Retro Syle Embroidered Kitchen Towels

Last year I bought a set of pretty yellow gingham towels that came with embroidery transfers, and then lost the transfers.  I probably threw them out by mistake.

This summer I decided on motifs, and used a few different techniques to transfer the designs to the towels.

For towel #1 I used the booklet Aunt Martha’s Embroidery Patterns The Four Seasons. I chose a summer and a spring design and transferred them to the same towel 3 inches from the bottom. I will use the towels folded in half with one of the designs showing at a time.

Using embroidery transfers with an iron was quick and easy, and the designs came out clear and dark.

I embroidered using stem stitch, with some french knots and a lazy daisy.

I love the ease of iron-on transfers, but the available designs are limited.  What if you have a drawing you want to use instead?  How do you transfer the drawing to the towel?

I decided on a farmhouse chicken and egg theme for towel #2.

I used a Dritz iron-on transfer pencil and traced my design onto another piece of paper. The design will be reversed when transferred, so I traced the design backwards. I found this method difficult : I had to press hard with the pencil while trying to trace accurately.  I also had to hold them up against the window to see the lines through the paper. The transfer came out too light on the towel, and areas were not clear.

I used a fine point .25 mm black Pigma micron pen to go over areas of the design, and traced the second motif directly on the towel with this pen.  The micron ink is permanent and water proof so mistakes can’t be washed out.  Proceed carefully on your fabric!

The hardest one to embroider was the Fresh Eggs design because of the small details and human hands and face.

This was the first time I embroidered kitchen towels! They’re so cheery and homey on the yellow checked background.   Which is your favorite design?



Sew a Kaftan

I was in the process of sewing a summer top when I saw a challenge on Instagram to sew a kaftan from a free tutorial by the British duo known as the Stitch Sisters. The international challenge was called #sewingsansfrontieres.

A kaftan or caftan is a long, flowing loose robe or tunic-like garment with wide sleeves found in many cultures, and  popularized in the Western world by designers such as Christian Dior and Balenciaga in the 1950s and adopted by hippies in the 60s and celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor in the 70s.  They can be worn for lounging, as a swimwear cover-up, and for about town.

More recently the caftan has been worn by women as diverse as Rihanna and Hillary Clinton, and was the subject of a New York Times article “Let it Flow!  #Pantsuit Nation is Now Caftan Country”.

The home sewist has had plenty of caftan patterns to choose from.



A pattern isn’t needed for the Stitch Sisters Kaftan.  The kaftan is made up of rectangles cut to size with sizes from 6 to 22, and bias binding for the V-neck.

4 simple pieces

I started with a pareo or wraparound sarong from a garage sale.  Sold in the 1990s, these pretty rayon rectangles still had the tags on showing how to tie them.  I snagged a few for $2 each.

This one is a colorful tropical print measuring 43 inches by 64 inches: enough fabric for a knee length version.

My measurements fell into the size 14, but I decided to size down to a 12.  I figured a hip size of about 47-48 inches would provide me with enough ease. I cut a length of 37 inches leaving 6 inches to cut the 2 sashes from the entire long side of the rectangle. I cut 2 and 1/2 inch strips for the sleeve cuffs and doubled them adding just 1 inch to the sleeve length.

With a cotton I might have saved time with simple pinking sheared seam allowances, but I wanted a finish more resistant to fraying of the rayon. To encase all raw edges, I used Hong Kong bound seams for the center and sleeves, and mock French seams for the side seams. I used ready made binding from my stash.

neat insides

My usual summer attire is khaki shorts and a top, so this is different for me.  I do think I lack casual dresses, and might add a few to my list of possible makes.  I didn’t win a prize, but I had fun participating, and received a wealth of inspiration seeing the variety of caftans made, including tunic top versions.  They can be found on Instagram with the hashtag #stitchsisterskaftan.


Quick Summer Projects

The days and nights have been hot, and I lack the will to  concentrate!  But I did finish a few satisfying little projects.

First I had to deal with my squeaking machine.  My basic mechanical  Brother machine is not supposed to need oil. The only cleaning instructions in my manual are about removing the needle plate.  This was intimidating for me, but I put on my big girl pants and forged ahead.  I’ve sewn with this machine for 6 years, and have never done any maintenance.


In machines that take oil, there is an round opening in the middle of the bobbin race.

No more squeak!  And I managed to put all the pieces back together.


1) I had a few mock-ups of star quilt blocks in different sizes.

 I made two of them into potholders by using two to three layers of batting, putting wrong sides together and sewing, leaving a side partially open for turning.  Then I sewed around the perimeter, tucking the seam allowances in the open portion under, and inserting a handmade ribbon.  I put on the walking foot to quilt along the star lines.  


2) What is more appropriate as a sewing project for the dog days of summer than a dog accessory?

A while back, I sewed a traditional triangle bandana, and used my rolled hem foot for the first time.

First I read tutorials and practiced.  It took a lot of concentration and effort to keep the fabric feeding into the curl correctly. I think I would rather sew a hand rolled hem on this type of small item because sewing the two bias sides was a struggle.  The rolled hem foot would be a great time saver for long, straight sewing.

Several months back, I also sewed a few of the little reversible triangle bandanas with a top channel opening that slide onto the collar.

I’m especially happy with the latest bandana I tried: two reversible bib-like pieces that are finished on top with bias tape that extends to form ties. The name is hand embroidered with satin stitch.

My model was available to work for the price of a few treats.  Those eyes!


3) Three years ago I posted about trying sashiko embroidery for the first time, and stitched three pieces.  My idea for the piece stitched on cream satin was to make an envelope pouch, with the embroidered side folding over the pocket.  I’ve finally done just that, combining the embroidery with natural colored linen and an off white cotton lining.  I used bias binding on the pocket.  The rest of the raw edges are enclosed.  I hand stitched the opening closed that I used for turning the pouch right side out.

The pouch reminds me of the type of project found in a zakka sewing book.  I like it for its simplicity, combining beauty with utility.

These three projects have something in common:  they had been partially worked on or cut out but not completed.

I have also been embroidering, which I enjoy in the summer because a hot iron isn’t needed, and for its portability.

Does your making/sewing/crafting change or slow down in the summer?

Silk Shirt into Kimono Jacket Refashion

I have wanted to do a kimono jacket refashion since 2015 when I saw it on Portia’s refashioners challenge.  Her Makery blog tutorial uses two shirts.

I had this thrifted men’s Perry Ellis size large shirt in my stash.  I thought the fabric felt like a very soft peachskin rayon, and then rechecked the label.  No, this is silk. Perfect!

I cut off the collar, buttons bands, and the hem.  I cut a line from the shoulder to the hem on a slight diagonal.  I pieced together a long facing strip from the cut off portions, sewed it around the full length of the jacket, and rehemmed it shorter in the front.  I then turned the facing to the wrong side, pressed it with the seam rolled to the inside, and stitched it down.

the shirt is turned back on the right side of the photo to show the facing

Can you believe how easy this was?

Easy, breezy style.

Chambray Summer Sequoia Pants

After my mock-up, I sewed the Itch To Stitch Sequoia Cargo Pants again in a chambray I bought at an estate sale.

The hardest part of sewing these pants is the waistband; I understand what to do, but I am just not competent enough to sew it properly.  A length of elastic is enclosed in ribbing which has to be stretched to fit an interfaced and non-interfaced waistband.

Then it has to be sewn to the pants with enough precision that the topstitching at the bottom of the waistband catches the part of the waistband turned to the wrong side of the pants for a clean finish.

Both times I had to hand stitch the inside as it was not lining up correctly.  My machine also starting squeaking in protest while I was sewing the waistband!!

The photo below shows the side that laid against the feed dogs while sewing. I couldn’t see it until I removed it from the machine. It didn’t match up to the top of the ribbing like it should. Rip!

I would like to make the shorts next.  In the future, I will either hand baste the waistband before sewing, or I will change the waistband to a simpler waistband with an elastic back.  My favorite ready-to-wear shorts have this same waistband, which attracted me to the pattern in the first place.

Because the pants have side straps for securing the rolled up legs, and side cargo pockets, the outside seam is sewn first.  That cuts down the opportunity for making adjustments.  I like to sew that seam last.

Look at how many little parts this pattern has!

I loved making the pockets and flaps.  I omitted the side cargo pockets because I ran out of snaps, and I also have 6 inches less leg than the pattern.

First time installing snaps!  I bought the kind with prongs which have to be pushed through the fabric and then hammered in.  There is a special little metal gadget to help with this, but I found it was easier to use a spool.  I watched this video: How to Install Snaps without Expensive Tools.

It was easy on my practice fabric.  It took a lot of effort to  get the prongs through all the layers on the pants.  Then bang, bang, bang!

I’m happy to be wearing these lightweight summer pants with two recent “I love this fabric” refashions.  They go together perfectly!

Itch to Stitch Sequoia Pants Mock-up

I have made pants and shorts using a heavily altered pattern developed from the first Simplicity pants pattern I sewed.  I decided to buy a new pants pattern, the Itch to Stitch Sequoia Cargo pants, to give another pants pattern a try.  This pattern has many pieces, with pockets with flaps that snap shut, and a lot of details.

I started off with a size 10 in the hips, and had to take about 6 inches off the length and also narrowed the legs. The crotch curve on my base pants pattern was deeper, and I thought it was best to keep the same curve and depth.

comparing the back piece of the Sequoia with my pants sloper on top

This is a simplified trial “patio version” to check the fit and practice some of the techniques before sewing them up in the intended chambray fabric.  I didn’t use snaps in this version, but I practiced inserting them.  I bought snaps with prongs, and used a hammer to pound them in, as seen in this you tube video.

The pants I made previously lacked pocket facings and interfacing, and a curved waistband.  I tried the pattern instructions for the zipper fly, but prefer the perfect fly I sewed on my chambray shorts with the instructions from the Readers Digest  Complete Guide to Sewing book.

The waistband is a little tricky to sew and uses elasticized knit fabric on the top half. I have ready-to-wear shorts that have this same waistband and I love them because they fit even with weight fluctuations.

 For this version, I kept the leg straps but substituted buttons for the snaps.

I tried rolling them up to different lengths.  Because I have full calves, I like this length best.  If I want to go higher, I’d rather wear shorts.

My chambray version is all cut out and ready to be sewn.  Woo – hoo!

Bird of Paradise Shirt Refashion

It’s another “I love this print” refashion.

I knew which thrift store shirt I wanted to make over to wear this spring.  The soft rayon print has big bird of paradise flowers and also a background of vertical blue stripes.  I like it even in its original XL size as an overshirt, although that armhole depth is super deep.

I used New Look 6598, the view on the bottom right with a collarless v-neck and short sleeves, for my pattern pieces. I like the way this style of shirt looks like a jacket.

I had to place the front piece in the best spot to use the existing button placket.  The problem that resulted was a large space in the middle of the bust with no buttons.  If I were sewing a shirt from scratch, a button would be placed at the fullness of the bust to prevent gaping.

What to do?  Lean closer and I’ll tell you: I sewed a secret button.

location of secret buttonhole

I sewed a buttonhole between the buttons and a button on the inside of the shirt on the buttonhole side of the placket. It is invisible when buttoned as the button is on the wrong side of the shirt.

I remembered seeing this technique on Handmade Jane’s blog. It works well, although my shirt should have more ease over the bust.

I sewed bust darts, and omitted the waist contour darts and the back tie. The v-neck was a little awkward so I also added the tiny neck button from the original shirt at the top of the shirt for more coverage.