holes in my template to allow for easier pinning after I had a couple of slippage issues.
Then proceed to the ironing board and continue as with original method.

Bon appetit !


Three down. 9 to go.

(and the final tally $4 napkin fabric, $15 trim fabric.  Total $19 for 12 napkins, or $1.58 each.  Smug.  Well and truly)


  1. Dear Miss Smug!!! Love the napkins. I am sure that B is going to be absolutely thrilled with them. Your team is very spoilt by you. J

  2. Oh thanks for this tutorial, my patchwork mad mother has tried many times to show me how to do mitered corners neatly and failed! Using a template is certainly the way forward!

    p.s I have nominated you for the 'one lovely blog' award! As I think your blog is great!