So much to sew, so little time, help me sew lazy
August 20, 2018 12:28 PM   Subscribe

I have to make a ton of little cloth napkins for my kid's preschool and I want to be as quick and lazy as possible about it. What's the easiest way to finish the edges and prevent unravelling? I have a sewing machine but no serger.

I've found plenty of instructions for sewing pretty napkins, but these don't need to be pretty and I do not want to iron and sew double-hems on 200 little squares of fabric. My machine will do zig-zag and overlock stitches and I know those can be used for edge finishing, but I don't know which one to choose or which stitch length and width to use. The fabric is thin flannel, durability is more important than appearance, and I have unlimited quantities of free thread.
posted by xylothek to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Pinking shears? With flannel that might just be good enough.
posted by 8603 at 12:52 PM on August 20, 2018 [10 favorites]

If you have unlimited fabric, making these double sided ones would be pretty fast/easy, and a non-sewer could help turn them right side out. These would last forever.

I like the idea of pinking shears from 8603 as well. It would make a huge difference, but I don't know that they would stand up to lots and lots and lots of washing.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 12:55 PM on August 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah if it's not raveling badly, pinking the edges would be the absolutely fastest thing to do. Otherwise, if you can't borrow a serger to do the edges, I'd use your machine's overlock stitch on the edges and be done with it. I don't know what stitch widths you have available to you based on your machine, but I'd try the default setting first and see what you think and then adjust from there. If overlocking is too complex then just zig zag but let the needle come over the edge of the fabric on the upswing of the "V" of the stitch so that you're covering the edge of the fabric.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:56 PM on August 20, 2018 [7 favorites]

I like the pinking shears idea too. If you want a little more finish, maybe get some double-folded bias tape to sew around the edge? If you get the double-folded kind, it should be a very quick job.
posted by queensissy at 12:57 PM on August 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you aren't concerned about pretty, then just run a small zigzag stitch along the edges. Like these

Or you can just use a looser zigzag stitch to stop the possible fray and own the frayed edge look, like these.
posted by teleri025 at 1:06 PM on August 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

if you made the courners rounded you could easily use a rolled hem foot to make the hem in one go.
posted by vespabelle at 1:12 PM on August 20, 2018 [6 favorites]

I find rolled hem feet w/ rounded corners fussier than just doing folded hems, plus they're usually designed for lighter fabric than flannel.

I'd zig zag them at a fairly long stitch and deep zig zag. You can do them in a chain to make cutting the tails off easier - just feed the next one through with a few inches of thread after the last one, don't bother cutting off the finished one.
posted by momus_window at 1:52 PM on August 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

A rolled hem foot is very easy to use and gives great results.
posted by irisclara at 1:58 PM on August 20, 2018

I have napkins that my granny made 40 years ago that are simply squares of cotton fabric with about 1/8 to 1/4 inch of fray around the edges. There was probably a point in their youth when someone pulled a few long warp/woof threads out to make a fringe around the edge, but now they have been through the washing machine a hundred times and it's kind of felted in place unless you pick at it diligently. Does it require some special fabric? unknown. Does it look nice/finished enough for your purposes? unknown. Will preschoolers pick it to death just for fun? unknown.
posted by aimedwander at 2:47 PM on August 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

A rotary cutter with a pinking blade would be even faster than pinking shears.
posted by esoterrica at 3:09 PM on August 20, 2018

YMMV but my pinking shears (Fiskars) are awful to use for any extended time as they are bulky and move slowly.

If it's not a problem for them to be double sided (ie, you have enough fabric), to me that would be simpler and more fun and will be a better product. If you don't already have the fabric, I would totally use quilting cotton over flannel myself.

I think you might even be able to rig up something where you stack yardage, sew down the middle twice for each cut, across twice for each cut, and use the open end to turn right side out, then sew around the 4 sides. Or you could fold. Something like that.
posted by vunder at 4:44 PM on August 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

And yes, you can use either the overlock stitch or a zigzag to finish your ends. The overlock will be like this, the zig zag can be like this.

I think the overlock works better for already-cut edges, but you may be able to sew long lines of zig-zags on yardage and then cut along/next to the edges to make things easier.
posted by vunder at 4:59 PM on August 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

Like aimedwander, we've had some of the fringed type with no sewing for a long time. Maybe it was a trend 40 years ago! One set was gingham, the other just a ditsy print on cotton. What I am unsure of though is how much trouble it was to pull the threads to make the fringe. If it were me, I'd try a couple that way and a couple zigzagging over the cut edge and see which were quicker, taking into account that the fringing could be done on the bus, watching TV, waiting for appointments, etc.
posted by SandiBeech at 5:42 PM on August 20, 2018

In every tutorial I've seen of the rolled hem foot, the first inch or two aren't rolled and have to be hand sewn down. So I don't recommend the rolled hem. (If I'm wrong, please send me the tutorial you use!)
posted by watermelon at 7:05 PM on August 20, 2018

Personally I'd just sew a grid of double lines of zigzag onto a bolt of cloth, doing a bit of forwards and backwards where the grid lines cross, then cut between the paired lines to separate the result into napkins.

Life's too short to faff about turning 800 corners on a sewing machine.
posted by flabdablet at 2:51 AM on August 21, 2018 [8 favorites]

Quilter here -- all the little pieces, cut and sewn together....
Please tell me you haven't cut the squares apart. Flabdablet has it right. Simple sew or zigzag first, then cut apart.
Cut a long stretch of fabric. Pull a thread along each side. Sew, then cut the squares apart. You now have a guide for the frayed edges.
posted by TrishaU at 11:45 AM on August 21, 2018

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