The Perfect Hostess Gift: Fabric Art Dish Towels


screen printing fabric art
The perfect hostess gift: a set of artfully decorated dish towels.

cate pratoI was sitting at the dining room table the other night mapping out our summer plans on the calendar, actually color coding them to keep track of the comings and goings of four people separately and collectively (e.g. if it’s pink, it must be Meredith’s camp week).

As I was marking off the days of our trip to Michigan to visit my aunt and uncle at their summer house and our weekend to Cape Cod to stay with friends, it occurred to me that I should start doing something about hostess gifts.

Normally, a bottle of wine or a basket of goodies would do. But the people we’re seeing in both places are wine connoisseurs, and goodies don’t travel well. Besides, I wanted to make something more personal, but useful. Yet our hosts don’t really need anything.

That’s when it hit me: dish towels. Who among us has enough dish towels? Especially when you have a summer house where loads of people have big group meals where tons of pots, pans, and serving pieces are used. Plus, I could personalize them with some of the screen-printed fabric I had made from my husband’s drawings a while back.

applique fabric art
Retro Kitchen Towel from Stitch magazine, Summer 2011.

Useful fabric art: what’s better than that?

I got my inspiration for the dish towel I made from two projects, one in the Summer 2011 issue of Stitch and the other in 101 Patchwork Projects + Quilts.

Note: Both of these are easy stitched projects, but if you don’t sew, you could screen-print, heat transfer, or stamp a design on the dish towel instead. Just be sure the towel is made from fabric that is flat enough to accept the stamp or print cleanly, and be sure to heat-set the paint or ink.

I first noticed the Retro Kitchen Set by Jennifer Reynolds in Stitch. This project involves adapting store-bought, waffle weave dish towels into an apron and two decorated towels. For the towel, you attach appliqué designs of fruit onto a background panel. (The appliqué patterns and directions are all in the magazine.)

Then cut off the hem of one short end of the towel and position the right side of the panel on the wrong side of the cut end of the towel, so that when the bottom raw edges are stitched and you flip the decorated panel to the right side of the towel, it is pointing the right way.


patchwork kitchen towel
Easy dish towel project from 101 Patchwork Projects + Quilts.

Finally, just turn under the edges of the panel, press, and top stitch 1/8″ from edge of the fabric with matching or contrasting thread on top and white (or whatever color matches your towel) in the bobbin.

Now, I already had some printed fabric, as I mentioned. But it wasn’t long enough to reach both edges of the towel. That’s when I remembered seeing Charming Dish Towels by Vicki Christensen in 101 Patchwork.

Vicki’s design uses pre-cut 5″ fabric squares stitched together to make a patchwork strip. Then you press the long edges under ¼” and place it, wrong side down, onto the right side of the towel, about 2″ from the edge. Pin the strip in place, finger press the short edges under, pin them, and top stitch as above.

patchwork fabric art
My patchwork towel with
screen printing.

As you can see, I added two pieces of contrasting fabric to each side of my pre-printed fabric to make a patchwork panel similar to Vicki’s. Then I attached it using the method in Jennifer’s instructions. It was easy, fun, and I can’t wait to make more.

I’m sure that, accompanied by an offer to help with the dishes, a set of these towels will make a perfect hostess gift at all our summer travel stops.

Download the digital editions of Stitch and 101 Patchwork Projects + Quilts now, and you can have a set of these towels made for the weekend!

P.S. What’s your idea of a perfect hostess gift to give or receive? Do you usually make something for your hostess? Help me out here, and leave your ideas below.


Blog, Easy Gifts to Make, Fabric Art


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