Friday, April 30, 2010

DIY Monogrammed Napkins from a Vintage Sheet

You could carve a rubber stamp instead of a lino-block if you 
prefer.Ripping the sheet makes nice-looking frayed edges.

A simple lino-block print on recycled sheet 
pieces can make some pretty, personal napkins.

A simple lino-block print on recycled sheet pieces can make some pretty, personal napkins.

This project is cheap, diy, as well as vintage and personal, it doesn't get much better than that!

You'll need:
  • A vintage bedsheet (thin and worn is good)
  • Scissors
  • Linoleum block for carving (sold at art stores)
  • Carving tool
  • Screen-printing or fabric ink
  • Palette knife (or a butter knife or spoon will work)
  • Lino-block printing roller
  • Piece of glass, plexiglass, or a cereal box for rolling ink
You could also carve a rubber stamp instead of a lino-block, and use a fabric-friendly stamp pad instead of screen-printing ink, which would be easier and less messy.

When picking out a sheet, keep in mind that if the pattern is too busy, the monogram will be hard to see. And choose your fabric ink color to work best with the sheet (so if the sheet is mostly dark, use an opaque white or pastel ink color).

Make a short snip in the sheet to get it started.
First, you need to cut/tear your sheets into napkin squares. Most old sheets will tear excellently, making a straight edge, which will neatly fray and require no hem or stitching at all. Test to see if it will rip well by making a snip in one side, the size you want your napkin to be, then ripping at the cut. If it does not tear easily, then use your scissors to cut across the sheet.

Hopefully, your sheet will rip neatly and look something like this.
If it does rip well, then tear it all the way across, so you have one long strip. Then, make snips evenly across one side of the strip—I did this by folding it in half, then in half again, and again, then snipping through all the layers on the two sides of the folded piece.

Snipping through all the layers at once will guarantee equal-sized napkins.
Rip at each snip, giving you napkin squares (or rectangles). Repeat those steps for as many napkins as you want.

Don't worry—you will have a big mess of thread after all that ripping!
Now you need to clean up that thready pile of fabric. Go through each square and pull off all the hanging threads. Keep pulling threads off until there are none coming out, which will leave you with neatly frayed edges! Then you can iron them if you want to.

I love how frayed sheet edges look.
If you had to cut your sheet with scissors because it wouldn't rip, you can try to pull threads out to make the frayed edges, or you could choose to sew a hem or sew a zigzag stitch around the edges.

Next will be the printing, which means you can set aside the fabric and get carving! I won't get into a full-on lino-carving tutorial here because there are plenty of those around the Web (like,, and my favorite, Jezze's printing fabric part 1, part 2, and part 3). Start by figuring out your design and getting it onto the block, reversed (like the mirror image). There are many ways to do this—you can design it on the computer, flip it, print it out, cover the back side of the image with pencil, then trace it onto the lino block. Or print it out not-reversed, trace over it hard with pencil, turn it upside down on the block, and trace the back of it.

If it's a simple design, just draw it onto the block.
Then carve it out. Always be sure to point the carving tool away from your hand!

First, cut around all the edges, then cut the space between.

Carving it out is a simple process, but go slowly and patiently!
If you are using an unmounted piece of linoleum, like mine, then you can cut it with scissors around the design. This means less carving and fewer parts of the block that may get ink where you don't want any.

If you cut around your image, there will be less chance of unwanted ink on your napkins.
Use your knife (or spoon) to plop some ink onto your rolling surface and roll it out—glass, plexiglass, or a mirror is best, but glossy cardboard like a cereal box will work in a pinch.

I use a piece of plexiglass from a cheap picture frame.
Roll some ink evenly onto your carved block and start stamping it onto your napkins. It's a good idea to test it first on a piece of scrap fabric to make sure it looks good. Press it evenly onto the fabric with your hands, or use an extra roller (or a rolling pin or glass bottle) to press it down.

I use a spare roller to evenly press the block onto the fabric.
Lift the block straight up carefully, and there you go!

My layer of ink was a bit thick on this print, making the edges a little messy.
Let the napkins dry, heat-set the print according to the instructions on the ink, and you've got some monogrammed napkins for your wedding (or just for fun)!

I love the changing pattern on the sheet I used!

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