I love to gussy up kitchen towels and plain cotton burp cloths with a little patchwork to be given as gifts. This is the way I do it. And, like everything I do, it involves as little math or measuring as possible — guesstimation is your friend. Or my friend, I suppose.
You’ll need: A towel, fabric for patchwork (2 or more prints/fabrics), thread, sewing machine, rotary cutter/mat (or scissors), ruler.
And: Prewash! Prewash the towel and prewash your fabric. Towels are the sorts of things that get used hard and washed often, and prewashing everything will mean that your creation won’t warp out of shape the first time it’s washed.
OK, to start. First, your towel. I am using a microfiber waffle-weave kitchen towel that’s super soft. It’s very nice. I still might recommend more of a cotton feedsack-type towel, but this is entirely up to you.
Measure your towel to get a rough estimate of how much fabric you’ll need. This towel is about 15” wide, a pretty typical size. For this project, I am using 5” charm-pack squares for patchwork — four squares are enough to reach across the bottom of the towel and still leave room for your seam allowances (1/4”). If you’re using scraps, lay them out and overlap them by 1/4” to get an idea of how many you’ll need.
I also trimmed the squares to be about 3.5” tall, which will result in a 2.5” strip of patchwork. Lay out your chosen fabrics to get an idea of how deep you want your patchwork strip to be and in what order you’d like the prints to be arranged. Also decide if you’d like to leave a little breathing room under the patchwork strip or sew it right along the bottom edge. I like to have mine a couple inches away from the bottom.
Now, the good part. Start sewing. Take the leftmost piece (let’s call it A) and sew it, right sides facing, to the piece next to it (call it B). Use a 1/4” seam allowance. Don’t worry about backtacking at the beginning and end of your seams when piecing.
Press the seams open.
Continue sewing pieces together, right sides facing. Then, join your pieced pieces to form one long strip. Be sure you join your pieces in the order in which you’d like them to appear.
All right! Now, double check your work. Is your patchwork as wide as you estimated (or, you know, measured, you silly person you) it would be?
Excellent! A-plus for you. Now, to get rid of all those nasty raw edges before attaching it to the towel. First, press under the long top edge about 1/2”. Then press under the long bottom edge about 1/2”. Don’t waggle the iron, just press down. If you are using 100% cotton (recommended), set the iron pretty high, but not scorching. Maybe at about a 7. Spray a little water if you like a good crisp edge (and who doesn’t?).
Carefully fold in the short edges at either side and press. If you have more than, say, 3/4” hanging off the edge, trim it before you fold. (I always save what I trim, because you can later piece the saved bits together for a matching coaster or potholder.)
Now, pin the short ends to the very edge of your towel.
Make sure your patchwork strip is parallel to the bottom edge, and pin along the length if it makes you feel better.
Starting at one corner, stitch close to the edge with a medium-length stitch. You do want to backtack at the beginning of this. Stitch all the way around, being careful not to let your line of stitching waver off the patchwork or too far in from the edge. Go along the long side, the short side, the other long and the other short side, meeting where you started, and backtack to finish.
Ta da! Pretty!
Now, wouldn’t you like to dry dishes with that? Or at least set it next to the dishwasher to be admired?