How to Make Cloth Napkins for Your Child’s Lunch Box

I’m so excited to share a simple cloth napkin tutorial with you, perfect for making cute napkins for your child’s lunch! You can even make special napkins for holidays and seasons and the best part- you’ll be reducing waste! Don’t worry, this tutorial is perfect for the beginner sewer too!

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Make Cloth Napkins for Your Child's School Lunches~ Buggy and Buddy

This article was originally posted on August 10, 2013.

With Lucy starting Kindergarten in just a few more days, we’ve been doing all kinds of back-to-school preparations. She’s got her first day of school outfit all picked out school supplies and lunch boxes are ready to go!  (I’ve even got a fresh box of tissue for myself to wipe away all the tears.)

As I was making my to-do list for the week, I realized Lucy would need some new cloth napkins for her school lunches. (We try our best, although it’s challenging, to reduce the amount of waste we produce. It helps that Lucy’s school encourages the teachers and students to try to use reusable items as much as possible when packing their lunches.)

 Back-to-School Craft: Make Cloth Napkins for Your Child's Lunch Box

Then I got to thinking how fun it would be to make the cloth napkins myself! That way I could really personalize them for Lucy by using fabric that she likes and even make some special ones for all the holidays throughout the year. I quickly crossed off “cloth napkins” from my shopping list, and instead of heading to the store, headed to my leftover fabric stash. I grabbed all my pieces of leftover fabric that I thought would make cute cloth napkins!

 Back-to-School Craft: Make Cloth Napkins for Your Child's Lunch Box


I love how they turned out! I think they’ll make the lunches fun for Lucy to open at school. (She’s already chosen the one she wants for her first day.) And my favorite part was they were free since they were just from leftover scraps!

There’s two different ways to make cloth napkins. I’ll share a tutorial for making mitered corners and just regular corners. (This post contains affiliate links.)


How to Make Cloth Napkins

  • Be sure to wash, dry, and iron your fabric before starting.
  • Cut your fabric into a square about an inch larger than you’d like your finished napkin to be. (For example, if you want your napkin to be 20 inches x 20 inches, cut the fabric 21 inches x 21 inches.) Since my scraps of fabric were all different sizes, my finished cloth napkins all are different sizes too. I basically just cut them into whatever sized square I could get out of them. I would say most are about 18 inches x 18 inches.

cut your fabric into a perfect square

For Mitered Corners

1. Place your fabric with the wrong side facing up. Cut off about 1/2 inch from each corner.

snip off the corners of your fabric


2. Fold down the edge you just cut about 1/2 inch, and press it down with an iron.

fold edge and press


3. Fold one side of your napkin down about 1/2 inch and press. Then fold it about another half inch and press. Pin in place.


fold and pin


4.  Do this with the remaining  three sides. (If you like things perfect, you’ll really want to take your time making sure each side is folded down the exact same amount. If you’re like me, you will not take your time to measure and just hope for the best. Although the “hope for the best”  method is way easier and less stressful, your corners will not always match up.)

do this for all sides of the cloth napkin

5. Use a sewing machine to sew down each side. Trim off the left over thread and you are done!

sew a mitered corner on a cloth napkin


For Regular Corners

1. Place your fabric down with the wrong side facing you. Fold down one side of the napkin about 1/2 inch and press down.


fold down side of fabric


2. Fold down the same side again about 1/2 inch, press, and pin.


press and pin side


3. Do this for the remaining three sides.


do this for all 3 sides


4. Use a sewing machine to sew down each side. Trim off the left over thread and you are done!

sew down each side


So now that I’ve made a little bunch of cute cloth napkins for Lucy to start the school year off with, my next plan is to sew some cloth napkins for special days throughout the year. I’ve already seen some super cute pumpkin fabric at my local fabric store that I’m going to buy next!


Back-to-School Craft: Make Cloth Napkins for Your Child's Lunch Box~Buggy and Buddy

DIY Cloth Napkins for School Lunches (Easy sewing tutorial): Eco-friendly and a great way to reduce waste! Perfect for back-to-school! Make themed napkins for holidays and birthdays! ~


  1. This is like the updated version of the surprise love notes that my mom sometimes tossed into my school lunches as a kid! 🙂 What a unique DIY project!

  2. What type of fabric did you use?

  3. what a great idea – my kids would love having their own napkins

  4. Thank you Buddy and Buggy for the step-by-step directions with pictures. Your tutorial was super easy to follow. I whipped up a bunch of cloth napkins with mitered corners this afternoon!

  5. Anonymous says:

    My daughter wants to learn to use sewing machine and this would be perfect first project!!

  6. What a great idea! LO is still a little young for school but what a great way to reuse & save money. Pinned!

  7. I have been wanting to make the move to cloth napkin but have not because i am concerned about the washing. As a working mom, i only do my laundry once a week. How would i keep these napkins from staining and getting dingy?

    • We’ve been using them three weeks now, and they’ve been okay so far. In our kitchen we have a small basket on the kitchen counter where we toss dishcloths and cloth napkins from our meal that need to be cleaned. I’ve just been adding the lunchbox napkins to it as well. On the weekends we toss the basket contents in the washer. So far so good!

  8. Those are great!

  9. Love this idea! Even for the dinner table. I’ve tried to do cloth napkins a couple of times, and need to start it up again. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Loved this idea! With three boys, we go through a bunch of napkins! I’d love to try this as soon as I get a little spare time! Thanks so much for sharing and linking up!

  11. Great tutorial! I’ve got a post on Craft Gossip scheduled for tomorrow evening that links to your tutorial:

  12. This is a great idea! I use cloth napkins at home and have wondered if I should do the same in my preschool classroom. I’m thinking….YES! You’ve given me the incentive. I will need to make many, but I think they’ll be a hit and a good way to recycle. Thank you!

  13. Excited to try this for my preschoolers lunchboxes this fall!


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