Saturday, November 24, 2012

Use Leftover Fabrics to Make Cute Linen Dish Towels

These are what I made out of some leftover fabrics. Don't you love to find a way to use up leftovers? And who can't use some new dish towels (for themselves or for gifts)? I am including in this post my tutorial for my one-measurement, low-bulk, mitered-corner hem technique. I've never seen it anywhere else; it was a puzzle I wanted to solve.
Linen Dish Towels With
Gingerbread Cookie Trim
I had about 2/3 of a yard of medium-weight brown linen leftover from this skirt (Kwik Sew 3789 blog post).
And I had these leftovers from a cotton print of gingerbread cookie baking after making three aprons some time ago.
Here's a close up of the recipe.
I happened to be moving the linen from the leftover pile to a drawer (always trying to get organized), and I serendipitously laid it next to the gingerbread fabric. Well, I thought, those are nice together. So I pressed both pieces of fabric and laid them out to see how many dish towels I could make from the linen. Three (see first photo).


I cut the linen into three rectangles, approximately 17 in. wide x 24 in. long.

I cut the print cotton into 6 pieces: three pieces at 17 in. wide x 6 in. long, with the "recipe" more or less in the center, and three pieces at 17 in. wide x 3 in. long.

Mark and Press:

Notes: In "home dec" sewing, most seam allowances are 1/2 inch. All folds in this tutorial are 1/2 in.

I mark, using a soap sliver, 1 in. from the long edge (width) on the wrong side of the print fabric.
Then I fold the fabric up to the marked line and press. Repeat for all long edges (widths) of the print fabric.

Place and Pin:

Place the print fabrics right side up onto the right side of the linen pieces. In placing it, be sure to allow for bottom and top hems. Pin into place along the folded edges of the print fabric.
I placed the bottom of the larger piece of print fabric 4 in. from the bottom edge of the linen, knowing that after hemming, it would be 3 in. from the bottom. The placement is purely a personal decision.

I repeated with the narrower pieces, placing them 6 in. from the top edge of the linen, again, a personal decision.


From the right side, stitch the print fabric to the linen, close to the edges, leaving the ends open (they will be enclosed in the hem later). Repeat with all pieces.
(I think the center towel has been folded under at the bottom. As you can see from the finished towels [first photo], the print fabrics are all placed at about the same place.) 

Trim Edges:

Trim any edges as needed. I wasn't precise when cutting the width of the print fabrics, knowing I could trim any excess at this point.)



As promised, here is my tutorial for my one-measurement, low-bulk, mitered-corner hem technique. {{Feel free to grab a piece of graph paper (or plain paper on which you have drawn a 1-in. grid), so that you can follow along with paper.}} First, the one-measurement, fold, and press step.

1. Using a soap sliver and a ruler (or your preferred marking tool), measure 1 in. from all 4 edges of each towel on the wrong side of the fabric.
2. Fold the fabric up to the marked line and press. This will result in a 1/2 in. fold. Repeat for all 4 sides of each towel. The order (short sides first, work around clockwise) doesn't matter.
The steam pressing has removed
the marking; no problem.
3. Fold the fabric again, this time, where the fabric is now doubled, and press.
Next is the low-bulk, mitered-corner step.

4. Unfold one corner.
I have marked in white soap and photo edited in red the cutting line. It's up, across a diagonal, and over. If you're following along with paper, go ahead and cut it. Here's the piece that is cut off:
5. Now, working again with the towel, fold the corner so that the first set of folds is back in place. Make a new fold (shown here) and press.
I photo edited in white to show
the former fold so that you can see
how this works.
6. Fold one edge, paying attention to the corner angle.
7. Fold the adjacent edge, again paying attention to the corner angle.
Are you seeing the miter coming together?

8. Clip or pin from the right side. I find that clips do not move the fabric the way that pins can, especially when going through 3+ layers of fabric. Repeat with remaining sides.
Clipped/pinned from the right side;
photo shows the wrong side.
9. Stitch from the right side. I like to stitch around twice, once close to the outer fold and again close to the inner fold.
Two rows of stitching (right side)
Two rows of stitching (wrong side)
10. Admire your work.

I made four linen towels and a teapot mat in a similar way this past summer, but with log cabin patchwork instead of a single print.
Questions? Comments?

Here's my comment: It took me significantly less time to make these three dish towels than to create this tutorial. It's one of those processes that takes longer to explain than to do. Give it a try!

Blessings and peace...


  1. Intriguing technique! Another instance of creativity responding to need in a unique way. I love to make table napkins with wide hems and mitered corners, and look forward to trying out your technique on them. I wonder if, at step 7, one could flip the miter wrong side out, stitch the miter, then flip the hems back in place. More fun to experiment with.

    Also, what are the clips seen in step 8? They look very useful and handy.

    Thanks for creating this tutorial!

    1. Carol, thanks for visiting and leaving such a nice comment. Re your idea at Step 7, sure, I think that would work, too. Want to give it a try and report back? Those clips are Clover Wonder Clips. They are VERY strong; from the product description: "Each clip opens wide to hold layers of fabric and the clip base is flat for easy feeding to the presser foot" and I can add that steam/heat in close proximity (not a direct hit, fortunately) didn't damage them (oops). I bought them at a quilt shop, and now I see them at Joann's and at Amazon. They're pricey (less so now with a coupon at Joanns or from Amazon), but I've been using them nonstop for several months and not a single one has broken.

  2. Great sounding tutorial. I will certainly try this technique. Beautifully explained tutorial, Samdra.


    1. Karen, you are so very kind to stop by and leave such nice and encouraging comments. Thank you!

  3. Wonderful tute and I sure learned something new with your great bulk free miters. Thanks so much for such a clear easy to understand lesson.

    1. Hi Bunny, I always learn from your tutorials, including how to create one! Thanks for such a nice compliment. I'll be interested in whether someone as skilled as you are in all things sewing finds this to be a satisfactory technique.

  4. Very nice technique and awesomely presented in the tute, Sandra. Thank you for posting it just in time for those last-minute gifts!

    JoyceP in WI

    1. Joyce, thanks so much for visiting and for leaving a comment. And if you (I) run really short on time, we could always add patchwork or print fabric to a (gasp) purchased towel! Happy sewing!


  5. That was so well explained Sandra and what a nice,neat finish.

    1. Thanks, Terry, for visiting and for leaving such a nice comment. I'm really happy that this tutorial has been so well received. Hope you stop by again!

  6. Yes, very well explained. And you know Step 10 is my favorite.

    1. Regarding Step 10: I taught you well, dear Emily. :)