Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Beginner Sewing: Tea Towel

Tranquil Waters by Henri Biva  1848-1928, French

Today's beginner project is a dish towel, sometimes called a tea towel. It can also be made of muslin. Since this is 100% cotton, it can be used as muslin.  

Lay a dish towel that you already have, on a piece of your fabric, with the selvage at the lower end of the towel. Cut around the dish towel, leaving ample room on all sides, for hemming, which is about a half an inch on all sides, except for the selvage edge.

. Above you see a roll of grosgrain ribbon, which you can get at the dollar store, and a strip of co-ordinating pink cotton fabric. If you do not have ribbon for trim, you can make your own, with the strip of fabric.

At the start of each sewing project, the fabric must be pressed, using a cotton or linen, very hot, setting.

On the two long sides, iron a hem one-fourth inch wide.  Then iron it down one-fourth inch at the one short end. 

Iron each long side another one fourth inch and tuck in all the stray threads. Now, stitch all three edges down, using a running stitch, an overcast stitch, or a slip-stitch. Look up illustrations of these stitches so that you can see how they are made. You may run out of thread and have to tie off and re-thread your needle several times. Putting too much thread in your needle can cause a lot of tangling, so if you are a beginner, you might be able to manage a limit of one foot  of thread at a time. 

Above, is a raw edge, 

and here is the selvage edge. I wrote about this in a previous project. It is the part of the fabric that is bound at the cotton mill, and will not unravel. It helps to use this edge to avoid extra steps in sewing. You do not have to turn it down and hem it.

After hemming all three sides if you are not adding trim, iron your towel and fold it in thirds. Note the selvage edge is the lower part of the towel. You have hemmed only three sides, and saved some time by using the selvage as one edge.  Tie a fancy shoe lace to make a loop and hang it up on a hook. This cotton towel works really well on glassware and cutlery. Unlike terry cloth, it does not leave any cotton residue on the dishes. It is great for tea cups, too.

I will post a print-out pattern for this precious pig toy.  If you do not have printed fabric, sew all the projects so far, in white muslin. 

Why does it matter whether or not you learn to hand-sew?  Firstly, you might not be in a place where you can get things ready-made. Secondly, there will be times when you will want to be frugal, and sewing certainly can be less expensive. Thirdly, hand work is good for the mind, and fourthly, it leaves something to show for the time you have spent, and fifthly, it is beautiful and calming to look at. It is important to be able to make things yourself and not be helpless. In good times, sewing can be a leisure activity, and in difficult times, sewing can fill an important need.  


candy said...

so lovely!!
i love the fabric youve been using, very, very pretty!

Lydia said...

Candy, the fabric is from Wal Mart, about three dollars a yard. You can do a lot with one yard.

Lisa G. said...

Sewing my own dish towels is something which I had never thought of!

Kelsye Cassell said...

So pretty:) When I hand sew the stitches are always really loose and they come out easy. I'm not sure what I am doing wrong on them.

p.s. the little pig is sooooo cute. I'll have to make one for my little sister:)

Anonymous said...

As someone who is wanting to learn to sew, I really appreciated this mini sewing lesson. Let's just hope that I can remember it when I attempt to do the project myself.

Just curious though, about how many towels could you make with one yard of fabric?

~Mrs. Lady Sofia~

Anonymous said...

If you get a 1 1/4 yd. of fabric that is 45". If you split the fabric on the fold then you have two very generous tea towels that measure about 22 1/2"x45".

Most bolts of fabric are approx. 45" wide.

Anonymous said...

Miss Kelsye,
your stitches may be a wee bit too big and maybe not quite tight enough. If you try to get about 8-10 stitches to the inch and backstitch every couple of inches your stitches should stay in a little better.

If by chance they do come loose then you can catch and repair it before the whole seam comes loose.

Back stitching is a tiny single knot every so many inches that quilters use when working on a quilt.

To make the needle glide through the fabric a little better always use natural fibers fabric like 100% cotton, silk, wool or linen.
And try rubbing the needle sideways across your scalp. The ladies who quilted and hand sewed their clothes years ago did this, and the needle just slid through the fabric.

Be careful not to poke yourself. This method works with diaper pins as well. Oh, guess I'm dating myself now. No diaper pins needed these days.

Anonymous said...

The Susanh Rios paingings you posted just made me sigh...they are sooo lovely...I want to live in the Hill House...it looks as tho' it's abandoned, doesn't it?

Love how to make a tea towel...so nice!

Lynn M