Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 18, 2011
I used my new napkins for the first time today! They were wonderful. My husband and son kept commenting on how nice it was to have new linen napkins on the Shabbat table. I sewed them because it’s very hard to find cloth napkins in Israel. I did find one place in Jerusalem that sells them but they’re about $4 each and I’m not sure of the fabric (probably a heavy cotton/polyester). I bought the fabric at Bad Ratz and they ended up costing about $15 for 16 napkins. Quite a difference in price!
I’m not going to tell you how I made them because there are many good instructions on the Web, like this tutorial. If you have a rotary cutter, cutting out 16 napkins is a snap. I’m wondering how I managed so long without it! They’ll have to pry it out of my cold, stiff hands when I’m gone…. Here’s a pile of cut napkins, the edges turned and pressed.
If you have the patience to sew mitered corners, I highly recommend it for several reasons. It will definitely alleviate the boredom of hemming all those napkins. It’s not a difficult skill to learn and worth having if you like sewing your table linens. Your napkins will look fabulous.
When I was halfway through the pile of fabric I started timing myself and found that it took me only 2 minutes per napkin, so we’re not talking about a major investment in time! If you want a tip on sewing fast, don’t use pins. I almost never pin anything, certainly not anything as fiddly as a mitered corner in heavy linen fabric. I use a sewing awl instead. If you have an old-fashioned ice pick, that will work. Some sites recommend using the point of a seam ripper but I worry that mine would break under the pressure. When I’m sewing fast and trying to get a bulky corner under the presser foot, I press down really hard, so I use the tip of a pair of really sturdy thread clippers, but you could use a small, sturdy screwdriver or anything that will hold your fabric firmly.
In a nutshell, a sewing awl is a long, skinny, steel finger, which you use to hold the folds of fabric in place while stitching with a machine (I’m not talking about the sewing awls with an eye for threading and stitching leather). Your left hand (or whatever hand is not holding the awl) guides the large piece of fabric, turning the edge, while your right hand feeds the fabric, using the awl, directly under the presser foot. I’ve been known to start my sewing machine by turning the head wheel with my left hand, which is a bit of a contortion, but it works. My sewing machine is a cranky old 1970s Singer that was given to me in non-working order. I had it repaired, sewed my maternity clothes, my son’s baby clothes, and it’s still going strong.