How to Make Upcycled Denim Cloth Napkins

For a few years now, our family has used cloth napkins. We’ve grown accustomed to it, and we don’t think twice anymore about pulling them out for meals. We still use paper napkins (usually) with guests. Ours are getting so old, they are a bit stained, but honestly, I’m surprised they don’t look worse than they do.

With kids, the cloth napkins work extra well. Sometimes they turn into washcloths. They are super absorbent (think baby food everywhere!). And, my 11 month old can’t eat them. (He gravitates toward any form of paper and chews it right off.)

Upcycled Denim Napkins. Homemade cloth napkins with terry cloth. How to make absorbent cloth napkins.

My mom has commented a few times about our cloth napkins. She said she needed to make some for her and my dad to use. I wrote down a little note a long time ago to make her some for Christmas, and I followed through this year. (I hope you liked your gift, Mom!)

They were a super easy project and took a few hours one afternoon.

Here’s how I made them.

Upcycled Denim Napkins. Homemade cloth napkins with terry cloth. How to make absorbent cloth napkins.

Supplies:
An old pair of jeans you don’t wear anymore
Terry cloth (This is my go to terry cloth. I tried switching back to the lower priced cloth, but I couldn’t do it after trying this plush micro-fiber kind. Especially if you are making a gift, the price is worth it!)
Sewing machine
Basic sewing supplies (cutting mat, rotary cutter, pins, thread, etc.)

1. Cut your jeans into five inch by five inch squares. You are going to use four squares per napkin. Since I made four napkins, I needed sixteen squares.

Upcycled Denim Napkins. Homemade cloth napkins with terry cloth. How to make absorbent cloth napkins.

2. Sew your five inch by five inch squares into pairs. I used a quarter of an inch seam allowance. While precision is always good, don’t be too concerned about it with this project. Relax and enjoy the sewing here. Next time you sew a quilt, worry about precision. 🙂

Upcycled Denim Napkins. Homemade cloth napkins with terry cloth. How to make absorbent cloth napkins.

3. Iron your seams open and sew the pairs into sets of four. Once again, I recommend using a quarter of an inch seam allowance.

Upcycled Denim Napkins. Homemade cloth napkins with terry cloth. How to make absorbent cloth napkins.

4. Using a set of four squares as a pattern, lay it on top of your terry cloth. Cut four pieces of terry cloth approximately the same size or a bit bigger than your napkin top.

Because of the texture of terry cloth, it may slip a bit while you are sewing. To allow for a bit of inaccuracy, I recommend cutting it liberally. Maybe cut the terry cloth about a quarter of an inch bigger than the denim.

5. After you have your terry cloth cut, lay the denim and terry cloth right sides together. Pin around the perimeter. Once again, since terry cloth can easily slip while sewing, I recommend using lots of pins.

Upcycled Denim Napkins. Homemade cloth napkins with terry cloth. How to make absorbent cloth napkins.

6. Sew around the perimeter of your wrong sides out napkin leaving a three or four inch hole. You will eventually sew the hole closed, but you will first use it to flip your napkin right side out.

To avoid pulling too much at the threads when flipping it right side out, I always back stitch a few times on either side of the hole I leave.

Upcycled Denim Napkins. Homemade cloth napkins with terry cloth. How to make absorbent cloth napkins.

7. Flip your napkin right side out using the hole you left.

Upcycled Denim Napkins. Homemade cloth napkins with terry cloth. How to make absorbent cloth napkins.

8. Using the seams as a guide, quilt a quarter of an inch off each of the seams.

You don’t need to back stitch to secure your quilting lines. We will eventually sew around the entire perimeter. This will secure your threads.

Upcycled Denim Napkins. Homemade cloth napkins with terry cloth. How to make absorbent cloth napkins.

9. Tuck the terry cloth and denim in where you left the hole.

Sometimes before flipping the napkin right side out, I will trim around the edges and trim off the corners. This often makes for a cleaner look when it’s finished. BUT, I don’t trim the terry cloth by the remaining hole. When I have a little more terry cloth to tuck in, it is easier to get a good clean fabric sandwich like the below picture.

Upcycled Denim Napkins. Homemade cloth napkins with terry cloth. How to make absorbent cloth napkins.

10. Sew around the perimeter of your napkin. This will sew up the hole you left, and it will secure the stitches from the quilting on top of the napkin.

Upcycled Denim Napkins. Homemade cloth napkins with terry cloth. How to make absorbent cloth napkins.

I rolled mine up, tied a ribbon around them, and wrapped them in a pretty box for Christmas. I paired them with some white cereal bowls from Anthropologie.

Upcycled Denim Napkins. Homemade cloth napkins with terry cloth. How to make absorbent cloth napkins.

These would also make a very pretty house warming gift.

Upcycled Denim Napkins. Homemade cloth napkins with terry cloth. How to make absorbent cloth napkins.

Upcycled Homemade Fabric Napkins with Terry Cloth. Reusable Napkins.

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11 thoughts on “How to Make Upcycled Denim Cloth Napkins

  1. Hi Kelli
    i love your recycling napkins however I have a very hard time to read the text on your “page”
    The bold I can see very well but the rest. even this email I am going to send is very hard to see
    Is it possible for you to change the colour of the text or put it all in “bold”
    At 75 the eyes are not like they used to be
    I hope that you will take this into consideration
    Thank you

    1. Hi Vicki! Oh dear! Thank you so much for your feedback! My husband does a lot of the tech work on my site, and I will ask him if it’s easy to make it a bit darker. I hope the font color doesn’t deter you from coming back! I appreciate your feed back and will definitely take it into consideration and see if we can get it changed.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Hi Teresa! Glad you like the napkins. They were fun to make, and yes, upcycling is wonderful! I like making something useful out of something a little dreary.

      Thanks for giving me a heads up about your link party. I went over and linked up today! Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Hi Sara! Yes, me too! I am trying to come up with a few ideas for some older sweaters from my closet…and what to do with a few more pairs of jeans. If you have any suggestions for upcycling clothes, please point me in the right direction!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. What a great way to use – recycle some old jeans. We use cloth napkins all the time – started doing that years ago – it really does cut back on the amount of trash you have. I usually make them from cotton fabric and double side them – like you did with the denim. I am going to have to try making some denim ones now.

    1. Hi Kimberlee! Yes, we have used cloth napkins for years too, and our family has grown quite accustomed to using them! Most of ours are cotton on one side and terry cloth on the other also, but I enjoyed reusing some old jeans for these that I made for my mom. Be sure to let me know if you end up making some with denim or other upcycled material! 🙂

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