Making your own linen guest towels is pretty fast and easy if you sew anything at all. And that’s splendid as I love linen. Love the look, love the feel, love working with it.
I know I’ve mentioned that I often rely on Napkins Online from eBay rather than sewing out mitered cornered napkins – but hey – at about $1.50 each it’s worth it if I have a bunch (sets of 12) to make given I like the whole mitered corner thing. Four or 6 double sided napkins with cute rik rak, aka the Halloween ones I discussed with tutorials here, yield very satisfying high speed results. Linen mitered corner napkins in larger numbers lose their appeal quickly. Not so the linen towels. You’re not burning your fingertips trying to press and miter really small hems. And, two make a very nice gift. Keep your regular bath towels out but make 2 guest towels in coordinating colors to place over them for your holiday of choice.
Pretty much, I pick up my linen at JoAnn on sale. The folks over at Martha Stewart Living had recommended Gray Line Fabrics in one of their articles and I keep them bookmarked in case I need a color I can’t find locally. They have a wonderful selection and reasonable prices.
I simply cut rectangles 25 inches by 15 inches. First press the hems – I like to use a stiff piece of cardboard as a guide, for those in the U.S. priority mail envelopes have a nice edge to help with straight hems. First, press all around less than a ¼ inch. Then make a second pass. Finished side hems are about ¼ inch, back hem about ½ inch and front hem 1 ½ inch. Decorate to your liking. Machine embroider, hand embroider, stitch rick rak, trims or fabric strips across or appliqué with either iron on or stitching. The one thing to keep in mind is that linen really only looks good if you iron it while damp – it can be difficult to get crisp looking otherwise.
I’d purchased some linen guest towels here and they’re fine -literally and figuratively (she’s a popular seller). My Nice / Naughty stitching actually poked a hole through the purchased towel when stitching out the poinsettia (i.e. the fine notation). For my handcrafted linen towels I use a bit sturdier linen so I have more design choice in machine embroidery I’ve used JoAnn’s 100% linen (note the linked linen is 53 inches wide), not a handkerchief linen which would be too fine. You could go with linen look (55% linen, 45% rayon) or craft some very inexpensively using “poor man’s linen”, osnaburg (100% cotton), if you prefer. I’ve decided I like my handcrafted better then the “for sale hemstitch”. If you like the look of hemstitch but want to make towels, check out the fancy stitches on your machine. You may find you like an airy, feathering stitch along the hemline just as well.
Always prewash and dry (low if linen, high for cottons). If you machine stitch items that later shrink, you’ll end up with something that’s only good as a rag – it will never look good again (picture a scrunched up embroidery design that never flattens out). For this reason be careful when purchasing items to embroider. I’d bought some cotton waffle weave that shrank terribly. I was a tad forewarned as the site said wash cool lay flat – but I don’t know anyone I could gift waffle weave cotton dish towels who would not throw them in the washer and dryer so I bought a few as an experiment. I was surprised to find someone was actually selling cotton dishtowels that couldn’t go in the dryer to crafters as embroidery blanks. They are now with my rags, luckily I didn’t embroider with them first. I can understand with linen, but cotton waffle weave? I only hope crafters reselling these didn’t lose their reputation and customers. Not pre-washing keeps that crisp, new look. But it can bite you later. Always pre-wash. Starch after if you like and want a crisp new look. (aside: I did email the seller, saying the warning was there so I didn’t want a refund but it wasn’t big and could cost customers – I noticed they came off the site’s offerings).
I use various shades of linen above are 2 in the “natural” look. The runner they are sitting on is linen yardage from Ikea (seemed to be a summer product only).
The Dove towel stitched out beautifully. The Peace on the right I’d edited by removing the dove and added the word peace. My machine then had problems stitching it out (no stop from green to red on 2 of the poinsettias that you can see). When machine embroidery fouls up – it can be nasty. Nests of threads knotted together on the underside, can poke big holes, and worse. My first machine had a ton of problems (and these puppies can be expensive). The retailer finally swapped it for a different new one and it’s been clear sailing since, but at first it was way too finicky and unpredictable.
The designs on the towels I’m displaying are: Embroidery Library Watercolor Maple Leaves and Embroidery Library Victorian Christmas Dove. I usually edit the colors to suit me better. The Nice, Naughty I’d put together with my font program. I have so many small holiday designs I’m not sure where those particular poinsettia and mistletoe came from.
If you don’t want to “sew your own” Dharma trading has very reasonably priced linen runners (and Napkins Online has linen cotton blend runners). For something different in hand embroidery designs, check out Sublime Stitching or Urban Threads. Using trims, fabrics and appliqué on your guest towels is as limitless as your imagination.
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