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ScrapBusters: Washcloths with Patchwork Binding

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It's time to bust out some scraps! This super cute project targets some of the smaller pieces in your bag of favorite fabric bits. Our project takes an 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 result 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 wicker basket, toss in a few specialty lotions or soaps, and you have an adorable gift for summertime baby or wedding showers. Use the leftover binding strips to tie a perfectly matching bow. 

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. We cut from a store-bought towel.
    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 2" 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 draw 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 come back around to 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. It's very important that the wrapped edge is truly beyond that first stitch line. If it's not, you won't catch it in the final seam. 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

Section: 

Comments (15)

Maggiie White said:
Maggiie White's picture

How much fun and practicle!  MY mind is so full of ideas, I need to write them down!  My collection of Moda will be reduced..........but then... I can "collect" more, French General and what ever strikes my Moda fancies! 

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

@Maggie - So glad you are inspired! We all need reasons to collect new fabric 

Janet D said:
Janet D's picture

i love this!   going to make smaller for baby wash cloths.  

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

@Janet - That's a super cute idea - thanks for sharing!

Janet D said:
Janet D's picture

I was able to get 4 baby size washcloths @ 9" square.  : -)  cute, cute.  I love all your ideas and great sewing techniques.

thanks.

acwink said:
acwink's picture

I have a question about the bias tape maker. Do the seams ever get caught in the metal piece as the strip gets folded? I have the manual piece that I use with the iron to make my own tape, and there's never a time the seams don't get caught as they get into the piece. Thanks!

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

@acwink - we have not had any problems with the seams running smoothly through the bias tape maker. We do trim the seam allowances to a full 1/4" and make sure each seam is pressed flat from both the front and back. 

Rosemary Bolton said:
Rosemary Bolton's picture

This is such a great idea.

I have lots of old towels. Some of them I donate to the Animal shelter, and some I trim and bind.

It is good practice binding too :-D

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

@Rosemary - it is a great way to practice this patchwork binding technique that could be used on a number of projects.

Sally M. said:
Sally M.'s picture

These simple white washcloths are so pretty with the colorful binding edges.  Not only are they a great idea for a baby shower, I think they would be a nice to give in a towel set for older children as well.  Use the child's favorite color(s) and they'll know which one is theirs when it's time to wash up.  You could even insert/attach a loop (like a potholder) at a corner to hang them up to dry.  

Georgette Madak said:
Georgette Madak's picture

These would be sweet to make for a student going away to college as something they would use often and know you are thinking of them.

Sally M. said:
Sally M. 's picture

I like your idea Georgette.  College students of course take towels from home or get new ones.  Having something that says "my Mom/Grandma made this especially or me" is always heartwarming to a young person away from home for the first time. 

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

@ Georgette - another good idea!

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

@ Sally - Thanks! And, thanks for sharing your fun ideas. We all need to know when it's time to wash up 

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