Kitchen Towels & Zakka Stitching

By Susan Fletcher
bird applique and stitching

My last blog set me thinking about my collection of zakka kitchen towels :-)

There are few styles of sewing that fit me as well as zakka sewing. The word just means the (usually small) projects that you sew &/or stitch just for the love of making.  Most often they are made to make function household items more enjoyable to look at and use.

 Zakka style projects will always have  in common that hard-to-define, but easy to recognise, quality that makes people smile. Everyday art for comfortable happy everyday life.  Relaxed, imperfect, and friendly feeling. And maybe with some humour showing :-D

kitchen towel zaka style

In my kitchen almost all the tea towels have been stitched zakka style :-). Kitchen towels are such a great place to let your creative self get free - after all, no matter how it turns out, its still a usable towel! (If it turns out really badly you can use it for a cleaning rag!!)

Zakka style sewing on kitchen towels

    I like to go 'pattern free' when I'm stitching, but I borrow ideas from things I've seen.  That vase in the picture above is borrowed from the one on the cover of 120 Original Embroidery Designs by Yoko Saito. I love the idea of making an applique in a general shape, then using some stitching to make the more exact shape. For one thing, it lets you do easy imperfect shapes for the applique - no corners or points to get 'right'. Also it is an easy way to create the feeling of glass. Cool hey?

Or,... you know those sashiko 12" preprinted fabrics- the ones we love to stitch and then wonder what to do with? Cut them on the diagonal and sew to a top and bottom corner of a kitchen towel. The one in the photograph below has been used and through the washer and dryer quite a bit. 

sashiko stitched kitchen towel

Just a sidebar about thread and fabric: I do my stitching on towels and other projects I am going to wash with Olympus sashiko threads. I know not everyone likes this sashiko thread because it has some fuzzy-ness when first stitched.  That initial softness is intentional, it means the cotton fibre can both swell into plump little rice stitches, and bond to the cotton fibres of the fabric it is stitched on.  Sashiko was meant to be used for functional household items and clothing, so intended for lots of wash and wear, and Olympus makes threads and fabrics that do this properly.  Other threads are good too, I don't mean that you should only or always use Olympus thread! I mean this is why I like it :-)

As for good quality absorbent kitchen towels? If you don't have a source already visit my website here 

 One way to make a quicker project is to draw on the fabric using fabric pens (the kind that you iron to heat set, which makes them permanent) and then stitch and/or applique some area. 

stitched and drawn towel There are so many techniques you could use. Really the only 'rule' is that the towel stays absorbent and can still be thrown in the washer and dryer.  

Collect some threads and needles, pens, and fabric scraps, and your glass of wine, and let your creative monster out to play!

Talk to you again soon :-)