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ScrapBusters: Patchwork Bound Washcloths

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It's ScrapBusters time, and today we're targeting some of the smaller pieces in your bag of favorite fabric bits. Our project takes the ordinary washcloth to the next level by adding a very pretty patchwork bound edge. We created a standard single fold bias binding and attached it in the traditional two-step method to a soft terry cloth center. There are links within the article below to full tutorials on both making and attaching bias binding. The extra-special part is how the binding is created from a patchworked panel. Pull out some of your favorite skinny scraps, piece them together side by side, then cut the bias strips from this assembled fabric panel. 

For our samples we dove into five different collections and mixed and matched our strips from within each collection. You could also mix and match between collections, choose a rainbow of solids, or different shades of just one color. The idea is to be random. By using varying widths, colors and/or motifs, you'll end up with a wonderful blast of color around the edge of each washcloth. A pattern is offered below to help you evenly round all four corners of the terry cloth square. Precise and even curves make binding easier and results in a smoother finish.

This is a super easy project; you could make stacks of cloths in a single afternoon. Roll and bundle a coordinated group into a fancy whicker basket, toss in a few specialty lotions or soaps, and you have an adorable gift for summertime baby or wedding showers.

Each washcloth uses approximately 56" of ½" bias binding. If you are making a number of washcloths, you can use a manual bias tape maker or our favorite, the Simplicity Automatic Bias Tape Maker to speed up the process. 

Each washcloth finishes at approximately 13½" x 13½".

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

Supplies shown are for ONE washcloth

  • SIX strips of scrap fabric in coordinating colors/patterns. The width of the strips can vary from about 1½" to 5". The length should be 22"+. We used a range of scraps from our Sew4Home stash including bits from BasicGrey, Vanessa Christenson, Bonnie & Camille, Tula Pink, and Sandy Gervais
  • Scrap or ½ yard of plush terry cloth or a store-bought terry towel from which you can cut a 13½" x 13½" square. This is what we did.
    NOTE: This would also be a good opportunity to re-use/recycle a bath towel that may have become frayed along its edges but which still contains good terry in the center.
  • ½" manual bias tape maker or the Simplicity Automatic Bias Tape Maker 
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

  1. Download and print out our one template sheet: Washcloth Corner Template.
    IMPORTANT: This pattern is ONE 8½" x 11" sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on each page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
  2. Cut out the template along the solid line. 
  3. From the terry cloth, cut ONE 13½" x 13½" square.
  4. Using the template, round each corner of the square.
  5. Cut six strips of varying widths and approximately 22"+ in length. We cut the following:
    ONE 5" width
    ONE 4½" width
    ONE 4" width
    TWO 3½" widths
    ONE 2½" width
  6. Lay out your strips side by side until you have a color and pattern blend that strikes your fancy. Alternate patterns and colors to keep things interesting. The widths should be mixed randomly as well.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Create the fabric panel, and from it, the binding

  1. Working in order, we chose from bottom to top, assemble the strips to build your fabric panel. To do this, start with the first two strips in the sequence. Place these strips right sides together and pin in place along one long edge.
  2. Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch these first two pieces together. We used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot for all the seams. 
  3. Place the next strip in the sequence right sides together with the two-strip piece. 
  4. Pin in place and then stitch in place. 
  5. Continue in this manner until all six strips are sewn together as one unit. 
  6. Press all the seam allowances open then press flat from the front. If working with the same approximate dimensions as we used, your finished fabric panel should be roughly the same dimensions as a Fat Quarter (18" x 22").
  7. Place the fabric panel right side up and flat on your cutting surfacing.
  8. Using a clear ruler and rotary cutter, slice enough 2" strips at a 45˚ angle to equal a finished length of approximately 56". We cut THREE strips from our panel. 

    NOTE: A rotary cutter is really best for this project, but if you don't have one, you can use your ruler to drawn lines across the panel at the 2" width and 45˚ angle, then cut along the drawn lines with standard scissors.
  9. Stitch together the strips of bias binding end to end to make one continuous length. As with all bias tape, you will criss-cross the angled ends of the strips and pin in place.
  10. Then stitch with a ¼" seam allowance.
  11. Press the finished length of binding tape, pressing open all the tiny diagonal seams. 

    NOTE: If you are new to working with bias binding, take a look at our detailed tutorial, Bias Binding: Figuring Yardage, Cutting, Making, Attaching.

Binding

  1. Using your favorite method, turn the length of bias tape into ½" bias binding. We used our Simplicity Automatic Bias Tape Maker.
  2. Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the terry in the bobbin and the bias tape in the top. 
  3. Open one side of the pressed edge of the single fold bias tape. If you used a bias tape maker, the two folded edges will be ever so slightly different in width. You are unfolding the slightly narrower side.
  4. Place the terry cloth right side up on your work surface. If cut from a towel, your terry in likely to be double-sided so it won't really matter.
  5. Leaving about a 1" tail at the beginning, line up the raw edge of the bias tape with the raw edge of the terry cloth square. Your bias tape and your fabric should be right sides together. At the head of the bias tape, fold back the angled end ½” and pin in place. 
  6. Continue to pin around the washcloth until you reach the beginning. 
  7. Overlap the folded head of the bias tape with the tail a few inches. Trim away any excess length from the tail and add a few final pins to secure. 
  8. Using a straight stitch, sew the bias binding to the raw edge, using the crease line as your stitching guide.
  9. Sew slowly, and continue to guide and shape the bias binding along the edge and around the curved corners.
  10. Wrap the unsewn folded edge of the binding over the raw edge of the fabric from the front to the back. 
  11. The fold should wrap around so it sits just past the first stitching line. Secure in place with pins. The overlapped ends should lay flat and fold nicely with the rest of the binding. 
  12. Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the terry in the top and the bias tape in the bobbin. Working with the washcloth right side up, stitch the binding in place "in-the-ditch" of the seam (right along the edge of the binding in the first seam line). As you sew, you will catch the folded edge on the back.  

    NOTE: As mentioned above, if you are new to working with bias binding, take a look at one or both of our tutorials, Bias Binding: Figuring Yardage, Cutting, Making, Attaching and A Complete Step-by-Step For Binding Quilts & Throws.

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas  
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild

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Comments (14)

nirogo said:
nirogo's picture

What a great "off to college" project! Trim with university fabrics/colors. Could even be done to full-sized towels. Thanks for the great idea.

Kerry Dean said:
Kerry Dean's picture

I was reading through your tutorial "Bias Binding: Figuring Yardage, Cutting, Making, Attaching" and I have a question about the fabric square used to create the bias strips. Under the section titled "Making the bias binding", you explain to lay the fabric square right side up on a flat surface. My question is, does it matter which way the lengthwise and crosswise grains of the fabric square lay? Since you don't mention this in the tutorial, I'm guessing it doesn't matter (you are always very thorough ), but I do wonder if it makes a difference when working with bias binding.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Kerry Dean - as long as you are cutting on a true diagonal, you should do fine with either positioning. However, it you want to go "by the book" position the fabric with the selvedges running along the sides. 

Kerry Dean said:
Kerry Dean's picture

I cut used up bath towels into hand towels and wash cloths and just zig zag the edges. The patchwork binding is so pretty and definitely more sturdy so this is the way I will be doing it from now on. Thanks for this great idea.

Mama Suth said:
Mama Suth's picture

I love this but when I try to sew a binding by machine I never quite catch it evenly on the underside so one of the binding sides has stitches which look sloppy.  How do you do this so the machine stitching for the last binding seam works on both sides?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Mama Suth - our two full binding tutorials are linked above in the article. Both of these have great tips. 

robin.williamson@yahoo.com said:
robin.williamson@yahoo.com's picture

I'm having trouble getting the template for the corners.  It says it cannot be found.  Does anyone have a working link?  Thanks!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ robin.williamson@yahoo.com- we have tested the pattern link from several browsers and it is working correctly. It may be a problem with your browser or its settings. A quick fix to try is to completely quit your browser (not just close but actually quit), then re-open and re-load the page. Everything is being correctly delivered from our servers. 

vickit said:
vickit's picture

These are just so cute. I really love the fabrics you've used for the binding.  I've been considering making something like this as a baby gift I need to make in the next few months and was thinking of putting a soft fabric on the back of the terry cloth too, or a knit of some kind.  This is a well written tutorial that will help me quite alot. Thank you!

dstitchgal said:
dstitchgal's picture

LOVE this idea.  I had serged around some terry scraps, however this makes them so much more decorative.  You always come up with such unique ideas.  Thanks!

ChellaBella said:
ChellaBella's picture

I'm very excited about this idea / project as, I have lots of terry & fabric scraps I can use for it!  :)  Thanks for the great idea.

TheresaK said:
TheresaK's picture

I agree with DebS.  Darling project!  Love the idea of reusing towels!

DebS said:
DebS's picture

These are really cute and so easy to make. Can't wait to get started! Thank you again for another adorable project.

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