One of the projects we’re doing in my summer embroidery classes is an embroidered dish towel. We’re using flour sack towels and embroidering a little (actually, relatively big) design on them. I thought it would be a good project for the older kids (ages 11-14), and I’m also doing it with the adult beginners. So, here’s my class sample and a little information about the set up and stitching…
First of all, keep in mind that flour sack towels can be a delight to embroider on, or they can be a pain. Good flour sack towels take hand embroidery very well!
I get my flour sack towels from American Chair Store (ACS Home & Work). Their deluxe flour sack towels are are super smooth and super sturdy – not the flimsy, filmy, wrinkly kind sported by Walmart and Target.
The only reason I bring this up is because I did buy some from Walmart and Target – and they were thin and flimsy – gauzy, really. And gauzy fabric doesn’t support a lot of stitching well.
The towels are huge – 30″ x 30″ – which makes them great for using as a tea cloth as well. They make a nice little decorative spread for the middle of the table.
I’ve read on some blogs that embroiderers will often cut the flour sack towels in half and hem up the fourth side (where the cut is) to make two towels. I suppose that’s a good idea, if you want a smaller towel.
My original intention, as I noted before when I was introducing you to my monogrammed guest towel sample, was to use iron-on transfers for most of our projects this summer, so that we could save some time on setting up projects. But that changed as I prepared my sample for stitching!
I purchased a few sets of Aunt Martha transfers – Wine Country and Java Break – but the transfers were bigger than I liked. I wanted them just slightly smaller! So I reduced them on the copier and traced them.
Yeah. That’s right. I traced 20 towel designs – and that was just the flour sack towels! I’ve also ended up tracing designs on 20 other towels for the younger kids. They aren’t flour sack towels, though. They’re gingham towels and smaller kitchen towels. That was a lot of tracing! I used a light box, and a micron art pen on the gingham towels and smaller kitchen towels. On the flour sack towels, I used a #2 pencil.
For stitching, the kids are using two strands of DMC and a variety of stitches. I thought of the towel project as a sampler, in a sense. That is, it would give the kids practice on their line stitches (I’m emphasizing even stitches and smooth lines), but at the same time, it would give them a finished, colorful project that they could keep or give to Mom or Grandma, or whatever. (Kids like finished projects!)
Here’s my class sample, which is from the Java Break collection:
Of course, I had to pick the pattern with the cupcake. There’s nothing like a bit of pink frosting…
There are three reasons I like to use whipped backstitch with the kids: 1. it creates a relatively smooth line, compared to plain backstitch; 2. It’s easy; and 3. It’s like learning two stitches in one, since they have to learn the backstitch, anyway!
I worked the letters in chain stitch in dark brown, and, in light brown, I worked a line of stem stitch right next to the chain stitch, to give the letters a milky look to the coffee – just to set the letters off a bit.
The cup and saucer and the dessert plate are worked in chain stitch, in a bright yellow and red. No complicated color choices here!
And the decoration on the cup – the red grid – is worked in backstitch. The coffee inside the cup is worked in rows of stem stitch (used as a filling), and the steam rising from the coffee is also worked in stem stitch.
So, overall, the towel gives the students the opportunity to practice some common line stitches – especially chain stitch, stem stitch, and backstitch – and (hopefully!) to perfect their spacing and sizing of their stitches.
You know what? I had fun stitching this towel! I’m thinking about doing the other three corners, so the thing can be used as a little “coffee cloth” (as opposed to tea cloth). Really, the towel is big enough to spread as a tea cloth on your table. It’s not super fine linen, that’s true, but it would be fun to spread out for a coffee break when your pals stop by for a cup!
Other ideas: great wedding gifts for coffee drinkers, fixed in a basket with other coffee supplies (some special cups or whathaveyou)…. or, do a bread / wheat motif in all the corners, and use it as a liner for a large basket of bread when company’s coming, or when you’re having a cookout and you want to put the hamburger buns in a basket and cover them. So many ideas… so little time!