Thanksgiving and the holidays are coming. We’re celebrating a number of events here.  And some of our linens are looking a little shabby. So I made new ones.   I got a kit from Beehive Sewing in Northampton, MA (it’s their kit #120, but it’s not currently for sale, “four cloth napkins”) to help me learn how to make mitered corners, and got to work this afternoon.  My goal was to learn to do this, even if I couldn’t do it well.

IMG_6645At its core, the design of a napkin is not 3-dimensional in the way that a bag or a jacket or a shirt is.  It’s a flat thing, with a series of folds at the corners and edges which make it turn out more nicely.  I can certainly do those folds — but there is a trick called a mitered corner, which enables the corners of the napkin to lie flat.  Next time you’re in a fancy restaurant, look at the napkin’s corners, and see whether the hemming lies over itself, lincoln-log style, in a box corner, or if they have neat little folds at 45°-angles. The second is the mitered corner.

I had some guesses how this was done, but there are four napkins here — and four corners on each napkin — and two folds on each side that lead to the corner.  SO that’s thirty-two places to practice the skills that make this particular thing work.

I think I got it exactly, perfectly right, in five.  They’re not even all on the same napkin. But now I know how to do it.  I have the tools and the template (again from Beehive Sewing, part of the kit). And I have now followed the directions four times, and knew them twice, and understood them once.

Which is to say, I can do it again.

At its core, the trick is to know the size of your fabric. All napkins should be 2 3/4″ larger than the final size:

  • Dinner napkins around 18″
  • Luncheon napkins around 12 1/2″
  • Cocktail napkins around 5 1/2″

The rest is just folding, pinning, stitching and pivoting at the corners.  At least, I hope it is.  In the meantime, four napkins.

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