Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

A few years ago Page made a beautiful set of Soft Cotton Knit Dishtowels inspired by the subtle nuance of color in her collection of vintage kitchen textiles. Just like her, I am taken with the simple, utilitarian beauty of these classic fabrics; but where Page was inspired by their variety of hues, I am fascinated by their seemingly endless variety of patterns, most of which are created with the humble stripe.

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

With these timeless beauties in mind, I made these Vintage Tea Towels, each machine-stitched in a bright tomato red with its own pattern of stripes and grids. I had so much fun zooming along on my machine that it was impossible to stop at just two or three, so I made six!

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

For the fabric itself I used Robert Kaufman’s Essex, a beautiful blend of cotton and linen that makes these towels light, absorbent, and sturdy enough to stand the test of time. Just like the heirlooms that inspired them! -Corinne

Materials

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

These are enough materials to make 6 Vintage Tea Towels.

Another Option

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

While I was stitching away, I couldn’t resist pairing these classic stitch patterns with the supremely modern Mettler Neon Thread. To make a full set of six towels in the neon, you will need 3 total spools of Mettler Neon Thread (220 yards), shown here in colors Sun and Chrysanthemum. All other materials stay the same.

Notes

Prewash all fabrics before starting.

Pattern

Cut

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

Cut three 18-inch by 31½-inch pieces out of each color of Essex, 6 pieces total.

Note: When cutting simple rectangular shapes for patterns such as this, straight, clean cuts are key. The best way to make these cuts is with a rotary cutter and a non-slip quilting ruler on a self-healing cutting mat. If you have limited experience using a rotary cutter, I recommend visiting our Rotary Cutting Tutorial.

Cut six 4-inch pieces of the ribbon with the edges trimmed at an angle.

Mark and Stitch the Patterns

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

Using the fabric marker and a straight edge ruler, mark out the patterns on each towel.

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

And using the pattern thread, machine stitch along the marked lines with either a straight or zigzag stitch.

Our Stitch Patterns

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

Here’s how to make the same stitch patterns we did!

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

Zigzag Grid

Mark the first horizontal stripe 2 ¼ inches from the bottom edge. Continue making horizontal lines every 1 ½ inches until 2 ¼ inches from opposite end. Mark the first vertical stripe 2 inches in from one side. Continue making vertical lines every 1 ½ inches until 2 inches from opposite side. Sew along these lines with a zigzag stitch. If your machine allows it, set the stitch at width: 2.5 and length: 1.

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

Small Check

Mark the first horizontal stripe ½ inch from the bottom edge. Continue making horizontal stripes every ½ inch until you reach the opposite end. Mark the first vertical stripe ½ inch in from one side. Continue making vertical stripes every ½ inch until you reach the opposite side. Sew along these lines with a straight stitch.

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

Large Check

Mark the first horizontal stripe 2 ¼ inches from the bottom edge. Continue making horizontal lines every 1 ½ inches until 2 ¼ inches from opposite end. Mark the first vertical stripe 2 inches in from one side. Continue making vertical lines every 1 ½ inches until 2 inches from opposite side. Sew along these lines with a straight stitch.

To create the border, mark 1/8 inch on each side of the first and last horizontal and vertical stripes. Using this line as a starting point, sew a series of three stripes, one right next to the other, to create the illusion if one thick line.

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

Pin Stripe

Mark the first stripe 1 ¼ inch from the bottom edge. Continue making horizontal lines every 3/8 inch until 1 ¼ inch from opposite end. Sew along these lines with a straight stitch.

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

Zigzag Stripe

Mark the first stripe 2 ½ inches from the bottom edge. Continue making horizontal lines every ¾ inch until 2 ½ inches from opposite end. Sew along these lines with a zigzag stitch. If your machine allows it, set the stitch at width: 3 and length: .75.

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

Three Stripe Border

Mark the first line of the the first stripe 2 1/2 inches from the bottom edge. Mark two more lines 1/8 and 1/4 inch above the first line. Sew along these lines with a straight stitch. Then, sew a line between the first and second stitched lines and another between the second and third stitched lines. There are now five stitched lines, each 1/16 inch apart.

Start the next stripe 1/4 inch from the top of the first one. And make a third stripe 1/4 inch from the top of the second one. Repeat at the opposite end.

Hem the Sides

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

Fold the edges of the long sides of the towel ¼ inch toward the wrong side twice. Press and pin. Repeat with the short sides.

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

Place the ribbon diagonally in the top right corner on the wrong side of the towel. Tuck the ribbon ends into the folds of the hem and pin into place.

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

Unfold the short sides’ hems at the corners and edge stitch along the folds on the long sides, from end to end.

Vintage Tea Towels | Purl Soho

Re-fold the short side hems along crease lines and edge stitch. Backstitch at beginning and end of the seams and you’re all done!