DIY Reversible Cloth Placemats & Napkins

By Kate Riley September 7, 2011

I have a serious affection for nice linens on a tabletop, they’re just the easiest way to add a touch of comfort and elegance to any table setting, from formal to casual.  I have several sets of placemats and cloth napkins that I’ve acquired over the years and keep in a linen closet, but I’ve never actually made any for myself, can you believe it?

I’ve always wanted to, so when I was sent a few yards of pretty gray floral and stripe Cabbages & Roses fabric (thank you Lily!) I decided this was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at making my own.  Sew glad I did (hardy har!) because it couldn’t be easier.

reversible cloth placemat napkin cg


With one yard of cotton in each fabric, you can make four napkins or four placemats. If you can sew a straight line, you can easily make your own beautiful sets of reversible cotton or cloth napkins and placemats for any season, and for less than you’d pay at most retail shops.

how to sew reversible cotton placemats and napkins


How To Make Reversible Cloth/Cotton Napkins & Placemats

1.  With cotton it’s a good idea to wash your fabric first before sewing. For each napkin, cut two squares of complementary fabric at 18” inches on all sides.  For placemats, cut your fabric at 18” by 22” to form a rectangle.

18 inches


2.  Like you would with a pillow cover, lay both sides of the fabric down with the patterns facing each other then pin all around.

inside out facing each other


3.   Sew edges all around with ½ inch seam allowance, but leave a 2 inch opening on one side.  Trim excess.

trim excess


4.   Pull fabric right side out of 2 inch opening to reveal both patterns.

pull fabric through


5.  Press placemat/napkin flat with a hot iron to remove wrinkles.  Flatten the seams and the 2 inch portion that still remains open.

press opening seam


6.  Return to the sewing machine and sew the 2 inch opening shut along the edge.

sew opening shut


7.  Continue seam around entire edge of napkin or placemat for a clean look, and also to assist keeping all sides together and making it easier to iron once it comes through the wash.

sew seam around edges


This is an easy afternoon project that gives you a custom look for your tabletop.  You can also make cocktail napkins or fabric coasters using the same method.  These also are a great gift idea for a friend, family member, host or hostess . . .

reversible napkin placemat cg


Bonus, you can pull a switcheroo, and reverse the patterns.

stripe side up placemat cg


For the cost of two yards of fabric, you can make yourself four napkins or four placemats. Since you can find so many cotton fabrics for under $5 a yard at many fabric stores, you could easily make four reversible napkins or four reversible placemats in your pattern of choice for under $10.

Easy, elegant, and inexpensive too.

reversible cotton napkins placemats cg

BTW, that chunky wood bowl filled with pears is from Kohl’s – I found it there for $15 earlier this summer, love it!  If your looking to buy the same fabric, find a local store by looking here.

Speaking of pears, oh my word I’m so in the mood for this spiced pear cake.  And I can’t wait to savor those mission figs too, perhaps with good cheese and local honey?  Anyone have any good fig recipes?




  1. My sister made me some of these for Christmas a few years ago, but she used oil cloth and used coordinating binding around the edges. One side is a bright floral and the other side is a two-toned repeating pattern. I LOVE them!!!! Plus, I don’t have to worry about them getting stained – they just wipe off. If they get extra dirty, which kids have a knack for doing, I just throw them in the washing machine. Voila – like new.

  2. Looks good… I have so many placemats that I have made over the years
    but mine are always crochet or knit cotton.. yours are special and I think
    it’s time to make some ‘big girl’ placemats… (meaning crisp and sort of
    nice job.

  3. Lovely Kate! They look like you bought them. I’ve made place mats before, but I really like the comment about making them with oil cloth so they can wipe clean. I may have to try that. Thanks for sharing you beautiful mats and napkins. : )

    ~ Catie

    Oh, and I noticed that gorgeous bowl right away. I love it! Great find.

  4. looks great…glad to have the measurements etc..for some reason I can’t pin from your site…says it can’t see any images…help! I have to pin!! :)

  5. Beautiful! I especially like the striped fabric. I’ve considered trying this, but let’s face it…I don’t entertain much. And my husband doesn’t appreciate cute napkins. :) But good to know that they would be so cheap, should I decide to host something!

  6. Kate your table looks beautiful and the fabric designs and color palette are perfect!!

    Adore the pear basket!!


    Art by Karena

  7. You will regret it for the remainder of your life if you do not try this fig and prosicutto flatbread. We have a restaurant here in the South (maybe just in FL, not sure) called Urban Flats. They make this fig and prosicutto flatbread that will CHANGE. YOUR. LIFE. Pair it with a good Pinot Noir and you may never need for anything else in life….
    Whole wheat flatbread brushed with olive oil, topped with fig jam (make sure there are plenty of nice chunks of fig in there), prosicutto, blue cheese, mozzerella and green onions. Simple, whole ingredients…..Per. Fec. Tion.

  8. I love the calm fall colors…and especially that gorgeous wood bowl! Can’t wait for fall to really set in and start some home projects. Beautiful.

  9. Love these! Have you tried washing them now? I’m just curious to see if they hold up in the wash…

  10. Wow, I think I need some new placemats! The twins are horrible about getting food into their mouth even though their almost nine! They wreck placemats all the time. You’ve inspired me to make adult and kid friendly placemats! Thank you for the awesome tutorial!

  11. I love the plates with the flowers! Who are they by and what’s the pattern name, if you don’t mind me asking?

  12. Love the place mats, such a great idea!

    For the figs – simply cut them open (in a cross), flat them out a bit and add some good goat cheese on top and grill in the oven for a while. Serve with walnuts and honey and possible some fresh bread. It sounds simple, but it is out-of-this-world-delicious.

  13. That material was made for you and your home. :) When I was 16 and visiting with my grandparents and Aunt & Uncle in Sweden, my aunt had us make home made napkins. We did it by hand!!! What a lot of sewing. We were visiting a friend of hers Summer house in Norway and needed a hostess gift. I can remember sitting for hours and visiting and sewing. I need to create a project like that for my daughter and I. :) Thanks for sharing!

  14. What a neat idea. I never think about napkins, but they would be a great way to add a touch of class to dinner time without taking up extra space on the table. Thanks for sharing this tutorial.

  15. I love the fabric. I have looked high and low for wide striped cottons. Can you share your source? Love your blog!

  16. This makes me want to get a sewing machine, I had one when my kids were little and now they are grown, maybe it’s time to get back into that, but only with easy, pretty things for the home. No dress making skills here!

  17. Lovely placemats! We ate at this funky pizza place in Colorado for our 1st anniversary, and the waitress talked us into ordering a pizza way out of our comfort zone. It turned out to be one of the best pizzas we’ve ever had, and we still recreate it at home! Drizzle a little olive oil on an unbaked pizza crust. Top with blue cheese (I usually go light since it’s a strong flavor), asiago cheese, small pieces of prosciutto, and figs cut in halves or fourths. Bake at 350-400 for 12-15 minutes. The mix of sweet and salty will be ammmazing!

  18. Love the placemats! We have 3 fig trees and for a month straight we eat figs! Ok, here is the most terrific fig recipe ever!! Cut figs in half, scoop out little hole in middle of each side. Fill with a dollop of goat cheese, wrap proscuitto around the half, then grill until warm or crispy. Then drizzle with balsalmic vinegar and pop them into your mouth for incredible deliciousness! Enjoy!

  19. Love the fabric! And what a great tutorial. You could also put a layer of interfacing in the place mats for a little more body.
    I remember years, and years ago making place mats out of quilted fabric and putting binding on the edges. These are so much nicer and more professional looking.

  20. I love cloth napkins. I made some years ago, they were one of the first things I really learned how to sew. I never thought to make them reversible though, that’s such a great idea!

  21. I LOVE this! Where did you find the Cabbages and Roses fabric? I looked on their website and they only ship to Europe, any suggestions?

  22. I’m a sucker for nice linens as well and find that they add so much to a table top. I’ve made quite a few placemats and a word of advice- don’t let hubby throw them in the washer and dryer (I’ve had my experiences over the years)!

  23. My favorite fig recipe is: cut a small slit in the side of each fig, stuff with a bleu cheese or gorgonzola, and wrap with proscuitto. Sautee until the proscuitto is brown on 2-3 sides (not too long or the cheese will melt out of the fig), and serve over a bed of arugula. Drizzle with reduced balsamic vinegar, with cracked black pepper.

  24. You have inspired me once again. I’m going to make these this weekend. Also, I love the fig recipe from Sarah listed above, yum!

  25. My sister recently made a fig appetizer that probably tops my list of favorite foods ever eaten. Similar to one above, only this is stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped in prosciutto, and drizzled with honey. Then in the oven until the prosciutto is just cooked and the cheese has softened. Food of the gods, I tell you. I must buy figs tomorrow.

  26. I love this. I have made several of your projects and love how all of them turned out. Your directions are always to easy to follow. I have been wanting to make some placemats and this is just the inspiration I need. The stripes are stunning. I am starting asap.

  27. How pretty! I love the combination of the stripes and floral. I’ve been wanting to make some napkins and placemats of my own because I can never seem to find quite what I’m looking for!

  28. I was so inspired by your project and a trip to the Los Angeles fabric mart today, I just bought the sewing machine you recommended. Wish me luck!

  29. Did you use any middle fabric to make the placemats more stiff, like the store-bought ones?
    Love these! Can’t wait to make some for myself, friends, and family :)

  30. No Toshia, mine are just fabric and very flexible, no filler, but you certainly can stiffen them up with a filler if you like!


  31. Nope, mine are flexible, no filler, but you certainly can stiffen them up with a filler if you like!


  32. Great instructions and fantastic visual. Looking for trims and complementary fabrics for the reverse sides. Thanks!

  33. Seems like an easy tutorial and a great way to dress up my table. Love the gray fabric. Thanks for sharing.

  34. I found your DIY tutorial and made my placemats and napkins during a weekend. I’m new to sewing and this was my first unsupervised project. Your instructions and pictures are easy to follow and the project was fun to make. Thank you for posting!

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