Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Washcloths and Towels from Terry-Cloth Fabric

On a Sunny Day  by Fasani

This is a simple project made by using the zig-zag or satin stitch on the sewing machine. Place an old washcloth on thin towelling fabric and cut around it. A fourth yard should yield several wash-cloths. I am making them in green and yellow and white, as well, but the above picture shows what I have finished.

 After cutting the cloth the size you want,  place your machine stitch settings at the widest and longest stitch, and as close together as you can without getting it tangled and bogged down. I used 1.5 , which is close to the satin stitch. I went around the cloth twice in the wide zig-zag and got good results.

Then I clipped a little rose from some other fabric, which you see, above, and stitched around it in the same way.

These make quick gifts and could even be used for napkins if you have a large family and do not want to buy paper napkins. 

Towels, using the same technique.

Other pieces of thin towelling, right, and a left over piece of calico on the right. I plan to cut out some of the roses and place them on the edges, as I did with the coral ones, at the beginning of this post.

This is the view from my front window which I see as I sew. I am not quite snowed-in, but it is getting close.


Anonymous said...

I like this idea. I really like camel colored dish cloths but rarely find them.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous 7:22 May I ask why you like camel colored dishcloths? Camel, like dark beige? I am just curious :)

This is a beautiful idea, Lydia, and something I'll have to try. I have done quite a bit of sewing in my time, but have to admit I'm a little afraid of the zig-zag/satin stitch on my machine...spells tangled disasters to me! Are there any little tricks that you find make this easier? Besides just messing with tension, stitch length, broken needles, etc., like I always do!!

Thank you so much for thinking of so many beautiful things.

Lydia said...

I do not care to use the satin or buttonhole stitch for projects, as it does get tangled. So, I use one really close to it, like 1.5 or 1...just before you turn the dial over to the satin stitch. That way, it goes through the machine more easily. Then, I go around the seam again.
Some of the commercial wash cloths have synthetics in them that make them curl up or not even absorb and they also stain really bad. These cotton ones are not as thick and plush as a commercial wash cloth but they are very absorbant and very soft. It is not necessary to put an applique on them (this is just done with a scrap of fabric and a zig-zag stitch) but it is a nice touch for your home.

If you make a little thing each week, such as a pillow, a tea wallet (see the Pleasant Times blog) or a placemat, you can have quite a collection for gifts by the end of the year. I believe hand work should be a daily part of a woman's life at home, and it should be the choice that pleases her the most. It does not even have to be particularly useful, as the hand work itself is so beneficial, especially if it is beautiful. We are still seeing much of the crocheted work in the antique stores done by women of the past.

Anonymous said...

I have done a lot of applique and machine embroidery work over the years and I found one thing that helps keep the tangles out of zigzag and satin stitch work.

Assuming you have the correct tension on your machine and bobbin then if you use a piece of paper like unprinted newsprint or some commercial stabilizer at the back of your work it will stabilize the fabric and the threads won't bunch up or get tangled as easy.

Also if you pull both tail threads to the top surface and hold onto them when you first start stitching they will not tangle. Then simply tear away the paper or stabilizer after stitching. Some stabilizers even rinse away.

Martha Pullen uses stabilizer for many of her heirloom sewing projects even lace making. This also keeps the work flat and not all stretched out of place.

Janet Westrup.

Anonymous said...

Hello Lydia,

I love these terry cloth wash clothes you have made. They are wonderful. Maybe a set of bath towels to go with them.

Oh wouldn't that be the perfect wedding gift or wedding shower gift for a new bride.

Janet Westrup.

Anonymous said...

I actually prefer the lighter weight cotton wash clothes or towels.. They are less bulky in the hand and dry quicker too. I use them as dish cloths in the kitchen using ones in my kitchen colors. Also as you said, they do not retain the stains like the synthetics do. By making your own you can make the dish clothes and and hand drying towels too in the same colors. Either crocheting a top with a button to attach it to the stove handle or another or using cloth prints made like this. I can get both projects made out of the good parts of an older towel. Often there would be enough for pot holders making the potholders at least two towel layers. Thank you Lady've got my creative thinking cap on again! :) Sarah

Anonymous said...

One can also make washcloths out of old bath towels. Often, when a bath towel is ready to be retired from regular use, there is still enough good fabric left to get several washcloths out of it.

I always appreciate your posts.

Mrs. Craig

Anonymous said...

Lydia, I really appreciate you sharing your belief that a little handwork should be done each day! There are so many small notions of what's good and ought to be done that mold our lives as women of duty and integrity and add order and serenity to our surroundings. Sometimes, when I have a really large project to face and keep finding other things to do instead, I become so haunted by a feeling of shirking or guilt that it ruins the rest of my day. But, if I go and do a small amount and keep making project daily, I have a sense of peace and serenity. I think I used to have quite a problem with putting things off and really NEVER getting things done, that I would feel I had to tackle a big job and do it all at once and forever and it just wore me out and made me miserable. But in later years I've discovered I do have the discipline to come back to a project day after day until it's completed, and it's made me a stronger woman.

Seeing handwork as a 'job' or a 'duty' is an excellent idea and a reward for accomplishing the less creative areas of responsibility.

Thank you, Lydia and Janet, for the tips on using the zig-zag. Can't wait to try it out!

Blessed Homemaking said...

I love it! You are so creative! Thank you for teaching us women who didn't have a momma who passed down these skills to us. Really, I am so appreciative.

Mrs. Q

Lydia said...

As I am more snowed-in today, I will not be able to go back to the fabric store and get more supplies, but I am working on the green towel set today. These are all going to be gifts, except for one set for my guest bathroom. Trace around a baby wash cloth on a fourth yard strip of this thin towelling and you shoudl get 10 or 12 washcloths, and they are far better than the commercial ones. Those commercial baby wash cloths are just not worth the money spent on them, and they curl up and stain terribly. They look pretty in the package but they look awful after use. These can be used by children too and if you make them with special appliques for each child, they look forward to bathtime.

My soap cake slices really match this towel set and I plan to make more to match the other towels. I have ordered a special paper that you use in the copy machine, to put a picture on the soap bars, which is water soluable, for making the melt and pour soap at home. YOu can order this from a company called Brambleberry Soap Company online.nThey have a video on their website to show how to apply these papers to the soaps you make.

Lydia said...

I will add more pictures soon of other finished towels with borders on them from fabrics.

The machine tends to ruffle the edges of the towels but I think it looks rather nice. They can be pressed down with a hot steam iron if you want them absolutely flat, however I quite liked the hand made look of the ruffled edges.

Lydia said...

Thanks Janet for the tips. I wish I had known this years ago. There are a lot of nice products now including a dissolvable type of backing that you sew with.

Miss Linda said...

These are so lovely. Thank you for sharing your technique. I look forward to seeing more of your projects!

Anonymous said...

Dear Lydia,

I put a lot of patches on old towels recently, that have rips or holes. I used a cute cotton print, and made something like you did with the roses, only bigger and square, for holes.

I am finally happy with my "shabby" towels - I don't like them "plain" or too thick and fluffy. They look so cute to me, and sometimes I am just practicing my sewing technique on something that won't matter.

My problem is that some of my family members see me do things like this, and immediately feel sorry for me, and go out and pick a new set for me, after I did all that work, making the ones I have into what I like!

This happens a lot to me, in various projects that I do, because I much prefer to personalize and salvage something old and make it mine.

It may sound like the people are trying to be nice, but it is more of a pushy, suggestive thing, like they don't want to have to be embarrassed of my old towels, so they will take care of the problem for me, so that I won't have to be embarrassed either!

They are also embarrassed of the time I spent accomplishing such an unimportant thing.

They are not the "I was just thinking of you" type, but the "I was just thinking you should do this instead" type.

You understand, I am not just talking about towels, this is just a small example. How do you deal with someone picking out their own taste in gifts to give - not just one thing to express affection, but big sets of things -choosing for you, something you may have been planning to purchase for a long time, always something totally opposite of what you value, and it would be really awkward to avoid using them once they've been purchased for you?

I live in fear that I will be recieving a full brand new set of towels pretty soon! :)

Anonymous said...

What you describe seems to be a common practice among those who have never had to do without, nor are creative, whether necessity or not. I was given a new subscription to a magazine because i had stopped getting it and each month, as other ladies do, i got out all the old issues! I kept the old ones because the new ones did not appeal to me as much. The person said, "I felt so sorry for you when i saw you putting out the old ones." They didnt know that it gave me much pleasure to read the old ones, like watching a well loved movie.

Anonymous said...

I think that this is something that a lot of people do not understand in our world today where most people do not do without and they are not interested in making anything last longer. I see so much waste from my relatives and other people around me and it really bothers me. I have talked to my mom about this very subject and we both cannot understand why people are so wasteful and throwing things away that are perfectly fine. My mom was helping a relative clean up their house after they moved one time and there were all kinds of beautiful things in the floor and the relative said to just throw it all away. Of course, my mom asked for the items but after awhile she became embarrased to ask for it all because there was so much. What would people of the past think of our society today, I wonder??

Anonymous said...


You simply MUST take a look at 'Sewing Made Easy' over on Magdalena's blog!! Here is the link...

This is one of the best sewing blog entries I have ever read (with all respect to your own fine blog).

I thought of you immediately.

Baylee said...

Lydia, these towels look BEAUTIFUL! I'm trying to turn a whole bunch of Terry cloths into reusable toilet paper. I got a 60 pack of them from Sam's Club and I was looking on Google for a way to keep the edges of the squares from running in the wash. Thank you! Can't wait to try this

Lydia said...

Unless you want a severe plumbing problem — you can’t flush any kind of wipes unless it is bathroom tissue made specifically for toilets. Cloth will not disintegrate in water and it’s imperative you don’t flush anything but bathroom tissue. Do not even use paper towels or Kleenex type paper. There’s an entire septic system to consider. You cannot flush feminine products or baby wipes or hand wipes or disposable diapers.