To extend the life of towels, you can apply a custom finish to the edge. You can also stop further raveling on old towels. Depending on the finished look you desire, your sewing skills and available tools, you have several options to ensure your towels do not ravel.
Things You'll Need
No-sew iron-on tape
Scissors or rotary cutter
Ruler or yardstick
Measure and cut a piece of no-sew iron-on tape to the desired length. Heat your iron to low with no steam. Fold over the edge of the towel and iron. Place the no-sew iron-on tape on top of the edge you just folded down. Fold down both the towel and the tape so that the tape and the rough edge of the towel are not visible. With your iron, press the edge you have just created. Follow the tape manufacturer's directions as to how long to press. Do not use a back-and-forth motion, as this will create wrinkles.
Use no-sew iron-on tape to apply ribbon, lace or binding tape. If using ribbon or lace, fold over the edge of the towel and iron. Place the no-sew iron-on tape on the edge of the towel, and place the ribbon over the tape. Make sure that both the ribbon and tape cover the raw edge of the towel, and that the ribbon covers the tape. Using low heat, press down on the ribbon, following the tape manufacturer's directions. If you are using bias tape or binding tape, place a piece of no-sew iron-on tape on both the top and bottom sides of the towel. Fold binding tape over the edge of the towel so that it covers the no-sew iron-on tape on both sides. Using low heat, press down on the bias tape or binding, following the tape manufacturer's directions.
Make tassels of raveled edges. If the towel has already raveled, continue to unravel the weft of the towel until you have about two inches of threads hanging from the edge. Gather an inch of loose threads and tie them into a knot. Repeat across the length of the towel.
Set your machine to a zigzag stitch. If your machine has a three-step zigzag stitch option, use that to ensure a flat finish. Set your stitch length to 5-6 stitches per inch (or 4 to 5 millimeters). Sew a zigzag line about a quarter inch from the edge of the towel.
Apply ribbon, lace, bias tape or binding tape to the edge of the towel. Using a straight stitch or decorative stitch, sew on the notions.
Use an overlock stitch or a serger. Sew along the very edge of the towel. This method requires more sewing skill and steady control while you are feeding the towel through the machine.
For all methods, wash and dry the towel and any notions such as ribbon, lace and tape to prevent uneven shrinking.
If the towel has already begun to fray, trim the frayed edged to an even length. You can ensure a straight line by placing a ruler or yardstick over the edge you wish to trim and using a rotary cutter.
Be creative when choosing notions. Choose ribbon, lace or binding tape that contrasts with your towels. You can also choose a different color for each family member to easily identify which towel belongs to each person. You can use clear thread, thread that matches your towel, or contrasting thread when sewing.