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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Our towels were originally made using Heather Bailey’s delightful Pop Garden & Bijoux fabrics. However, any bright, patterned cotton would be lovely.

If you’re new to cutting perfect squares for beginning patchwork, take a look at our five-part Quilting Basics series.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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NOTE: Quantities show are 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: as mentioned above we originally 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 rick rack 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 rick rack 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

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Gloria Cabeen
Gloria Cabeen
23 days ago

I can’t tell if the rick rack is the 5/8″, called “jumbo” or the really big stuff that’s over an inch wide. Which is correct?

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
23 days ago
Reply to  Gloria Cabeen

Trim choices are always up to you, but we did use the REALLY big stuff 🙂 – the kind you usually have to buy off the reel at your local retailer.

Gloria Cabeen
Gloria Cabeen
22 days ago
Reply to  Liz Johnson

Thank you!

5 months ago

I can’t wait to make these!! Adorable

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
5 months ago
Reply to  Nancy

Thanks, Nancy — Wow — this is an early, early project for the site … had almost forgotten about it. We’re glad you found it and are excited to give it a try. Enjoy!

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