Looking for a fast, easy, and FUN (I promise!) project to make for gifts this holiday? Look no further, as these embellished dishtowels take only minutes to make and pack a scrappy punch of fabric goodness that you can easily tailor to each recipient.
I was inspired to make a dishtowel for my own home after seeing a similar craft project on Stitched in Color. My daughter Bea and I dove right in to make our own. We thought we’d share our tips for making these dishtowels.
First we started by going to Kohls and picking out a pack of woven cotton dishtowels in appropriate fall colors (these were Thanksgiving gifts, but you can make them for any season or occasion). The brand we purchased was “Bobby Flay” and they’ve been extensively tested in our kitchen and in our washing machine and dryer, and I have to say they get 10 stars. I have tried other brands since, but Bobby Flay were the best overall even though the others were fine. Just saying! You’ll also need one roll of 1/4” fusible tape, sometimes called “hem” tape.
After picking a towel, open it up and determine which are the shorter sides of the rectangular shape. You will probably want to affix your strip to one of the shorter sides, so measure the distance between the two edges. Add 1/2” to this number and you will have the length of the scrap strip you will need to make. I made my strips about 2”-3” wide, and sometimes I sewed two rows of scraps together to make a double wide scrappy strip. The options are endless!
To make your scrap strip, decide on a “theme” such as Christmas fabric or colors that match a person’s kitchen décor.
Gather up your scraps, arrange them in a pleasing order, then sew them together using a 1/4” seam allowance, not worrying about perfectly lining up the raw edges like you would when piecing. Chances are a lot of your scraps won’t be identical sizes, so just do your best to line them up to one side as seen in the photo. One edge is pretty straight, while the other is not. Press all your seams open.
You’ll be cutting this strip down to a width you like, 2.5”—3”—3.5”, really the width is up to you. You might find yourself with smaller scraps and want to add another row, go for it! Design these scrappy strips however you want.
Once your pieced strip is the desired length, go ahead and trim it down to size. In my example, the Bobby Flay Dishtowel is approximately 16.5 inches across. So, I added 1/2” to the measurement and trimmed my scrappy strip down to 17” x 2.5”. Note: Sometimes the dishtowels are not perfectly square. So just do the best you can getting a measurement across. Remember, you want your strip to be a tiny bit smaller than the measurement so it doesn’t extend pass the sides of the dishtowel, so be conservative when measuring.
Next is the fun part! Well maybe picking fabric was the most fun, but this part comes in at a close second. Have you ever used fusible tape? Me either! But I happened to have two rolls of it I somehow acquired over the past 5 years of sewing and decided to finally use it already! The size I used was 1/4”.
Fold in one of the ends of your scrappy strip about 1/4”. Press this fold to make a very bold crease. Cut a piece of fusible tape the length of the width of your strip (ie in my case 2.5”). Cut the tape just a hair shorter than you need to because you don’t want to have any tape outside of the fabric fold when pressing. I have to be honest, I didn’t really measure any of the lengths, I just eyeballed them and then cut the tape. Feel free to do the same!
Put the piece of tape in the fold, press down with your iron following the manufacturer’s direction (I held it for about 4 seconds until the tape melted into glue). Perfect, that fold isn’t going anywhere!
Repeat on the other end of the strip.
Now you have two folded ends that aren’t going to come apart or move around when you’re pinning or sewing!
Do the exact same step now lengthwise down each side of the scrappy strip. Fold in 1/4” or more (as long as the fold is at least 1/4” it should cover the fusible tape), press and make a bold crease.
Measure the length before you cut your fusible tape (or just eyeball it!). It will be different than the original length since you just folded the ends in. It should be about 1/2” shorter. Cut a piece of fusible tape just a hair shorter than the measurement. Put the piece of tape in the fold and press it down to permanently hold the raw edge under.
Repeat for the other side.
Just make sure your fusible tape is a little shorter than the length of the strip so you don’t press over it and glue up your iron or ironing board cover!
Ok, now you have a piece of scrappy wonderfulness that won’t be coming unfolded!
There are two ways you can complete the project from this point on out. The first way is easier and better for a child sewer or beginner. The second way is simple too, and can be fast and effective if you have experience with pinning.
Finishing Steps Choice 1:
Use fusible tape to attach the scrappy strip to the dishtowel before sewing. Cut the fusible tape into 2 pieces—you’ll need a piece just a hair shorter than each of the length of the two longer sizes. You will not need to fuse down the two shorter sides.
Use the fusible tape to glue your strip into place before sewing the strip down permanently. I just placed the fabric strip where I wanted it, put the fusible tape under each long fold, then pressed until the glue melted and the strip was stuck on. Be careful not to leave the iron in one place for too long. These were 100% cotton dish towels, so I didn’t need to worry about delicate synthetic fibers burning.
Then using a walking foot and sew around the perimeter of the strip using a straight stitch or zig-zag.
My seven year old daughter, who is pretty experienced using a sewing machine, enjoyed sewing this strip down without getting jabbed by pins. The extra fusible tape didn’t create any noticeable bulk whatsoever along the edges.
This is Bea’s dishtowel after washing and drying twice. Looks good as new!
Finishing Steps Choice 2:
Just pin the strip in place and sew on. This was the easiest and fastest way for me to do it. I didn’t have to measure, cut, or iron anything, just pin in place and sew! I would recommend this way for an adult.
Dishtowels hang from a cabinet handle in our kitchen. They were tested extensively the past month and a half and held up perfectly.
We made several as gifts for friends and neighbors. How cute would a Christmas dishtowel look wrapped around a jar of jam for a homemade teacher gift?
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and are inspired to make a strip of scraps dishtowel too!