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Pretty Vintage Dishtowels

November 25, 2011

Here is a project I made for a birthday present, but that could also be a quick and easy holiday present, or just something pretty for your own kitchen. I can see these in a gift basket with a cool old cookbook, perhaps an apron, oven mitts and some crocheted dischloths. You could also use them to wrap vintage cookie-cutters, or a loaf of homemade bread, or just about anything.

My friend Sarah and I have more in common than just our names. Among our commonalities is a love for vintage goodies – especially those that are kitchen-related. She had a birthday recently, and my mind went to the vintage kitchen place immediately when I was thinking about what to get her. I remembered she had mentioned wanting pretty dishtowels at some point in the past, so I set my mind to thinking.

I’ve collected a few fun old tablecloths that have great colors, great patterns, and a variety of stains and holes. I found two in my stash that are made out of thick, soft cotton, that I thought would work well as dishtowels. One in particular seemed appropriate to use. I purchased this white tablecloth with the teal mushroom print a couple of years ago, with the plan to make two aprons from it. At the time Sarah & I were baking up a storm trying to start up a small baking business. Although the business didn’t happen, the tablecloth was determined to be Sarah’s in one way or another.

I’ve included some photos and basic instructions below, but really, it’s just cutting a rectangle and hemming it. I added some trim and a loop for hanging, but you wouldn’t have to. I hope you enjoy!

Supplies Needed:

  • dishtowel (for size comparison)
  • vintage tablecloth – stains and holes are just fine, you can cut around them!
  • trim (ricrac, pompom trim, ribbon, etc.) if desired
  • scissors, (pins and a ruler are optional)
  • iron
  • sewing machine

Lay out your vintage tablecloth flat on the ground or a large table. Use your existing dishtowel to determine where you would like to cut out your new dishtowel. Take into account the patter, use existing hems if you can, and avoid any stains and holes.

Pin your dishtowel to the tablecloth, being careful to align the grain of the tablecloth with the edge of the existing cloth. Lay your ruler alongside the dishtowel and mark along the far edge – this is your seam allowance. (Full disclosure – I didn’t align, pin or use a ruler. I tend to eyeball these things, and this was no exception. If you feel comfortable just cutting go right ahead, but you may have a wavy dishtowel when all is said and done.) Cut out your towel.


Fold over one long edge about 1/2 an inch and with your iron set at the appropriate level press the edge. Steam may help you get a good hem. Then fold the edge over again about 1/2 an inch and press again. This double-fold will keep your edges from fraying. Fold and press the other long edge in the same way, then fold and press each shorter edge in the same way. The corners will be a bit bulky but this is to be expected.


Start sewing at any corner, using a regular straight stitch. Be sure to anchor your stitching by reversing the direction for a few stitches as you begin. As you reach each corner again anchor your stitches, then stop sewing with the needle in the fabric. Lift the presser foot and swivel your towel 90 degrees, then continue sewing. Keep going until you have finished your towel.

If you’d like to add trim you can sew it on before you do all of the hem, and turn it over with the hem – this will anchor it well, but will also add a lot of bulk to your seam. I chose to add the trim after I’d hemmed. At first I zigzagged the edge of the ricrac to keep it from raveling, but I decided that wasn’t really necessary for the second towel. I stitched the trim along the width of the towel, in line with the pattern on the fabric. I folded the trim over just once and stitched the edge, stitching through both layers of trim and the hem of the towel. If you’d like to add a loop for hanging simply cut a length of ribbon or trim, hem or zigzag stitch the ends, then sew into the hem where desired.

I hope I didn’t make that seem overly complicated. Let me know if you make some yourself!

One Comment
  1. November 28, 2011 11:10 pm

    And I love them!

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