Pulled Fringe Napkins

I have celebrated Thanksgiving all over the country, from sunny California to crisp New England. Everywhere I've spent the holiday has unveiled its own unique traditions. One year I went to Kauai and ate poi with my turkey, while an army of giant ants enjoyed our homemade pies. Last year I helped my friend Nicole make a delicious Mexican mole turkey in Richmond, Virginia. But no matter where Thanksgiving finds me, there are always some comforting constants: good food, friends and family, and a thoughtfully set table.

I've made it something of an annual tradition to contribute a new set of cloth napkins to the Thanksgiving table, wherever it is! In fact, this is my fifth set! (You can see all of them here.) It's a tradition I love because, even if you're like me and don't have real silver or good china, it feels special to embellish your mismatched plates and odd serving dishes with some beautiful homemade napkins!

This year's napkins were inspired by pretty antique linens. I used the soft and lovely Prairie Cloth, whose subtle texture and loose weave lend a warm, homespun feel. I gave the edges a fringed finish to add to the napkins' old fashioned charm. My Pulled Fringe Napkins are as simple as pumpkin pie to whip up and will surely make your Thanksgiving festivities a little extra special!


To make eight napkins:


16-inches square


Cutting and Pulling the Fringe

Cut a 16-inch square from your fabric. Try to cut it out as much along the grain of the fabric as possible. This fabric isn't woven 100% straight so it will be impossible to get all four sides cut exactly on grain so don't make yourself too crazy.

With the matching thread sew 1/2 inch in from the edge around the entire perimeter of the square (along the black lines in the picture above). This inner sewn square should be invisible.

To create the fringe you will be pulling out the threads parallel to each cut side. Pull the threads one by one until you have 1/2-inch of fringe and have reached the line of stitching, which is there to stop the fraying. The tweezers come in very handy for this process.

This process will be really easy for the sides that are cut on grain. For the sides that aren't cut on grain simply pull one of the threads as far as it will go, until it gets caught in the line of stitching, as shown above.

Then cut the thread to be the same length as the fringe.

Keep repeating this process along the side until the whole side has a neat 1/2-inch of fringe.

Repeat for all sides.

Adding the Red Stripes

Press a straight line 2 to 5-inches and parallel from the right edge of the napkin.

Using the red thread sew along this line. Once you reach the end of the napkin keep the needle down and lift the foot to turn the napkin around 180-degrees. Then sew back over the same line so you have a doubled red line of stitching.

Press another parallel line 1 to 3-inches from the first and sew over it in the same manner with the red thread.

Repeat this for all 8 napkins, placing the red stripes differently for each napkin, and you'll be all done!

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18 Responses to Pulled Fringe Napkins

  1. Heather says:

    I love the simplicity of these. Great idea! They'd make good holiday gifts, too. Maybe with matching placemats…

  2. Annette says:

    I've tried doing pulled fringe napkins before and didn't have them cut to well on the grain. Thanks for the tips on how create a neat fringe edge!

  3. gigi says:

    I've got a big linen sundress that I never wear any more – I'm going to cut it up and make these napkins out of it! The napkins won't be as textured as yours, but they'll still be nice! Great idea!

  4. lori says:

    Think I might have to try this but I think i'll do the red stitching along the edge. do two rows and have them crossing in the corners.

  5. Will @ Bright.Bazaar says:

    This is such a lovely idea! Thank you for the detailed DIY – added to my Must Make file!

  6. Cat says:

    Molly, Usually when on-grain cutting is necessary, it's recommended that cutting lines are determined by a pulled thread along the four sides. Is this fabric's grain off so much that if I did this the napkins wouldn't be square?


  7. purl bee says:

    Hi Cat-

    Indeed when you pull a thread from the 4 sides of a square of this fabric you get a slight trapezoid shape, which is why I developed the method above. It really is beautiful fabric despite being a bit slanted so I still totally recommend it.

    Thanks for your question!

    - Molly

  8. sunny says:

    these are so sweet and lovely!

  9. Soma says:


    Will you be getting more of the Moda Prairie Cloth? I would love to make these napkins with Eucalyptus and off white thread.

    Thank you so much for the idea,

  10. purl bee says:

    Hi Soma-

    It's on order and we will be getting more of it in to our warehouse in a week or a week and a half. If you'd like to be alerted when it comes in please drop us an email to

    Or, if you need it sooner you could call our New York City store. They have 7 yards of this color in stock now. Their phone number is 212-420-8796 and they can take an order over the phone. It's best to call them Monday- Friday and not during the busy weekends, although they will be happy to help you whenever you call.

    Thanks for the question!

  11. Aimee says:

    I bought the supplies for this project last week and got them in the mail right before coming down with the flu. However, it was so simple and elegant that I was able to make them in a few hours when I was home from work! Pulling the fringe was the best part…I wish I'd bought more fabric :)

    I also made two more napkins out of the 11 or so inches I had left, making them about 16×11″. They still look great.

  12. Vanessa says:

    Great project! I made these in time for this past Thanksgiving, and they were a hit– I did make them slightly smaller and managed to get 15 out of the 2 yards. One thing I did differently was I skipped the contrasting thread and instead used your idea of pulling threads to make a partial 'plaid' pattern by pulling two threads one inch in from each of two sides, skipping 7 threads, then pulling two more threads, creating two parallel stripes down each of two of the sides. Gave it sort of a mock hemstitch look. I also just washed these and the stay-stich really holds it all together. Thanks again for posting this fun project!

  13. Suzi says:

    Would the Robert Kaufman Waterford Linen work for this project?

  14. purl bee says:

    Hi Suzi-

    Yes, I think the Waterford Linen would work nicely.

    Thanks for your question!


  15. mari says:


    Very beautiful napkins!
    Excuse my stupid question, but I am trying to do these as my first sewing project… Should I wash the Prairie cloth first, or is it better, if I use cotton thread, to not wash them as they will both shrink together?


  16. purl bee says:

    Hi Mari-

    For this project it's better to not pre-wash the fabric. It will make pulling the fringe a lot easier. They might shrink a bit after you are done sewing them but it's nothing dramatic.

    In general, if you're concerned about fit, like if you're making a garment, it's better to prewash the fabric. The thread should not shrink.

    Thanks for your question!


  17. Tisha Dolton says:

    Exactly what I was looking for. My great-grandmother references fringing napkins in her diary & I want to show what it was on my blog. Hope you don't mind me referencing this post (with proper credit, of course).

    Link above is where I reference this tutorial.

  18. Beth L says:

    Back in the mid 70 s I taught my brownie scout troop to do this. We would then have home made napkins for our weekly snack time. I bought inexpensive rayon linen for the project. I pre sewed everything and left them to fringe the napkins . I still remember the fun they had making the "mess" of pulled threads. We saved the pulled threads and used them to make tassels for another project.

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