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These are not your grandmother’s tea towels. Pull out the spiciest colors and most striking patterns from your scrap stash for this set of trendy towels. We also dove into the decorative stitch options on our Janome machine to add some dramatic stitch style. These towels can jazz up your own kitchen or would be a wonderful host/hostess gift. It is a common practice for Moroccans to extend invitations to their home. However, remember the invitation is a genuine one only if it is extended three times. (Make this project. Make this project. Make this project.)

We used the 9mm stitch width on our Janome machine. This extra width makes the stitches bolder and more distinct.

We chose two gorgeous stitch options in contrasting thread colors as featured lines, then added a blanket stitch along the sides of the both bottom accent bands. Beautiful color, texture, and detail is as easy as sewing a straight line.

The main body of each towel starts as a 20″ x 30″ cut, which means you could easily cut TWO towels of the same color from one yard of standard 44″ wide fabric.

We mixed and matched our trio and so purchased one yard per color; we’ll save the leftovers for future ScrapBuster projects!

Each towel finishes at approximately 20″ wide x 30″ high.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

NOTE: Supplies listed are for ONE towel, but as mentioned above, you can easily get two main cuts from one yard of fabric. 

  • 1 yard of 45″+ wide linen or linen-look fabric
  • Scraps or ¼ yard cuts of TWO dynamic quilting cotton prints for each towel – cut sizes are shown below in the Getting Started section
  • ¼ yard of ½” cotton twill tape or similar for the back hanger on each towel
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • All purpose thread to contrast with fabric for topstitching and decorative stitching: we picked up colors from within our border strip fabrics
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle

Getting Started

  1. The illustration below shows our three fabric and thread combinations. Click on any image to open up a larger view.
  2. Since all the trim pieces are meant to be the main eye-catching accents, take the time to carefully fussy cut each to center the motifs for a 1½” reveal when folded into place.
  3. From the main fabric for the towel, cut ONE 20″ wide x 30″ high rectangle.
  4. From the accent fabric for the SIDES of the towel, cut TWO 4″ x 31″ strips.
  5. From the accent fabric for the TOP and BOTTOM of the towel, cut TWO 4″ x 20″ strips.
  6. From the accent fabric for the BOTTOM CROSS-STRIP of the towel, cut ONE 2½” x 20″ strip.
  7. Leave the twill tape uncut.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Bottom binding, accent strip and decorative stitching

  1. Find one of the two 4″ x 20″ strips. If you are using a directional motif, make sure you select the BOTTOM strip.
  2. Fold the strip in half, wrong sides together, to set a center crease.
  3. Unfold, wrong side up, and press back each 20″ side ½”.
  4. Place the strip wrong side up and open so the crease line is visible. The two long edges are still folded back.
  5. Find the main towel rectangle.
  6. Place one 20″ side on top of the accent strip, aligning the raw edge of the towel rectangle along the crease line of the accent strip. Be careful to insure the edge of the towel is precisely aligned with the crease along the entire 20″. This will become the bottom of the towel.
  7. Fold the accent strip down into place, sandwiching the towel rectangle between the layers of the folded strip. Check the edges to be sure the strip is folded exactly in half. The front and the back halves should be exactly aligned on either side of the towel. Pin in place through all the layers.
  8. Choose a wide decorative stitch that will be a pretty bridge from the accent strip onto the towel. We used a Blanket Stitch, #19 on the Janome Memory Craft 9900, set at 9mm wide.
    NOTE: You will see the back of the stitch on the back of the towel, so choose a stitch that looks good from both sides. You don’t want a “messy” bobbin side. Do some test stitching prior to starting the project to choose the best options for all the decorative stitches. 
  9. Thread the machine with a contrasting thread in the top and bobbin. We used a bright yellow. As mentioned above, you will see the back of the stitch on the back of the towel so you want the thread to match.
  10. Stitch across the top edge of the accent strip, running the seam so the center of the decorative stitch runs right along the inner folded edge of the accent strip. When centered properly, the stitch’s needle swing from left to right will create the pretty “bridging” effect. Our Janome Satin Stitch foot has a handy guide arrow to keep the seam precise.
  11. Press flat.
  12. Find the 2½” x 20″ bottom cross-strip.
  13. Press in each 20″ side ½”.
  14. Place the towel, with its bottom strip in place, right side up on your work surface.
  15. Using your clear ruler, measure 1″ up from the top edge (the edge to which you just added the decorative stitching) of the bottom strip.
  16. Place the bottom edge of the cross strip along this 1″ line. The cross strip is right side up and the ends are flush with the raw side edges of the towel.
  17. Pin the cross strip in place.
  18. Using the same decorative stitch and the same thread color in the top and bobbin as you just used for the previous. Stitch along the bottom…
  19. … and then the top of the cross strip.
  20. Press flat.
  21. Select a new decorative stitch and a new contrasting thread color. We used decorative stitch #36 on our Janome Memory Craft 9900 and a bright raspberry thread.
  22. Re-thread the machine with the new thread color in the top and bobbin. We kept our stitch width at 9mm.
  23. Line up your pressure foot equal distance between the top of the bottom strip and the bottom of the cross strip. Pick your stitch type and widths so there is at least ⅛” of space between the stitch you used to adhere the accent strips in place and your new center stitch.
  24. Stitch horizontally all the way across the towel with the new decorative stitch. Go slowly and keep your stitching line nice and straight. We used the edges of our presser foot to keep things aligned.
  25. To finish the embellishment on the bottom of the towel, you will add three additional horizontal lines of decorative stitching above the top edge of the cross strip.
  26. We repeated our stitch #36 to either side of a new stitch: #38 on our Janome Memory Craft 9900. We kept the same bright raspberry thread for both new rows of stitch #36. For stitch #38, we switched to the same bright yellow thread used for the accent band stitching. Again, we are using a 9mm width for all stitching.
  27. The lines of stitching are ¼” apart and start ¼” above the edge of the stitching on the top of the cross strip.
  28. We found it fastest to simply re-thread for each line of stitching. Creating the first line and pressing it in place.
  29. Then re-threading to the yellow thread for the second line of stitching. Again, pressing when finished.
  30. And, re-threading one final time to the raspberry thread for the third stitching line.

    NOTE: You could also draw in precise guidelines with a fabric pen or pencil first. This would allow you to stitch lines one and three first, then you would need to re-thread only once to stitch line two.

Optional hanging tab

  1. Flip the towel so it is wrong side up and place it flat on your work surface.
  2. We added a top hanging tab to the upper left corner of the back of the towel.
  3. Find the length of twill tape.
  4. From the corner point, measure 5½” down and 5½” to the right. Place the twill tape across the corner at a diagonal at these points. Pin in place.
  5. Trim away the excess so the twill tape is flush with the fabric.
  6. Hand or machine baste the ends of the tape in place.

Top and side accent strips

  1. Now that all the decorative stitching is done, you can attach the rest of the accent strips. Find the remaining 4″ x 20″ top strip. Fold it in half, then fold in each 20″ side ½” as you did with the bottom strip.
  2. Slip the top raw edge of the towel against the center crease line.
  3. Fold the strip down into place, and pin.
  4. Re-thread the machine with a contrasting thread for the final topstitching. We used our bright raspberry.
  5. Re-set to a straight stitch, but lengthen your stitch.
  6. Edgestitch through all the layers to secure the top accent strip in place. Go slowly and keep your seam line super straight to insure you are catching the front and the back of the strip in this one seam.
  7. Find the two 4″ x 31″ side strips. Prepare them in the same manner as the top and bottom strips: fold them in half, wrong sides together to set a center crease, and fold back the 31″ sides ½”. In addition, fold back each end ½”.
  8. Slip the strips into place along both raw side edges of the towel.
  9. Carefully align the ends so they are flush the top and bottom strips, adjusting the folded ends of the side strips as needed for the best match.
  10. Edgestitch through all the layers to secure. We stitched from the bottom to the top on both sides.
  11. As an extra finishing touch, we threaded a hand sewing needle with thread to best match the accent fabric and slip-stitched closed the top and bottom of the side strips.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild

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7 years ago

Love these! Who would not

Love these! Who would not love creating them, and using them? They are now in my top 5 want to make this fall list. Thanks 🙂

7 years ago

I found it helped to use some

I found it helped to use some Solvy stabilizer under the lines of stitching, to keep the linen from pleating…

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