In the last decade, the new kitchen towels I have purchased have not worn well, nor have they been as absorbent as in the past. In the 1950's, before the dishwasher was common, my mother had dish towels that lasted years and years. Today I cannot get a dish towel to last longer than several months, and I have noticed that they lose their aborbancy quite quickly. I have never used fabric softeners on towels, in the laundry, and yet, the commercial towels break down quite quickly into rags that will not absorb, and will not soak up spills or dry anything. In fact, they just smear the water around as though it were oil. After buying new towels frequently and finding they do not wear or work well in the kitchen, I have attempted to make my own from high quality terry cloth at the fabric store. I'll show you how I did it and then report later how my test model towels performed in the kitchen.
About 2 yards of terry cloth on the left, and a scrap of cotton calico on the right, for the trim, will make these four kitchen towels which I'll use to dry my tea cups and various delicate items that will not go in the dishwasher.
Fold the fabric four times one way and press it with a very hot iron, set on the hottest setting. I like cottons because you can use your highest heat on the iron without ruining the fabric. Then open the fabric and cut along the creases that you ironed, so that you have four pieces.
Iron the scrap of fabric, accordion style, so that you have creases you can cut for the border trim. It does not matter how narrow or wide you make the trim. It is up to you. I used three inches wide.
This is what the piece looks like from the side, when ironed accordion style. It just means that you fold it over and press and repeat until you have 4 identically wide layers that can be cut into strips.
Open the fabric and cut along the pressed lines to make strips.
Iron the long sides of each strip toward the middle.
It looks like this when you turn the strip over so that the raw edges are underneath.
Place an ironed strip about 3/4ths of the way down the towel toward the end, but not too close to the edge, because you are going to leave room for the hem. Clip off any excess fabric.
Pin the strip on the terry cloth in about four segments, to keep it straight. It does not matter if it is not precisely even. I use a long length stitch and medium pressure (the tension dial). I also back stitch at the start and end of each thing I stitch.
Now stitch close to the folded edge, keeping your eye on the needle to make sure it is sewing the strip and not just sewing on the terrycloth outside the strip. Remove each pin as it comes close to the presser foot. Back stitch when you come to the end and turn the piece around to sew the other side of the strip.
This is what it looks like when both sides are sewn on to the towel. Note: It is not necessary to add this trim. If you opt to skip this step, your towels will be finished a lot sooner! Plain towels are also quite lovely to look at and to use.
With iron set on highest temperature (cotton), press firmly 1/4th inch or any amount of your choice, on each long side of the towel. Then, repeat, folding over again, using the raw edge as a guide. Press, using your steam, so that the folded edges will lie flat when you are stitching.
Stitch through all layers (there should be 3), close to the inside edge of the folds, which is the left side of the hem you see here. Repeat on the other long side of the towel. Then iron the short ends a fourth inch, twice, so that the raw edges are not seen, and stitch the same way you stitched the long ends.
Stitch again a row of stitches on the outside edge of the hem, all the way around the towel.
Fold the edges of the towel to the inside, to make it look nice when it hangs in the kitchen.
Here are two of the towels hanging on the handle of the stove in my kitchen.
It could also be used as a hand towel in the bathroom, paired with a pomegranate-mango soap from the dollar store. This would make a nice gift, as well.
You can sew a piece of the trim and make a ribbon to tie up four towels if you need something to give away.
The number of towels you can make with a yard of terry cloth depends on how wide the fabric is. I have made four towels with two yards of fabric, but I like the towels to be large.
The Paula Deen brand of kitchen towels sells for almost $5.00 apiece because it is higher quality than most kitchen towel brands. I made four of these towels for $5.00. I used a coupon, and I like the quality and thickness of these towels so much (even better than the top brands like Paula Deen) that I am going to get a yard of each color of terry cloth in the store and make as many towels as I can. Then I am going to test them to see how long they last, compared to commercial towels. I can already tell by the feel of them that these are more sturdy and absorbent.
This is what the towel looks like with all the edges stitched on the inside of the folded edge and then again on the edge of the towel all around. I'll be letting you know in due time how these towels are wearing. I have used kitchen towels from the age of my youth, and only this year have found the purchased towels to be inadequate and unable to absorb, even though I never use softeners in my wash.
With time spent to stop and take photographs, these towels took a little over an hour to cut and sew.