I first posted this tutorial on making a dressy oven door kitchen towel more than two years ago. Since then I have made many of them, and they just get easier! This is by far my most visited page, so I have updated the photos and added a video to demonstrate sewing the underarm seams. Yesterday I looked at Etsy.com to see what these towels are selling for. Wow! Some crafty ladies are asking $20 for them! I could do ten hours' work for $100... if they'd sell for that. Would you spend $20 for a kitchen towel??
These cute kitchen towels are relatively inexpensive gifts, especially if you have a stash of buttons and a bunch of extra trim lying around. And once you get the hang of it they don't take very long to whip up.
First of all, pick out a kitchen towel that you like, and find a coordinating fabric. You will need a piece about 14" x 28". Wash and dry your fabric. If it is a wrinkled mess, iron it. Fold your fabric in half, right sides together, so that when you cut out your pattern you will be cutting two identical pieces.
Here is the bodice pattern that I made. Sorry you can't read my notes very well. It is 12"x13", with the corners cut out so that the bodice is 8" across the front, and the sleeve side is 6" wide. You don't have to use these exact dimensions. I used a canning jar lid as a pattern for the head hole, and off-set the circle about 1/2" from the center so that the finished "dress" looks like there is a front and a back. (I did not offset the neck hole for the towel/dress in the above photo.)
Cut out your bodice through both layers, and remember to cut out the circle for a neck hole.
Next, cut your towel in half and set it aside. I found several of these nice quality Laura Ashley towels at Big!Lots! for $2.50 each.
Now take your bodice pieces and pin them together around the neck hole, matching all the sides and corners. Sew around the neck hole using a 1/4" seam.
Clip into the seam about every 1/2", or less, so that when you turn it right side out, the circle will be nice and even and not shaped like a multi-faceted polygon. Be careful not to cut into the stitching.
Take one of the layers, either one, and stuff it through the neck hole.
Now lay the two pieces together nice and flat, matching the sides, and press the neck seam.
The next part is easier to show than it is to explain. Watch.
Turn up a 5/8" hem on the sleeves, turning both the bodice piece and the lining piece to the inside of the fabric, matching the edges at the fold. Press, then top-stitch close to the edge.
Set the bodice aside.
Now for the towel/skirt. Using your longest stitch length (basting), make a row of stitching 5/8" from the cut edge of both towel pieces, leaving several inches of both spool and bobbin thread at both ends. Do this again 1/4" inside the first stitching line.
You are going to gather the towel so that its width will match the width of the bodice. Anchor the bobbin threads down at one end by inserting a pin and then wrapping both threads around the pin in a figure eight. At the other end of the stitching, pull both bobbin threads together with one hand, and with the other hand slide the fabric along the thread so that the towel edge gathers. When the towel width matches the bodice width, anchor this end of the thread the same way you did the other.
Adjust the gathers so that they are even across the top of the "skirt". Now pin the towel to the outside front piece of the bodice, right sides together, keeping the lining clear. Set your stitch length back to normal and sew from one side seam to the other, backstitching at each end. This is easier if you have the gathers on the underside. Repeat these steps with the back pieces.
Lay the "dress" out flat so the the inside is face up. Trim the seam to 3/8" (don't cut the facing) and press it towards the bodice. Your facing should be loose. Turn up the bottom edge of the facing 5/8" so that the pressed fold lies on the stitching line, and hand-sew it down across the bodice on the inside of the seam.
Here is how your "dress" should look now. Sorry, I got tricky and added some eyelet to the bodice/skirt seam, and I didn't tell you how to do that. But you can figure it out. I have confidence in you.
You're almost done! Now you can decorate with trim around the neck edge, sleeves, and/or bottom of bodice. Just stitch the trim on over the fabric, wrapping the trim ends around the back side.
The final step is to cut four pieces of 1/4" or 3/8" cross-grain ribbon to about 8", and tack one piece to each side of the front and back of the bodice. I use a bit of FrayCheck on the raw edges of the ribbon to keep it from raveling. Snaps would be good, too, or Velcro. Use your imagination.
Hang the dress over your oven door handle and tie both sides. Voila!
Happy sewing and giving!