DIY Linen Hand Towels

Reader Contribution by RenÉE Benoit

I love to think of ways to reduce, recycle, and re-use. This is a good one for that and also a very easy project for beginning sewing. You can keep them for yourself or they make very nice gifts. As a matter of fact, I am making these as a house-warming gift for my daughter.

These towels will be approximately 16” wide x 24” long but you can make them any size you want. It just so happened that I could get four out of a yard of linen fabric. You can get linen blends mostly cotton and linen and these fabrics are very nice but I really wanted the super absorbent quality and beautiful soft “hand” (which means “how it feels to your hand”) that 100% linen has. You can use 100% cotton or terry cloth, too, as long as it is 100% natural fiber. Most yard goods are polyester blends and they are not very absorbent. Even though linen might cost $21 a yard it’s well worth it because when you divvy it up into four towels you are only paying $5 per towel. Anyway, the joy is in the making, isn’t it?

Simple Handmade Linen Towels

Sewing machine
100% cotton thread to match your cloth
Iron and ironing surface
Scissors (optional pinking and regular)
1 yard of 100% linen or linen/cotton blend


1. Start by washing your cloth in warm or hot water. You’re probably going to wash your finished tea towels at some point after they get dirty and the cloth will shrink. Why not start by knowing what your finished size will be with very little shrinkage? Dry the washed cloth in your dryer on hot or medium setting. This will shrink it further. This is a good step to take any time you sew something. Now you’re ready to iron and cut the cloth.

2. Iron as many wrinkles out as you can. Now you’re ready to cut to size. I conveniently bought striped cloth which makes it easy to know that you’re cutting straight. I evened up the edges with a pinking shears.

3. The first step in sewing the hem is to create the mitered corner. You don’t have miter the corner but mitering the corner makes it look that much more tidy and professional. Mitering the corner is the hardest part of this whole project. Mitering the corner is basically folding the corner so it’s a diagonal.

We’re going to make a 1/2-inch doubled hem all around. We don’t want a raw edge that will fray. The raw edge will be tucked in and sewn over.

There are a couple ways to so this. If you’re experienced you can fold, iron, cut and sew without guides. If you want helpers then I suggest marking your fabric with a chalk pencil to serve as your guides when folding and cutting.

Let’s miter the corner with guides first. I made a schematic on paper here so you can see what you need to do. You will draw lines with your chalk pencil on to your fabric.

Note: Sometimes fabric does not have a right side or a wrong side. Mine does not have a right side or wrong side. If yours does, you will be folding the fabric over towards the wrong side. I colored the “right side” pink so you could see how it works.

4. After you have made the miter with the guides you will most assuredly have figured out how to fold, pin baste, iron and sew without the guides. It might seem difficult to visual at first but once you’ve done it once or twice your brain will “get” it and your hand/eye coordination will be there to get it without guides.

Here is a picture of actual fabric with the mitered corner. I used a purple fabric to make it more obvious.

5. When ironing to create the folds be CAREFUL. I burned the heck out of my index finger. Boo hoo!

6. Pin basting really helps as the fabric will most likely not lay flat on its own. You can stitch right over the pins if you insert them into your fabric so they will be perpendicular to your sewing machine needle track.

7. Once you get all your folds ironed and your folds pin basted down sew a row of top-stitching close to the inner edge of the hem.  Sew as many rows of top stitching as you desire.  I only did one. That’s enough for me. Pivot at each corner and be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end to secure your thread.  Once you are finished top stitching, press your hand towels.

Nice work!