Looking for a fast but precise way to hem household items, like napkins and tea towels? We have just the technique that you need using a notion we should all have in our sewing tool kit—ban-rol. Quickly create even the tiniest hems without any fuss or frustration!
What You Need
- Fabric—we prefer 100% linen, cotton, or a blend of the two for softness and durability (1 yd for 54″/60″ or 1-1/2 yd for 45″)
- Ban-Rol Interfacing—any width (it just needs to be wider than your hem size)
- Matching Thread
- Rotary Cutter + Mat + Ruler
Let’s Get Started
First, using your rotary cutter, cut out your napkins the desired size. We found that you can get (six) 17″ or 18″ square napkins out of (1) yard of 54/60″ wide fabric. This is a nice size for dinner or use anytime.
Next, cut two pieces of Ban-Rol interfacing slightly longer (1″ or so) than the size of your napkins and prepare it by carefully cutting off the hard edge along one side of the interfacing. Try only to cut the very edge. Note: If your napkins aren’t square, make sure and cut your Ban-Roll pieces in different lengths as well.
Now, fray the edge of the Ban-Rol by carefully pulling/removing a few of the warp threads. Remove as many threads as the width of your desired hem—measure the tiny “comb” you are creating along the edge to determine the width. We like the results of a 1/4″ hem on our linen napkins and removed about (8) warp threads.
On the RIGHT SIDE of your first napkin, align one of the prepared Ban-Rol pieces along the edge with the “comb” part facing out. Carefully stitch the interfacing to the fabric, taking care to stitch along the inner edge of the “comb” but not through the unfrayed area of the Ban-Roll. Repeat with the OPPOSITE edge of the napkin.
NOTE: RIGHT SIDE and WRONG SIDE only apply if your fabric is printed or has a clear front and back. Here, we used a solid linen where both sides are the same.
Once you have both pieces of Ban-Rol stitched to your napkin fabric, press both hems of your napkin in place by flipping the Ban-Rol out, to create the first hem fold, and then over to the WRONG SIDE, creating the second fold. Use the stiff frayed edge/comb as your guide to get nice crisp folds for your hems.
Now, carefully stitch both hems in place, stitching through all the layers on each side, as close to the inside hem edge as possible. Once both sides are complete, gently remove the Ban-Rol pieces from the seams by carefully tugging the “comb” portion from the stitches.
Repeat this process with for the remaining two OPPOSITE edges of your napkin Being sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of your final hem topstitching. And Ta-Da! You have your first perfectly hemmed napkin. Mind-blowingly easy, right?!
Complete your other napkins the same way, reusing your two Ban-Rol pieces on each of them. Looking to batch sew? Prepare a few additional Ban-Rol pieces so you can complete the same step on multiple napkins all at once!
This technique can easily be used on other household items, like flour sack towels or other kitchen towels. It can also be used in garment sewing to create perfect hems on even the most difficult fabrics, such as rayons, silks, and sheers! P.S. A huge thank you to our friend Karen, @intostitches, for mastering this technique and passing on all her tricks!
Complete the Look with Reversible Placemats + Napkin Rings
Thinking about giving handmade napkins as a gift? Take your gift a step further with these beautiful reversible placemats and napkin rings.
- (2) Coordinating Fabric—we like cotton/linen canvas or something similar, lightweight denim/corduroy or heavier linen, (1 yd for 54″/60″ or 1-1/2 yd for 45″ of each)
- Matching Thread
- Matching Buttons
Time to Sew, Again!
NOTE: Seam allowances are 1/4″.
Cut (4) placemat pieces from EACH fabric measuring (15″ x 20″). With the remaining fabric cut (4) napkin ring pieces from EACH fabric measuring (2-1/2″ x 8″).
With RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER, pair up your placemat pieces, one of each fabric. Starting at the center of one long side, stitch around all four sides of each placemat pairing, leaving a few inch gap for turning. Be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end.
Clip all four corners of each and turn the placemats RIGHT SIDE OUT, tucking in the seam allowance at the opening. Press well.
Topstitch, 1/4″ from the edge, around all four sides of the pressed placemats, and you are done!
Repeat this process for the napkin rings. After the topstitching is complete, take one napkin ring piece and overlap the two short ends roughly 1″. Position the button over all four layers and stitch in place. You could also sew a buttonhole if you wanted to in one end of the topstitched napkin ring pieces, but we elected to skip this part!
Easily customizable to suit any hostess or recipient, these beautiful handmade linens are something that can be enjoyed daily and treasured for many years to come!
Here is a look at an beautiful neutral set we sewed up for the holidays. Stunning right?! Add some fresh cut evergreens, candles, and rice lights for a beautiful holiday table.
Specific Fabrics and Buttons We Used:
Floral Linens Set:
- Brightly Blooming Canvas
- Layered Rings Linen Blend
- Washed Linen Shirting
- Marble Textured Button (in wine)
Neutral Linens Set: