Today we have a fun back-to-school tutorial brought to you by our friend Blair. Blair is a crafty mama, avid knitter and sewist. She is also an archaeologist who went to school with my husband. When we moved to Nashville 5 years ago, she introduced me to a group of mom friends through which I met Angel. You could say Blair is the reason Stumbles & Stitches exists!
When my son Ben started preschool earlier this year, Blair made him a set of awesome lunchbox napkins. They are smaller than regular napkins and feature an appliqued initial. I thought they rocked, and so did Ben and his teachers.
I asked Blair if she would write a little tutorial for us. And here it is!
Tutorial: Lunchbox Napkins
by Blair Henley Wardwell
- muslin, linen or neutral fabric (10" squares)
- cute fabric scraps (preferably bold colors and small prints)
- double-sided interfacing
- sewing machine
1. To make your applique initials, begin by printing out the letter in different fonts on regular printer paper. Make sure to increase the font size, somewhere between 140 and 200 is usually good. I find it easier to use sans-serif fonts (for example Arial rather than Times New Roman) so you can avoid having to zig-zag stitch over all the extra corners of the serifs.
2. Cut out your letters, leaving a bubble of white around them.
3. Pick out some fabric scraps, preferably bold colors and small prints.
4. Fuse your fabric scraps onto one side of the interfacing, using the manufacturer's instructions. Remember to fuse it to the wrong side of the fabric. (Note: I prefer using double-sided interfacing, it makes the project go much faster: I don't have to pin the applique onto the napkin, and the edges of the applique are much crisper. However, I have also used single-sided or, egads, NO interfacing in the past, and those napkins turned out just fine. You can use fray-stop on the edges of the applique if you have no interfacing.)
5. Tape your printed out letter on top of the right side of the interfaced fabric.
6. Cut out the letter by slicing through both the paper and fabric, trimming the white around the actual letter. Use sharp scissors, and leave a border of white all around to "fatten" the letter. This is a good time to make sure the resulting initial won't be too narrow or full of complicated angles. This is supposed to be an easy project and an applique zig-zag stitch is usually when my machine decides to eat fabric and jam an entire bobbin's worth of thread.
7. Cut out 2 10-inch squares from your neutral napkin fabric. For this set of napkins, I used some leftover unbleached Moda muslin. In the past, I have also used un-stained portions of vintage napkins. Regarding size, most of my napkins have been between 8” and 10” per side – not too big, and not too small for kid hands.
8. Fuse your initial to one of the 10-inch squares of neutral fabric. Pick any spot you want, as long as it's at least an inch or so from the edge. I like centering the letter on the bottom edge or sticking it in a corner.
9. Zig-zag, satin, or even straight stitch around the edges of your initial. If you're new to machine applique, practice on scraps a couple of times until you get even stitches and the number of stitches per inch that you want. The interfacing is holding the initial to the fabric, so your stitches don't have to be insanely close together. I like to use a contrasting color thread, but you can also use a matching color that will blend into the initial or the napkin fabric.
10. Pin the appliqued napkin square to the second plain square of fabric, right sides together. Stitch around the edges using a straight stitch and a 1/4 inch seam allowance, leaving a 3-inch gap.
11. Clip your corners and turn the napkin right side out. Press the napkin and all edges.
12. Top-stitch around the edges to give the napkin a finished look and close your gap. You can zig-zag, straight stitch, or use some other fancy stitch that my cretaceous-era machine doesn't have. One of my favorite top-stitched looks is to place two or more borders of straight stitches around the edges using different colors of thread.
13. Compliment yourself, then move on to the next napkin! You can, of course, approach this project more assembly-line, depending on the way you like to work and the free time you have. Sometimes it's nice to have a project you can complete in 30 minutes and be able to use right away!