Holiday gift ideas – the table top (part I)

It’s like a miracle – we’re posting on the blog two days in a row! We’re back to follow up with our first suggestions on gifts for your friends and loved ones who love thoughtful textiles in their kitchen and on their tables. As part of our focus throughout sharing these gift ideas is also talking about how much each of these projects might cost.

When we think about making something, our goal is to have our handmade items look as close to conventionally made goods as possible. And that doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re still new to sewing, you’re probably still challenging yourself to get things looking just right. However, if it was perfect, it wouldn’t be handmade, right? In this post, we’re covering the simplest of hemming/finishing techniques but also demonstrating how to make the narrow hem with a true, right-side topstitch.

Later this week, we’ll also cover reversible napkins and mitered corners.

Tea towels are an instant update to a kitchen and a bright spot on a serving tray. They’re also a rather simple project that can yield two out of less than a yard of fabric.

For ours, we used a cotton and linen blend canvas from Kokka. The print is called Persimmon and it feels just right for the holidays yet extends across all seasons. It’s without a doubt that the Japanese import fabrics wash up insanely well and have a hand that’s incomparable.

A standard tea towel dimension is 19×27 inches. Rather than have to go longer in yardage, we end up cutting 3/4 yard and intend it will be an inch shorter than typical but not a huge change. At $20 per yard with a 45″ fabric, we can get two tea towels in one 3/4 yard cut.

As we mentioned in our previous post, we recognize that our time can’t often be factored in when we love to make things, but we all respond to how much a yard of fabric may cost;).

With the above yardage and cost per yard and yield, these tea towels were $7.75 to make. We’ve included the five inches of twill tape (ours is $.30 per yard) and thread used/purchased. Want canvas linen but want to have even more economics? Check out some of ours in stock from Moda on the site. They hover closer to $13, which would make these towels end up around $5 per towel. These canvas/linen blends are also made in Japan and wash incredibly well. Given the shrinkage rate with linen, you may want to buy a little more, just in case. But again, if they’re not just at 26″, it’s all fine.

The other option, while a little narrower is toweling. Already hemmed on two sides, you’ll be making towels so quick you won’t know what to do!

A set of tea towels is great but if combined with a ready made item or two, one is just right, be it to wrap the gift or be an add-on. Even though I make things, I love the tea towels friends have made. I finally got over my fear of getting them dirty and enjoy using them and thinking of who made them, knowing they would want them to be used and well-loved.

Here’s what you’ll need for two tea towels (adjust yardage as needed for more):

  • Sewing Machine
  • 3/4 Yard of fabric (7 oz canvas works very well but you can use a quilting cotton too)
  • Coordinating thread
  • 10″ twill tape
  • Scissors
  • Hem Gauge
  • *Rotary Cutter/Self Healing Mat/Clear Grider Ruler or Straight Edge (these are optional of course but make the whole cutting situation much easier)

Photo Nov 19, 12 30 46 PM

Cut two congruent rectangles that measure 19 x 26 inches. Then use your hem gauge (set to 1/2″) and start to hem one side. We often start with the bottom hem. Fold over one half inch and then repeat one more time, using pins to secure your hem. Be careful not to slide your iron and press (going straight up and down).


Next, with the wrong side up, see which seam allowance will give you the narrowest hem without missing it. THEN be sure to switch to the right side so your pretty top stitches are on the right side, not the wrong side. Line up to the correct seam allowance and stitch from one end to the other, backstitching at each end. We suggest increasing your stitch length a little since it will make your stitches more even with the increased layers.

This photo shows how to line it up on the wrong side (be sure to switch it to the right side and line up accordingly).

Photo Nov 19, 12 43 10 PM

Next you’ll choose one of the side seams to hem, depending on if you want your towel hook on the left or the right. If it’s not the side you want, repeat the hem step and then follow with the side that will have the towel hook.

After pressing your hem in place, measure approximately five inches from the top of the towel, line up the end of five inches of twill tape underneath the double hem and pin in place. Have it positioned diagonally so that the other end will easily go under the hem on the top side.

Photo Nov 19, 12 55 06 PM

Topstitch the hem in place on the right side, back stitching at each end.

Photo Nov 19, 1 27 47 PM

Next you’ll do the top hem, making sure to tuck the towel hook underneath the hem. Depending on how it lines up with the top hem, you may need to trim or fold for it to align just right.

Photo Nov 19, 1 19 53 PM

Once it’s pin in place, you’ll do the final right side top stitch of your hem, back stitching at each end.

Trim your threads, press if needed and then pair it with your favorite gift item. We’re popping in ceramics, cook books, tea, coffee and the like.

Stay tuned, we’ll be sharing mitered corners and the reversible approach to other table top goods this week! Even if you don’t give as gifts, they’re also great for getting your own table top ready if you have time;).

Happy Sewing!

One response to “Holiday gift ideas – the table top (part I)

  1. Pingback: Another year, another last-minute gift hustle |·

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