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Noel Home: Simply Sweet Tea Towels

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Pretty little pleats make our holiday tea towels simply sweet. I'm voting for this project to win the award for Fave Seasonal Gift Idea. It really has it all: fast and easy to make, fun to mix and match with various fabrics and ribbons, and absolutely lovely to look at when finished and pressed to present.

Our thanks to our friends at Moda Fabrics for providing all the French General Lumiere de Noel fabric. You can find the gorgeous Lumiere de Noel fabric in stores and online now, including at Fat Quarter Shop.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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Yardages shown are for two coordinating towels

  • 1 yard of 44-45" wide natural linen or cotton fabric for main body of towels: we used Lumiere de Noel by French General for Moda Fabrics in Pearl
  • ¼ yard EACH of two 44-45" wide accent fabrics: we used Lumiere de Noel by French General for Moda Fabrics in Small Floral Natural and Christmas St. Catherine Natural
  • 1 yard EACH of two ¾" wide ribbons to match accent fabrics: we used velvet ribbon in a Christmas red and avocado green
  • All purpose thread to match fabrics and ribbons
  • All purpose thread in contrasting colors for topstitching: we used dark red
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric for the main body of the towels, cut TWO 21" x 25" rectangles.
  2. From the fabrics for the accent band, cut ONE 7" x 25" rectangle from EACH of the two fabrics.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Create a narrow ¼" double-turn hem along both short sides and the bottom long side of each accent band. To do this fold the raw edge of the fabric under ¼" along all four sides and press. Fold under another ¼" and press again
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    NOTE: If you are new to hemming, read our tutorial: How to Make a Simple Hem. For super neat corners like ours, read our tutorial: Clean Corners on Narrow Hems. I used a double line of stitching on my towels for a little extra bling. Click to Enlarge
    NOTE: My tip for the double stitching: use a ¼" foot and create the first line of stitching with the back side of the towel facing up, running the ¼" guide along the inside edge of the hem. This helps you get a nice, sharp corner across the miter. Then, flip the towel over and stitch the second seam, running the ¼" guide along the outside edge.
  2. Press each hemmed accent band in half to create a center crease. Unfold so you can see the center crease.
  3. With your fabric pen or pencil, make a mark 2" to the left and 2" to the right of the center crease at both the top and bottom of the band.
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  4. Press the band, wrong sides together, along each 2" line. You'll create two little 'peaks' in the fabric.
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  5. Fold each 'peak' in to the center center crease so they meet in the exact middle, forming a lovely center pleat. I pinned my pleats in place so they wouldn't shift during the remainder of the construction.
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  6. Following the same steps as above, Create a narrow ¼" double-turn hem along both sides and the top of each main towel piece (the 21" x 25" rectangles).
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  7. Place an accent band and main body WRONG sides together, aligning the raw edges of each piece. Pin in place. Repeat to pin together the remaining pair. Be very careful to keep the sides of the two pieces perfectly aligned so your topstitching will match up.
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    NOTE: Yes, this means your seam will show on the RIGHT side of the towel. That's okay. We're going to cover it up with the ribbon and then the back will have a nice, clean finish.
  8. Stitch the accent band to the body, using a ½" seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance back to ¼". Press the seam allowance down towards the accent band.
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  9. Lay the ribbon over the seam. Trim to size, leaving about ½" extending beyond both sides. Clip the corners of each end of the ribbon at a diagonal. This will help hide the raw edge beneath the fold.
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  10. Fold under each end of the ribbon so it is flush with the sides of the towel and lightly pin in place.
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  11. Edgestitch the ribbon in place around all four sides.
    NOTE: Pivoting at the corners of the ribbon will be a bit of a challenge because you are working through multiple layers close to the edge of the fabric. Once again, my Janome was able to power through with barely a notice. If your machine normally has challenges with layers and edgestitching, you might need to stop with your needle in the down position to pivot and then turn the machine's handwheel manually to slowly make your way around the corner.
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  12. Press well from the back. Here's what my towel looked at the edge from the front and the back.
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Hints and Tips

An alternative to the narrow hems

The only fussy part of this project is the narrow hemming. I actually like to do these kind of hems with the pretty little mitered corners... but I'm weird that way. Another option would be to make a double-layer towel.

  1. Cut two matching "lining pieces" to go with your main pieces: one at 21" x 25" and one at 7" x 25".
  2. Sew the 7" x 25" pieces right sides together along both short sides and the bottom.
  3. Turn right side out and create the pleat as shown above.
  4. Sew the 21" x 25" pieces right sides together along both sides and the top. Turn right side out.
  5. Finish the assembly as shown above.

You will end up with even more layers this way and so I would suggest running the ribbon accent all the way around the towel, overlapping it for a clean finish at the center back of the towel. In this case, you'll need about 1¼ yards of ribbon for each towel.


Project Concept: Alicia Thommas

Sample Creation: Liz Johnson



Comments (8)

Bobette S said:
Bobette S's picture
I will be making some of these for gifts and myself. I like the idea of the double fabric so they will be more absorbent. This might be a good learning project for a friend who just bought her first sewing machine and needs an easy project. Thanks for the great instructions.
Ethel M said:
Ethel M's picture
I absolutely adore all of these patterns. I am making the "Italiano" apron and the 2 handed pot holder. I think these are about the BEST patterns on the net. Keep up the good work. Thank You - Thank You
jodieth said:
jodieth's picture
I love the pleat. These would make really cute gifts for my neighbors. Thank you for sharingsmilies/smiley.gif
Judy Blinkenberg said:
Judy Blinkenberg's picture
These are so pretty and easy enough for a beginner. Thank you.
Mary Malone said:
Mary Malone's picture
very cute! Great idea. I think the linen would be better in case people want to use them - the cotton fabric would not be absorbent. Love this - will be making these for my quilty (and non quilty) friends for every holiday!