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Project

Oxford Napkins

Introduction

Make lovely cloth napkins out of your worn oxford shirts -- not only will they look great on your dinner table, but they'll also reduce the need for paper products. Faded plaids and checked patterns look especially great.

Materials

  • Old oxford shirts
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Needle and thread

Steps

  1. Step 1

    Wash the oxford shirts well. Cut the clean fabric into uniformly sized pieces, about 12 inches square.

  2. Step 2

    Either leave the edges frayed, or sew a hem for a cleaner look.

Source
The Martha Stewart Show, April 2008

Reviews (44)

  • AprilNicole 1 Mar, 2010

    Re: Franpete You are assuming the shirts are still wearable. I am using my husbands shirts that are not still wearable and donating the ones that are still wearable. Some of his shirts have a small [filtered word] somewhere, but still have plenty of good fabric to make a napkin. I think this is a greate idea!

  • AprilNicole 1 Mar, 2010

    Re: Franpete You are assuming the shirts are still wearable. I am using my husbands shirts that are not still wearable and donating the ones that are still wearable. Some of his shirts have a small [filtered word] somewhere, but still have plenty of good fabric to make a napkin. I think this is a greate idea!

  • Franpete 1 Mar, 2010

    Instead of cutting up perfectly good men's shirts why not consider donating these shirts? There are lots of organizations that are always in need of clothing. It's always better to give!

  • MissMarple 27 Feb, 2010

    Because some Oxford cloth shirting is pretty lightweight, another approach might be to cut 2 pieces of fabric (if you can get enough fabric--or maybe even use two shirts). Stitch together inside out, turn, and close the space left in the seam for turning. You could then topstitch all around 1/4 inch from the edge, to provide a crisp finish. I'm eager to try this! Thanks for the idea!

  • Inexplicable 27 Feb, 2010

    How about a shirt front bib, with collar ties, and a napkin from the shirt back, plus sleeve covers from the shirt sleeves. For really messy meals.

  • OctoberFran 26 Feb, 2010

    Diefenbaker--napkins don't have to be square. Frank Lloyd Wright often designed furniture and accessories for his houses and I saw his napkins--they were "lap shaped," about 8" X 16". I went home and made a set and they ARE easier to use, keep on your lap, etc.

  • gram300 26 Feb, 2010

    I'll have to say this is a great idea! I like the edges frayed. Also, the oxford cloth irons and creases so well. thanks

  • franceswkoontz 26 Feb, 2010

    Great idea can make a napkin as Large or Small as you like too!

  • franceswkoontz 26 Feb, 2010

    Great idea can make a napkin as Large or Small as you like too!

  • MaggieMcGee 23 May, 2008

    This is my first attempt at commenting on a Martha idea. I made four fabric napkins for each Holiday in the year, plus another set for Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall and gave them as a wedding presant. You could use this Idea by using plaid for the Summer set or 4th of July!

  • andeande 20 May, 2008

    great idea!!! this is one project that i will definately do. i also like gamies' idea of sewing up the middle of a pocket for eating utensils.

  • redguide 13 May, 2008

    Sorry, I bought 6 colours of bias tape. It comes in all colours. The napkins look great.

  • redguide 13 May, 2008

    I made some napkins of both old shirts and blouses, and old teatowels. Twenty in all. I bought four colours of bias tape and edged them all. We use them all the time. Neatly folded after washing they never need ironing. No more paper. The kids love the combinations of colours. I did them randomly, mixed and matched.

  • Gamie 13 May, 2008

    Great idea! Just at the right time of the year when I am going through all the winter shirts, deciding what to toss out and what to put away for next winter. I left the pockets on them too, sewed it up the center and it's great for holding the silverware for out door eating.

  • winecrafter 13 May, 2008

    check bsmt closet

  • diefenbaker 13 May, 2008

    In this age of so much waste, cloth napkins are great. I have also purchased tea towels at a dollar store, squared the towel, cut and stitched up the one cut edge and you have a personalized napkin. What fabric is going to be more sturdy than a tea towel? Makes a nice large sized napkin, for use when eating messy wings or whatever. Cheers Martha for the ideas. st4rf15h

  • classyglasslady 12 May, 2008

    Sorry for the duplicate post. Didn't think the submit button took.

  • eternity 12 May, 2008

    YAH! This one gets a big "VERY GOOD THING"! It's Great, especially during "these
    difficult days, when $Money$, is "REALLY THIN" "These" would make such a neat
    gift as, either, a "Housewarming" or "Hostess~Gift", or even if it's simply a "Love~Gift! The "Ideas" for giving, could go on and on!! I would be "Way Honored" if I were the one to receive such a "heartfelt" gift!! ...can't forget to give a BIG "Thanks' to: "carylec" and "classglasslady" also, for their Neat ideas!!!

  • carylec 12 May, 2008

    If the shirt isn't oxford, will the napkin be too limp? I use cloth napkins everyday. I usually go to thrift stores where they sell for 50 cents to $1.00. We use these when we eat pizza. This way when the stains don't come out it doesn't matter. When my children were young (all, but one, have their own families) we did this all the time. I think they do this now. I'll send this article to them.

  • classyglasslady 12 May, 2008

    I've been making potholders using old sweatshirts as the padding. Two layers is perfect; put the insides together so the smoother sides are out, then sandwich this inside your potholder fabric. Quilt with a design that compliments the fabric. If there is no geometric pattern, I stitch lines diagonally about an inch or so apart. Using a plaid oxford cloth would give you perfect lines to follow; best to use a solid fabric on the other side. Finish with bias tape or your own bias strips.

  • Melodie-Belle 12 May, 2008

    I can see doing this with various plaids and using them for picnic napkins..........very cool idea!!

  • Melodie-Belle 12 May, 2008

    I can see doing this with various plaids and using them for picnic napkins..........very cool idea!!

  • jsimmons 12 May, 2008

    Now why didn't I think of that?? After looking for napkins that appeal to me and go with my dishes, tomorrow I'm heading to" Sally's" for shirts! Maybe I'll find a dress or skirt with enough yardage for a complimenting table cloth.

    I grew up watching my Mother

  • slowtrucking 12 May, 2008

    great idea. I will mke some

  • PinkGranny 12 May, 2008

    Oxford cloth is a very durable fabric. Napkins made from this fabric will look great on the table as they have body and the options for color choice can complement most color schemes. Great idea to make use of old unwanted shirts that still have life left.

  • cknight421 12 May, 2008

    This is such a good idea. Will ask husband which ones I can use once he gets home. I may even check out the thrift store.

  • daisykay 12 May, 2008

    This is a good idea. When my children were small I had a pattern to make a childs shirt or blouse from mens white shirts, it used the existing buttons and button holes I do wish I had kept track of that pattern!!!

  • Chara 12 May, 2008

    Found this on wikipedia: Oxford is a type of weave employed to make the fabric in oxford shirts. The warp has two fine yarns paired together. The weft has one heavier, softly spun fill yarn, which gives the fabric a very subtle basketweave look.

  • jmyhogan 12 May, 2008

    That was my first thought as well. Just what is an "Oxford" shirt?

  • Lanette 12 May, 2008

    Great idea! We need to recycle and save. We Americans are too wasteful.

  • nanagramms3 12 May, 2008

    I know I may sound dumb buit exactly what is an oxford shirt. I know there are a lot of shirts out there and i know what a dress shirt is but how do you tell the difference in an oxford shrt? Thanks for your help.

  • elsiemike 12 May, 2008

    What a great idea,, could you not then take the cuffs and make napkin rings!

  • bfcreations 12 May, 2008

    Fantastic idea! Now I know what to do with hubby's shirts he won't wear.

  • pinenut2 12 May, 2008

    Great idea! I also use my husbands old shirts to make pillow cases for smaller pillows. Each pillowcase takes two backs ... often of different patterns or colors. I once made of square 14"x14" using the front and the back with the bottons used to remove the case for washing. I even made a little 'hankie" to put in the pocket. I was very handsome in the deep primary colors plaid ... and oh so soft!

  • Camella 12 May, 2008

    I love the napkins from old shirts idea. Next time I'm at the sewing machine I'll definitely make up a bunch of these.
    Thank you,
    Camella

  • mlnags 12 May, 2008

    Perhaps hot pads, pads for hot plates, place mats or table runners could be made to co-ordinate this idea. Also wrap some extra material around a flower vase or pot to place on the table or near by to match. Use the button strip to tie or as loops on the place mats for silverware.

  • rgweiner 12 May, 2008

    What a good idea. Will this work using old sheets and pillow cases too?

  • hpjskm 12 May, 2008

    What a great idea! I read this and immediately thought of my grandmother. She never threw anything away if there was still use to it. I remember playing in her button jars , watching as she "recycled" old dresses and skirts into baby and toddler clothing or cut quilt squares from scrapes or made braided rugs from rags. We could all learn a lesson from her generation to help our "throw-away" mentality of today.

  • Anna_Marie 12 May, 2008

    The thinner shirts would make great handkerchiefs, too. Well-worn, pre-washed fabric would be soft on the nose! Oxyclean is a good product to use to clean and freshen just about anything. Then cut out squares and put a small folded or rolled hem around the edges. Thanks for another great way to recycle!

  • berrybramble 12 May, 2008

    An oxford cloth shirt is generally a 100% cotton men's shirt - it can be plain white, colored, checked, striped, etc. You just don't want any poly because poly napkins don't work very well anyway. I think they'd be cute if they were frayed, but sewn around the edge so the fray doesn't run amok.

  • mlelwis102746 12 May, 2008

    I feel like an idiot, but I need to ask ... What is an oxford shirt? When I read about this craft I immediately thought of thrift stores as a source, but I need to know what to look for. Thanks.

  • bmesa 12 May, 2008

    What a great idea!
    Cate from www.madaboutmartha.com.

  • drbrain 12 May, 2008

    I wish all these Good Things had videos. It's easier when you can see it. But I still try to follow the written instructions.

  • smckie 26 Apr, 2008

    I was very excited to hear you were invited to speak before the Senate committee on aging as I think the issues for seniors are one of the most important challanges we face today. Too many seniors and children live in conditions we as Americans should be ashamed that we have not done more. I would like to see more of this type of info on your show. Thank you