Hosting friends and family over the holidays is one of my favorite parts of this time of year—decorating the house, planning a menu, hosting loved ones. The thing that really pulls the entire event together for me, though, is the table. A table is one of my favorite ways to create ambiance and can transform a regular dinner into a vibrant and festive experience.
Napkin rings are a simple way to add a touch of elegance to your dining table, but buying enough for an entire dinner party can be expensive. We wanted to create a simple, budget-friendly DIY napkin ring using basic materials and techniques. Our version uses rope, so you can make as many rings as you need for just a few dollars. With all different types of rope color and texture available, you can customize your napkin rings to your personal style. The best part about these rings? They’re so easy to make, you can create a different-colored set for each holiday.
Let’s get into it!
Step 1: Cut rope
Unravel your rope to measure four feet (or more) and cut. You can use whatever rope you like for your napkin rings, but we decided to go with a green 3/16” rope. We cut ours to four feet, but depending on the thickness of your rope, you may decide to cut a shorter length (for thinner rope) or a longer length (for thicker rope).
These instructions make a single napkin ring, so cut more lengths if you’d like to make a set.
Step 2: Knot one end of rope
Measure three or four inches from one end of your rope. Then, fold it at the four-inch mark so it’s doubled back on itself and loosely tie a simple overhand knot.
Position the knot at the end of the rope as close to the spot where the cord doubles back on itself. Tighten the knot into a ball shape and snip off the loose (short) end.
Step 3: Mark rope with safety pin
Mark your rope with a safety pin. You’ll need to reference this starting point later on, so marking it now will make things easier.
Step 4: Wrap first section
For this step, you’ll use the middle three fingers of one hand to wrap the cord.
Pinch the knot you made in step two between your index and middle fingers with the tail of the knot trailing upward and in front of your index finger.
With some space between your fingers, wrap the cord around the back of your three middle fingers coming up from the bottom to the front. Wrap two full times with the second pass to the right of the first one. Start one more pass, but as the cord comes up from the bottom, pass it over the top of your middle finger and pause.
Step 5: Wrap second section
This next series of loops will be horizontal, perpendicular to the vertical loops you made in step three. Pass the cord around the right side of the knot between your index finger and middle finger. Bring the cord around to the front on the left side of the knot and then make two more loops (for a total of three). The first loops should be nearest to your middle finger and the next two stacked on top of it.
Step 6: Wrap third section
At this point, you can slide the knot carefully off your fingers, keeping it intact.
Rotate the knot so you’re looking through the holes where your fingers were. Insert the loose end of the cord through the top hole from the front toward the back. Continue down and bring the cord toward you through the bottom hole and upward again. Make three loops stacked left to right.
Step 7: Locate starting loop
Find where you marked the cord with a safety pin in step three and trace that part of the cord through the middle of the monkey knot to where it comes out on the other side.
Step 8: Cinch knot
Starting with the spot you located in step seven, pull gently on the cord to tighten the knot. This will create a loose loop. Follow that loop to the other side of the middle loops (which run the other way) and pull from here to take up the slack. This will create another slack loop which you’ll need to trace to the opposite side of the middle loops and pull on to tighten.
Continue pulling gently, creating a loop and pulling it taught, until you reach the end. As you’re doing this, you can form the knot into more of a sphere. You will likely need to make another pass at tightening the whole knot again (starting again at the spot from step seven).
Step 9: Create napkin loop
Before you finish your knot, you'll need to make a loop for your napkin. To do this, loosen one loop of the knot, fold your napkin, and pull it through the loop to ensure it fits.
Step 10: Cut rope and seal end
When you have the knot tightened up to your liking and the napkin loop set, it's time to deal with the long stray end of the rope. Cut the cord off near the monkey fist knot, use a lighter to briefly melt the end, and then tuck the melted end into the inside of the knot. You probably don't have a marlin spike laying around (an excellent tool for knotwork), but an awl or screwdriver will do the trick just fine.
Duplicate this process for the rest of your napkin rings to make a full set. Now all you have to do is pull your napkins through and set your holiday table!
If you’re in the holiday spirit and looking for more creative inspiration, be sure to check out our DIY buffet table project plan and our guide to holiday hosting.