Antique Monogram Napkins

When it comes to pretty gift ideas, there’s nothing quite like personalization.  I’ve found that gift recipients really love items that are made especially for them.

Nothing says “personalized” quite like monogramming.

I was inspired by vintage linens when I these antique monogram napkins.

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Monogramming has never been easier with the help of embroidery machines.  When I purchased my  machine (about 10 years ago), my husband said, “Oh, you’re never going to get much use out of that”.

Well, not only do I get a ton of use out of my machine, it continues to take my gift giving to new heights as you can see in the photo below.

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I love the subtle and soft tone-on-tone effect that’s achieved when the embroidery thread color is matched with the fabric color.

An embroidery machine can even give an amatuer’s handiwork, professional-looking results because the machine does most of the work.

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The covered clothes pins used in my display are another easy-to-make project that also make fun gifts.

You can see my previous tutorial on how to make these colorful, decorative pins if you click here.
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Before I get into the nuts and bolts of this embroidered napkin project, allow me to share the inspiration for it.

I love to browse through books that feature pretty linens and lace and I have a nice little library built up.  One of my favorite reference books is called Glorious Linens.

While the book is filled with beautiful examples of vintage linens, I was particularly struck by the photos on the inside flap which you can see in the photo below.

These are some of the prettiest embroidered napkins I’ve ever seen.


During my effort to track down the exact embroidery disc used for these napkins, officials with the book publisher told me these were not machine embroidered but were antique, hand-embroidered napkins that were borrowed from a private collector just for the book, photo shoot.

Wow, these are hand embroidered?  I confess, this looks much more like machine embroidery to me than hand embroidery but I must take the book rep at her word.

Blog vintage linens tight view For the monogram portion of this project, I ended up using a vintage-looking design from a different embroidery collection I found on E-bay.

Note: This gorgeous alphabet in the print below is called Victorian Whitework Font.  If the bid date has ended for the link I provided above, simply do a search for it because it seems to be a regularly listed item on E-bay. 

I was one of two people bidding on this design at the time and I won it for $13.  However, immediately after I purchased mine the same collection was re-listed for $4.90 and the buyer I was bidding against picked it up for the cheaper price a few days later.  So, I think you’ll be able to get it for a decent price.

Here’s a closer look at some of the letters in the Victorian Whitework Font Collection from which I selected the letter “M”.


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OK, enough about embroidery designs, let’s move on to the napkins.  Of course, you can always purchase a set of pre-made napkins but if you prefer to make your own, they’re easy to construct.

First, determine the size of napkin you want to create.  I settled on typical, dinner-size.  I cut my linen fabric into four, individual 17″ X 17″ squares.

Cotton, linen or linen look-alike fabrics are all good choices for this project.

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After the fabric squares have been cut, simply turn the edge over about 1/4-inch on all sides and iron.  Turn over another 1/4-inch and iron again, concealing the raw edge.

Then, stitch the lower edge in place all the way around the napkin.  Iron again to eliminate any wrinkles or creases.

Note: I didn’t miter the corner of these napkins but it’s worth noting that gift napkins look the absolute best when the corners are mitered. 

Look for a special tutorial on mitering techniques with examples of mitered projects later in an upcoming post.

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Once the edges have been turned over and stitched into place, it’s time to mark the fabric for proper embroidery placement.

Fold the fabric in half and then fold it into quarters and iron.  Leave a decent crease so that the folds in each quarter will be easily visible.

Always use a water soluble pen for any marking.

Mark the quarter section vertically and horizontally.  The point at which the two lines meet represents the center of this quarter.

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You may find it helpful to circle the center and also make a small reference to the top and bottom of the design to use as guides.

Remember, all markings can be easily and completely washed out after the project stitches out.

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Use your monogram template to mark the position of the design along your marked lines.

If you don’t have a paper template (or the software to create one) you can also stitch out a sample design and use that to help determine exactly where you want the design to fall within the marked area of your fabric.

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Once the quarter section of the napkin is marked, secure the fabric in the hoop and begin the embroidery.

Note: The extra layer you see on top of the fabric here is heavy duty water soluble stabilizer.  It helps ensure the design is stitched out without any shifting.  Even minor shifting within the hoop during the embroidery process can throw off the design giving you less than perfect results.

I use a small piece of water soluble stabilizer on top of the fabric as well as a piece under the hoop for maximum stability.  Once the design is stitched out, gently rinse out the stabilizer with warm water and hang project to dry before ironing.

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For most embroidery projects, you should use embroidery bobbin thread which generally comes in white, black and beige.

Embroidery bobbin thread is thinner (and less expensive) than the colored embroidery thread.  Also, a lot more bobbin thread can fit onto the bobbin than regular embroidery thread.

It makes sense to use bobbin thread on most projects so you don’t use up the more expensive colored thread for an area that mostly likely, will never be seen.

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However, when monogramming a single-color project (like napkins) in which the backside will be clearly visible, I suggest you to use the same embroidery thread in your bobbin that you are using for the monogram.

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Take a look at the sample napkin in the photo below.  I stitched out the monogram using a Pistachio color in order to gauge the size and appearance of the design.

As you  can see, this particular embroidery design looks beautiful in whatever color it’s stitched out in.

Blog vintage napkins frontside

I used the same Pistachio color in the bobbin and you can see how nice the backside of the project looks.

This is a clean, top and bottom presentation because the wrong side looks almost as if it could be the right side.

Blog vintage napkins backside
Meantime, when it comes to gift giving, I try to package my projects in delightful and unexpected ways that add to the personalization of the gift.

While these napkins would look just as pretty wrapped in tissue in a small gift box, I decided to “bag” them instead and add a little extra embroidered touch.

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Here’s a look at my completed, drawstring napkin bag.  This particular “Linens” design is included in the Glorious Linens embroidery collection I mentioned earlier.

You can see how to construct a slightly different version of this easy-to-make, gift bag in an earlier post if you click here.

You can find this twisted drawstring in various widths and colors in the piping or trim section of most fabric stores.


I think this is such an elegant and descriptive presentation.  The gift recipient will know exactly what’s inside the bag without even opening it.

Here’s a look at my khaki-colored linen bag effort which is still under construction.

Note: You could also add the monogramed letter on the back this bag to match the napkins inside which would give the gift additional personalization.

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Here’s another look at the contents of the linen bag.

While these finished embroidery designs are not as intricately detailed as the original designs that inspired this project, I think the finished result is still quite elegant.

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Vintage hand embroidery is often passed down from generation to generation.

You never know, after enough time has passed, perhaps these simple handcrafted machine-embroidered items will be considered an heirloom one day.

Blog vintage linens close2 Imagine how excited a gift recipient would be to recieve a pretty linen bag filled with pretty, personalized linen napkins. You just can’t go wrong with a gift like this.

By the way, I made these magnificant monograms as a surprise gift to my twin sister whose married name begins with “M”.

Shhh, don’t tell. ♥  

  • Andrea M

    These are PERFECT, Lisa! I would LOVE to replicate for my own home and sister (who is absolutely obsessed with anything monogrammed- well, who isn’t?!)!!
    I am new to your blog so forgive me if you have already shared, but can you advise on what embroidery machine you have and recommend? I have been wanting one for ages, but cannot quite choose on a machine (that and save up for one). I have read that the Project Runway Brother machine is terrific, so I am leaning on this one.
    I am a newby at sewing too. My husband owns a small construction company in Boston so I am hoping to embroider his shirts, etc with the company logo.
    Any advice would be so appreciated!!

  • Anonymous

    This so awesome. They all look amazing and beautiful photos help envision action. You are very talented.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Look at these Arts i really don’t have any words about it.Its simply Amazing one.Its called the Magnificent Monograms which is very great one.Very well done.Appreciate your work as its not at all simple.

  • Debbie Egizio

    Your embroidered creations are to die for!! What a lovely gift idea and the embroidered bag is over the top fabulous. I’ve wanted to tell you for the longest time that it was so nice to have met you in person at The Creative Connection. You’re just adorable and your projects and creations are as lovely as always. Take good care, Debbie

  • martha

    Just lovely~

  • Kaja

    you’re in my FridayFeature for bloggers with lots of patience!

  • Julie Size

    Just anohter one of your stunning works of art!!! Very elegant!

  • Robin Clevenger

    Oh! I want to be your adopted sister. You never cease to amaze me with your creative talent! Perfection.

  • Julie B

    Beautiful work, as usual. I would also love to know where you found your embroidery designs. Thanks for so much inspiration in one spot.

  • Pam Capone

    Those are so beautiful and how lucky your sister is to receive such a charming gift.
    I have been thinking about getting an embroidery machine do you have any suggestions

  • Susan Hahaj

    How gorgeous! I just love the monogram design you chose, I have a Husqvarna designer I machine now for many years and use it all the time also! You mentioned you found your monogram on ebay, but I couldn’t find it, could you share the store with me to find it? I’d love to purchase it! Your sister will be thrilled! Maybe she’ll even make you a fancy dinner and use your lovlies! Susan

  • Laurel H.

    Oh, these are beautiful. You always have such lovely, creative gift ideas. (Aw, look, your mom commented just above!)

  • Sandra

    Quite elegant indeed and very beautiful. Your beloved sister will be delighted!

  • Heidi Woodruff

    Ookkaaaayyy…. WOOW-ZA! These are outrageously beautiful! Your twin sis is going to *love* and treasure these forever! Gorgeousness at it’s best!

  • Chuzai Living

    These are so gorgeous!! They all look amazing and your beautiful photos help visualize the work. You are very talented!

  • elisa rathje

    they are stunning. really gorgeous. i’d love to commission some pieces! maybe someday! x

  • Kaja

    Are you SURE that you’re not on the payroll for any of those companies that sell embroidery machines?? I have ALMOST managed to convince myself that I simply can’t buy a third machine. But your blogpost makes it REALLY hard to resist!

  • Happy Homemaker UK

    Stunning! And they look so fun to make!

  • Nicole

    Those turned out BEAUTIFUL! I’ve go serious embroidery machine envy!

  • Susie L.

    These are more than beautiful, they are a treasured gift. Something that you pass on to a beloved member of your family as a keepsake. After two “get to know your sewing machine” lessons, I won’t be making this creation any time soon *laughing* Your mother (Nana Banana) must be so proud of her girls! I’ll bet she’s just as talented *smiling*
    My last post was a gift to our daughter. I love Graphic 45 design paper!

  • Thimbleanna

    Wow Lisa – these are gorgeous! I LOVE to make monogrammed gifts with my embroidery machine. Once, when my boys were on a baseball team, one of the grandmothers had an end of season party so I made my standard monogrammed linen guest towel to take along for a thank-you gift. I’d never met her before, but much to my delight, she took me on a tour of their new (Gorgeous) home and it was FULL of monograms. It was the perfect gift.
    Also, I love to use my wing needle on the hem of my linen towels, if you’ve never tried that. Thanks for this fun post and the reference to the book — I’m putting it on my wishlist!

  • adrienne

    OMG! BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jacqueline

    Lisa, these are so beautiful! I always want an embroidery machine but have yet to save enough money for it. 😀 I am a huge fan of emboidery and monogramming. I work on a lot of hand emboidery and monograms. 🙂 Have a lovely merry happy day and love to you!

  • Ilze

    Really beautiful. Sure your sister is going to be beyond happy ! Nice to take special time with a gift ! I will go look also at your decorated pins !. Nice blog!!

  • christine e-e

    these are gorgeous… what a fabulous surprise for your sister! I have no doubt she’ll love them!
    what brand of sewing machine do you have? I’m in the market for one… I don’t need one as fancy as yours, but I’m trying to determine which brand will be the winner!

  • Staci

    So very pretty! TFS!

  • Kisha

    The napkins are more than beautiful Lisa. I love linen napkins and all things vintage but these are just over the top. Your sister is going to be so happy to receive these.

  • Elaine (mom)Tutman

    oooo – your Baby Sister is going to LOVE this surprise gift(OK – so you are only five minutes older, but who’s counting?)
    I won’t tell. Love, Nana Banana