Even if you're not the craftiest crafter in Craftland (I certainly am not), you can make a potato stamp. These sweet little napkins will add something special to your Valentine's Day table without being too precious. I just love how they turned out! Inexpensive and easy to make, they're more unique than any table linens you can buy in a store.
Everyone I've talked to about this project has said something along the lines of, "Oh yeah, we did those in preschool!" Seriously, if a four-year-old can do it, so can you. If you've got little ones, this is a great project to do with them, too.
Before you start making your stamp, get out a pad and pencil and make a few sketches of designs you think might work. Note that whatever surface of the potato stamp is highest will transfer the print, and it will be a mirror image of whatever you've carved.
You should also fold your napkin just as you'll be folding it at a place setting, in order to determine where you're going to want the design. I chose a classic French fold, where you tuck the utensils into the napkin, so it was a no brainer to put the stamp right in the center of the pocket.
Acrylic paint is very forgiving to use — it dries slowly, so you can mix up the paints before you carve your potatoes, then have them all ready to go when it's time to stamp. Just be sure to line your work surface at the outset, and wear an apron or smock that you don't mind getting smudged with a bit of paint. I was as neat and careful as possible, but some bright red paint still got all over me when I closed the squeeze bottle's lid.
Where to Buy Supplies for Decorating Napkins with a Potato Stamp
Once you're ready to stamp, it's a good idea to do a few test runs on a piece of paper before you take the plunge and stamp your napkin. This way, you'll figure out how much paint you want to load on the stamp, in order to get the look you want. You can even stamp off the excess paint on the paper before stamping the napkin, to get a more translucent effect.
This is such a fun way to dress up inexpensive, plain white napkins. I bought a set of six for $9.99 at Cost Plus World Market, but you might be able to find them for even less at a restaurant supply or other kitchen store. Make them with pink and red hearts for a Valentine's Day theme, or stick with more versatile designs like leaves and flowers if you want to use them all year round.
How To Decorate Napkins with a Potato Stamp
Makes as many napkins as you want to decorate
What You Need
Plastic trash bag or tarp (for lining work surface)
Pad and pencil
Disposable cup (or cups, if using more than one color)
Bamboo skewers or popsicle sticks
Brush (or brushes, if using more than one color)
Sheets of white paper (to test the stamp)
Cloth napkins (as many as you want)
Parchment or wax paper
Mild soap (for cleaning brushes)
- Prep a work surface: Line your work surface with a plastic garbage bag or tarp.
- Sketch out your design with a pad and pencil: It’s so easy to get carried away once you’ve got your stamp in your hands, and just make a busy mess of the napkin. Sketch first and you’ll thank yourself later! Bear in mind that what you’re making is a mirror image of what will be your finished design, especially if you’re adding lettering.
- Apply fabric paint: In one or more of the disposable cups, squirt out your fabric paint and mix custom colors with a bamboo skewer or popsicle, if desired. For the hearts design, I used red and white paints to make dark and light shades of pink.
- Cut potato into desired shape: Place the potato on the cutting board and cut it in half crosswise, then use the paring knife and carving tool to create your stamp design in one of the potato halves. Remember, what you carve away will be white space, and what sticks up will be your stamp. Go as simple or as ornate as you like! If you mess up, you’ve got another half of potato.
- Cover your stamp with paint: Use the brush[es] to cover your stamp with a thin layer of fabric paint. Stamp your practice paper to make sure you are happy with your design.
- Protect the fabric: When you’re satisfied with your stamp, lay the napkin out on your lined work surface. Fold it as you would for a place setting, decide where you want to stamp the fabric, then tuck a double-layer of parchment or wax paper underneath the layer of the napkin you'll be stamping. This will prevent the design from bleeding through onto the other layers of fabric.
- Stamp the design onto the fabric: Stamp your design onto the napkins, brushing more paint onto the stamp as needed. When you're finished, wash the brushes with mild soap and lay flat to dry.
- Allow to dry: Allow the napkins to dry for 72 hours before washing, and you're done!
- You can also use this method on tea towels and flour sack cloths, or on paper napkins for a disposable alternative.
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