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Embroidery Tips & Techniques

7 Ordinary Towels – One Fabulous Gift Part 2 of 2

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Add the Icing

In case you missed the first installment of this 2 part series click here:  7 Ordinary Towels – One Fabulous Gift Part 1

In Part 1 I shared my tips for creating curved lettering and combining the lettering with embroidery designs.  Now we’ll take a look at how to “add the icing” to complete the dishtowels.

Here’s the before

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And here’s the after

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Once your embroidery is finished, it’s time to add the ruffle and ribbon.

Cut seven fabric strips 4 ½” x WOF (44”).

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Fold in ½” hem on both short sides.  Stitch.  Serge the top of the strip (if the pattern is directional, serge the long edge that will be attached to the towel.) Use a rolled hem foot to get a nice sharp hem on the remaining long side.  Here’s how to use it.

Fold under approximately ¼”.

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Fold again.

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Place the fabric strip (wrong side up) under the presser foot.

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Grasp the thread tails that are behind the foot (the tails that are extending out from the two stitches) and take two stitches.

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Lift the presser foot and insert the folded edge into the fabric guide on the rolled hem foot.  Lower the presser foot.

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The guide will feed the fabric as the fabric moves under the presser foot.

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You’ll get a nice, crisp hem.

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Now – let’s ruffle. I use a dependable technique that lets me completely control the amount of fabric.  I simply couch over a nylon cord and pull the cord to gather the ruffle. I love lush, full ruffles so I always multiply the width of the finished strip by 2.5.  If my strip is a bit longer – all the better.

Select a nylon cord. I purchased mine at a home supply store.  Nylon is slippery – a helpful attribute for this technique.  Select a wide and long zigzag stitch (5.0 stitch width; 5.0 stitch length).  Place the fabric strip under the presser foot with the edge of the strip about ¼” beyond the foot edge. Place one end of the cord under the foot and pull it from behind the foot with your left hand.  Hold onto the cord in front of the foot and pull it up through the opening in the foot.

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Put the presser foot down. The presser foot will hold the cord in place.  Start sewing and keep your fingers on the cord as it slides off the spool and into the foot.  Guide the fabric with your left hand.

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Since the cord is inserted into the opening in the foot, there’s little chance you’ll actually stitch on the cord. You do not want to stitch on the cord – it defeats the whole purpose of couching.  If you do, just snip the one or two stitches that caught the cord.  Repeat for all strips.

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Mark the centers of the strip and towel by folding each in half.  Pin the center of the strip, right side up, to the center of the towel, right side up.  Pull the cord on the right side, smoothing the strip as the fabric gathers.

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Once the strip is the same size as that half of the towel, secure the cord around a pin at the edge of the towel.

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Add more pins along the strip to hold the ruffles in place.  Repeat for the left side of the strip. Set aside and repeat on each towel.

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Place the ruffle under the presser foot.

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Lower the needle and release the pin and cord. Sew along the ruffle.

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Repeat for all ruffles.

Pin a ribbon over the raw edge of the ruffle.  Fold under the short ends of the ribbon and sew on both long sides of the ribbon catching the ruffle.

What fun!

Special Program!

It’s Sew Easy is a unique how-to television program. You won’t find a host – instead, a selection of industry experts share their top tips with you. It’s an in-depth personal sewing/embroidery/quilting lesson in your own home.

Watch a special viewing of episode 105 of It’s Sew Easy at It will begin airing at noon EST on April 27th and be available for viewing for ONE week only. You’ll see my exclusive tips for monogramming napkins and towels which include speedy tips for embroidering multiples. And you can catch Tricia Waddell and Katrina Loving demonstrating how to use needle-turn appliqué on pillows and wall hangings. Finally, Pam Damour wraps up the show with 10 steps to the perfect pillow. Click here to watch It’s Sew Easy!

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  • Martie Dutro

    I really like the neat little hems. Plus the closeups on how to do. I have never known how to use that hem foot. Thank you. The project is very pretty and I will try it.

  • Peggy Schroeder

    Hi, Which foot did you use to stitch the nylon cord? I have been cutting the fabric 6 inches wide, (cut two strips), sew the strips together, then sew the long edges right sides together to make a tube, turn it, starch and iron it, and then run it through the ruffler/pleater foot. It makes a nice pleated ruffle to put on the bottom of the towels. One long one will do two tea towels. Your way looks like a little less work so I am going to try it. I have been trying to avoid having the back of the ruffle look unfinished, but I think if I do it your way, it will be ok. I am going to try it anyway. Thanks so much, I always learn something from you.

    • eileenroche

      Hi Peggy! I just use a zigzag foot – it has wide opening to accommodate the left and right swing of the needle.

      • Peggy Schroeder

        Hi Eileen,
        Thanks, I tried the hem stitch foot yesterday, and it worked fine. With a little more practice, I think it may become easier to do on the towels than the tube/with ruffler foot. I went to the hardware store and got the nylon cording, of course I already had lots of cotton, but that does not slide very easy. The guy at the store wanted to know what I was doing with it, and when I told him, he asked me to bring in pictures of it to put up! I use the zig zag foot to put elastic in, so this should be a snap.
        Thanks for all of your help, I appreciate it.

  • Gail Beam

    Thanks for the neat tip on using the rolled hemming foot. I like to use a cord when I ruffle too. It makes ruffling so easy@

  • Renee

    Great directions but do you leave the cording I or take out?

    • eileenroche

      Hi Renee. I remove as much as the cord as possible but truth be told, I don’t worry about it when I’m covering it with ribbon. In a garment, I would gently remove the cord once the ruffle is pinned to the garment.

  • Donna

    These towels are so cute. I have been making a tube and then using the ruffling foot. Covering the raw edge with ribbon sounds a lot easier and will use less fabric with the hem. I like it!

  • Barb Miller

    I hope to find some towels like yours so I can try your method.

  • Dong Emswiler

    I have a few question to you, publish to individuals I don’t e-mail

  • Erma

    Love your towels. This has inspired me to get some done for Christmas gifts.

  • Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of that, this is great blog. A great read. I’ll definitely be back.

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  • Sera King

    Love your magazine, my question, towels come in various sizes,so is there a rule of thumb as to the size of the monograms that will coordinate to the size of the towel? Thank you