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How To - Decorating Dish Towels with Applique by Machine
This How-To is another in our series of easy projects you can create using items in your household you already own or by purchasing inexpensive items. You do not have to have an embroidery machine for this project; any sewing machine with a zig-zag stitch will work. You will be using stash fabrics (or new if you choose), leftover thread, Wonder-Under or other fusible, a set of purchased or made dish towels, and your imagination. Use this concept for holidays, special decorating, or for doing machine applique on garments or pillows. You are not limited to dish towels for sure! We'd love for you to share your results with us for the photo gallery! Any questions? Feel free to email us and ask

This is what the example dish towels will look like at the end of our project. The materials are few. We used a fat quarter of aquatic fabric and purchased dish towels which cost less than a dollar a piece. The threads and Wonder Under were leftovers and essentially cost nothing. Stabilizers for under the embroidery work (a tight zig zag or satin stitch) can be any material from a purchased product to an old piece of paper that you tear away when you're done. We used an old legal pad. Break a few rules and make it fun!

Here we have two very plain dish towels. I got these at Big Lots for less than a dollar a piece. Choose a color which will work with scraps of fabric you already own.

This is a fat quarter of an aquatic design I have had tucked away for a while. It was too wild to do much with, but I dragged it out of hiding for this project because it was summery enough to turn dish towels into hand towels for the bathroom.

Place the Wonder-Under shiny side down on the wrong side of the fabric. Fuse to the fabric following manufacturer's directions using a dry iron. (Steam feature should be off.)

Without removing the Wonder-Under backing, cut out the designs you will be fusing to your dish towel. You can use large or small pieces of the fabric; it's totally up to you!

This is a close up of one of the design pieces we chose to fuse to our towels.

Remove the backing from the Wonder-Under and position your designs on the dish towels in a pleasing arrangement. Make sure the sticky side of the design is on the right side of the towel.

Following manufacturer's recommendations and using a dry iron, press the designs onto the towel, fusing the Wonder-Under backed design to the fabric.

Thread your sewing machine so that a complementary thread for the applique is on top and a complementary thread for the towel is in the bobbin. After testing the stitch length and width on a scrap of fabric, place the stabilizing paper under the towel, placing the towel under the presser foot, and begin to satin stitch (tight zig-zag or other decorative stitch of your desire) the applique to the towel. This provides some stability for washing and extends the life of the applique. If you are using this as a decorative item only, you can skip the reinforcing stitches, but they are highly recommended if you intend to use the items when you're done.

This picture illustrates the paper on the back of the applique. You will need to tear this paper off and discard it. You may use a commercial stabilizer; we chose not to for cost effectiveness. The paper will eventually wash away and does not show.

This is one of the finished towels. The applique was sewn completely around the edges with a zig-zag stitch and for this design, we chose to use some "waves" under the fish.

This picture gives you a better look at the zig-zag satin stitching on the right side of the towel.

Our companion towel was designed a bit differently, but the process is the same - apply Wonder-Under to design fabric, fuse design to towel, stitch for reinforcement, and voila!

Fusibles open a whole near world of decorating. You can fuse flowers to sweatshirts, designs to children's clothing, set a base for mending with a fused patch, and more. There are no limits to the design work you can create. The towels in this project are an example; you can either make a set for yourself or try this principle on another item. These towels hang in our guest bathroom and kids love to look at the designs on the fish! As mentioned, I've brought life to dying or dead dish towels before using fabric applique and a simple zig-zag stitch, and you can too. This project is not only frugal, it's beautiful and practical.

The bottom line with this or any project is to enjoy and experiment. Don't let anything intimidate you. If you want to make something, do it!

We'd love to see any projects you make as a result of this instructional how-to. And as always, feel free to email us with questions;-)

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