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Quick & Cool Holiday Gift: Trimmed Kitchen Towels with Rick Rack

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Pull out your box of scraps, add some colorful trim, and you can transform a plain set of off-the-shelf kitchen towels into a great gift. Our cute tea towels are trimmed with a simple eight-square patchworked row and highlighted with bright red jumbo rick rack. They'll be fightin' over who gets to dry the dishes! Or... are you looking for green gift wrap ideas? Make a few of these adorable towels, then use them to wrap up a selection of kitchen gadgets to give a gift inside a gift.

Our towels were made using Heather Bailey's delightful Pop Garden & Bijoux fabrics for our Citrus Holiday collection. Check out our other bright and beautiful projects, featuring this unique take on holiday color and pattern.

Though an older collection, Pop Garden & Bijoux continues to be popular and you can still find remnants. These S4H Shopping Directory retailers feature Heather Bailey:

Fat Quarter Shop

Fashionable Fabrics


If you're new to cutting perfect squares and patchworking, take a look at our tutorial: Quilting Basics Part 1: Tools, Cutting & Piecing.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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For a set of two towels:

  • 2 solid color, store-bought dish towels: we used a basic white dish towel from Crate and Barrel that measured 20" across the bottom edge
  • Fabric scraps for patchwork border: for our size towel, we decided on EIGHT 3½" x 3½" CUT squares (2½" x 2½" finished squares). Eight 2½" squares was a perfect fit for the 20" edge of our towel. You can use more or fewer squares to best accommodate your dish towel width: we used a variety of Heather Bailey's Pop Garden & Bijoux scrap fabrics
  • 2½ yards of jumbo rick rack for top and bottom of each patchwork border: we used a deep wine red
    NOTE: You may need or or less yardage to accommodate your dish towel width; remember to multiply width by two to have enough for a top AND bottom border
  • All purpose thread
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

  1. Prior to cutting, mix and match your fabric scraps on a large flat surface until you have two sets of eight squares that look good in a row.
  2. Cut your selected scraps into sixteen 3½" x 3½" squares.
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  3. Cut four 21" strips of rick rack.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Collect the set of eight squares you want for your first towel border. Pin the first two squares, right sides together, along one side.
  2. Sew together, using a ½" seam. Iron seam flat.
  3. Take the third square in your sequence, and pin it, right sides together, to the completed two-square piece.
  4. Sew together, using a ½" seam. Iron seam flat.
  5. Continue in this manner until you have a complete eight-square row. It will be 21" long x 3 ½" wide.
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  6. Repeat steps 1-5 for your second towel border.
  7. Take one rick rack strip and pin it along the bottom edge of one towel. Center the rick rack right along the edge, so the "waves" extend equally above and below the bottom of the towel. Turn the edges of the rick rack up and in. These edges will eventually be covered by your patchwork trim. Pin in place.
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  8. Stitch rick rack in place.
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  9. Repeat steps 7-8 for the second towel.
  10. Take a completed eight-square row and press under one long side and both short sides ½". Be careful to keep your edges and corners nice and sharp. Your row now measures 20" x 3".
  11. Repeat for the other eight-square row.
  12. With the fabrics' right sides facing down, line up the raw edge of your eight square row with the top edge of the rick rack. Pin. Make sure your side edges remain pressed in.
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  13. Move to your sewing machine and flip over. Stitch in place, following right along the seam line that secured your ric rac to the towel (step 8 above).
    NOTE: Your pins are underneath your project now, but you can still carefully reach in and pull them out as you go. It's never a good idea to stitch over your pins if you can possibly avoid it.
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  14. Repeat steps 12-13 for your second patchwork row and towel.
  15. Flip up your patchwork row and firmly press in place. Your side and top edges should still be neatly and accurately folded in by ½".
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  16. Insert your top rick rack piece, centering it so half pokes up evenly all along the patchwork's folded edge and the other half disappears underneath. Pin in place, tucking the ends of the ric rac down behind the patchwork.
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  17. Topstitch around all four sides approximately ¼" from the patchwork's folded edge. This stitching secures the sides and top. The bottom is already secure, but you want to go all the way around so you'll have a complete line of top stitching around the entire patchwork piece. Click to Enlarge

Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Aimee McGaffey


Comments (14)

Beeg said:
Beeg's picture

Can't figure out how the verical sides are finished. I don't see top stitching?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

Beeg - Look at the step and photo at #12 - it shows how the outer edges are tucked in. Then at the very end, you'll notice that it says: Topstitch around all four sides approximately ¼" from the patchwork's folded edge. So that topstitching secures the accent band.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Kelsey - flour sack cloth should work; it won't be quite a substantial... more of a tea towel feel than these store bought kitchen towels, but it should work. Make sure your preshrink the cloth and the fabric you are using for your accents (and the rick rack) before your start. Trims should be prewashed separately - a lingerie bag is good for that. You can find out more about that step here:

Cheryl Lenox said:
I am so excited to find this blog. Im going to make my daughter the basket for my grandaughter's room. It will be great for diapers etc. Love all the ideas!!!
C M B said:
C M B's picture
Great idea! Can't wait to do this on some towels that I have been wondering how to dress up.
Denise Ann said:
Denise Ann's picture
Fabulous idea - love the rick rack and the possibilities.
Thanks for sharing.
Gina S. said:
Gina S.'s picture
Love this! I have 9 towels waiting in the sewing room, finally found what i want to do with them. Thanks, you saved my butt this weekend! smilies/grin.gif
Grandma Sawyer said:
Grandma Sawyer's picture
smilies/smiley.giftooooo ez and a great idea thank you I needed a last minute thought on some adult stocking stuffers and this was it. i bought some inexpensive wooden utensils from the dollar tree and put with them turned out really nice thanks