For the first time in my entire life, I am not going home to spend Christmas with my family. Instead, I'm taking the only flight I could find that didn't involve me selling my eggs to France for the holidays (which includes an 8 hour layover in the Midwest. I am praying there isn't a blizzard). As you may know, my love and I have been doing the dreaded long distance while waiting for his new Visa to take effect, and this trip marks the first time we'll see each other in months (I'm happy to report he'll be coming home with me if I have to smuggle him home in my suitcase).
Alas, Christmas can be expensive, especially when you're travelling and trying to make a good impression on your partner's family, so it's the perfect opportunity to make something thoughtful and lovely that even the most discerning and chic mother-out-law will appreciate (they can't be an in-law if you're not married, right?) And what is simpler or more thoughtful than handmade linen napkins and tea towels?
FABRIC FOR TEA TOWELS & NAPKINS
The key to this gift is using beautiful fabric. Don't even think about using anything that isn't a 100% natural fiber; nothing gives me the shudders more than polyester napkins, and you need something absorbent like linen or cotton for any kind of dish towel application. I picked up these lovely charcoal and striped linens at Mood (although I suspect the stripe is actually just a large weave cotton since it doesn't wrinkle like linen should). The lusciously heavy-weight white linen came from Tissue Marina on St. Hubert in Montreal. Whatever you choose, aim for something in the medium to heavy-weight categories; an easy breezy summer linen is not sturdy enough for the abuse napkins go through (Ribs. I'm talking about ribs).
For 4 napkins with a finished size of 20" square, you'll need at least a yard and a quarter of fabric. Consider mixing up colours or textures; my sister and mother-out-law will be getting two charcoal and striped napkins each since I think they coordinate well together.
The average dishtowel is 16" x 26"; you'll need 1.5 to 2 yards of fabric for 4 dish towels, depending on the width of your fabric.
A formal dinner napkin is 22" square, but I think a 20" napkin is a fine size and may be easier to get out of narrower widths of fabric. Cut 4 squares of 22.5"; this will include seam allowances for the folded under edges. A more rustic weave may be more likely to unravel; serging the edges first will help prevent that.
For dish towels, cut 4 rectangles that are 17.5" wide x 27.5" long from your fabric.
To start, press each raw edge in 1/4". You can use a seam gauge to help you create consistent lines but I just eyeball it. Work in batches to save time.
For your second pass, press those edges under another 1/4" or so all the way around each napkin.
The corners don't look very nice do they? Sewing fix to the rescue!
MAKING MITERED CORNERS
Open up one of the pressed corners.
We want to cut off the very top corner to reduce bulk. You can draw the first one in with a marking tool, but eventually you'll be able to just eyeball it. The cutting line is diagonal and should intersect with the pressed lines from your first pass of pressing.
After trimming off the corner, fold the pressed edges in once. The corner will now look like this:
Now press that entire corner down so that is pointing towards the center of the napkin.
Fold the second pressed edges down over the corner. This will create a nice, mitered edge; you may need to fiddle a little to get everything lined up properly.
Pin it into place.
If you're sewing dish towels, a nice touch is to include a little loop to hang them from. I just used some cotton twill tape from my stash and pinned it into one of the corners.
At your machine, sew a consistent line around the perimeter of the napkins or dish towels. If you're using matching thread, do a little back stitch at each corner to help anchor your mitered edges down. I used a straight stitch but you can also experiment with fancier stitches if your machine does them.
Once they're all sewn, give them a good press to help anchor all those seams in place.
Who wouldn't be excited to recieve these as a gift? NO ONE YOU WANT TO KNOW. Obviously this is a great idea for the holidays, but I think I'll start stockpiling appropriate linens and use them for hostess gifts too. You'll be guaranteed to be invited back again and again.