How to Sew: Dish Towels

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A good friend of mine recently got married, and although we weren’t able to make it back to Indiana for the wedding, I still wanted to send her something for her new home. She’s one of the most stylish friends I have, and while I was debating what to make, I was looking for things that could possibly pair with her Anthropology/Urban Outfitters/CB2 aesthetic. Upon a recent trip to Bolt, I found 4 fat quarters that I thought would be perfect prints for dish towels, and my mind was made up. The retro coffee carafes, groceries, and tiny mixers and milk cartons came home with me, and I picked up a yard of waffle weave fabric at Fabric Depot to match.

One yard of waffle weave was perfect when paired with the 4 fat quarters. I didn’t have anything extra left over (for once) and it was nice to cut the yard of fabric up and have it instantly match the already perfectly sized fat quarters. In case you’re wondering (or can’t always remember, like me) how big a fat quarter is, it’s 18″ X 24″, or 1/4 of an unfolded yard of fabric. Cutting the waffle fabric into 4 pieces was easy as pie, and putting them right sides together and pinning them with the help of sharp glass head pins was simple as well. Sounds like a really tough project, eh?

It is easy- when you’re not cracked out Sugar Cream Cake, like I am as I type this up. WHEW! It’s taking all of my concentration not to get up and dance around, but I. Must. Focus. Fabric. Pretty. Puppy? No. Type.

ANYWAYS, after pinning it’s time to sew these two together. I used my #37 Bernina foot, or the 1/4″ seam foot, to sew along the perimeter of the dish towel. Start sewing 2″ away from one corner of the towel, stopping 1/4″ away from the edge of it, with your needle down. With the needle down in the fabric like this, you can lift up your presser foot and pivot the fabric to the next side, making 90º corners. Don’t sew the entire towel closed- leave a 3″ opening so you can turn the towel right side out later.

See the opening you left? You’ll need it in just a minute, after you take care of your corners!

Now you need to clip your corners to make sure they’re nice and sharp, instead of rounded and bulky. You do this by clipping off the extra seam allowance, clipping very close to the stitches, but still leaving them untouched. I highlighted my seam line in blue so you can see it better.

Start by clipping off the end of the corner at 45º. Then, make two additional cuts, so that you’re even closer to the stitching, but be careful not to cut your seam! Turn the towel right side out thru the opening you left earlier, and use a point turner to make the corners nice and pointed. Don’t poke them too hard, or you’ll create a hole. I used my bamboo point turner (pictured), but you can also use a knitting needle, mechanical pencil, or any other narrow blunt-tip object.

Now that it’s turned out, it’s time to press your seams! Weeeee! Caaake time! Caaake time!

Okay, no cake yet, but as soon as you finish at least one of them, GO FOR IT.

Pressing open the seams on your dish towel can be done several different ways. I’ll highlight two of them that don’t require any special tools, but that are easier if you have fingernails, and not tiny stubs like me. And FYI, it’s much easier to open up your seams when you’re using both hands, and not demonstrating with one hand while holding a huge camera with the other.

In the top pictures, I’m attempting to show that you can open up the seam by first pulling the seam allowance open (by pulling it down), and you can walk it back up using your nails. Because I have none, this typically doesn’t work for me. My method is on the bottom, and involves pinching the fabric directly at the seam and pulling it up. I pull the seam open as I do this, and hold it in place with my left hand while ironing with my right hand. I think you can figure it out! The most important thing here is that your seam line is right on the edge of the dish towel, so that your topstitching will be even.

After the pressing, your towel opening should look like this, with all of the seam allowance pressed to the inside of the towel:

You don’t have to worry about closing this, because the next step of topstitching takes care of that for you!

Bernina makes a wonderful foot, the #10 edgestitch foot, which I adore. Most all machine models and brands carry a foot that is either very similar to this, or will work similarly (think ditch quilting foot, blindhem foot). What this foot does is allow you to put the center guide against any part of your project, move the needle to either the left, right, or center, and stitch a perfect topstitch. Use it once and you’ll be in love, promise!

I set the dish towel against my edgestitch foot, moved the needle the left position, and sewed around the entire towel. Not only does this give it a nice crisp edge, it closes the towel opening, prevents the seam allowance from wearing down too much inside, and ensures it won’t be baggy mess coming out of the dryer.

All-in-all, I think it took me about an hour to make 4 dishtowels, which means one thing….

There’s more time left for EATING CAKE!

Now please excuse me as I go speed walk my dog to the park!

  • This is awesome, thanks for sharing! Hey, have you found the great tutorials and sewing projects over at yet?

    • I have- I do love anything Bernina related!

  • I love reading your tutorials! I happened across your blog a few weeks ago and have been following you ever since. These dishtowels look super amazing and really easy to do. I hadn’t thought of using waffle weave fabric for them, but it makes perfect sense since my own favorite dishcloths are made of waffle weave. I can’t wait to find the *perfect* fat quarters to try this out for myself.

    • Thank you so much, Stephanie! I’m glad you liked the tutorial! These are very easy to do- and fat quarters are so inexpensive, that it makes a great option for a gift when you’re low on cash! I found my waffle weave fabric with the other kitchen linen bolts, but apparently retailers also sell different colors of it near children’s prints. Next time I’m going for some yellow or orange!

  • JoAnne

    Hi! Love your blog – I happened on you maybe a month ago and check things out periodically. I do have to admit (sheepishly) that I’ve made your Sugar Cream Cake twice in that time. The first time I turned the burner the wrong way and umm…broiled the cake. Once you took off that top dark layer it was tasty but the sugar/cream part was kind of gooey and sticky. I figured that was on me. This next time I made it I followed the directions and while nothing was burnt, the top layer of the cake is still pretty gooey and sticky. Is it supposed to be like that? It tastes great (OMG sweet though) but the texture kind of makes you think it’s not fully cooked. I did mix the ingredients by hand…am wondering if mixing with a mixer would aerate the cream cheese/egg/sugar mix and give it a lighter texture when done. If you have cake left, post a close up of a slice so I can see all the layers! Please?

    • Hi Joanne! There’s no reason to feel guilty about making Sugar Creme Cake twice! It’s so creamy and good (and yes, quite the sugar rush- but I warned you!), and the top layer is supposed to be creamy and sticky. The bottom layer should be cooked, so you have a bit of a cakey bottom, and the very top of the cake is the slightest bit crispy. Right underneath the top crisp though, it should be gooey and delicious! I’ll post a picture the next time I make it, but I’m feel a bit sugared-out right now with all of this Easter candy floating around! Can’t. Resist. Cadbury. Eggs!

  • JoAnne

    Well good, yay! I’ll keep making Crack Cake…you may not know this because you say it goes really fast but in our house with just my daughter and me…it actually keeps pretty well; we took more than a week to finish the whole 9X13 pan the first time and it’s just as good on the last day as the first. I think we’re on Day 6 with this second one and it’s still delicious and not stale even a little bit. I’m thinking of spooning berries over it next time.

    • Covering it with berries would be delicious! I’ve often thought about adding a touch of orange extract to it to see if I can make it different flavors, but why ruin a good thing?

  • cathy

    So I love that I stumbled upon your blog! I am actually wanting to sew some kitchen towels for my new kitchen and I am also going to use some Metro Cafe/Market fabrics!
    anyway, I’m wondering if you can help me find Waffle Weave fabric??? I am having trouble finding it locally (Birmingham, AL) and I am not having any luck on-line either…..any tips you can offer me???
    Thanks in advance!

    • And I love that you are wanting to sew dish towels! They’re so fun to make, and easy! When you’re searching for the waffle weave fabric, try searching for the terms “waffle weave”, “waffle cloth” and “waffle muslin”. Usually each store calls it something else, which can lead to some confusion! I call it waffle weave because the actual weave of the fabric fibers make a waffle pattern, and it’s what it’s most often called. In stores, try looking near the muslin, ticking, and toweling fabrics to find it. It is sometimes also hidden among the children’s prints, where you’ll find more colors of it. Here are two places I found it online at Fabric Depot, and Good luck!

  • Sad towel lady

    This did not turn out well for me. My waffle cloth shrunk so much that my backing fabric is baggy and all the seams became wonky. You might want to advise your readers to prewash the waffle cloth first.
    Here are two pictures…the beautiful towel I made following your instructions and then the same towel after washing and shrinking.

  • Sad towel lady

    Pic #1