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Janome Monday: Scrappy Moroccan Style Deco Stitch Tea Towels

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These are not your grandmother's tea towels. Pull the spiciest colors and most striking patterns from your scrap stash for this set of trendy towels. It's Janome Monday, so we've let our machine do the talking with some dramatic decorative stitch style. These towels can jazz up your own kitchen or would be a wonderful host/hostess gift. It is a common practice for Moroccans to extend invitations to their home. However, remember that the invitation is a genuine one only if it is extended three times. (Make this project. Make this project. Make this project.)

We are using the wonderful Janome Memory Craft 9900 sewing and embroidery machine for this project – a machine that's as unique as you. It comes with a library of 200 decorative stitches, most of which go up to 9mm. This extra width makes the stitches bolder and more distinct. 

We chose two gorgeous stitch options as featured lines, plus a blanket stitch along the sides of the bottom accent bands. Beautiful color, texture and detail is as easy as sewing a straight line. 

The main body of each towel starts as a 20" x 30" cut, which means you could easily cut TWO towels of the same color from one yard of standard 45" wide fabric. We mixed and matched our trio and so purchased one yard per color; we'll save the leftovers for future ScrapBuster projects!

Our thanks to our friends at Janome for sponsoring all our Janome Mondays. For more about Janome machines, accessories and projects, visit them online or follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest

Each towel finishes at approximately 20" wide x 30" high. 

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

Supplies listed are for one towel, but as mentioned above, you can get two main cuts from one yard of fabric. 

  • 1 yard of 45"+ wide linen or linen-look fabric; we used Textured Solids by Andover Fabrics, purchased locally, which is a 100% cotton specially woven to give it a linen look and feel. Our colors are: Mandarin, Bamboo and Peony.
  • Scraps or ¼ yard cuts of TWO dynamic prints for each towel – cut sizes are shown below; we used the following scraps from our Sew4Home stash:
    Mandarin Towel
    Sides: Geo in Orange from the Tangier Ikat Collection by Dena Fishbein (Dena Designs) for FreeSpirit Fabrics
    Top & Bottom: Fleur in Pink from the Tangier Ikat Collection by Dena Fishbein (Dena Designs) for FreeSpirit Fabrics
    Bamboo Towel
    Sides: Ogee in Lime Green from the Simply Style collection by Moda Fabrics
    Top & Bottom: Geo in Orange from the Tangier Ikat Collection by Dena Fishbein (Dena Designs) for FreeSpirit Fabrics
    Peony Towel
    Sides: Fleur in Pink from the Tangier Ikat Collection by Dena Fishbein (Dena Designs) for FreeSpirit Fabrics
    Top & Bottom: Geo in Orange from the Tangier Ikat Collection by Dena Fishbein (Dena Designs) for FreeSpirit Fabrics
  • ¼ yard of ½" cotton twill tape or similar for the back hanger on each towel
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • All purpose thread to contrast with fabric for topstitching and decorative stitching: we picked up colors from within our border strip fabrics
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle

Getting Started

  1. The illustration below shows our three fabric and thread combinations.
  2. Since all the trim pieces are meant to be the main eye-catching accents, take the time to carefully fussy cut each to center the motifs for a 1½" reveal when folded into place. 
  3. From the main fabric for the towel, cut ONE 20" wide x 30" high rectangle.
  4. From the accent fabric for the SIDES of the towel, cut TWO 4" x 31" strips.
  5. From the accent fabric for the TOP and BOTTOM of the towel, cut TWO 4" x 20" strips.
  6. From the accent fabric for the BOTTOM CROSS-STRIP of the towel, cut ONE 2½" x 20" strip.
  7. Leave the twill tape uncut.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Bottom binding, accent strip and decorative stitching

  1. Find one of two 4" x 20" strips. If you are using a directional motif, make sure you select the BOTTOM strip. 
  2. Fold the strip in half, wrong sides together, to set a center crease. 
  3. Unfold, wrong side up, and press back each 20" side ½".
  4. Place the strip wrong side up and open so the crease line in visible. The two long edges are still folded back. 
  5. Find the main towel rectangle. 
  6. Place one 20" side on top of the accent strip, aligning the raw edge of the towel rectangle along the crease line of the accent strip. Be careful to insure the edge of the towel is precisely aligned with the crease across the entire 20".
  7. Fold the accent strip down into place, sandwiching the towel rectangle between the layers of the folded strip. Check the edges to be sure the strip is folded exactly in half. The front and the back halves should be exactly aligned on either side of the towel. Pin in place through all the layers.
  8. Choose a wide decorative stitch that will be a pretty bridge from the accent strip onto the towel. We used a Blanket Stitch, #19 on our Janome Memory Craft 9900, set at 9mm wide.
    NOTE: You will see the back of the stitch on the back of the towel, so choose a stitch that looks good from both sides. You don't want a "messy" bobbin side. Do some test stitching prior to starting the project to choose the best options for all the decorative stitches. 
  9. Thread the machine with a contrasting thread in the top and bobbin. We used a bright yellow. As mentioned above, you will see the back of the stitch on the back of the towel so you want the thread to match. 
  10. Stitch across the top edge of the accent strip, running the seam so the center of the decorative stitch runs right along the folded top edge of the accent strip. When centered properly, the stitch's needle swing from left to right will create the pretty "bridging" effect. Our Janome Satin Stitch foot has a handy guide arrow to keep the seam precise. 
  11. Press flat.
  12. Find the 2½" x 20" bottom cross-strip.
  13. Press in each 20" side ½".
  14. Place the towel, with its bottom strip in place, right side up on your work surface. 
  15. Using your clear ruler, measure 1" up from the top edge (the edge you just added the decorative stitching along) of the bottom strip. 
  16. Place the bottom edge of the cross strip along this 1" line. The cross strip is right side up and the ends are flush with the raw side edges of the towel. 
  17. Pin the cross strip in place. 
  18. Using the same decorative stitch and the same thread color in the top and bottom. Stitch along the bottom...
  19. ... and then the top of the cross strip.
  20. Press flat. 
  21. Select a new decorative stitch and a new contrasting thread color. We used decorative stitch #36 on our Janome Memory Craft 9900 and a bright raspberry thread. 
  22. Rethread the machine with the new thread color in the top and bobbin. We set our stitch width at 9mm.
  23. Line up your pressure foot equal distance between the top of the bottom strip and the bottom of the cross strip. Pick your stitch type and widths so there is at least ⅛" of space between the stitch you used to stitch the accent strips in place and your new center stitch. 
  24. Stitch horizontally all the way across the towel with the new decorative stitch. Go slowly and keep your stitching line nice and straight. We used the edges of our presser foot to keep things aligned.
  25. To finish the embellishment on the bottom of the towel, you will add three additional horizontal lines of decorative stitching above the top edge of the cross strip.
  26. We repeated our stitch #36 to either side of a new stitch, #38 on our Janome Memory Craft 9900. We kept the same bright raspberry thread as we used for our first row of stitch #36. For stitch #38, we switched to the same bright yellow we used for the accent band stitching. Again, we are using a 9mm width.
  27. The lines of stitching are ¼" apart and start ¼" above the cross strip. 
  28. We found it fastest to simply re-thread for each line of stitching. Creating the first line and pressing it in place.
  29. Then re-threading to the yellow thread for the second line of stitching. Again, pressing when finished. 
  30. And, re-threading one final time to the raspberry thread for the third stitching line. 

    NOTE: You could also draw in precise guidelines with a fabric pen or pencil first. This would allow you to stitch lines one and three first, then you would need to re-thread only once to stitch line two.

Optional hanging tab

  1. Flip the towel so it is wrong side up and place it flat on your work surface. 
  2. We added a top hanging tab to the upper left corner of the back of the towel. 
  3. Find the length of twill tape. 
  4. From the corner point, measure 5½" down and 5½" to the right. Place the twill tape across the corner at a diagonal at these points. Pin in place.
  5. Trim away the excess so the twill tape is flush with the fabric. 
  6. Hand or machine baste the ends of the tape in place.

Top and side accent strips

  1. Now that all the decorative stitching is done, you can attach the rest of the accent strips. Find the remaining 4" x 20" top strip. Fold it in half, then fold in each 20" side ½" as you did with the bottom strip. 
  2. Slip the top raw edge of the towel against the center crease line.
  3. Fold the strip down into place, and pin. 
  4. Re-thread the machine with a contrasting thread for the final topstitching. We used our bright raspberry. 
  5. Lengthen your stitch for a prettier topstitch. 
  6. Edgestitch through all the layers to secure the top accent strip in place. Go slowly and keep your seam line super straight to insure you are catching the front and the back of the strip in this one seam. 
  7. Find the two 4" x 31" side strips. Prepare them in the same manner as the top and bottom strips: fold them in half, wrong sides together to set a center crease, and fold back the 31" sides ½". 
  8. Slip the strips into place along both raw side edges of the towel. 
  9. Carefully align the ends so they are flush the top and bottom strips. 
  10. Edgestitch through all the layers to secure. We stitched from the bottom to the top on both sides.
  11. As an extra finishing touch, we threaded a hand sewing needle with thread to best match the accent fabric and slipstitched closed the top and bottom of the side strips. 


Project Design: Alicia Thommas  
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild



Comments (16)

Jen Langman said:
Jen Langman's picture

Do you find the linen/cotton fabric to be absorptive?  Some fabric won't actually dry the dishes and I need cute and functional. ;)

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

@ Jen Langman - yes, the linen/cotton absorbs nicely. Perhaps not quite as good as 100% cotton (or, of course, a terrycloth). If you're planning on making quite a few, you could get a test 1/4 yard, launder it, and then do a little test-drying to make sure you like how it works.

Judith Sawyer said:
Judith Sawyer's picture

I made fourteen of these for gifts and they have been very well received.  I really enjoyed picking out decorative stitches and colors.  I ordered the linen-look fabric in 7 different colors and made two of each with different trim fabrics. No two were the same!  This is a pattern I will return to again and again.  Thank you so much!

Smarti1957 said:
Smarti1957's picture

Was given 4 100% linen tablecloths that are pink. I don't have any pink in the house and had no idea what I would do with them - maybe clothing or something for nieces or something. But I'm now thinking of dyeing a couple to make myself new fancy kitchen linens! Tks.

Maureen the Budget Queen said:
Maureen the Budget Queen's picture

P.S.  I used my Janome Memory Craft 6600, when I bought it 7 years ago I was working full-time and did not have time to play on it.  Previously I was sewing on an old (1977?) Singer machine and have to admit I was intimidated and afraid of the computerized machine but wanted all the options it could do.  It took me two years to move beyond the basic stitches and now that I have time I love to make all the fancy things I can.  I wish I would have had this machine when my children were young and I sewed little girl dresses and matching accessories all the time.  Now I am making for my one granddaughter and my daughters friends who are having babies, ie baby quilts and matching accessories such as diaper bags out of the scraps and for favorite Moms, matching or co-ordinating pjs.  I love creating and love getting ideas from this site, keep em coming, love the inspiratiion!!!!

Maureen the Budget Queen said:
Maureen the Budget Queen's picture

Love this, I recently made my own tea towels to match my kitchen.  I made a kitchen curtain with an owl print and oven mitt holder in co-ordintating pattern.  Saw some floursack tea towels at Rogers Mill Store in birght colours, turquoise, orange and yellow.  I had made a table topper with owl prints in a larger border print.  I took the scraps, cut them into a square bordered it with co-ordinating  fabric then had lots of fun using fancy stitches (similiar to the ones in your picture) and colours on my machine all around the square.  I like the border of fabric you used on yours and will have to do that too!!!  So much fun!  I sewed for my children and self then home dec for years and now am into quilting and fun projects that make me happy and decorate my home.  Thanks for another wonderful idea.

Shelley Zuschlag said:
Shelley Zuschlag's picture

Love these and can't wait to make several as hospitality gifts!!  Since Andover fabrics are not locally available for me, can you recommend another comparable fabric?  I usually purchase mine from so wasn't sure what brand/material combo/etc was comparable.  Thanks a million!

Alicia Key said:
Alicia Key's picture

Moda has a new line out called Mochi Dots Linen- it's 30% linen and 70%  cotton. I'm going to try this with some of the natural color in that line!

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

@ Alicia Key - that sounds like a perfect choice. Have fun!

Dianna Loftis said:
Dianna Loftis's picture

Do you wash the fabric before making the towel?

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

@ Dianna Loftis - yes, we don't always mention it with each project, but you should always pre-wash your fabric in the manner in which the the final project would be laundered. So wash the body of the towel and all the accent fabrics. Press them well once out of the dryer and you should be good to go. Here's on tutorial on Pre-shrinking 101:

Bunny Ryan said:
Bunny Ryan's picture

These towels are very pretty.  Will try to make these!  If my Futura cooperates. 

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