How to Make an Heirloom Guest Towel

Guest towel embellished with Hardanger Rainbows

This is how I make an heirloom guest towel. I like to embroider these for gifts or simply dress up our bathroom.

What’s more, two towels top stitched together are the perfect size for a pillowcase for a travel pillow form and a baby pillow form. See the pillowcase below that I made with two towels embellished with Nancy’s Jacobean Cutwork designs

These guest towels are quick and easy to make – assuming you have all the materials on hand. If you are a long time fabric artist, chances are you do have everything right at your fingertips…or maybe in one of your stashes. Smiles

The edges are decorated with lace, crochet, or tatting. In this instance, I used lace purchased at my local fabric store. Of course, should you have machine embroidery lace designs amongst your stash, consider kicking up that creative edge a notch or two, by making your own customized, color-coordinated lace, for that travel or baby pillow…like no other.


  • Fabric – I use good quality woven cotton, huck cloth, or linen
  • Cotton thread to match the color of the fabric
  • Lace or alternate decoration for the bottom edge – 1-1.5 inches wide

How much of each

  • 45 inch fabric (after prewashing) makes 4 towels
  • Lace 1-1.5 x 15 inches


  • Wash and dry the fabric
  • Starch and press the fabric
  • Cut out fabric 22 x 15 inches
  • Set up the sewing machine for a straight stitch at 2.5 mm length
  • Use size 10 – 12 topstitch needle

The sides of the towel

  • Fold each long edge 1/4 inch and press
  • Fold again 1/4 inch and press
  • Sew down the hems on each long edge

The bottom of the towel – this is where the lace will be applied

  • Fold one of the short ends 1/4 inch and press
  • Fold 1/4 inch again and press
  • Sew down the hem on the bottom edge

The top of the hand towel

  • Fold the other short end of the towel 1/2 inch and press
  • Fold it again, this time 1 inch and press
  • Sew down the hem. This is the top of the towel.

Lace Trim

  • Cut lace 15 inches long
  • Fold down the end 1/4 inch and press
  • Fold it again 1/4 inch and press
  • Hand sew the hem in place or with the machine. If using the machine use a smaller needle size 8 or 9, depending on how dense the lace.
  • Repeat with the other end of the lace.

Change the machine setting to a tiny zigzag 2 x 1.5 mm (length x width)

Use the same color thread in the top as the lace

Use the same color thread in the bobbin as the fabric

  • Pin lace onto the hem of the bottom of the towel. Pin the two ends and at least two more pins along the center
  • Start sewing about 1 inch from the edge and zigzag sew the lace onto the towel all the way through the end.
  • Stop and back sew about 8-10 stitches.
  • Trim thread tails.
  • Turn the project around.
  • Begin sewing where you began applying the lace. Zigzag sew the other end of the lace to the towel.
  • Stop at the end. Back sew about 8-10 inches.
  • Trim thread tails

The towel is now finished. Embellish as desired.

How To make a pillowcase using two heirloom towels

  • Set up the sewing machine with a size 10-12 topstitch needle and straight stitch 2.5 mm length
  • Place two guest towels together wrong sides together.
  • Pin in place along the two long sides and the top of the towels. Keep the corners and lace trim even with each other.
  • Top stitch along the top and both sides about 1/8 inch from the edge of the towel.

Optional: Sew the laces together by hand or machine.

Terms for Re-use and Redistribution

If you would like to share these instructions with your friends, please be fair and send them to this website to read it.


If you have any words of wisdom to add, please leave a comment or email me. I am always open to learning new ideas and better ways to sew.

If you want to use my tutorial in a group or part of a class instruction, please send your students to this website to print the directions themselves. If you must print it for them, then please print it in its entirety, including my copyright and web address. Thank you for your integrity!

Copyright © Laura M. Waterfield 2017

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