DIY: Decorated Dish Towels as Christmas Gifts

By Marla Walters
Christmas is almost here! Is your first instinct to panic? Don’t! I have an easy gift idea for you to make and give.
Here on the Big Island of Hawaii, decorated dish towels are a … thing. You see them at craft fairs, baby luaus, as hostess gifts—you name it. At work, we even give them away for employee awards with a bar of soap. And why not?

  • Everybody needs towels.
  • They are a thrifty gift, as a new towel costs very little, and you only need fabric scraps to decorate them.
  • They are very easy to make.
Here are the items you will need:


  • Kitchen or bath towels (the samples I made are kitchen towels). If you can, the towels with square thread patterns make it easy to line up your borders and stay straight.
  • A sewing machine.
  • Thread
  • Fabric scraps.
  • A gauge or measuring tape.
  • An iron.

I found towels at my local Ross store, and they are a nice quality. The price was good—$6.99. Dollar stores are also a great place to pick up plain towels for this project.
Anyone who sews has a closet full of scrap fabric. If you don’t, just ask a home seamstress. I promise that she will be glad to help you out.
I started by ironing my towels, so that they would be sure to lay flat. I then raided my fabric scraps pile to find fun contrasting colors. Once I found what I wanted, I ironed the scraps, too.
Next, I cut my scraps. I went with 4-inches wide for the decorative border, which gave me a quarter of an inch to turn under on each of the long sides. I pressed those long edges down, attached it to the towels, and pinned. For the ends, I also folded under a quarter inch of the raw edge and pinned.
I used 10 stitches per inch—8 was too tight—and stitched one-eighth inch from the edge, all around the border. Trim the threads, and you are done!

  • Even small fabric scraps can be cut into shapes and sewn onto the towels, for a fun “quilted” look.
  • While a set of bathroom towels is a bigger, more expensive gift, it’s a great way to incorporate all of someone’s “bathroom colors” into a present.
Great Project for Kids!

This is an excellent project for homeschooling, as it incorporates measurement and use of a sewing machine. Don’t be afraid to let your child experiment a little with the machine. That is how they learn. I used to love trying the zig-zag or decorative stitches, when I was learning to sew. If it doesn’t look perfect, that’s okay. If it’s really awful they can learn about ripping out and developing the patience to do things correctly!
Christian homeschooling moms may want to read, or re-read, JoAnn Gagnon’s excellent article from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine (2009). She set forth the many benefits of teaching children to sew. She also reminds us of Acts 9:36, regarding Dorcas, a woman “full of good works and charitable deeds.” When she suddenly became sick and died, the disciple Peter was called to come. When Peter arrived, mourning widows surrounded him, and they showed Peter the garments that Dorcas had sewn for them while she was alive.
Dorcas is an example of a woman who lived what she believed. She didn’t just talk about helping those in need; she made it a part of her life, and because of that, she was deeply loved by those around her. She used her God-given talent of sewing to do God’s will.

Time Spent on Project

I spent an hour choosing fabrics, cutting, and pinning. Another hour and 15 minutes were spent sewing, but that included machine set-up time, putting everything away, and cleaning up.


I like to tie my towels up with a ribbon. At work, we use raffia, and tuck the soap under the raffia bow. It’s also fun to put them into a gift bag with a sponge, scrubber, and bottle of dish soap. I took a brown and orange set of towels to my hostess on Thanksgiving. The rest went into my “Christmas stash” for when I need a quick gift.
There you have it—quick gifts in about two hours that are also kid-friendly and thrifty projects.
Have fun!
Marla Walters and her husband live in Hilo, Hawaii, along with an active volcano. They have one grown daughter, several spoiled pets, and a yard full of exotic produce. Marla loves all things domestic and enjoys trying things out in order to write about them. She also writes for and

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