In my book, The Scent of Lemon & Rosemary: Working Domestic Magick with Hestia, I provide very basic instructions for sewing a set of cloth napkins. I wanted to go further, though, into why you would want to have them and how you can make them magickal.
There is something about cloth napkins that make an ordinary table feel fancy. More than that, cloth napkins can be more environmentally and economically friendly than paper napkins. And napkins offer a perfect base for some simple household witchery. Making napkins of your own is an easy afternoon project that can yield years of magickal use.
To start with, decide on how many napkins you need. You’ll want to make at least twice as many as the number of people you have in the household. This way you are prepared for extra company and you don’t have to do the laundry right away.
There are a lot of opportunities for imbuing your napkins with friendly, comforting intentions as you make them. From your fabric choice, to when you press the edges, to your choice of thread color, to a finishing anointing. To that end, take some time to work out just what you want the napkins to do (other than wiping chins and sticky fingers, of course). Do you want those who sit at your table to find nourishment? Do you want to encourage picky eaters to eat? Do you want to foster a sense of community? Do you want your dinners to enhance the hospitality of your home? These are all overlapping, but distinct goals.
In fact you could spend more time on the preparation and set up for making the napkins than on the actual sewing time. Choice-wise, you’ll need to choose a fabric, choose a thread color, and pick essential oils for a pressing spray. Preparation will involve mixing the pressing spray, washing your fabric and gathering together all the tools you’ll need (scissors or rotary cutter, hem gauge, iron, sewing machine, etc.)
Since this is a spell of increase (adding love or community or comfort to your life) you might want to work during the waxing moon. To give an even greater boost to your sewing, schedule this project on a Monday, which has energies of home and family life.
Pick your napkin fabric
A simple muslin works just fine. I have a box full of muslin mockups that I am going to use. However, your options are only limited by your budget. Linen is the traditional fabric for tableware. You can also find hemp or ramie fabrics. You want to choose something that is absorbent and soft. If wrinkles at the dinner table bother you, look for a fabric that is a blend of natural and synthetic materials as it won’t wrinkle in the wash.
A yard of cotton fabric 36″-42″ wide will give you four napkins. If you go with a linen or other fabric that is 56″- 60″ wide you can make six napkins from a yard. You will end up with some leftover fabric, save that for fabric twine, spell pouches or fabric pennants.
You can find more about magickal fabric properties here to help you choose the fabric you want to use.
Magickally speaking, cotton is associated with the element of earth and is useful if you want to bring luck or healing to your meals while linen is associated with the element of water and can bring energies of wealth and protection to the dinner table.
Make a magickal pressing spray
I talk about pressing magick in my book, Sew Witchy. This is a simple tool you can use to imbue a project with the magickal energy of different herbs. You can make this up any time before you start. Store the spray in a dark tinted bottle, or in a cupboard away from the sun when you aren’t using it.
Pick one or two herbal essential oils that align with your intentions. You’ll also need witch hazel and distilled water. In a spray bottle, add two teaspoons of the witch hazel, and two ounces of the distilled water. Then add ten drops each of the two essential oils (for a total of twenty). You’ll use this spray when pressing the fabric, and then later when the napkins need a magickal boost.
To infuse your napkins (and thus your table) with happiness, love and peaceful magickal intentions use either basil, cinnamon or orange essential oils. All three correspond with those qualities. And as herbs often used in cooking they bring an added layer of meaning to this magickal spray.
Pick your thread color
I’m working from the assumption that you will be using white or off-white fabric for your napkins. However, you can use whatever color or print suits your witchy heart. The considerations for thread color also apply to fabric color if you decide to go with something other than white.
Continuing with the themes of happiness, love and peace you could choose a thread color of yellow, pink or light blue for those associations. You could also use one color for the bobbin and one color for the top thread, giving you an added dimension of having an overt and covert spell intentions. For example you could have pink thread for love in the top thread and light blue for the bobbin thread, weaving a spell of love and peace to help when family dinners can be awkward or painful.
For my napkins, I chose a brown thread because I wanted to bring in earth energy, house blessings and stability to them. And on a personal level, I associate brown with family because of its connections to the element of earth. This is in alignment with my goal of creating a comforting, convivial atmosphere to my table.
Sew your napkins
Wash your fabric before you start. This is an important step. Fabric will shrink when it is first washed. If you jump right into cutting and sewing your napkins, the first time you dump them in the washer the shrinkage will cause puckering at the seams and wonky corners. Once the fabric has been washed and dried you can iron out any wrinkles and begin.
Cut the fabric into 18″ x 18″ squares. Take care here to make sure your corners are square and your lines straight.
Press a half inch hem all around the edges of the square. Then fold the hem up again all the way around. Press. Ironing the folds here is an important step. It will give you a crisp line to work with. It will also keep the hem in place while you sew.
Use your magickal intention spray as you press. Spray the fabric and then use the iron. See the heat of the iron setting your intentions into the fabric.
With the right side facing up, sew a 3/8″ seam around the outside edge of the napkin.
You can, of course, get fancy with your hem seam. You can sew a second seam a scant 1/8″ from the first for a double row. Or play around with the seam options on your machine. I have used the blind hem stitch and others to make decorative seams before.
Your napkins are ready to be used. Keep them near your cutlery so that you will be more likely to use them. Use them with every meal, no matter how simple. After you have washed them, treat them with a spritz of your magickal spray to renew your spellwork.
Want to make your dining experience even more magickal? Read my post about kitchen table magick.