Napkins Make Great Gifts {Embroidery Tutorial}

stitchin' retro 6

Hand embroidered dish towels are one of my favorite things! There’s a vintage feel to them that adds a little character to the kitchen.

Stitchin’ Retro, by Leisure Arts, will be able to keep me busy with over 150 designs inspired by vintage linens from the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s. Wow…how cool!

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Each design is small enough that it only takes me a hour or so to complete a project…well, maybe it would only be 30 minutes but I took a million photos! I have a short attention span so I need small projects!

I’ll quickly show you just how easy it is to create an embroidered napkin.

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I washed and ironed two cloth napkins that I found on sale at Target. Ironing is by far the hardest part of this project. I thought about paying one of my children to do it for me, but thought better of it.

Just about anything with a tight weave like cotton, linen, and wool will work. Think about the fabulous pillow cases, shirts, baby bibs, purses, and aprons you can add a touch of style to with a little embroidery.

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I picked these sweet little cherries and cut around them. You want to cut close, but not too close! You just cut them right out of the book!

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Preheat the iron without steam. Iron the spot where you’ll place the transfer. Once it’s hot, take your transfer and lay it face down in the perfect spot. Immediately place your iron on it and hold it down for 5-10 seconds without moving it around. I like to push down on it pretty hard.

Lift a corner to check, and repeat heat until the transfer is dark enough for you. Transfers can be used more than once, but the number of times depends on the pressure you use while ironing.

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Gather your supplies. I used red, green and brown embroidery floss, an embroidery hoop {size 4}, an embroidery needle with a large eye {size 8}, and small scissors. Oh, and don’t forget a cup of coffee or tea!

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I decided I didn’t want my floss too thick, so I separated it in half and only used 3 stands. Slowly pull them apart or you’ll end up with a knotty mess! And it’s best to use 12-18 inches of floss to keep it easy to handle.

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Place the napkin over the smaller ring of your embroidery hoop and secure the large one over it tightly. Adjust the screw to hold it in place…you don’t want it moving all around while your trying to work.

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Thread your needle and tie a knot on one end. Start from the bottom and use a simple backstitch.

This is what the back will look like after you’ve embroidered a bit. When you run out of thread, just tie a knot and start with new thread. You can weave it through several stitches on the back and not tie a knot, but I’ve never tried it.

The transfer might not wash out, so stay on the line the best you can…it’s really not too hard!

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Here’s a picture of it in progress and moving along quickly.

Once you’re done, remove the ring and iron with steam to remove the crease from the ring.

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Repeat all the steps a second time to make a matching one for a set.

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Tie a ribbon around both of them and you have a fabulous gift ready to go!

Iron on transfers make embroidery so much easier, and I love simple designs like palm trees and fruit. It’s a little touch of handmade goodness in the kitchen!

stitchin' retro books

I’ve used other embroidery books, but this one is my favorite!!! If you’re new to embroidery, you’ll find a simple stitch guide in this book to get you stichin’ in minutes.

Just one more idea for an awesome handmade holiday!


You might enjoy some of these ideas…101 Simple Handmade Gifts!


  1. says

    Oh my gosh! There are so many to choose from! But I do love the Retro Stitchin’ book as well as the “Doodling for Papercrafters”… great stuff!

  2. says

    Oh, that is the sweetest book…I’d love to snag it and get to work on some embroidery! I checked out Leisure Arts (great site). My fav book is 52 More Scrapbooking Challenges…it’s got some wonderful inspiration. Thanks for the chance!

    Jamie :)
    .-= A Forest Frolic´s last blog ..I’m always a Sucker… =-.

  3. says

    Stichin’ Retro was my absolute favorite!! It was SOOO cute!! I would love to make some of the things in that book to put in my hopechest! =)

  4. says

    WOW! That does look awfully simple and with such great results!!! I would love to win this book and try it out myself!!!! :) *fingers crossed*
    From Leisure Arts…I like the book Knit Prayer Shawls. I am a knitter and that would be a book I would love!

    thecountryblossom AT hotmail DOT com
    .-= Katy~The Country Blossom´s last blog ..My Front Porch is Done! =-.

  5. Jane says

    Oh sorry! I had the wrong thing copy and pasted.

    My favorite book is definitely Little Knitted Creatures. I want to make the owl!

    To make up for the fact that I had that weird extra entry, I’ll combine my entry for following via RSS in this one: I followed you via google reader.

  6. says

    I love books and can’t tell what book is my favorite, but I don’t have an embroidery book, so this Stichin’ Retro is a book that I need.
    Thank You

  7. Holly G. says

    I haven’t embroidered in years! It would be so much fun to do it again.
    I would like to try something new like the Little Knitted Creatures book. Great giveaway – thanks!

  8. says

    Oh – I want to embroider! How adorable are those patterns? Your cherries are too cute :)
    I love them all, but the one you chose is probably my favorite book. Or possible the “Stitch it Home” book.
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    .-= Mandy´s last blog ..Pretty, Simple Spring Wreath =-.

  9. Maya says

    So many books! I really like The Paper Home and The Paper Bag Book. They both seem to be good choices for recycling paper products.

    I really like the Stitchin’ Retro too! I hope I win!

  10. says

    Kim, This book is just the sweetest! I saw lots of fun books over there, but I must admit, I love the Copic markers. They are so fun to work with and worth every penny.
    .-= Meg´s last blog ..Bargain Alert! =-.

  11. Lauren @ sweet bunny says

    I would pick the Embroidered Monograms & More Book 2. I love making pillowcases and hand towels for gifts.

  12. says

    They have a lot of really wonderful books – hard choice. I think the retro stitchin’ book is great. And the Sew Simple book is also. And a lot of others :)
    Hope I win… ;o)

  13. Vanessa says

    Wow, lots to choose from, but I think I would start with the Stitchin’ Retro. Love the look, and want to make new curtains for my kitchen.

  14. Sarah C says

    Oh cool! I just bought some napkins at Target on clearance too. We only use cloth ones, and it would be nice to make them a bit more fun like yours!

    I also thought that the book Modern Crafter Jolly Stuff looks great. We are planning to make cloth ornaments for the tree this year and get rid of the glass balls, so it would be perfect!

    soluckyducky at gmail dot com

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