Sewing: towels

Towels are really nothing more than a big square of textile, properly hemmed on four sides. But it also has to be the right kind of textile, and the right size: too small and you can’t use it to dry off after a shower or bath; too thin, and it won’t do you any good because it will only hold a limited amount of moisture; too plastic, and it won’t hold moisture for other reasons — hydrophobic fabrics do exist for a reason, after all.

This means you need something thick, nubby, with lots of surface area, of natural fibers, and hydrophilic: able to absorb more water than it appears.

Enter linen. Linen isn’t always thought of as a good towel material. Unlike cotton, which lends itself well to puffed fabrics like terry cloth, linen is seen as not very absorbent, and sort of difficult to make into terrycloth.

On the other hand, though — you can get waffle-weave linen, like the stuff in the first picture. I got this frost gray fabric during a sale back in 2020 from, which produces this shiny, super flat fabric with a strange gridded pattern on it. I also followed their really simple tutorial— although in hindsight I wish I had wrapped the towels in ribbon rather than a folder hem.

Once you run this fabric through the dryer through the washer and dryer, though… the center of each square puffs up, the edges puff down, and you get this nubby, rich soft fabric.

I bought four yards. I got two 50×80″ bath mats, two longer hand-towels, four wash cloths, and two back-scrubbers out of those four yards. The idea was that these would be the towels that my wife and I took to festivals and camping events — large, quick to dry, relatively small to pack, and easy to clean (linen is famous for not really holding stains all that well).

In any case, I feel better for having a project on my back-burner of sewing finished and complete, and it’s easier to think about what’s next, now that this one is off the “to do” list. My next project is going to be a few shirts for the summer season, followed by some vests and waistcoats.

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  1. I was thinking of making those same towels, and I assumed I’d be using simple folded hems. Why do you wish you’d wrapped them in ribbon?

    • I think the simple folded hems are fine, but I have this really nice cotton-weave tape that I could have folded over the cut edges and sewn. They do give an photo example of that in the Fabrics-store tutorial, and it would have worked just as well, I think. But that’s for another day, if I ever decide I want to make more of these towels. Easy project, not hard, finished in a day and a half, got it out of the way.

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