Friday, August 8, 2014

Fabric for Kitchen Linens

I recently had an e-mail question about what kinds of fabric make good kitchen linens. This reader was interested in saving some money by sewing and decorating her own kitchen towels. I think this is a great question and thought perhaps more than she is interested in the subject.

The picture shows my favorite fabrics for making towels and other kitchen linens.

1. This is a soft "ticking" fabric. It is 100% cotton and usually 45 inches wide, sometimes 60 inches. It is called ticking because the twill weave and stripe pattern is typical of what is called pillow ticking - the fabric that used to cover pillows. There is a stiffer ticking - more like canvas, but you want to find the softer, towel-like fabric. I like to make kitchen hand towels from ticking and it works also for aprons. You can find ticking in the utility fabrics section of the store.

2. This is a plain weave fabric from the section of the fabric store called the "bottom weights." This is the fabric that is meant for making pants and skirts and other "bottom" garments. There are a number of choices for hand towels and aprons in the bottom weight section, but you want to be sure to look for 100% cotton fabric (or linen - but that would defeat the money savings wouldn't it!) The fabric could be either a plain weave or a twill weave - either one would work. Bottom weight fabric would also make nice place mats, napkins, or a small tablecloth.

3. Flannel makes a great kitchen hand towel. I like to sew two panels together to make it thick enough and then quilt or otherwise stitch it to hold it together. I like the many patterns and prints now available! Diaper flannel (if you can find it) and quilters flannel are sometimes a little thicker than regular flannel. The more you wash flannel, the better it gets. Flannel also works for dishcloths.

4. This is a piece of diaper fabric. You can buy diaper flannel, but diaper fabric is woven in a "birds eye" weave. It is 100% cotton and is 36 inches wide. Diapers, even the ones you buy already made (get the open, flat kind, NOT the pre folded ones) are truly wonderful dishtowels! I had a set in my own hope chest, painted with liquid embroidery by my cousin.

5. Monks Cloth is a thick, 100% cotton plain weave fabric that is usually 60 inches wide. The weave is very large and looks like huge cross stitch fabric. You can cross stitch on it and the pattern develops quickly! I also like to do Swedish Weaving on this fabric. It makes a very nice kitchen hand towel and maybe dishcloths as well. It would make a nice table cloth or place mats with cross-stitching.

6. This is a 100% cotton "waffle weave" fabric, sometimes called waffle weave muslin. It is also 60 inches wide. I love this fabric for making dishtowels and dishcloths, but you have to preshrink it even before measuring it as it shrinks so much. Just plan for that. It is a wonderfully thirsty fabric and lends itself to several kinds of decorating. You can see one example of hand made dishtowels here and another one here. The first link doesn't mention preshrinking. I certainly would do that first! Waffle weave fabric is found in the utility fabric section of the store, along with the muslin and ticking.

7. This is 100% cotton fabric called "homespun." This fabric makes really great dishtowels! I have several in my own kitchen drawer. Just be sure to get 100% cotton. You can find homespun with the quilting cottons in the fabric store. I have made this and this set for the hope chest so far.

8. These are two plain weave 100% cotton prints that I found in the "home dec" section of the fabric store. This fabric is often labeled dry clean only, but I use it for hand towels and aprons and place mats, napkins and tablecloths. I don't dry clean them. I usually just wash them on warm and dry on the clothesline. I understand that the fabric is labeled thus because the manufacturing is so variable that it might shrink (a lot or unevenly!) or it might "crock" (which means that heavily dyed fabric transfers excess dye to other fabric), or fade or exhibit any number of other problems. So I just take a chance because there are some wonderful choices in this section. I have never had any problems, but that doesn't mean you won't... When I make things for the hope chest, I try to always pre-wash and pre-shrink - so that fifteen years from now Abigail doesn't get a nasty surprise when she does laundry.

9. This is 100% cotton terry cloth. The width varies, usually 45 or 60 inches wide. It could used for hand towels and dishcloths. A pretty cotton print bias edging looks very pretty.

10. This fabric is called "huck" toweling or huckaback. It is narrow, usually only 15 inches wide and the edges are finished with a selvage. Huck toweling has a distinctive vertical raised thread in the weave and is most often used for Swedish Weaving decoration and other embroidery. It is soft and absorbent and makes a nice kitchen towel or tray cloth.

There is one more fabric that I use for dishtowels, but I didn't have any to put in the picture. Osnaburg fabric is found with the rest of the muslins in the fabric store and is a little bit thicker than regular muslin. It is more like homespun and it makes great dishtowels. It is 100% cotton, usually 45 or 60 inches wide and comes mainly in a natural darkish tan color. Osnaburg is a plain weave, so it frays nicely and it takes embroidery really well. It needs to be washed a couple of times before it is nicely absorbent.

Speaking of muslin, I have read that some people make dishtowels from muslin. I keep meaning to try - it is very inexpensive and would lend itself to many decorative techniques. When I look at it, though, it seems to be woven so tightly that I can't imagine that it would be very absorbent. Maybe someone has experience with it...

Just a quick comment about price. Sometimes new fabric can be more expensive than just looking for a good deal on ready-made linens. I always watch for the sales or use a 40% coupon to get the best deal, and usually have a stack of "hope chest" fabric in a stash, waiting for the next creative project!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Goodies from Grandma

Well, you will never guess where I have been for the past several weeks! I have been preparing to be the head cook and dish washer for a girls camp. Ten meals for 60 people with two of them serving 140! I have been so terrified since I have never done anything like this before. But, everything came off very well and I am home and so relieved and grateful to pick up my regular life again. So back to the hope chest, I hope!

When I was visiting my mother-in-law a couple of months ago, she presented me with a bag of goodies! She told me that she had completed all the wedding quilts for her grandchildren and that she was absolutely finished with embroidery. She remarked that she doesn't see well any longer and would I be interested in the blocks that were extra. Of course I am interested! I am really quite excited as there are six or eight of each design of the large cross-stitched blocks and eight of the little baby quilt blocks. She called the other day to report that she had found more finished blocks in the basement while cleaning house. Lucky for me and I'm hoping for more discoveries! I'll put these together with large printed fabric blocks. I can't wait to see how they will turn out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Pictures of the Quick Hope Chest

I finished most of what was on my list on the second day, but made some dumb time mistakes. So, the weekend hope chest turned out to be a three-day hope chest, rather than two. Just think in terms of a three-day weekend. I am very pleased with the results - except for that horrible bleached apron, which I will report on, but I think I'll show you my successes first! Here are the projects I completed:

1 dozen dishtowels--
Raw-edge Applique
Dyed and tucked, with button embellishment
Dyed and stenciled
Simple hemmed homespun, baby rick-rack, button magnets

10 hand towels along with a crocheted towel tender--
Printed, simple lace trim, yo-yos and crocheted chain daisies

2 V-stitch crocheted dishcloths--

5 refrigerator magnets--
Antique white button daisies and that cute baby is my grandson!

1 decorated binder--
for collected menus and associated recipes

1 set of quilted place mats and napkins--

 1 set of embellished bed sheets--
Simple "beading" eyelet lace threaded with grosgrain ribbon

 2 pair of pillowcases--
One is a simple cotton print and the other has a simple ribbon trim

1 set of embellished bath towels--

1 couch quilt--
Flannel "rag" style quilt - it still needs to be washed and fluffed!

1 birthday set--
A birthday table runner and  birthday banner

I am really glad to have some of these things finished. I work from a personal list of things that I want to do before I feel like Abigail's hope chest is finished and she now has at least one set of bed sheets and some bath towels. Each person will have different needs for her hope chest. My idea of a quick hope chest just reflects projects that could be done quickly, especially if one is thinking of creating a gift. It takes some thought to come up with a list of items that would suit each individual.

I think a very basic hope chest would include at least one kitchen set (with an apron, 7 dishtowels, 4-7 hand towels, 7 dishcloths, and a set of hot pads) a recipe box or binder with favorite recipes from home, a tablecloth or set of place mats, two sets of bed sheets and two sets of bath towels.The number of linens reflects a need to have enough to last until you could get the laundry done. Other important items, in my mind, include at least a lap quilt, a first-aid kit with a basic first aid book, basic kitchen drawer items like a small hammer, screw drivers, etc. Holiday things like Christmas ornaments and a basic family history and scrapbook are also important to me. Obviously, some things may need to be saved for and purchased, such as basic dishes, silverware and pots and pans.

I know people wonder why I am doing this. People ask me if I don't trust that Abigail will receive any wedding gifts and I laugh and say that I am hopeful that she will. But, who knows when she might get married and what those gifts might be and sometimes they can be pretty random. This is my gift - and along the way I hope I am teaching her to look ahead, to value creating a home, to develop skills, to be creative and to "prepare every needful thing."  Taking responsibility to prepare for a future need is simple wisdom. None of us knows what the future holds and if Abigail's need is not as great as the preparation, she will have an excess to share.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Update on the Quick Hope Chest

I should be busy at home on the second day of the quick hope chest, but honestly could not find two days in a row for some time yet. I am frustrated by what this says about my life right now! I think May is the busiest month of the year, even considering Christmas. I finally decided that I just needed to get started yesterday and will finish up on Friday - God willing! I have to take my weekends on odd days, I guess. I did think you might be interested to know that I started, at least.

I began working at 7:00 a.m. and finished Day One when my husband drove up at 6:00 p.m. It was a long day, hunched over the cutting table, measuring, marking, and cutting. But I took a lunch break and stopped for a few minutes in the afternoon. Everything on my list is now cut out and marked and I got a head start on the fun. A few items are finished, including the set of bath towels, one set of appliqued dishtowels, the recipe binder and the fridge magnets (these are very cute!) A few items are more than half-finished. I also crocheted a dishcloth during our regular Tuesday night TV show. The rest of the items on the list are neatly stacked next to the sewing machine, awaiting Day Two.

I did have one COLOSSAL fail! The bleached apron project took an unexpected turn! My husband expects me to report this failure, in the interest of full disclosure, but it will require a separate post, as well as a picture, to explain...

Friday, April 25, 2014

New Project - A Quick Hope Chest

One of the blessings of writing this blog has been to connect with people who e-mail me. I have received a number of e-mails that say something like this: "I am getting married in such and such month (about six months away), and really want to have something like a hope chest..." or "My daughter is getting married in three months and I would really like to make a quick hope chest for her, but am also busy with wedding plans..." or "I would love to make a hope chest for my daughters, but I'm not very skilled at sewing or embroidery..." The common expression is a wish for creating a quick and/or simple hope chest and they each ask for my suggestions on how to accomplish this. I've thought about this idea of quick and simple as it applies to a hope chest.

Obviously, one common aspect of a hope chest is for a young girl to develop the skills she will need to create a home, and, in the process, create items for her future use. This isn't usually accomplished either quickly or easily. But, another important aspect of making a hope chest is simply collecting and acquiring the useful items and accepting and profiting from the gifts and wisdom of older and more experienced mentors. I am all for encouraging anyone who wants to have a hope chest, regardless of the time available or who might make it!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you cannot miss the significance of what I am creating for Miss Abigail. She has made a number of lovely things for her hope chest, and I'm sure will create more as she reaches an age when her own "nesting" instincts kick in. I continue to encourage and help her. But, I'm sure it doesn't escape any of you that, because of some really magnificent gifts, even some fairly ordinary gifts, and my own steady contribution, Miss Abigail is one lucky girl! But this is what any mother might wish for her daughter, even if the time is short. You probably agree or you wouldn't be reading this blog. So, I've set myself a challenge - to produce a "weekend hope chest." To see if one could produce a nice collection of basic, necessary handmade items in a really short time. My husband thinks I'm a little crazy and my friends are doubtful. In fact, one friend thinks the idea of a weekend hope chest might defeat the purpose of a hope chest altogether. But this is my response to all those who continue to want to create a hope chest in a hurry.

So I made a list of what I think is basic. I have ransacked my resources for projects that are both beautiful and quick, and I've shopped for and collected all the stuff, including details like buttons, thread and a new blade for the rotary cutter. (BTW, I've kept track of all my expenses and I won't be revealing the totality of this info to my husband, but you might be interested.) I've organized the steps and made a work plan. I've cleaned the sewing room. Now I'm just looking for two days in a row to meet the challenge. Because I try to keep the Sabbath, and this project will certainly qualify as work, my calendar cannot include Sunday. So, stay tuned...

I would love to hear your comments about what would have to be included in such a hope chest. What do you think?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Other Favorite: Lacy Slant Stitch Crocheted Dishcloth

I have used this stitch for dishcloths many times and really like it. The fabric is firm without being dense, and that allows the cloth to dry a little faster. The stitch forms a kind of scallop on three sides but the foundation chain side remains flat. Because of this, I think the cloth requires some kind of edging. After trying several things, I think this lacy edge is prettiest.

Lacy Slant Stitch Crocheted Dishcloth:

Row 1: Ch 36. (dc, ch 2, sc) in 4th chain from hook. *Skip next 3 chs, (2 dc, ch 2 sc) in next ch. Repeat from * across.
Rows 2-17: Ch 2, turn (dc, ch 2, sc) in next ch-2 space. (2 dc, ch 2, sc) in each ch-2 space across.
Edging: Ch 3, turn. (hdc, ch 3, hdc) in first ch-2 space; first corner made. (Hdc, ch 3, hdc) in each ch-2 space across top to the last ch-2 space. (Hdc, ch 3, hdc, ch 3) in last ch-2 space; second corner made. (Hdc, ch 3, hdc) around ch-2 post at the end of the last pattern row. (Hdc, ch 3, hdc) around each ch-2 post across side to the last ch-2 post. (Hdc, ch 3, hdc, ch 3, hdc) in last ch-3 post; third corner made. Ch 3. (Hdc, ch 3, hdc) in chain spaces across foundation row, including the last space. (Ch 3, hdc, ch 3, hdc) in corner stitch – the original first chain in the foundation chain; fourth corner made. (Hdc, ch 3, hdc) around ch-2 post at end of pattern row, and around each ch-2 post across last side. Ch 3, sl st in base of ch-3.
Alternate edging: Dc evenly around edges with (dc, ch 2, dc) in each corner
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