It's time to pack up those pencils and pens and find the new backpack. School has started or soon will be starting across the country. If you're looking for a great welcome gift for a new teacher, these beginner friendly appliquéd kitchen towels are just the thing. A classic ticking stripe combined with muslin and rick rack makes the perfect homespun kitchen combo. Appliqué an apple for the teacher or a pear, or make them both. Of course, they'd also be a lovely gift set for the upcoming holidays.
We offer downloadable patterns below for our two easy appliqué designs. They can be applied with or without the shine spot, which is created by cutting a hole in the design so the muslin shows through.
We created the stems on both pieces of fruit with a standard zig zag on a basic machine, stopping to re-set the width as we stitched. If you are lucky enough to have the Janome Horizon Memory Craft 15000, you can use the variable zig zag. This cool feature allows you to increase and/or decrease the width of a zig zag stitch using the knee lifter without ever moving your hands from the fabric. Love it!
We laughed when one of the S4H staffers asked if the gift of towels meant the teacher was washing his or her hands of the kids. Ha! Not at all; they're simply a great way to start clean and fresh for the new school year.
For our appliqué, we used 40wt rayon embroidery thread in the top with standard bobbin thread. The heavier embroidery thread is a good choice if you're just starting out. It's more forgiving and will produce a fuller, smoother line of stitching. The finer bobbin thread allows the upper thread to pull more completely to the underside.
For more tips and techniques, check out our full tutorial on How to Appliqué like a Pro.
Each towel finishes at approximately 30" high x 20" wide when flat. The appliqués are beautifully centered when the towel is folded in thirds and then in half to hang.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
Quantities shown are for TWO towels.
- 1 yard of 44"+ wide cotton ticking for the towel base; we used 100% cotton striped ticking in Kiwi Green
- ¼ yard 44"+ wide cotton muslin for the accent band; choose a muslin with a good opacity; we used an unbleached muslin as the slightly off-white color best matched the ticking
- Scraps or ⅛ yard cuts of cuts of solid color cottons for the appliqué; we used apple red, pear green, and leaf green Kona Cottons
- 1¼ yards EACH of TWO coordinating colors of medium rick rack; we used red and light green
- ¼ yard of fusible web for appliqué; we used Pellon Wonder Under
- ¼ yard of stabilizer for appliqué; we used Pellon Stitch 'n' Tear
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- 40wt rayon embroidery thread is colors to match the appliqué (just a shade darker than the fabric); we used red, two shades of green, white (for the shine spot) and brown
- Bobbin thread
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Small, sharp scissors to cut appliqués
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- From the fabric for the towels (ticking in our samples), cut TWO 21" wide x 31" high rectangles.
- From the fabric for the accent strip (muslin in our samples), cut ONE 6" by width of fabric (WOF) strip. Our strip was 6" x 44". Sub-cut the strip into two equal lengths. Our strips were 6" x 22". This is the minimum width to fit the 21" width of the towels.
- Download and print the Apple and Pear appliqué patterns.
IMPORTANT: This pattern is ONE 8½" x 11" sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide line on the page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
NOTE: Our instructions show construction of the Pear towel; the steps would be exactly the same for the apple towel with just the change in the appliqué colors.
- Place the appliqué design template right side up on your work surface.
- Cut a piece of fusible web. Place it over the design template, paper side up.
- Trace the pear and/or apple appliqué designs on the paper side of the fusible web.
- Cut the leaves apart from the fruit.
- Following manufacturer's instructions, adhere the fusible web to the wrong side of the appropriate fabric.
NOTE: As mentioned above, it's up to you to use the "shine spot" on the fruit. If you're new to appliqué, you may want to skip this smaller circle. If you're feeling confident, cut out the hole as we did.
- Cut out the design.
- Find the accent strip. Measure or simply fold the strip in half, to find the exact center point.
- Peel away the paper backing.
- Place the appliqué design at this center point (fusible side down). Use the original printed template to confirm the placement of the leaves above the fruit. As shown, we used our apple design in a straight position, but tilted the pear to the right at a slight angle.
- Fuse the appliqué to the base accent strip.
- Layer the accent strip over a strip of stabilizer.
- Thread the machine with the first appliqué thread color (we recommend 40wt embroidery thread) in the top and bobbin thread in the bobbin.
- Select a zig zag stitch and adjust for a small stitch (we used 2.5 mm width, 0.6 mm length).
- Position the appliqué under the foot so the right swing of the needle is just off the edge of the fabric and the left swing of the needle drops into the appliqué.
- Stitch around the appliqué, pivoting as needed (with the needle down and the swing to the right - into the base fabric). This first round of stitching creates a smooth edge for the final stitches that follow.
- The second round of zig zag is the finishing satin stitch. Set the machine for a tighter stitch (we used 3.5 mm width, 0.4 mm length).
- Stitch all the way around again.
- Re-threading as necessary, repeat this process to stitch the leaves, and the shine spot if you chose to add this feature.
- When the main appliqué is complete, draw in the guidelines for the stem as well as the center "vein lines" of the leaves. Again, you can use the original paper print out for reference.
- Re-set the machine for a lengthened straight stitch. Re-thread with brown for the stem. Drop the needle at the center point of the stem.
- Stitch across one leaf to its tip; with the needle down, pivot and stitch back over this first line with a second line for a nice, thick result.
- Re-position to stitch from the base of the stem to its top.
- With the needle down, pivot so the presser foot is heading back down toward the base of the stem.
- Re-set the machine to wide satin stitch (we used 5.0 mm width, 0.4 mm length). Sew a few stitches, stop and change the width to 4.5 mm, sew a few more stitches, stop and change the width to 4.0mm, sew a few more stitches.
- Continue this pattern until the stem is the desired length and the stitch width is about 2.5 mm.
NOTE: As mentioned above, if you are new to appliqué, we have a full step-by-step tutorial with lots of great technique options and tips.
Construct the towel
- Create a narrow hem with clean corners along all four sides of each 21" x 31" towel rectangle.
- To do this, fold in the raw edge ¼" and press. Then fold in an additional ¼" and press again.
- At each corner, create a diagonal point or choose a simple square overlap. If you'd like to make a faux mitered corner, you can use our tutorial: How to Make a Narrow Hem with a Neat Corner. Since this is a beginner-friendly project, we opted for simple square corners all around.
- RE-thread with thread to best match the ticking in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Stitch the hem in place all around, close to the inner fold, pivoting at each corner.
- Set the hemmed towel aside.
- Find the two colors of rick rack. Cut a length of each to fit the width of the appliquéd accent strip.
- Place one color of rick rack across the upper raw edge of the strip and the other color across the bottom raw edge of the strip. The top "waves" of the rick rack should be aligned with the raw edge of the fabric. Pin the rick rack in place.
- Baste the rick rack in place, running the seam down the exact center of the rick rack. This seam will be hidden, so you don't have to re-thread.
- Use the basting seam as a guide to fold back the raw edge top and bottom, allowing a perfect "half wave" of rick rack to extend along the top and bottom of the accent strip. Press the folds in place.
- Find the hemmed towel. Place it right side up on your work surface.
- Place the appliquéd accent strip right side up across the towel. The bottom of the strip (the fabric not the rick rack – as shown below in the photo) should be 2" up from the bottom hemmed edge of the towel. Pin the accent strip in place along the top and bottom. The appliqué should be at the exact center of the towel, which means the raw sides of the strip will extend beyond the towel. This is correct.
- Fold under the sides of the accent strip so this folded edge is flush with the hemmed edge of the towel. Make sure you've covered the raw ends of the rick rack. You only need to fold under the sides about ½"; trim any excess so the fold isn't too bulky. Pin the sides in place.
- If necessary, tre-thread the machine with thread to best match the accent strip in the top and to match the towel in the bobbin. Keep a slightly lengthened stitch.
- Edgestitch along all four sides of the appliqué strip to secure.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Michele Mishler