Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A "Merry" Dishtowel

I think the whipped running stitch is a secret too well kept from beginning embroiderers. Even the newest newbie can produce lovely results with this stitch. The running stitch is the easiest to learn and so we start beginners with this stitch, but because the stitches are often uneven and rough, we sometimes consider their early effort to be “just practice.” Adding the whip stitch covers the irregular stitches to some degree and helps even a young embroiderer complete a beautiful project.

The first step is to find a pattern. Simple shapes without too many tight corners work best. I'm laughing at those holly leaves - maybe not the best example! Look in coloring books or online clip art. You can even consider drawing a pattern yourself. Words and sentences are fun. Just use your imagination and keep the curves wide and fat, if you can. Use a black marker to draw or trace so that you have a nice contrast to then trace onto the fabric. My favorite transfer method is to use a cold water transfer pen to trace the pattern onto the fabric. If I don’t like it for some reason, I can always wet the ink and begin again.

Use the running stitch to outline the design. I used four strands of cotton embroidery floss, so that the design lines would be thicker than usual. Then, using a cross-stitch (blunt) needle, simply whip a contrasting colored thread (also four strands) from right to left under each of the running stitches. Changing from a sharp needle to a blunt one prevents you from accidentally catching the threads of either the fabric or the other stitches and allows the thread of the whipped stitches to lay smoothly against the running stitches.

Obviously, the stronger the contrast in the threads, the more this stitch shines. I used less of a contrast on the holly leaves, but the stitch still looks good. A little crookedy, but that is part of the charm of the stitch.

If you are a more experienced embroiderer, don’t overlook the ease and speed at which this stitch can help you create a beautiful handmade gift or complete a set of items for the hope chest. I quickly made the “merry" dishtowel to be part of a gift for a December bride.

Here’s a tip on presentation for this single item in a group. After I washed the towel, I ironed it with spray starch to add body to the fabric and to make it ultra smooth. Be sure to iron on the back of the towel so that the embroidery is not flattened. Because a dishtowel has so little natural body, I also placed a sheet of white tissue paper inside the towel before I folded it. The tissue also smooths the appearance and the crackly sound just makes it seem like a special part of the gift.

I’m anxious for somebody to try the whipped running stitch. If you do, I hope you'll add a comment to this post. Check back soon for a pattern sheet of Christmas embroidery designs, including the "merry" dishtowel, from Miss Abigail’s hope chest.


  1. I love it! That's so classy and pretty and fun!

  2. That stitch is great. My daughter has a towel she is less than please with, maybe we can salvage the stitching with this trick. Its worth a try. Neat idea for a blog! My daughters both have hope chests and its fun to find goodies to put in them. My 17 year old is getting an embroidery book, pillowcases, and towels to work on for Christmas. I look forward to more neat ideas! And I will let you know about how the towel turns out.

  3. I think this is the perfect addition to the bottom of a doll dress I'm working on. It needed just a little something extra, but not much. This stitch might be it. I'll come back and let you know if/how it worked out. Thanks for sharing, Kathleen.


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