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Super Fast & Super Cute: Kitchen Towels with Ribbon and Fabric Borders

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I'm of the opinion you can never have too many kitchen towels. It's an extra bonus when they are so pretty they actually make you want to clean up! We started with plain white store-bought towels, then added fabric and ribbon strips to build a band of beauty along the bottom. Tie up three or more with a bow and a sweet handmade tag, and you have a bundle of lovely linens to give as a gift.

Each towel uses just one 2½" x 22" fabric strip and two ribbons. This is a great project for scraps, or for any left over jelly roll strips in your stash. We used scraps from our stash of Tula Pink's Parisville for FreeSpirit Fabrics. 

All the beautiful ribbons we used are available online now directly from The Ribbon Retreat in the colors we selected as well as many, many more.

Pre-wash your towels as well as fabric strips and ribbons prior starting. Kitchen towels are meant to be able to handle a lot of laundering and you don't want the pieces shrinking at different rates; that leads to unattractive rippling. For more about preshrinking, see our tutorial

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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Supplies shown are for ONE towel.

  • 1 solid color, store-bought dish towel: we used a basic, waffle weave white dish towel set we found at a local variety store, which measured 20" wide x 29½" high
  • Scrap, Jelly Roll or ⅛ yard of 44-45" wide fabric for the center accent strip
  • All purpose thread in colors to best match ribbons
  • 1 yard of ⅜" ribbon: we used solid grosgrain in Tropic Lilac from The Ribbon Retreat
  • 1 yard of ⅞" ribbon; we used Polka Dots in Dark Orchid with White and Mint with White from The Ribbon Retreat
    NOTE: Your towel width may vary, measure first. You need one narrow length of ribbon and one wide length of ribbon, each the width of your towel plus 2".
  • Glue Dotsor Steam-A-Seam (optional)
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

  1. From the accent band, fussy cut one 2½" x 22" strip.
    NOTE: The 22" length fits our 20" towels. Measure the width of your own towel and add 2".
  2. Cut one narrow length of ribbon and one wide length of ribbon to match your strip length (22" in our samples).
  3. Press your towels flat and remove all tags.
  4. Use your see-through ruler to mark and draw a horizontal line across the front of your towel(s) approximately 2" up from the bottom hem.
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    NOTE: Determine your best placement based on your own towels. I used the hemline as my guide rather than the bottom of the towel because I found the bottom of the towel to not be a truly straight line.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Take the 2½" accent strip and the ribbons to your ironing board.
  2. On the accent strip, fold in each end 1" and press.
  3. On each ribbon, fold in each end 1" and press.
  4. Take each towel and lay it face up on your work surface so the drawn horizontal line is visible.
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  5. Place a center accent strip, right side facing up, on top of a towel. Line up the bottom edge of the accent strip with the drawn horizontal line. The folded outside edges of your accent strip should be flush with the hemmed sides of the towel. If they aren't perfect, re-press the folds as needed to make an exact match.
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  6. Slip one folded and pressed end of a narrow and a wide ribbon over the folded end of the strip. The narrow ribbon goes on the top of the strip, the wide ribbon on the bottom.
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  7. Center the ribbon over the raw edge of the fabric so the fabric's raw edge is completely covered.
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  8. Stitch a vertical seam as close to the edge as possible, through all layers, to secure the ribbons and the strip.
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    NOTE: If you are using two colors of ribbon, as we did with two of our three towels, this will mean you will have a visible seam against one of the ribbons. It's okay... keep breathing. This seam is at the very back of the towel. Mine worked out nicely because, as I always say, my Janome machines stitch very precisely even right on the edge of the fabric. Love that!
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  9. Repeat to stitch the opposite ribbon ends in place.
    NOTE: You may need to futz with the ribbons' folds in order to adjust them to perfectly fit the edge of your towel and insure the ribbons and the fabric lay nice and flat.
  10. If you're making more than one towel, before stitching everything in place on your second (and third or more) towel, take a minute to check the position of everything to make sure the ribbons and fabric will line up horizontally when the towels are hung side by side. This is important, because with ready-made towels, you can't assume the hems are identical from towel to towel
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  11. Using your ruler (and eyeballing it), confirm your ribbons are straight side to side and secure them prior to stitching. You can simply pin the ribbons in place or use an adhesive, such as Glue Dots or Steam A Seam.
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  12. Carefully edgestitch along both sides of each ribbon. I used my optional Janome Clear View Quilting Foot, which has a variety of awesome bright red guide lines to help keep even the tiniest of seams straight. 
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  13. Press well.
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Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Liz Johnson


Comments (6)

Delores Bruyette said:
Delores Bruyette's picture

I have just been introduced to dressing up dish towels. I have spent hours looking at different ways to do them. Let me say that yours are the easiest to do and understand. I cant believe the amount of time and confusion I will be eliminating using your instructions. Thank you so much.  I would like to have your ideas sent to my email.  How do I recieve your projects. 

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

@ Delores Bruyette - So glad to know you like our towels! We send out our eNewsletter on Mondays and Fridays. You can subscribe by entering your email address in the box at the upper right of any page under the red banner headline: Subscribe to Our Newsletter. 

Sewinbear said:
Sewinbear's picture

Thank you for coool, easy, thrifty Christmas gift idea!!! Will add crocheted Dishclothes & WELLA! Great gift set!!  (also Super idea for Wedding Showers too! Or sweet New Home gift too! )

Anonymous said:
Anonymous's picture

Thank you for all the wonderful projects, I specially love kitchen towels and these are just beautiful!  I seem to have the hardest time finding plain kitchen towels that I like, and I love the ones you used for this project, where did you find them?

daisygirl said:
daisygirl's picture

Thank you! It seems it is a simple and affordable way to change kitchen towels from boring to WOW.