Make Easy "Napkin Cuffs" from Tooling Foil


There seems to be a lot of buzz these days about using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. My lovely MIL, who has been a diligent recycler for the past 30+ years, makes her own napkins, and to cut down on water use and detergent pollutants, she reuses a set of napkins for several meals.

She has a beautiful collection of silver heirloom napkn rings, each one a little different, and she gives every family member their own ring to hold their personal napkin from meal to meal. Once a meal is over, the napkins are placed back in the rings, gathered on a pretty tray and either placed on the side-board or returned to the center of the cleared table.

Keep in mind that most of the time, napkins get very little use at any one meal. However, if you are serving something messy like fried chicken, you might want to consider paper! (Not only would the cloth napkins be unusable for another meal, but there is the problem of removing grease stains to consider.)

MIL made these beautiful napkins for me from fabric she had picked up overseas somewhere. Don't you just love the pattern and colors? They got me thinking about her beautiful napkin rings and I considered checking out a few thrift shops to see if I could find some.

And then the thought occured to me that I could possibly make something similar from my stash of tooling foil!

And after a few trials, errors and missteps, I figured out a way to make pretty little "napkin cuffs".

Before moving on to the "napkin cuff" tutorial, I wanted to talk a little about making your own napkins.

My favorite source for napkin fabric is fat quarter bins - especially the bins marked half price or even better, $.99 each. I found the lovely print in the photo above in such a bin.

Each fat quarter is the perfect size for one generous napkin - no trimming needed.

If you are new to making napkns, Chara Michele has posted an excellent tutorial on napkin making. I spotted this link recently on Crafting a Green World.

At this time of year, those half price and $.99 fat quarter bins are full of winter holiday fabrics. A great time to stock up on a selection for December parties.

You can usually find several fat quarters of the same fabric, but why not mix it up and have lots of different designs? Your family members or guests can pick their favorite. Napkins made from many different festive fabrics would work especially well at a holiday buffet.

Now is also a good time to stock up on the Halloween and harvest fabrics found in the sale bins.

Or, ever better, why not do a little treasure-hunting in your own stash for perfect napkin fabrics! Or, take your children on your next trip to the fabric store and let them pick out their favorite napkin fabrics.


You will need:

- Aluminum Tooling Foil, 36 gauge (available at most craft supply stores)

- Ruler or straight edge, preferably thin metal

- Scissors

- Old dried up ball point pen

- Table knife

- Glue stick

- Newspaper

- Plywood, particle board - any old piece of scrap wood that is about 12"x12" minimum.

- Embellishments (see end of post!)


A few notes before you begin:

You may want to practice with a piece of tin foil before proceeding with the tooling foil, just to get the feel of the process.

FYI - heavier gauge aluminum such as that I used for the light shields, will not work for this application. And I would suggest not trying to work with foil pie plates. Neither of these is soft enough to bend easily into a ring shape.

KEEP IN MIND that nothing needs to be perfect. The design embossed onto the surface hides a multitude of sins.

The proceedure may look complicated, but it really isn't difficult at all. Grab a piece of tooling foil, make one and you will see it is easy!

And now begin... by assembling all the supplies listed and placing four or five layers of newspaper on top of a piece of wood. This becomes your work surface.

Step 1: Using the pen and straightedge, draw two rectangles on the tooling foil:

- One measuring 5 3/4" long x 2 1/2" wide

- One measuring 5" long x 2" wide.  (5"x 2" will be the finished dimensions of your cuff.)


Step 2: Using scissors, cut out both rectangles.

Handle the tooling foil with care. The edges can cut fingers. Wear gloves as you cut if you are not used to working with tooling foil. Protective eye wear is also a good idea to prevent sharp metal filings from getting in your eyes.

NOTE: When the cuff is completed, there will be NO sharp edges exposed.

Step 3: Center the smaller rectangle on top of the larger rectangle and glue them together using the glue stick. This is not intended to be a strong, permanent bond. - its function is simply to hold the pieces in place while you fold the edges.

Step 4: Place the ruler approximately 1/8" from the edge of one of the 5 3/4" sides, and draw a line along the edge of the ruler. This will create a folding guide ( also known as a score, for those of you familiar with paper craft).

Note: You will definitely need to hold the ruler in place with your other hand. MY other hand is busy with the shutter button when I am taking these photos, but keep in mind I always have a firm grip on that ruler when I am actually making a cuff!

Step 5: With the ruler still in place, gently slide the table knife under the edge of the foil and bend it into a vertical position. When you're done, you should have a 1/8" fold along the full length of the piece.

Step 6: Keep that ruler in position and fold the 1/8" strip flat onto the surface of the ruler. (This is why I prefer the thin metal rulers!)

The folded foil WILL look bumpy. Don't panic, it's not a problem. Just go to the next steps.

Step 7: Remove the ruler and flatten the folded foil. It doesn't need to be totally smooth - this is more a "flattening" step than a "smoothing" step.

Step 8: Now, align the ruler with the edge of the smaller rectangle that is closest to the fold you just made. Firmly holding the ruler in place, slide the table knife under the folded strip and gently bring it up into a vertical position.

Step 9: Continue to hold the ruler in position and gently fold the foil flat over the ruler's edge.

Step 10: Remove the ruler and use the round part of the pen shaft to smooth and press the fold flat.

See! MUCH smoother now! It's magic!

Step 11: Repeat steps 4 through 10 to fold the other 5 3/4 long side.

Now fold both 2 1/2" sides, using the same method. The only difference is that instead of folding a 1/8" edge, you'll need to fold a 3/16" edge. And don't worry - you don't have to make these measurements too precise. "...These are more like guidelines!"

Step 12: Once you have completed the folds on all four sides, you will notice that the corners are bulky. Place the ruler over each corner and tap it gently with the handle of the knife to flatten the foil.

Folds completed - congratulations! You are done with the "hard" part!

This is the top side of the foil, all ready for tooling.

Step 13: Use the pen to emboss a design into the foil. Press firmly so that the embossing goes through both layers of foil.

You'll get the smoothest appearance in your finished "napkin cuff" if you cover as much of the foil as possible with embossing. Any large areas with no embossing will tend to ripple and wrinkle when you mold the foil into the "cuff" shape.

Embossing a design that covers most of the surface area not only prevents buckling as mentioned above, but it also strengthens the cuff by uniting the two pieces of foil into one unit.

You can see in this picture of the back of the cuff how the embossing has bonded the two separate pieces of foil.

Here's the piece with the embossing completed.

Step 14: The more carefully and gently you perform this final step. the smoother your cuff will appear. Do not rush this step.

Place the center of the flat "cuff" against a firm, thick tube about 1 1/2" in diameter. (Note: Toilet tissue and paper towel rolls will NOT be strong enough. I use the tube from the tooling foil. A mailing tube or a dowel would also work to shape the cuff.

Begin in the center of the cuff, placing a thumb at each edge of the foil. (Imagine two thumbs here!) Gently move your thumbs along the top and bottom edges of the cuff, pressing the foil to bend it around the tube. Work your way slowly around the tube until you reach the back of the cuff. Return to the center point and work your way around the tube in the opposite direction.

Here is a completed cuff!


I did not begin this project with any thought of using embellishments. I was committed to the idea of creating something that would resemble those lovely heirloom napkin rings belonging to my MIL. It is, however, my good fortune to be surrounded by two very creative people - Diane and Kirby. As I was showing the two of them my prototypes, Kirby said "WOW! You could put some of those little colorful jewels on these like you did when you made the Espejitos and Diane's light collars". And Diane chimed in with "Or you could use the Sharpies to color them like I did with the pet shrine."

One little word about embellishing. It is best to do it AFTER you roll the foil around the tube into the cuff shape.

So... here are a few ideas to get you thinking of possibilities!

Formal Dinners!

Fun parties and snack time!

The thought just occurred to me that metal buttons could be a very cool addition to a foil "napkin cuff". Did you know you could actually sew them on! Diane, I see a button cuff in your future!

For that matter - you could embroider the cuffs with metallic thread. I think I will try adding a tin butterfly in May.

If you like working with tooling foil, you migh enjoy making these little Mexican mirror ornaments for your tree!  It is amazing what a big impact little tiny mirrors can make on a tree.

And tooling foil is perfect for making little frames for ATC's!

Thanks for the tooling foil

Thanks for the tooling foil napkin ring tutorial! I am waiting for my foil to arrive (ordered yesterday) to make Christmas ornaments, but the rings are a great idea and will make good Christmas gifts for my adult children.

My 4-H club will also make these one I try it myself.

Thanks for offering a great idea!

You know, I've embossed foil

You know, I've embossed foil before, but I want to make wrist cuffs or bracers, ala Cecil B. DeMille's Ten Commandments. Specifically, Yul Brynner's cuffs, they're multi-diminsional, have bulk and weight to them, and they were not strung beads, but all the cuffs were stamped, hammered, molded and shaped out of brass. I've tried curling multi thicknesses of the foil before, but your tip to cover as much of the surface with scribing and breaking down the surface is a wonderful idea! I should even be able to make the hinges out of multi thick plys as well, even if I do have to reinforce the inside with craft foam sheet or vinyl. Thank you so much. You're a God send to me. I really didn't want to have to use paper, poster board, sheet plastic, tubes and such. This is a much simpler solution. With a little practice I can do it. I'll have to borrow a digital camera so I can show you the results.

Thanks Pam,

What a super creative blog!

What a super creative blog! So happy to be here.

Wow, these are fantastic! I

Wow, these are fantastic! I can not believe that is tin foil. You had me fooled! The designs are beautiful. Thanks for the great tutorial!! :)

Pam, those are fantastic!

Pam, those are fantastic! They look like a set you'd by in the shops and the pattern on them is so well done - thanks!

Absolutely astounding! The

Absolutely astounding! The designs you've created are so beautiful & your tutorial is a work of art. WOW!!! :O)

Ok seriously Pam.. when are

Ok seriously Pam.. when are you coming to my house to SHOW me how to make these? Not kidding. You are welcome anytime. Will Saturday work? Say around 8am???

You MUST show Rachel from OnePrettyThing. She would feature this for sure!!!

WOW! I am going to have to come back and really look at your directions so I can figure this out! What an amazing project!

Pam, I have been so busy

Pam, I have been so busy making a journal that's not AT ALL appropriate for my Kauai trip, and cleaning a house that's just going to GET DIRTY AGAIN, that I haven't been blurfing. But I kept in mind that I had to get over here and see this tutorial, because the lovely Diane (you may remember her) tweeted about it this morning. Or maybe it was last night. I can't keep track right now. Anyway, THIS is incredibly cool and looks so fun and I've decided that instead of taking my journal to Kauai I'm just going to take my tooling foil.

Thank you for your sweet comments on my blog. I hope to have time to write a new post for it before I leave. Hope you and K are well!

(when you and D are talking, do you get confused with the K's?)

These are great. I think my

These are great. I think my students could make these as Mother's Day gifts. Thanks.

Amazing napkin rings Pam!

Amazing napkin rings Pam! Wonderful tutorial. I love your pictures, great step by step directions. I think I'll give these a try for my Mom...she loves napkin rings.
Thanks again for a wonderful blog.


Here is another thing we have

Here is another thing we have in common-cloth napkins. I made and used them for years and my oldest daughter does also.

You napkin holders are so clever and so perfect for these napkins (you found some really beautiful colors). I am going to bookmark this as I might just make her some for Christmas next year. Maybe.

You always have such great tutorials!!

Great tutorial! I've never

Great tutorial! I've never heard of tooling foil until I read your Blog. I'm not much of a crafter, really. I used to do more of it years ago, before our craft shops closed down. But this is something I've not seen before.

I love your napkins, too. I really like the blue ones. Good idea about being more conservative with using paper products.