“Napkins, Anyone?”

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.

My serger set up for a four thread even over lock stitch.

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.

I read the directions for the installation of the rolled hem foot and….
..for the set up of the machine.

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.)

Make sure you use the recommended oil in the places it should be used in the machine!

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?

Even tension for a regular over lock stitch.
The new tension settings for the rolled hem. Notice one lever is at zero? That’s for the right needle, which I removed for this technique.

The Wooly Nylon thread has a lot of stretch to it and fills out once it leaves the machine.

This thread makes the rolled hem look great!
The middle spool in this set up is the Wooly Nylon. The other two spools are regular serger thread.

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.

Be accurate in the amount you cut off or the napkins will be lop sided.
I’m happy with the sample, so let the serging begin!
I choose to cut off 1/2″ since I have a marking on my machine that is easy to follow. You need to cut off something so the fabric will roll nicely to the back as it comes off the cutter.

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.

Leaving a thread tail in between the napkins is important for later steps in the process.
When you cut the napkins apart, each napkin will get half the thread tail.

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

Hold the thread behind the foot with your left hand…
…and the thread from the napkin being sewn with the right hand.
Cut the chained napkins apart.
Add some type of seam sealant to each of the corners.
I usually apply a generous drop to both the front and back at each corner.

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.

The finished product. Happy sewing!