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paper napkin rings

I know I know, how many of us actually use napkins, especially nice cloth ones? I could get on my soapbox and start talking about using cloth napkins to save paper and reduce garbage, and then I could get on another soap box and talk about proper dinner table etiquette, but we all know that you’re only really going to break out the nice table linens when your mother comes to visit.

But napkins, be they paper or cloth, can provide an excellent and easy decorating opportunity. If you’re having a party or a themed dinner, or just want a little extra fun on the table, simple paper napkin rings are super effective. Plus they’re easy and they’re cheap. Make butterflies for spring, daffodils for Easter, jack-0-lanterns or Creepy Doll faces for Halloween. You get the idea.

Shannon commented a few posts back that she’d enjoy seeing more video game and nerd themed crafts. (There was also interest expressed in more paper crafts, so this is one for you, Alexander.) I will certainly be doing some specifically gaming/nerd themed projects in the future, but in the meantime consider this:

Looking around the internet, I’ve noticed that gaming/geek/nerd crafts are often just “normal” crafts that incorporate a specific theme into their design. Like a tote bag with Pacman appliquéd onto the front, or an apron that looks like Mario’s overalls. The Space Invaders napkin rings above are a perfect example of this. This tutorial will teach you the basic principles behind this simple paper craft, and from there you can create napkin rings featuring any shapes and images you wish. XBox or PS3 controller shapes could be very effective for this project…


What you’ll need:

  • cardstock – white, coloured, printed with pretty patterns… it’s up to you
  • a printer and my heart, butterfly or Space Invader templates (see below)
  • scissors
  • [optional] crayons, markers or stamp pad ink – for a little extra decorating of your napkin rings
  • [optional] coloured foam – as a replacement for the cardstock. You can get thin sheets of coloured floppy foam-board stuff at Michael’s, some dollar stores, and probably at Hobby Lobby and other craft stores.

OR (to make your own templates):

  • a pencil
  • a ruler
  • and the scissors, cardstock and (possibly) optional items as above

heart napkin rings

butterfly napkin rings

Space Invaders napkin rings


Putting it all together:

1) Print out one (or all) of the templates on your cardstock, or print it on normal paper, cut it out and trace it onto your nice fancy cardstock. Then cut out the fancy cardstock pieces and skip to step 6.


For those wanting to design their own templates, I’ll teach you the method with the clichéd – I know – but simple image of a heart.

Ok, so actually the image below is a butterfly, but stay with me. Draw half of your image on a piece of paper.

2) Cut out your image out. As you can see, I used a folded piece of paper and ended up with a whole heart, but you’ll only need half of it. You could cut the heart in half, or just keep it folded for the next steps. If you’re using an image that’s a-symmetrical, you’ll have to draw the whole thing and then cut it in half, using one half for each end of the napkin ring.

3) Draw a long narrow rectangle. Mine are about 6 inches long and 1 to 1.5 inches wide. Leave space on the paper at either end for your half image.

4) Then trace your image (half of the whole) matching up with either end of the rectangle. Your half image should be situated so that its center touches the ends of the rectangle. So the middle line of the heart matches up with the rectangle, while the curved edge faces outwards.

5) Cut out the funny-ended rectangle you’ve now created. Cut slits at either end, right on the line where the rectangle ends and the image begins. On one end, cut a slit from the top of the rectangle to halfway down. On the other end, cut a slit from the bottom of the rectangle to halfway up.

6) Curl your rectangle around in a loop and fit the two slits together. You should now have a ring bearing a whole, completed image on the front. You may need to adjust the slits, making them slightly longer in order for the image to slot together perfectly.

8) Once you have your template you can trace it onto fancier papers, or onto some colourful foam. You can also use crayons or markers to decorate it, or a stamp pad and Q-tip to ink the edges of your image. As always, be creative and make the project your own.

9) Invite your mother over for dinner! Or your cool gamer friends. Simply alter the napkin holders as appropriate.

This blue Space Invader is made out of foam. He’s a bit thicker and more durable. Also spill-proof.

Leave a comment


  1. Wow, this is even easier to make then I thought. This craft is definitely going into my “Wedding Folder”. Thanks Tally!

  2. Dex

     /  February 19, 2011

    Those are fantastic! I would join you on my soap box and just agree with your dinner etiquette talk!

    the space invaders was an excellent idea.

  3. I like that these can all be stored flat, so you could have a huge collection of napkin rings for every occasion and it would hardly take any space at all. And do you really get out the cloth napkins especially for me?

  4. These are awesome. The butterfly will go perfectly with our theme. Your a life saver

  5. Kaye

     /  July 14, 2011

    I love you!!!
    I am throwing a butterfly themed dinner party for a friend. I am on a budget and new I wanted paper napkin rings to keep costs down. You are a life saver!

  6. Yazmin

     /  April 23, 2012

    I love your butterflies, I was looking something like this for my daugher’s baptism, but I did not find you. How would you do a DOVE RING NAPKIN, you why I ask, because I’m preparing my other daughter’s first communion.

    • Tally

       /  April 23, 2012

      I think there are a couple of simple options. One is to find a simple, forward-facing image of a dove (maybe where the wings are spread out on either side), so that if you folded the image in half, each side would match the other perfectly. Just do a Google image search for “dove” and you should find something like that. Trace the image, cut it in half, and use it in the way I describe in this tutorial to make a template for a dove paper napkin ring that slots together in the middle.

      Or, the super simple thing to do might be to find a simple dove image that you like (this time it wouldn’t need to be symmetrical, and could be a dove’s profile), and print and cut that image out a bunch of times on nice paper. Then cut a bunch of long paper rectangles, glue or tape the ends of each one together to form a loop, and glue the dove cutouts on top of the loops, so you have simple, dove themed paper napkin rings.

      I hope that’s helpful! And congratulations to you and your daughter on her first communion – an exciting event! :)

  7. DOUBLE FUN !!!

  8. I love your butterflies, I was looking something like this for my yeah me too

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