How to embroider on napkins

By on December 29th, 2020
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how to machine embroider on a napkin
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A while back I personalized some placemats as a gift for my mother-in-law. AND – they turned out REALLY well. In fact, I heard about how good they looked from other members of the family (besides my mother-in-law). So, I knew this embroidered gift was a winner. The only problem was that the placemats weren’t quite enough. What she really needed, she confessed, was some personalized dinner napkins that matched the placemats as well as her freshly painted, red dining room. She wondered if it would be possible for me to embroider a “G” on some napkins to tie the whole look together.

At the time, I had never embroidered on napkins – but honestly – could it really be that hard? A napkin is flat (easy to hoop or float) and the material is fairly durable and not stretchy. Turns out, I was right. Embroidering on napkins is pretty easy. I was able to quickly crank out a set of 12 for her in one evening.

But, to be honest with you, I think my napkins were pretty uninspired. The “G” I chose was from the built-in font set on my embroidery machine. Snooze… Nevertheless, in my mother-in-law’s eyes, the napkins were perfect. And, she still uses them to this day.

basic embroidered napkins

However, in the years since I embroidered these personalized napkins for my mother-in-law, I have discovered a lot of different (and more creative) ways to embroider on napkins than what I did.

Why embroider on napkins

There are a lot of reasons you may want to embroider on napkins.  A set of monogrammed napkins makes a great gift as well as a perfect product to sell.

Alison Bolgar reports that she has had an “overwhelming amount of orders” for linen napkins with a single initial in a fancy font.  She buys the linen napkins in packs of 12 from Amazon for about $30 and then sell them for about $25-$35 depending on what the customer wants embroidered.

scroll letter embroidery design on napkin
Photo provided by Allison Bolgar and used with her permission.

You can, of course, stitch out a full monogram on the napkins, but, since napkins are not huge, I would suggest keeping it fairly compact. Check out some of my favorite typefaces for monograms.

elegant monogrammed napkins
Photo provided by Shelly Dason of The Grey Wren Sewing and Crafts and used with her permission

If you go with a single initial monogram, I would choose a unique typeface. There are many fancy typefaces that are so detailed that a single initial has enough interest on it’s own when embroidered on a napkin. Some embroidery typefaces to consider for a single initial monogram on a napkins are:

While a set of monograms containing the recipient’s last name initial makes a great gift, an embroidered napkin can also be a great party favor. You can embroider napkins with wedding guests’ names or monograms to serve two purposes: a party favor that mark’s the guest’s seating location.

embroidered napkin as party favor
Photo provided by Angela Coen and used with her permission.
Cloth Napkins

Where to buy napkins

You can buy napkins just about anywhere. When I got the idea to embroider napkins for my mother-in-law, my husband just picked out a set of 12 white damask napkins at Bed Bath and Beyond. There were about $40 per set of 12. You can actually find them cheaper elsewhere, such as this set of damask napkins from Amazon, but I needed to get the project done quickly.

Walmart has some basic cloth napkins that are super reasonable: a set of 12 for less than $15.

If you want linen napkins – I would recommend this set of 12 linen/cotton blend napkins with the delicate trim from Amazon. At about $26 for a set of 12, you can still make quite a nice profit if you sell them in groups of 4 with a monogram.  Pure linen napkins are going to be a bit more expensive then their cotton/linen counterparts.

How to make napkins

If you really want to do this project on the cheap, you can actually just make your own napkins. It’s not a big deal.  All you need to do is to get your 50% off JoAnns coupon and buy a bunch of linen. See how.

The only downside in making your own linen napkin is that it will not be possible to integrate the open trim around the edges that is commonly found in pre-made linen napkins.

How to embroider on napkins

Once you have your napkins bought or made, it’s time to add some embroidery.

Where to position the initial, name or monogram

The first thing you need to do is decide where you want to position your embroidery on the napkin. you will want to develop a standard process for locating the center of the design. If you are going to make quite a few napkins, the position of the embroidery is consistent.

where to position embroidery on a napkin

Before I monogrammed the napkins for my mother-in-law, I looked at examples on-line and saw that Williams Sonoma sells monogrammed napkins – with the initial in the bottom corner. I planned on making my napkins in a similar fashion – but the damask pattern had a natural “frame” in the center of the napkin – so I embroidered the Gs in the center. A centered position is ideal if you plan on simply folding the napkins as opposed to using a napkin ring.

Another option is to position the monogram in the center on the bottom half of the napkin.  This style also works well for napkins you plan on folding as opposed to roll up in a napkin ring.

One of the most common way to position embroidery on a napkin is to put it in the bottom corner a few inches up from the corner and stitch out the monogram on this diagonal.

In any of these scenarios, you will need to locate the center of the napkin.  If you are embroidering in the center or the bottom-center of the napkin, you can find the center by simply folding. If you are embroidering in the corner of the napkin, you can locate the center by folding the napkin along the diagonal, putting adjacent sides of the napkin together.

Floating the napkin on stabilizer

The only stabilizer you need for napkins is tearaway – not cut away. My preference is to always use adhesive-backed tearaway stabilizer. I simply hoop a piece of it (shiny side up) then use a pin to score the top paper and peel it away.  I then draw the center point on the sticky surface of the stabilizer using a disappearing ink pen, extending the lines to the inside edge of the hoop.

adhesive-backed stabilizer in hoop

To line up the center of the napkin with the center of the hoop, I fold the napkin with RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER.  I also mark the desired location of the monogram with a pin (on the wrong side of the napkin). I then just line up the fold with the vertical line I drew on the stabilizer and line up the pin with the horizontal line on the stabilizer. Finally, I open the napkin and smooth it out, and I’m ready to start stitching!

positioning folded napkin on sticky stabilizer


Embroidering on the napkin

Napkins are a great material to embroider on. After shoving just about every weird fabric onto my embroidery machine, napkins were a breeze. There was no stretching, slipping, etc… Cloth napkins really a dream material.

I would just use a fresh machine embroidery needle and any machine embroidery thread you wish to stitch out the design.

After you stitch out your design on one napkin, tear the napkin away from the stabilizer. Then, simply patch the hole in your stabilizer with a scrap piece. This a great method to save time as well as stabilizer when you are embroidering a lot of items.

Want another challenge? You can also make napkin rings in the hoop on your embroidery machine!

Yep… it’s true. It monogrammed napkins are not quite enough, you can also make personalized napkin rings.  Learn how to make in-the-hoop napkin rings- in this post!

There are several different in-the-hoop napkin ring patterns. You can get blank ones on which you can add your own name or monogram, or in-the-hoop napkin ring designs with fancy single initials already included.  There are even fun napkin rings you can make in-the-hoop for almost any holiday – from Easter bunnies to Santas to pumpkins.

Here are just a few styles.

So are you ready to embroider some napkins?

Why not give it a go?  This is a great project for beginners and a perfect gift to give.




Essential Stabilizer for Machine Embroidery

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how to machine embroider on a napkin

2 thoughts on “How to embroider on napkins

  1. The embroidery on my linen napkins went well. However, it still puckered with the tear-away stabilizer. Any suggestions how to stop that?

    1. I would suggest sticking with a less dense design and using a needle that is on the thinner side.

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