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I like using linen in my quilting projects. It adds subtle texture, and I just like how it feels. Natural-toned linen is a great backdrop for all sorts of colors and patterns. With use and washing, linen softens up but still retains its strength.

My sister is a linen girl, too. She just bought her first home, and I just bought a new stash of linen, so nice big kitchen towels were in order! I miss her and it was nice to make something that would be in her hands soon.

I made two types of kitchen towels, one with a fabric strip as decoration and one bordered with a decorative stitch. For the fabric strip towel, hop on over to Leigh Laurel Studios or In Color Order for good instructions on how to embellish kitchen towels. I used these as inspiration for my linen towel with the blue strip.

For the machine embroidered towel, I experimented with using a double (or twin) needle and two colors of thread.

The first thing I did was take a large piece of scrap linen and my two thread colors and test out several stitch patterns using long and short stitch lengths. I quickly discovered that the larger double needle (4.0/80) fit just fine if I was doing a straight stitch but was too wide to do anything else. I switched to the smaller needle (2.0/80), which moves freely within my zigzag foot.

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As I went, I labeled the rows of stitches with their pattern numbers using a permanent marker. When I was done, I had a messy but useful sampler of stitches. I chose pattern 4 on a fairly short stitch length (2) for the towel.

I wanted the towels to be generous in size, 18″ by 25″. I added an inch and a half to the length and width for hems and cut two rectangles of linen, 19 1/2″ by 26 1/2″.

To mark where the stitching would go, I measured in 3/4″ from the raw edge, where the hem will be when folded in, and then eyeballed the distance from there that I wanted the stitching to be, about another 3/4″. I marked a guideline for the stitching with a disappearing fabric marker.

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Time to use the double needle! To thread the machine, pull up your second spool holder if you have one (if you don’t, put both spools on the one holder) and then simply thread as usual pulling both colors through together. When you get to the double needle, separate the threads and put one through each needle eye. (I missed pulling the right thread through the guide in the photo below but fixed the error before I started sewing.) Drop your needle down to catch the bobbin thread as usual and then place your fabric under the presser foot.

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Note: I opted to do my hems after the decorative stitching because I wanted to make the straight stitch of the hem part of the design, but you can hem first if you want.

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Stitch along each side of the fabric following the guide line. Don’t try to pivot at the corners! A double needle doesn’t pivot – the fabric just bunches around it. Finish your stitching on the right hand side of whatever stitch pattern you’re using, raise your needle just enough to free it, and carefully rotate your fabric. Drop the needle back down and continue stitching.

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Once I’d stitched completely around the towel, I overstitched the first few starting stitches and then pulled the thread tails through to the back of the fabric and tied them off. You can back stitch with a double needle but I didn’t like how it looked.

At this point I hemmed the kitchen towel, using the light blue thread and a straight stitch on a single needle. To hem, fold one edge of the towel to the back side 3/8″, then fold again. Press and pin. For an even appearance, I folded the top and bottom hems first and then did the sides.

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Stitch a 1/4″seam on the front side of the towel, pivoting at the corners. I added another line of straight stitching on the other side of the embroidery to balance out the design.

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That’s it! I think this would work well for simple napkins, too. If you give this a try, drop me a note and a link, or post to my Flickr group. I’d love to see what you come up with!

Fabrics used: Robert Kaufmann Essex Linen in Natural and Newcastle Fabrics Kitchen Shelves in Blue.