Heirloom-to-Be Linens

3 Comments 01 February 2011

Heather Harris-Brady is a happy nester who enjoys creating textiles, renovating thrift finds and cooking for her family! They live in the north woods near the Lake Michigan beach town of Empire. Her new line of napkin and placemat fabric panels feature vintage silver scroll work, and allow you to have a hand in the making of your own set of linens.

“I believe that people are more creative than ever,” says Heather, “however much of what we create is ephemeral and intangible. It seems to me that there is a basic human desire to create items we can hold in our hands. I strive to create materials that help provide a polished and elegant product, for a minimum amount of labor.”

If you use a sewing machine, Heather’s easy-as-pie DIY can help you turn out an heirloom-to-be in one evening. It will take a bit longer if you opt to do it all by hand, but either way, you will be part of a tradition dating back centuries! We asked Heather to take us through the process of making one of her napkins…

Place your order for napkin panels. The fabric will arrive as flat yardage with dotted cutting lines.

Cut the panels apart.

Apply Fray-Check (or similar product) with a light hand to the cut edges. I have not had any problems with fraying, but the Fray-Check will stop any issues before they start.

Turn each napkin panel print-side down. Fold each side in 1/8 inch and press flat.

Customization time! Decide on your edge treatment…there are LOTS of options.

Simple, Classic Hem
Simply fold the edge in another 1/8 inch, press and sew a straight hem all the way around. You can leave as is, or it’s an easy matter to add some vintage lace to the edge at this point. You can get funky, and even use a different style of lace for each napkin.

Hand-rolled Hem
This is a classic element in couture sewing often used for fine, delicate fabrics. It is a practical skill to acquire, as it is the typical edge treatment for scarves, pocket squares, ties and fine vintage clothing like skirts. It is also one of those things that is harder to explain than it is to do…so please don’t be daunted by my long-winded directions!

Thread a slim needle with a single strand of good thread…silk is great if you have access to it. Knot the end. (I am using a dark thread here for demonstration purposes, but you will want to match the fabric.) Starting at a corner, bring your needle up through the folded edge you ironed down to hide the knot inside the fold.

Down just below the folded edge, pass your needle through one fabric thread. You might find it a little tight as you pull the needle through…but that’s okay. Make a slipstitch through the folded hem.

Repeat this process several times, then pull the thread taught. The hem will roll on its own like magic! I typically make about four stitches per inch.

Rounded corners are a little easier to turn, but if you want to keep the square, just miter the corner as you pass it. You can take an extra stitch or two here to keep it flat.

That’s it! You can see how the stitches disappear, even with purple thread! A lot of people, myself included, find stitching rolled hems relaxing. Find a comfortable chair, a puppy to warm your feet, and stitch away.

You’ll notice that there is an area on the napkin panels for a monogram. I designed it so that it will look beautiful with our without a monogram. If you are an avid seamstress, you probably have an embroidery feature on your sewing machine. If not, any embroidery shop can add it for you.

Add your own custom napkin rings…I made these with grosgrain ribbon and vintage jewelry…and you’ll have created your own personal heirloom table setting!

Editor’s note: Heather will be releasing her first digital book this spring, Great Beach Picnics in Northwest Michigan–A Local’s Guide to Beaches, Regional Wines and Foods. Crafty Heather also makes one-of-a-kind wedding bouquets from vintage hats and jewelry.

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Your Comments


  1. Kathy Howard says:

    Great tutorial

  2. Jenny Cook says:

    Fun and creative, love the napkin ring and how easy it is to make.


  1. Add Some Edge - 01. Feb, 2011

    [...] Heirloom-to-Be Linens | Nesting Newbies Simply fold the edge in another 1/8 inch, press and sew a straight hem all the way around. You can leave as is, or it's an easy matter to add some vintage lace to the edge at this point. You can get funky, and even use a different style . [...]

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