I love a splash of colour at the beach (or anywhere, really), but I’m often disappointed by the quality of beach towels and their tendency to turn to a cardboard thinness after a few uses.  I crave the fluffiness of a regular oversized bath towel combined with the playful vibrance of a beach towel – so this year I made our own!

Each towel has a personal monogram made by bonded fabric letters, carefully overstitched to ensure hardiness through multiple washes.

With leftover fabric, I also made a carrying case to ensure hands are free at all times for easy carrying of ice cream, sunscreen, beachballs, novels and the 160 other things we seem to transport back and forth with us every time we venture to a swimming pool or shoreline…

For this project, you’ll need:

  • A towel (plain or patterned, but soft and deliciously enveloping)
  • Fabric to use for your border
  • Plain fabric for your letters; pick out a dominant colour from your fabric to use
  • Fabric bonding paper like Bondaweb or Heat ‘n Bond
  • Letter shapes (see below)
  • Sewing machine
  • Optional: bias piping

Harry’s favourite colour is blue, so I used a blue towel and a length of leftover fabric from my stash; it’s a sea turtle batik print which I think is either Robert Kaufman’s ‘sea turtles’ or certainly very close to it.  I picked out the navy and turquoise in the colour scheme for the letters to make them pop, and chose a sea blue cording to border the border (as it were).  I love Higgs & Higgs for haberdashery and use their bias piping in all sorts of things – like here!

DIY below….

Step 1:  Measure and cut your fabric border

Most towels have a natural border; take a look at yours and decide how deep you want your fabric panel to be, and where you want to position it on the towel.  My panel sits 10cm above the bottom of the towel and is 20cm deep.  Allow 1cm seam allowance on both sides and both ends, measuring the width of the towel when you do.  I chose to just have my panel on the front of the towel, but you could of course make this a double-sided band, in which case just double your width.  Look at the pattern on your chosen fabric when you measure, and position it so you capture any features you want to; I made sure some of the biggest sea turtles were framed in the piece I cut.

Step 2: trace and cut out your letters onto your chosen fabric and add to the panel

To make my letters, I typed them in 60 point font into a Word doc and then printed them out, and used these to trace the shapes through onto my navy fabric.  The most important thing to remember here is to print them in reverse or mirror image, as you’ll be flipping them over eventually onto the fabric panel.

Once you’ve drawn your letters on, iron your fabric bonding sheet to the reverse of the fabric, following manufacturers instructions.  Once it has cooled, cut out your letters carefully.  If you want to be very snazzy, you can do the whole process again and add a border as I did here with the turquoise, but it will look great with a single colour.  Carefully position your letters on the fabric panel, and iron into place.  You could centre them on the towel or do what I’ve done here and align them to the right hand side.  Longer names will look great across the width of the towel; shorter ones tend to look good when aligned to one or other margin.

If you’re using piping, pin and stitch it into place now (I shortened the panel at this stage, as you can see from the top border);

Step 3: (Optional) top stitch over your letters to give them greater durability

This is the fiddliest part of the whole project, but worth it if your towels are going to get heavy wear and laundering.  Carefully topstitch around your letters to secure them in place; I used a herringbone stitch and went veerrrrrrrrry slowly.

Finally, press the seam-borders of your panel under and then top-stitch into place along the front of the towel!

Maker’s note: I’m conscious this, like so many of my projects, was a midnight crafting exercise so the work-in-progress pictures here are limited.  If you want to have a go and have more questions about the different steps and techniques do either ask me in comments or drop me a note – I’m always happy to help!

Have a wonderful week, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.