Saturday, August 19, 2006

Flour Sack Dish Towels

A project I’ve been working on lately is embroidered day-of-the-week flour sack dish towels. It occurred to me that others might also like to try this old-fashioned craft that results in such a lovely, useful product. Flour-sack towels are very absorbent and work beautifully for drying dishes. They are also thin, so when you hang them back up to dry, they dry very quickly.

If you prefer to just use plain white flour-sack towels, you may buy them plain and just use them that way. I enjoy the fun of embellishing the plain towels with vintage-looking embroidery designs.

Packages of five flour-sack towels may be purchased at Walmart. I believe the price is around $5. These towels are very large; to my mind, they are too large to be practical as a dish towel. So I cut them in half and narrow-hem the cut side of each resulting towel. Thus, from a package of five towels I end up with ten dish towels.

The next step is to stamp on an embroidery pattern to stitch over. The craft department at Walmart carries a fair assortment of iron-on embroidery patterns made specifically to use on day-of-the-week dish towels. The brand is Aunt Martha’s Hot Iron Transfers. They are very inexpensive and can be used more than once. Follow the instructions and iron the patterns on your towels. (You can also find great patterns on the internet; Pattern Bee is a wonderful resource.)

You may find, as I sometimes do, that the transfer doesn't stamp satisfactorily.  Another very easy way which I have used often to get the design on the towel is to use dressmaker's tracing paper, placed color side down between the transfer and the fabric.  Then simply trace the design with a pen and it transfers to the towel like magic.

Next, choose the colors of embroidery floss you want to use for your design. I use the same colors for all the towels in a set so that things look nice and coordinated. Then place the designed part of the towel in an embroidery hoop and stitch over the lines you stamped on. Most designs will use basic stitches like back stitch, stem stitch, lazy daisy stitches and French knots.

Sometimes I like to add a fabric trim to the towels.  You can click the "dish towel" label in the label cloud to the right to see some of the ways this can be done.  One thing I have not done, but which would be a lovely idea, is to add a crocheted edging.  Many can be crocheted right in place on the towel.

When you are finished, press the towel. After pressing it once, I like to place the embroidered area right side down on a towel or washcloth and press again, to help the design stand out. 

If you are giving a set of towels as a gift, fold each towel neatly so that the design is centered. Press again if need be.  Stack the towels and tie the set together with a ribbon if desired. I like to add a crocheted dishcloth to complete the set.

I’ve found a nice way to package the dish towels. Our supermarket sells salad greens in the clear plastic “clamshell” lidded boxes -- but the greens are inside a plastic bag and the box stays in absolutely pristine condition. I designed a label on the computer that says “Day of the Week Flour Sack Dish Towels -- embroidered with love by ____” and I place this on top of the store label that said “Baby Spinach” or whatever. Then I just put the stack of towels inside this box.

Have fun with this idea!


  1. What a lovely idea. (o:

  2. Anonymous7:18 PM

    I will try this. I have some of these towels on the handle of my refrigerator door, to keep the kids fingerprints off the handle, which isn't wipe-able. I like your idea so I'll buy more-I love those towels!
    My kitchen is decorated in sunflowers so I'll see if I can find a sunflower print. Too fun! Thanks for the idea.
    Joanna in Ca.

  3. Anonymous3:59 PM

    Hi Mrs. T,
    I am new to your blog too and am enjoying it. I am a fellow New Englander also. :)

    Sincerely, L

  4. Hello everyone!

    Hope those who try this idea have fun with it.

    Mrs. B -- it is always nice to hear from you!!

    Joanna, if you can't find a sunflower design to transfer, you could just draw a simple sunflower design of your own. Simple outline drawings from coloring books work too, for this sort of thing.

    L -- thanks for stopping by my kitchen table! Please come and visit again!

    God bless,
    Mrs. T

  5. Mrs T,
    Would you consider putting the label you use online so others could print it and use it? The idea of these towels as a gift is a very cool idea.

    Thank you,
    Sunflower gal

  6. Sunflower girl,

    I will see what I can do. When I made that label, it said "made with love by Mom", I believe. I will see if I can edit it to leave the name part blank. If not, I will try and make the time to design a different label. Watch for it on my blog in the next few days!

    Thanks for stopping by my kitchen table! Please feel welcome to stop by anytime.

    God bless,

  7. War Eagle Mills near Rogers, Arkansas sells grain sacks that are unsewn. All you have to do is hem the raw edges. The unfinished sacks are printed with the mill's logo and are really cute as towels. They are 100% cotton. I'm not sure the sacks are available online
    [ ] , but you can call them, toll free: (866) 492-7324. Susanne in Hot Springs

  8. Susanne,

    Thanks for stopping by my kitchen table and for sharing that info about the towels from War Eagle Mills. I am definitely going to check this out.

    Stop in any time! I love company at my kitchen table!

    God bless,

  9. Anonymous4:06 PM

    I'm so glad I found your site. I have spent days trying to find info on making dish towels after having come up with the bright idea to decorate dish towels with embroidery, trim, or iron-on designs. I didn't know for sure what fabric to use if I wanted to make my own towels to decorate but thanks to your info about flour sack dish towels I think I'm going to start with the ones you mentioned are available at Walmart. Maybe we can cut down on paper towels around here!

  10. Anonymous,

    I am so glad the information was helpful to you! These are a lot of fun to make, and they do hold up very well even to daily use. Some of the ones I made for my daughter several years ago are used every day and still look great. Last year I made some mini ones for my grandkids to use.

    Have fun with this idea!

    God bless,


Thanks so much for stopping by to visit my kitchen table! I love company here in my kitchen, so be sure to leave a comment so I'll know you've visited! I'll answer your questions and comments here on the blog unless you request otherwise.