An easy way to save space in your linen closet is to actually stock it with linen! I started using linen towels a few months ago and there’s no going back. Not only is linen more absorbent than cotton, it is also naturally anti-microbial, so my linen towels stay fresher longer. Since the towels are thinner, they also dry more quickly than bulky cotton terry cloth towels so this saves time and money when being laundered. Other advantages of linen are that it is more durable than cotton, it is actually stronger when wet, the fibres become softer over time, and it doesn’t shed lint like terry cloth. AND, like the title suggests, since the towels are thinner, they take up a fraction of the space in the linen closet!
Linen is viewed by many people as a “luxury” fibre (and it is!) but making these towels yourself with a simple cotton twill tape trim will cost you a fraction of the cost of ready-made linen towels. The retail price of the materials used in this tutorial is approximately $25. A quick scan of linen towels for sale online showed many towels well over $100 per towel!
BONUS: This tutorial will show you how to make a bath towel, but the technique will also work for hand towels and tea towels. (Hint: Linen tea towels make amazing host gifts!)
Cutting your fabric
To cut the fabric on grain, the best way is to pull a thread across the width of the fabric. Make a snip into the selvedge close to one end of your fabric. Pull one of the threads from where you snipped it. Continue pulling until the thread comes free. Where the thread is missing, you will now have a guide on where to cut. Cutting your fabric in this manner will ensure that your towels are at perfect right angles and won’t twist out of shape when washed.
Measure the width of your towel and make a snip at this mark and repeat the same process as described above.
Remove the selvedges from the fabric. The selvedges will usually be about ½” – 5/8” wide.
Binding your Towel
Step 1: Measuring
Measure the perimeter (outside edges) of your towel and make sure you have ample cotton twill tape to cover the perimeter. You may also want to cut a small piece of the twill tape to create a loop for hanging.
Step 2: Start Stitching
Line up your twill tape with one corner of your towel and stitch close to the edge with a ¼ seam allowance. I used a walking foot to make sure that the twill tape and the fabric fed evenly through the machine.
Step 3: Stitching corners
Continue stitching toward the next (second) corner. Stop stitching ¼” from the end of the towel. Leave the needle in the fabric and pivot your work 90 degrees clockwise so that the edge of the twill tape is facing you. Carefully clip into the edge of the twill tape toward the needle. Turn your work back around (180 degrees counter-clockwise) so that the twill tape is lined up with the next edge of your towel.
Continue stitching toward the next (third) corner. If you would like to add a loop for hanging the towel, fold a small piece of twill tape in half and line up the cut edges of the loop with the edge of your towel, sandwiching the loop between the fabric and the twill tape. When you get to the next corner, follow the same instructions for going around the corner as you did for the first corner.
Repeat for the fourth corner.
Step 4: Stitching the Last (First) corner
When you arrive back at the first corner simply continue stitching to ¼” away from the edge. Leave the needle in your work and pivot 90 degrees counter-clockwise. Stitch across the width of your twill tape and then continue right off the edge of your towel. Cut off the remaining twill tape even with the edge of the towel. Trim your threads and bring your work to the ironing board.
Step 5: Pressing edge
Press the twill tape away from the towel along the stitching line. Wrap the tape to the back side of your towel and press again. You should not be able to see the twill tape from the front of the towel. Press a tidy mitre into the twill tape at each of the corners and pin in place. The first/last corner will simply be turned right sides out. It is best to trim the corner to reduce bulk after it is turned. Bring your work back to the sewing machine.
Step 6: Stitching twill tape in place
With the bulk of your towel to the left of your sewing machine and the twill tape facing up, stitch very close to the unstitched edge of the tape, pivoting at the mitred corners. If you are using a contrast tape, make sure that your bobbin thread matches your fabric, and your needle thread matches the tape. Once you have stitched the entire perimeter, backstitch or tie off your threads and trim your threads closely.
Congratulations on finishing your towel. At this point I laundered my towel and gave a quick press before popping it in the now spacious-feeling linen closet. This is a pretty quick project but you will enjoy your efforts for years to come!