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A Liberty Picnic

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As you probably know by now we LOVE Liberty of London fabric prints! So when Purl Patchwork and purlsoho.com started making and selling the Liberty Fat-Quarter bundles I knew I had to do a project that used all 10 of the different prints together in some way.

With the weather finally turning sunny and warm I had picnics on the brain so I decided to make a Liberty Picnic Set of ten napkins and one crisp white picnic cloth, which can be used as a tablecloth or a blanket depending on your favorite picnic style. I embroidered the edges of all the napkins and the cloth with a retro looking pink and blue triangle stitch. I love the idea of everyone having a different but equally beautiful napkin. I also love the idea of taking the delicate looking (but actually quite sturdy), high class Liberty Tana Lawn out of it's usual dressy context and bringing it outside for a lovely picnic lunch, because what good is such beautiful fabric if you don't use and enjoy it! --Molly

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The Materials

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For the ten 16-inch x 16-inch napkins:

For one approximately 52-inch square picnic cloth:

The Pattern

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Cut Fabric

(For help cutting check out my Rotary Cutting Tutorial.)

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Pin + Sew Fabrics

  • Pin each Liberty piece to a Kona Cotton piece with the right sides facing, leave a spot for a 3-inch opening along one side for turning the napkin right-side out when you're done sewing.
  • Sew a 1/2-inch seam all the way around, remember to leave a 3-inch opening along one side. Back stitch at the beginning and end of each seam.

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Finish Napkin

  • Snip off the corners approximately 1/8-inch from the seam.
  • Turn the napkin right-side out through the 3-inch opening. Make sure the corners are nice and pointy (a knitting needle works well for this, just be careful not to poke it through the fabric!).
  • Tuck the seams of the 3-inch opening neatly inside the napkin and press carefully. This will make closing it in the next step a breeze.

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Embroidering the Edges: Step One

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Running Stitch

  • Thread a 24-inch length of blue embroidery thread and tie a small knot at the end, leaving a 3-inch tail. (You'll need 3 lengths of thread to go around the entire napkin.)
  • Sew a simple running stitch 1/4-inch from the edge of the napkin. (A running stitch simply goes in and out of the fabric as shown in the photo above).
  • As you stitch around the napkin you will be catching the inside of the seam allowance, which will close the 3-inch opening you left for turning the napkin right-side out.
  • Leave a 3-inch tail at the end of the thread and tie a simple knot.

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Hiding the Ends 

  • Thread your needle with one of your tails.
  • Place your needle back into the spot where the thread came out. Slip your needle between the two fabric layers for one inch and then poke the needle back out through the same side of the fabric.
  • Give the thread a little tug and clip it close to the fabric, pull the fabric flat and the thread end will disappear between the layers. Repeat for all of the thread ends.

You can stop here and have a very pretty, simple napkin or follow the next step directions for a fancier version.

Embroidering the Edges: Step Two

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Triangle Stitch 

I don't know what to call this little pink edge stitch. If anyone knows it's proper name please let us know. For now I'll call it the "triangle stitch." 

  • Thread a 24" length of pink embroidery thread and tie a small knot 3-inches from the end.
  • Pull the needle through a few threads of the very edge of the Kona Cotton side of the napkin, in between two of the blue stitches as shown above.

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  • Pull the pink thread down through the left side of the right hand running stitch and back up through the right side of the left hand running stitch as pictured above.

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  • Place your needle into the top fold of the Kona Cotton, a few threads to the right of the knot, so the thread over laps itself a little. 
  • Slip the needle through this fold (do not poke through to the Liberty side of the napkin) and pull your needle out along the top fold, in between the two next running stitches as pictured above.

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  • When you pull the pink thread the "triangle" will appear.
  • Repeat all the way around the napkins edge and hide the ends in the same way as in Step One, above.

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Think of the picnic cloth as a very large napkin with a few small differences. Follow the pictures and explanations below to see how it's done.

Picnic Cloth

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Rip + Pin Fabric

After you've washed and pressed the fabric you'll need to get the large piece straight. Since the Moda Wide Muslin is so wide the easiest way to get a straight line along one edge is to rip it.

  • Begin with a 1-1/2 yard length of fabric (108-inches wide x 54-inches long).
  • Make two little snips about 1 inch from both of the raw edges and rip along the whole width (selvage to selvage) of the fabric along each side.  The ripped piece should measure approximately 108-inches wide x 52-inches long. 
  • Press ripped edges to get them flat again.
  • I know it's a bit of a cheat, but we will not be cutting off the selvages of the fabric. Instead, fold the fabric in half so that the selvages meet. Make sure everything is laying as flat as possible and pin around all three open edges (the fourth edge is closed because it's a fold).
  • Leave a 5-inch opening along one side for turning the cloth right-side out when you're done sewing.

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Sew Cloth 

  • With a 5/8-inch seam allowance sew the 3 pinned sides together, remember to leave a 5-inch opening in the middle of one side for turning the cloth right-side out.
  • Back stitch at the beginning and end of your seam. 
  • Snip the corners approximately 1/8-inch from the corner seams.
  • Turn the piece right-side out through the 5-inch opening, poke the corners out for a sharp point, just like you did for the napkins.
  • Press the cloth being sure to iron the gap so that the seam allowances are neatly tucked inside. 
  • Pin around all four sides of the cloth.

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  • Top stitch with a 1/2-inch seam along all sides of the blanket, crossing each corner as shown above. Back stitch at the beginning and end of each side. The top stitching will close the gap! 

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Embroider Edges: Step One

  • Using the blue embroidery thread, follow the steps for embroidering the edges of the napkins (part one) with a running stitch from above. 

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Embroider Edges: Step Two

  • Using the pink embroidery thread, follow the steps for embroidering the edges of the napkins (part two) with the triangle stitch from above, completing 10 triangle stitches on either side of every corner.  (This way the pretty triangle stitch is still represented but you don't have to drive yourself crazy doing it all the way around the cloth!)

Iron the cloth one last time, pack up some sandwiches, and have a great Memorial Day!

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2 Responses to A Liberty Picnic


  1. Curtis says:

    Hi, I am looking at your napkin projects…and clearly I am a sewing novice, but what type of fabric are you using for those? I only use fabric napkins, and so have decided to try making some myself, but I am not sure what type of fabric to use. I’m not sure if this is the spot for this question or not! Thanks in advance for your help!

  2. MB@YarnUiPHoneApp says:

    I think we have some Liberty prints here in Chicago at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, IL…but nothing nearly as print as what you've got. BTW, love the lilacs. It reminds me I must go pick some!

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