Serviettes with Simple Stitches: A Sewing & Embroidery Project

2 February 2022

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With the temperature here in Winnipeg stuck around -30 C, I was looking for ways to make my home more cosy . I have been interested in table linens and thought that making a set of winter-themed cloth napkins would add a touch of softness and warmth to mealtimes. Then I figured that this should be a project untethered to winter, specifically, so I created some motifs more suitable to warm weather, too.

This project uses sewing and embroidery techniques and is suitable for an advanced beginner. It cleverly uses cross-stitch Aida cloth as a temporary interface to make the embroidery easier, because it’s difficult to keep embroidery stitches on standard fabric–known as “even weave”–tidy. Although you can use the threads in the actual fabric to stay aligned, a standard table linen fabric has between 28 and 32 threads per inch, and counting them out can be a little daunting if you are new to embroidery, and tiring on the eyes even if you have more experience.

In addition, the use of Aida cloth makes it easier to see the stitches and hold the fabric.

If you don’t sew, you can use the motifs to personalize store-bought napkins.

We’ve provided a selection of motifs – three wintery, three summery. You can create your own, too, of course! Perhaps an initial?

Finished Size

The napkins measure 33 cm/13 inches square.


The Napkins
(Not required if you’re using pre-made napkins)

  • Half a metre of fabric. Samples use 6 oz signature linen from Blackbird Fabrics in the Royal Blue colourway. (This fabric comes in 150 cm/60-inch widths, which provides enough to make four. A full metre provides enough fabric for twelve. If you’re using up scraps of fabric, you need a 38 cm/15-inch square for each napkin.
  • Sewing thread—to match linen. Samples use Gütermann Sew All Thread, colour 02776.
  • Sewing machine and notions
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Rotary mat with cutter or scissors, and ruler

The Embroidery

  • 14 ct Aida cloth, a piece approximately 8 cm/3 inches square for each napkin
  • DMC embroidery floss, 6-strand 100% cotton, 8 m/ 8.7 yd per skein. Samples use colour #712. For snowflake and butterfly motifs, use one colour; for tulip motif, use two; for crocus motif, use three.
  • Embroidery needle, size 7
  • Embroidery scissors
  • Pencil and eraser
Image description: Aida cross-stitch cloth is pinned to blue fabric; a snowflake motif is sketched onto the fabric.

Copyright © Helen Mawdsley except as indicated.
Head shot of Helen Mawdsley

About Helen Mawdsley

Helen is a fibre artist and woodturner. She enjoys being curious and exploring history, traditions, and new forms of craft. Her work has appeared in Spin Off magazine and Piecework magazine by Long Thread Media, also with Laine Publishing Oy in Finland, and at the Centre for Craft in Manitoba. Learn more at

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