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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Karin's Trimmed Tea Towel Tutorial

Howdy!  It's Karin again, popping in to show y'all how to make those spiffy fabric-trimmed embroidered towels.  Now, keep in mind, every towel is different, and any of the measurements I provide can be changed to personalize your look.  

First thing to do is embroider (hand or machine) your towels, being sure to leave about 3 inches from the bottom of the design to the bottom edge of the towel.  This is where your fabric trimmings will be placed.  You can leave a little more or less, depending on how you like it.

And here's a couple more tips before we get started - wash, dry and  iron your towels and fabric prior to any cutting.  This will minimize the shrinkage or shrinkage differences.  And for this project, starch is your best friend. Make sure you starch the heck out of your fabrics; you want them to be somewhat stiff when you start working with them.

Basically, you want to start off with fabrics that are slightly wider than your towel - at least 1/2 inch on each side.  I usually make a WOF cut, 2 inches wide, for the accent fabric (in this case, that's the dark green) and 5 inches wide for the main fabric (in this case, the red).  If your towels are of average size, you can cut each of these strips in half, on the fold, and get two towels out of each strip.  SOMEtimes, your towels are wider than 1/2 of your WOF strip, so you can only get one towel out of a strip, with a short leftover piece for some other project.  Or the floor, whichever suits your style.  

 So here you see I've cut my WOF strips, 2 inches wide for the green and 5 inches wide for the red...and you can see the excess off the edges of the towel.
 Now, fold the accent strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and press.  Fold one long edge of your main fabric down, a little more than 1/4 inch, wrong sides together, and press.  Watch your fingertips here - I always (ALWAYS) burn mine.
 Now, this part is optional, but it sure saves you some worry and fiddling with the backside, down the road.  I always lay a strip of 1/4 inch Steam-A-Seam down on the little part you just folded down.  I iron it down, but I leave the paper on it.  Typically, I don't read instructions, and if you're like me, you didn't read that either, so I'll say it again...please, leave the paper ON it.  You'll thank me later. 
 Now, here's where it can get a little dicey, so I hope these pictures will clear things up.  Take the long bottom edge of your main fabric, and bring it up to meet the folded edge on the other side, still mostly wrong sides together.  (where the paper tape is, you'll have wrong side meeting paper tape)

 Give it a good press - that bottom crease (shown on the left here) will become your guideline later, so make sure you can see it:
 Now, open that whole sleeve out flat, wrong side down, and long raw edge at the top.  Lay your accent strip on top, raw edges together, and pin it.  See how I'm pinching where the fold is here?  And that paper tape is on the bottom of the bottom edge.  Clear as mud, right?
 Here's a side view of what you should have:
 Go ahead and sew that long seam, attaching the accent strip to the main fabric.  I don't have a picture of that - I figured if you're reading this blog, you are already pretty good at sewing a seam.  :)  Press said seam toward your main fabric.

Now you've got the beginnings of your fabric sleeve.  Now's a good time to dry fit it to your towel(s).  Lay your sleeve down on the table, and insert the bottom edge of your towel into it, meeting the edge of your towel to the long fold of the sleeve.

 Flip the accent + main fabric up over the edge of the towel, and check the proportions of each section.  You might want a smaller accent strip, or you might even want to cut some off the bottom of the towel, to bring your fabrics up closer to your design.  Now's the time to fix it so you like it.
 Yup, looks good enough for me.  :)  No modifications necessary this time.
Remove your towel, open your sleeve up and lay your fabric sleeve back down on the table, wrong sides down, with the accent side towards the top of the towel.  Lay your towel on top of your sleeve, again meeting the edge of the towel with the fold of the sleeve.  Carefully, flip the bottom edge of the sleeve up, over the bottom edge of the towel, until it almost meets the top edge of the accent piece.  When you do that correctly, you should be able to see that paper strip from before.  Nooooo, don't remove it just yet...I know, it's hard..but just be patient, you'll see.  Put one pin in each corner, just to hold your layers together.
 Line your ruler up straight along the TOWEL's edge, and as straight as you can across the folded edge of your trim fabrics.  Draw a stitching line - you can use pen or water-soluble, it really doesn't matter:
 Carefully remove your towel, but leave your pin in place (or replace it, if necessary).  One pin is generally sufficient.
 Remember, that paper tape is still on there, and that little flap is folded down, towards you.
 Sew along that stitching line you drew, being sure to backstitch (or otherwise lock) your stitches, at both ends of that seam.
 Trim your seam allowance & trim the corner to a point.  I always use pinking shears for this part.
 Using a point turner (or a chopstick), poke the corners right side out, so you've got nice sharp corners and a little canoe shape going on.
 Set your sleeve down on the table again, and insert your towel into the sleeve...again, the bottom edge of your towel should butt right up to that fold, and now the side edges of your sleeve should encase the sides of your towel.  Make sure that you have your accent fabric on the same side of your towel as your embroidered design (wish I didn't have to tell you that from personal experience)
 You might also check to make sure that that little bitty piece of accent fabric is wrapped around the towel, to the rear, not just folded over in the front.  You can put a little Fray-Check on the edge when you're all done, if you'd like, to finish that raw edge a little better.  (Alternatively, you can match the edges better when you're doing that side seam!)
 Here's what you want the edge to look like from the front:
 And if you're doing two (or more) towels at one time, now's a good time to line 'em up, side by side to make sure they are relatively even with each other.  And NOW you get to peel that paper tape off the Steam-A-Seam, and fuse the back side of the fabric sleeve to the back side of the towel.
Once that's done, you can either topstitch on the main fabric or stitch-in-the-ditch on the accent fabric.  You might even want to try out one of those fancy stitches on your machine for an added touch!  Just remember, your bobbin thread should match your main fabric, and I'd suggest using the same weight as you use on the front, for a nicer finish.  And, because there are so many layers at this point, you'd probably do best with a walking foot and a slightly longer than normal stitch.  I generally use a Floriani embroidery thread in both the needle and bobbin - there are so many colors it's easy to find one that matches well.

And there you go - two nicely trimmed towels, all ready for gifting.

(the visiting blogger :)


  1. Great tutorial Karin and inspirational project too. I do love beautiful dish towels, but never feel like I've been great at the fine tuning to embellish.Thank you for your excellent and inspirational tutorial. I'm looking forward to making some decorative dish towels for the holidays to give as gifts (using your tutorial).


  2. Very nicely done Karin! The towels are very pretty.

  3. Great tutorial and the towels looks so pretty.

  4. Thanks for writing this up! pretty towels.

  5. Very very pretty. Thanks for sharing and I so wished I had more time this year for these projects! Will save for next year!

  6. now that's a great tutorial....there's no way anyone could go wrong!!

    these towels are adorable!!

  7. Thanks, y'all! You've made my day!


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More Later-Beth


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