Seersucker Napkins in Three Easy Steps

Step 1: Procrastinate for 4-6 weeks or until your town sells out of seersucker, whichever comes first, then pace wild-eyed through the nearest fabric store and seriously consider making denim napkins* before stumbling upon something called plisse, which is sort of a fake seersucker. Ask the associate at the cutting table if 24″ square napkins, as Martha recommends, aren’t just a touch overboard (to which the associate MIGHT reply “Perhaps Martha’s friends’ laps are too big,” which sends you and everyone else in line into hysterics even though everyone else in line would probably need a 24″ square napkin) and anyway shouldn’t napkins really be  18″ square, thereby fitting neatly 2-up within a yard of fabric and saving you some serious coin?


Plisse. Can YOU tell the difference?

Step 2

Wait another six days before determining that using a straight pin to “create a fringed border” on each napkin would take WAY longer than you’re willing to devote to this project (and also doesn’t really work), call one’s mother (again), who brilliantly suggests cutting the edges with pinking shears, which are those heavy, jagged scissors that always used to scare you when you were little and are a real bitch to operate but create a pretty, vintage-y edge that doesn’t require a sewing machine. Win.

Pinking shears: the Great White Shark of the scissor world.

Step 3

Wait two more days. Take fabric to your mom’s house, where there are two sets of pinking shears and a much better-behaved cat, and coerce her to help you cut 14 squares using a giant ruler borrowed from work and discover to your delight that she is one million times better at pinking than you are and also has dinner ready. You take a picture of her while she’s pinking but screw it up, possibly because your hand is covered in blisters at that point, but you nevertheless want to thank her for all of her hard work so you post an alternative picture** of her, grab the napkins and the over-sized ruler and head home in triumph.

Verdict: These are easy, and even though technically departed from the original project still function very much in the spirit of seersucker napkins with a fringed edge. They will debut at a special event to be held in the very near future. Let’s hope they pass muster.

*Denim napkins actually would be really cool, and there was plenty of fabric from which to choose, but denim is expensive, and I am cheap.

**Alternative picture of one’s mother, holding a monkey, in France. Just go with it.



  1. Kelly · July 8, 2010

    How many steps were in the original instructions, and did they involve having to go to someone’s second home in New England to view a collection of vintage egg timers?

  2. Mom · July 8, 2010

    I can’t believe you posted that photo. The monkey had a much better hairdo than I did.

  3. Lesley · July 8, 2010

    Okay, so I can’t spell shears correctly. I blame BP.

  4. Lesley · July 8, 2010

    Mom, I like your hair in that picture!

  5. Maggi · July 8, 2010

    FWIW, I have had four rectangles (eight, actually; one for each side) of fabric cut out for about 10 months to make placemats (which spell-check wants me to write as two words). I want to make them oval, though, for a round table, and have been held back by the challenge of achieving the perfect curve . . .

  6. marthaandme · July 8, 2010

    Love this. I tried making napkins from men’s shirts, a la Martha a while ago. Tried the same thing with the pin and the edges and found it to be a pain in the butt. My mother is less crafty than I am, so I was unable to get her to help, nor do I have a photo of her holding a monkey. Clearly you win the mom sweepstakes.

  7. Barry · July 12, 2010

    Hell Yes!

  8. Matt Moore · July 20, 2010

    What a lovely photo of your mom. Hi Mrs. Howson!

  9. Amber · May 4, 2011

    Stumbled across this blog in a googling moment……LOVE IT!!!!!!

    • Lesley · May 6, 2011

      Thanks for reading, Amber!

  10. erranttranscendentalist · July 29, 2012

    I just got a load of vintage-esque fabric and thought I’d read up on using pinking shears to make napkins before I began doing it for the first time. Thanks for the great laugh and the wonderful advice.

    • Lesley · October 18, 2012

      Belated you’re welcome! How did they turn out?

      • erranttranscendentalist · October 27, 2012

        Really beautiful!! Thank you. They were a handsome touch. Thanks again for your instructions.

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