Sketchy Retro Bicycle Dishtowel

I am so loving this Christmas in July series we’re doing! I hope you are too!

One of my favorite things to give as gifts are cute, unique dishtowels. They make great hostess and teacher gifts – and they’re perfect for friends too – they’re something we don’t often think to buy for ourselves.

I think this cute little sketchy dishtowel may be my favorite yet!

Ack! Isn’t it just so sweet?

What is there about super cute little bicycles with flower baskets? I want one – not to actually ride you understand – but just to have. And look at. And maybe take pictures of.

This little dishtowel was inspired by an Anthro towel  – they have this cute new set of “sketched” dishtowels – with a bicycle and a scooter and rickshaw. They’re all darling.

I left off the squirrel. I wasn’t sure I could do a sketchy animal and have it not look like a little alien or something.
If you’re feeling brave, by all means add him in. ;)

Ready to get started?

You’ll need:

  • fabric for dishtowel (mine is 21 x 28) or purchased dishtowel
  • fabric for ruffle – 2 1/2″ x 42″
  • thread in various colors
  • embroidery thread
  • cut away Pellon embroidery stabilizer
  • optional: embroidery hoop
  • Pattern (click here to open PDF pattern)
  • Regular sewing machine – I didn’t use an embroidery machine for this – though you could if you want.

Start by tracing your design onto your fabric using a wash away marking pen. Sunny windows work great for this.

Cut a piece of stabilizer a little larger than your design – baste it onto the back side of the dishtowel

For all of my “sketching” I used a free motion foot and had the feed dogs down. You can also do this without a presser foot on – like this tutorial. It’s just a little easier with the free motion foot.
Having the feed dogs down allows you to move the fabric wherever you need to. You are controlling the stitch length also.

I hadn’t done this before with thread sketching, but I recommend putting your fabric in an embroidery hoop. You can do it without, but once I put it in the hoop I found that the fabric was more stable and easier to control. When you put it in the hoop, you’ll be putting it “backwards” so that the fabric will sit flat on the machine. The inner hoop will be on the top and the outer hoop will be under your fabric.

Start by stitching in your tires. You’ll want to do short little stitches in the middle first.

Once the middles of the tires are filled in, outline the spokes and rims  – go over these areas twice to make them a little darker.
Go over the pedal and the handlebars with your black thread as well.

Now start filling in the body. Try to make your stitches go the direction of the piece you’re filling in. For example, for the bar from the seat to the pedal, the stitches should go up and down. For the piece from the back tire to the pedal, the stitches should be horizontal. That will help separate the different sections.

Now fill in your seat and basket. I used a darkish gray. You can also do your green stems – these were quick, just little lines up and down.

Take your fabric out of the hoop. If you’re not working with a purchased dishtowel, hem the two sides and the top of the rectangle.
I also recommend not doing this when you’re so tired that you hem the whole thing to the front – not the back. And then stare at a bit to see if you can get away with it and call it a new style.
Which it is not.

Cut your ruffle piece on the bias (45 degree angle from the selvage) so you won’t have a lot of fraying. Hem the two short sides and gather the top.

Sew the gathered edge to the bottom of the dishtowel, right sides together, with a 1/2″ seam allowance. Zig zag along the edges to prevent fraying.

Press the ruffle down and topstitch it in place on the right side, about 1/3″ above the seam.

Last up we’re going to embroider our final details!

Add little french knots in between the spokes on both tires. You can check out the Embroidery Tips page if you need help with French Knots.

Use french knots for all your little flowers too –

Use embroidery thread to sew a running stitch just above your top stitching at the bottom.

And that’s it!!

I think the little embroidery touches really finish it off!

Wouldn’t this be a fun gift??

Make sure you head over to see what Kara made this week at Mine for the Making!

Stop by and visit everyone for lots of inspiration!

The Answer is Chocolate
The Scrap Shoppe
My CreativiT


  • Nice! My elderly sewing machine doesn’t have retractable feed dogs but it would make a cute hand embroidery motif. Thanks for sharing it.

    • August 27, 2012


      I have an elderly machine too, but I have found that you can get covers for the feed dogs so that you can machine embroider.
      Try the Internet that’s where I found a lovely site that deals with old machines and extra parts for it.

  • Reply July 21, 2012


    So cute. I haven’t done dish towels since I was a teenager but this makes me want to do them again!

  • Reply July 21, 2012

    Deb Potts

    OMG! I love this!! It is soooo cute! Thanks so much for sharing. I don’t know if I can pull this off, but it’s definitely worth a try! Maybe I’ll just try a basket of flowers first. :)

  • Reply July 21, 2012

    Tracey My-CreativiT

    Bev, I love this idea and it is so cute. I have to agree with Michele you lost me at “Feed Dogs” and all the other great sewing lingo but this is getting pinned in my “If only I could sew” board. I could try to cross-stitch one but it wouldn’t be half as cute as this – love it!

  • Bev, this is adorable. You are making me want to spend a fortune to get my sewing machine fixed or to buy a new one (a cheap new one is cheaper than fixing my 1984 machine). Hmmmm….. talk about keeping things a long time. lol

  • You did a great job! I am inspired! Thanks :-)

  • Reply August 13, 2012


    Thank you so very much for this tutorial. I am slightly afraid of threadsketching and haven’t dared to try yet but with your good pictures I think I shall have a go! Thanks a million for sharing. Greetings from Germany

  • Reply August 27, 2012


    Heck with dish towels, I want this bicycle on my denim jacket…. and maybe a squirrel too, if I can manage to draw a decent one.

  • Reply July 24, 2013


    This is so awesome!!

  • Reply September 7, 2013


    Beautiful vintage feel to this piece! We love your inspiration and creativity, thank you! Home For Handmade

  • Reply January 23, 2014


    You could put your bicycle in the middle of your flower bed, and plant some “wave” petunias in the basket! Would be lovely.

  • Reply January 28, 2014


    That is adorable! Thanks so much for the pattern and the tutorial! I have seen these but I had not been able to figure out how it was done. Now I know, thank you!!!

  • Reply August 23, 2014


    This is soooo cute. I can’t wait to try it. Printing out your pdf now. Really creative of you and such a great explanation.

  • Reply June 16, 2016


    I love this, but will be trying it with hand embroidery rather than machine……

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