My sister-in-law and her sister have large enough homes to host the family dinners for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every time we get together as a family, we use paper napkins: doesn’t everyone? But for these two special holidays, we use cloth napkins. A few years ago I made napkins for both ladies, but since I did that the family has grown significantly. We now have boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives and grandchildren that have grown the family from about 11 to around 26. Time to make more napkins! For this task I used my Serger (Overlock Machine) with a 3 thread set up using Wooly Nylon in the upper looper. If you have a serger and have never tried a rolled hem, you really need to give it a go! Here’s what I did….
My serger is older, but works beautifully. If you own a newer serger, some of the steps I needed to go through will not apply to you. Check your owner’s manual. My serger was set for a 4 thread overlock stitch from my last project. This set up uses 4 cones of thread on the machine (two needle threads and two looper threads) with an even tension setting for all 4 threads.
Since I haven’t used the machine for a rolled hem in a while, I got out the directions to make sure I was covering all my bases.
As long as I was significantly changing the machine’s configuration, I thought I might as well clean the machine, oil it and change the needle. (Please check your owner’s manual for maintenance directions.)
Once my cleaning was done, I changed the settings on my machine to match my owner’s manual’s suggestions, removing one needle. Notice how different the tension is from the even setting of a standard over lock stitch?
The Wooly Nylon thread has a lot of stretch to it and fills out once it leaves the machine.
I wanted an 18” square to be the finished size of my napkins, so I made 19” square cuts (which means I get 4 napkins from every one and an eighth yard cut of 44” fabric). Make sure you use a scrap piece of your fabric for a test for the look of your rolled hem and to make sure you are cutting off exactly the amount you want to cut.
You can chain sew the napkins, just as you would if you were piecing a quilt, but leave a long tail of thread in between each napkin so there will be a long thread tail on each corner of your napkin when they are cut apart.
When chaining the napkins, don’t forget to hold the thread from the last napkin with one finger while guiding the next napkin with the other. By holding the thread from the last napkin with one hand while holding the thread from the current napkin with the other, none of the threads will roll back on themselves, creating an unsightly bump in your hem. Also, remember not to push your fabric through the machine. It feeds slower than a regular stitch because of the density of the stitch. Forcing the fabric will result in an uneven rolled hem with thick and thinner spots. Once the napkins are finished, cut them apart
This will leave a dark spot when first applied, but will probably disappear when dry, but please, DO A TEST FIRST! Leave the napkins to dry thoroughly, for at least 30 minutes, and then cut the thread tails off close to the corner.
There you have it: two 18” square napkins ready to use. Just 28 more to sew! They can be folded, used as a decoration, used with a napkin ring, or in a bread basket as a covering for the rolls. Use your imagination! Since they are cotton, they can be washed after each use.