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Sew Pretty Dish Towels

Sew Pretty Dish Towels

We were hit with a blast of cold, arctic weather a few weeks ago, along with a hefty dousing of lake-effect snow that made the roads nearly impassable (You know it’s bad when you hear them talking about police cars sliding into freeway accidents!)

With the fierce weather came a week straight of snow days, with cooped up kids leaving a trail of chaos through the house. But there’s a silver lining to vicious weather: Usual events and activities get cancelled by necessity. That left our schedule as blank and fresh as the carpet of snow outside our windows.

After tackling a few neglected housecleaning duties and deciding that writing endeavors are pointless in a home full of noisy kids, I decided to finish up a crafting project I’d started: Using up some leftover fabrics and ribbons to make some pretty dish towels for my kitchen.

I’ve stitched up several of these towels over the years as gifts for family members, but I’d never made any for myself. And with a stash of fun fabric leftover from my cloth napkin project, I decided it was time to make a set for my own kitchen.

Of course, my sewing machine jammed several times, I ran out of navy thread, and I almost had a glass of bright red fruit punch spilled on one of the towels. (Thanks to my hubby, who stopped by the store for more thread on his way home from work, I was spared a heart-palpitating drive through the storm.)

Despite these little mishaps, I managed to churn out several cute towels by the end of the afternoon. And I wrapped up my crafting time with a short speech to the aforementioned family members about the wrath that will befall any person who actually USES one of these pretty towels hanging on our oven door. (I’m sure I will loosen my restrictions eventually, but for now, I’m not quite ready to see my babies thrown carelessly into the washing machine.)

Of course, I snapped pics along the way so I could share this little project with you. It’s a fun little sewing project for beginners–only straight lines. (My specialty.) And they sew up pretty quick: You can easily zip out a couple of these in a spare hour.

So if you’d like to sew up some sweet dish towels as a gift for someone you love (or maybe yourself), you can check out all the details below. Happy sewing friends!

A Few Quick Towel Tips:

  1. The easiest towel designs are those made with ribbons and rick rack, since they can just be snipped with a scissors and don’t require the fuss work of cutting fabric and ironing over raw edges. *Note: Many fabric/craft stores carry wide ribbons that you might be able to substitute for the fabrics in my designs.
  2. You might have to adjust your sewing machine tension, depending on the thickness of your towels and embellishments. If your thread gets loopy on the bottom, try increasing your tension.
  3. The sky’s the limit for designs! You can mix and match ribbons and fabrics in any fashion to create endless sweet designs. If you prefer exact directions, check out my “Towel Recipes” at the end of the post.

Supplies Needed:

  • dish towels (I’ve used a variety over the years, but these have been my favorite.)
  • ribbons, lace, and/or rick-rack in varying colors/widths
  • fabric
  • sewing machine  (If you’re just getting started, here’s a great machine to try)
  • thread (that matches your ribbon/fabric)
  • rotary cutter/mat – if using fabric   (If you’re not sure what this is, check it out here)
  • scissors  
  • tape measure
  • iron
  • pins

*For specific supplies needed in my designs, see my “Towel Recipes” at the end of the post.**

How to Make:

  1. Iron your towels if they have creases in them. This will make the sewing go a bit easier for you.

2. Measure the width of your towels: Add 1.5″ This is the LENGTH you will need to cut all your fabric and ribbon/rick-rack pieces. (I add a generous allowance because sometimes the towel fabric seems to stretch a bit as I sew.)

3. If you are using fabric for your towels, cut your fabric pieces using a rotary cutter and cutting mat. Cut to the LENGTH you determined in Step 2. You can vary the width of your pieces as desired. (Or see my towel “recipes” at end of post.) Just remember to add a 1/2″ to the final width you want so you can fold the edges over. (See Step 4)

4. Fold over a 1/4″ along both LENGTH sides of your fabric pieces and iron in place. You should be folding the front edge over the back of your fabric. *Note: If you are going to cover any of your fabric edges with ribbon, you can skip this step because the raw edges will not show.

5. Cut your ribbon and/or rick-rack pieces to the LENGTH you determined in Step 2.

6. Place all your fabric and ribbon/rick-rack pieces in place. Note: I keep my towel folded in half for this so I can get a good visual of where the stripes will fall when my towel is hanging. Then pin all your pieces in place.

7. Get ready to sew! For fabric and ribbon: Fold about a 1/4″ of fabric under and begin sewing along one end of the fabric/ribbon. For rick rack: Do NOT fold under, as it’s difficult to align so it lays nice. Just leave a 1/4″ hanging off the end of towel as you begin sewing.

Sew straight seams along each edge of your ribbon or fabric. For rick-rack, just sew one seam down the middle. (See picture below)

You can see how the ribbon is folded under for the start, while the rick rack just lays over the edge.
Here’s a quick peek at how you sew the rick rack: Instead of sewing along both wavy edges, you can sew one straight seam right down the middle. Just go slow and keep the rick-rack centered as you sew.

8. When you get to the end of each seam, fold under the end of your fabric/ribbon, just like you did at the start. If necessary, trim your fabric/ribbon a bit before folding under. (Sometimes it stretches a bit as you sew and you end up with a lot at the end. I trim to about a 1/4″)

Now that you’re at the end, you can see how I fold under the ribbon again, but leave the rick rack to go off the edge.

9. Sew along the side seams of all your embellishments (fabric, ribbon, and/or rick-rack)

Sew along all edges, including the rick-rack. I forgot to snap a picture, but when I have multiple layers that all overlap, I wait until I’ve sewed ALL of them on first, and then just do one seam over the whole side. When you’ve got gaps (like the one pictured above), you’ll have to sew a separate short seam over each little section.

10. If you used rick-rack, you can now trim the edges even with the edge of your towel. Check over your towel and trim off any other threads that have remained from your sewing.

It’s hard to see, but there’s a short little seam along the side of the rick rack that will help keep it from fraying once it’s trimmed.

That’s it. You should have a pretty dish towel ready to hang in your kitchen or share with a friend!

Towel Recipes

Here’s what you’ll need for each of the towels listed below! I list the WIDTH of every item you’ll need. The LENGTH will be determined by your towels. (See Step 2)

Towel #1: This is the simplest design that uses fabric.
  • 1 – 3.5″ width fabric (NOT ironed over – raw edges will not show)
  • 2 – 3/8″ ribbon
  • Order to Sew: Fabric first, then ribbons.

Towel #2: This is the most advanced, mixing multiple fabrics and trims.

  • 1 – 6″ width fabric (edges ironed over 1/4″ both sides)
  • 1 – 3/75″ width fabric (edges ironed over 1/4″ both sides)
  • 1 – 1″ lace trim
  • 1 – 3/4″ ribbon (centered over lace trim)
  • Order to Sew: Same order as listed above.

Towel #3: This is the easiest one of the bunch–and it also happens to be my favorite with it’s sweet rick-rack charm!

  • 1 – 1.5″ ribbon
  • 2 – lengths of rick rack
  • Order to Sew: It doesn’t really matter because nothing overlaps!

Towel #4: Another one mixing fabrics and trims, but a bit easier than #2.

  • 1 – 3.5″ width fabric (NOT ironed over, raw edges will be covered)
  • 2 – 1″ lace trim
  • 2 – 3/4″ ribbon
  • Order to sew: Sew the fabric first. Then sew your lace trim right over this fabric, leaving a generous 1/4″ overlap Finish by sewing the ribbon, lining the outer edges of ribbon with the outer edges of fabric. (Which you should still be able to see through the lace trim.)

Towel #5: I adore the scalloped edge of the rick-rack on this one, but it does make it the fussiest towel to sew.

  • 1 – 3.5″ width fabric (Iron over a 1/4″ on ONE edge. The other will be covered, so leave unironed.)
  • 1 – 2.25″ width fabric (Ironed over 1/4″ along BOTH edges.)
  • 1 – rick rack
  • Order to sew: Sew the rick rack first. Position the narrow fabric next, right along the center of your rick rack, leaving a scalloped edge. Sew this side only of narrower fabric. Before sewing other edge, make sure your wider fabric is still tucked in behind the other edge. Sew the other edge of the narrow fabric. Sew the final edge of your wide fabric in place.

Comments (5)

  1. Avatar

    These are so cute, I really need to use some of my scrap fabric and make some.

    Kathleen Dungan
    Apr 3, 2019 Reply
    • Avatar

      They’re such a fun way to use up leftover fabric! Hope you have fun sewing. 🙂

      amyjoy
      Apr 8, 2019 Reply
  2. Avatar

    I love these towels what a great way to use up leftovers.

    judy barcher
    Apr 11, 2019 Reply
  3. Avatar

    Any advice on laundering these pretty towels so they stay nice?

    Teresa
    May 11, 2019 Reply
    • Avatar

      I wish there was a magic way to keep them looking perfect, but I do find that they lose a little of their “pretty” over time. (I haven’t had problems with seams coming out or fabric fraying… I just notice some color fade over time.) I’m sure if you used the delicate cycle, it would help. (I never do, because there’s just too much laundry around here to mess with all that!) I actually have a couple of these towels that I just use for “pretty” – they hang on my stove and never get used so I can avoid the dreaded laundry issue. 🙂

      amyjoy
      May 11, 2019 Reply

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