How to Make Placemats & Napkins (No Serger) + FREE Pattern

Today I’m showing you how to make matching placemats and napkins. This style is easy, so you can make these in less than a day with a basic sewing machine (no serger needed).

I also made a free sewing pattern that you can print and use (download here). Or just use the cutting measurements mentioned below.

Note: the placemats are single layer and have no batting, so they’re not heat-resistant.

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how to make placemats and napkins with free patterns
navy linen placemat with plates and cutlery on top
navy linen napkin with check bow

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linen placemat and napkin with cutlery and plates
close-up of linen placemat

Contents list:

Placemat & napkin measurements

I looked at the finished measurements that stores use.

Placemats are typically 14″ x 20″ (35cm x 51cm). I have seen 18″ and 19″ width’s too at Target. Placemats are normally rectangle shaped.

Napkins typically measure 18″ x 18″ (46cm) to 20″ x 20″ (51cm). They’re normally square shaped.

Note: these are finished item measurements. You need to cut your fabric bigger than this to include seam allowances.

PDF sewing pattern for placemats & napkins / cutting measurements

free pdf placemat and napkin sewing pattern
Here’s the PDF pattern for my placemat and napkins (download here).

Based on my research, I designed my placemats to be 14″ x 18″ (final measurement) and the napkins 18″ x 18″ (final measurement).

With seam allowances, the actual pattern pieces are 16″ x 20″ (41cm x 51cm) for the placemat, and 20″ x 20″ (51cm) for the napkins.

You can mark your fabric directly using these measurements, or use my printable sewing pattern (download here from my resource library).

I prefer cutting around templates because my ability to cut straight isn’t amazing lol!

Fabric & tools needed for DIY placemats & napkins

Project-specific items:

  • Fabric: Stores often use medium to heavy weight cotton and linen, so that’s what I recommend. For placemats, thicker fabric is better so that your mats don’t “flop” around the table.
  • Matching thread. I use Gutermann sew-all polyester thread, but cotton thread is fine too.
  • This project uses woven fabric, so you’ll need a universal sewing machine needle in size 80/12. If you’re sewing through thick layers, go for a size 90/14.

Note: I used medium to heavyweight linen fabric for this tutorial.

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Basic sewing tools:

  • (Optional) Flat and heavy items to hold your paper pattern in place while you cut the fabric. If you have paper weights, those are great.
  • Fabric scissors or a rotary cutter and mat. I use Fiskars tools.
  • Pins or sewing clips to hold the fabric in place before sewing.
  • Iron.
  • A measuring tool, like a long ruler or flexible tape measure.
  • Basic sewing machine.

How to make placemats & napkins: easy tutorial

Note: use the same process for the placemat and napkin. The only difference between the two are the measurements.

Pre-wash and dry your fabric to stop it from shrinking when it’s washed. If you’re not sure how to do this, here’s my guide on how to prepare fabric for sewing.

Cut the fabric using my template (download here) or the measurements mentioned above.

placemat and napkin paper pattern placed on fabric

Fold one edge by 1/2″ (1.3cm), and then fold it again by 1/2″ (1.3cm). The raw edges will now be hidden.

Iron and pin the fold in place.

Do the same for the opposite edge.

placemat fabric edges folded and pinned

Sew the 2 folded edges.

I sewed about 1/8″ away from the folded edge.

placemat being sewn on sewing machine

Trim the threads.

long thread on placemat

Now fold, iron, and pin the last 2 raw edges (like before).

placemat fabric edges folded and pinned

Sew the 2 folded edges.

I sewed about 1/8″ away from the folded edge.

placemat being sewn on sewing machine

Trim the threads.

long thread on placemat

Iron your placemat or napkin to make it look crisp, or leave it rumpled for a rustic look.

linen placemat and napkin with cutlery and plates

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Sewing tips: how to avoid these 3 problems

Problem 1: there’s excess fabric at the end

napkin edge being sewn on sewing machine
Here the folded edge is longer than the napkin, so there’s excess fabric to get rid of.

As you sew, you might notice that your napkin or folded edge is longer than the other. This is probably because your fabric wasn’t cut completely straight, or it became stretched out.

Solution: as you get to the end (see photo above), “ease” the fabric so that they match. Do this by gently pulling them together, so the shorter fabric stretches slightly to match the longer fabric.

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Problem 2: the edges aren’t in-line

wobbly napkin corner
Whoops! My presser foot pushed the corner out as it tried to climb all those fabric layers.

This was probably caused by the problem above, or as your presser foot jumped over the “hump” at the end, it pushed the fabric.

Solution: pin the folded edge so that it’s slightly shorter at the end. Try 1/8″ shorter.

“Ease” the fabric so there’s no excess fabric that could cause little pleats.

When your presser foot jumps over the “hump” of fabric at the end, the folded edge will be pushed by about 1/8″ to create a perfect corner (see photo below).

straight napkin corner
Here the edges match creating a nice corner.

Problem 3: folding the edges straight can be tricky

Folding the edges bit by bit can create wobbly sides. Here are some tips to get straight, even sides:

  • Fold the fabric around the straight edge of your paper template or ruler.
  • Fold the top and bottom edge, then finger press or iron in between. This way the fold is even all the way down.
  • Iron the folds so they lay flat when you sew them.

This post was originally published on 20 December 2020. It has since been updated.