The $5 Goodwill Bag

Kayla was home.  She brought a bag of goodies with her that she found at Goodwill for $5.

You can see the bag on her lap.  It was a big bag and filled with embroidery patterns.

Kayla and I both love embroidery…love it a lot!  She decided rather than open the bag and look through it home, she’d bring it to my house and we could both drool over it.

We decided that someone must have been cleaning out “grandma’s house” and wasn’t interested in her things.  We were both so thankful that they passed the goodies to Goodwill rather than throwing them away.  We had so much for $5.


I’ve got a collection of my own embroidery towel patterns.  I thought I had seen almost all of them…I had not.  In fact, this little bag was filled with ones I had never seen.

Check out this one…read them in order.  They are so cute.

This bird collection was… really neat.


Here is another cat set that is another “romantic” one.

Most of the days of the week towels I’ve seen were always ones that had the days printed on them.  Many of these didn’t.  I liked that.  Somehow using a Wednesday towel on a Friday bothered me.  Silly, I know.

The lady who originally owned them must have been a cat lover as there were lots of cat ones.


The style you see below is really good for beginning stitchers.  The short lines used as an outline are stitchers easier for a beginner to learn.


The squirrels were cute too.


Kayla and I both giggled when we saw a “modern” Sunbonnet Sue in a short dress.  Kayla and I did note that the collection had a surprisingly small amount of Sunbonnet Sues.  We often see them at thrift stores and thought them to be in abundance…not in this collection.


Here is another set of towels with birds.


That was the lot of them were in envelopes-actually there was a lot more.  I only took pictures of the ones I really loved or were unique to me.  Next, we started looking at other patterns.  This was CUTE “Now I lay me down to sleep”.

Kayla and I aren’t big on angels but LOVED this.  Check out the sewing angel in the middle of the picture below.


Of them all…I think the puppies and kitties you see below were my favorite.


There were cute baby quilt block patterns too.


To me…this was a gem.  Kayla and I looked and looked at this.  We decided that this was the listing of dish towels she had stitched and gifted.

Jill got a bear set…Tracy doggies and kittens…Lisa china and so on.


The pioneer girl with her pets had us smiling.  We liked the verses underneath them.

Isn’t it so cute?

There were so many in that bag.  Kayla and I, no joke, were busy looking at them all for over an hour.  It was so fun.

Kayla curiously decided to see if the patterns were worth anything on Etsy.  We looked and ended up finding a shop called Blondie’s Spot.  You can find it HERE.  They had many of the patterns I am showing in this post plus lots more.

We had a lot of fun looking through the bag…and fun checking them out on Etsy.  We both agreed that we love embroidered towels and romanticize about a time when we could just sit and stitch them…and use them.  But both of us agreed that we use our towels too much as rags and not enough for drying dishes…alas.

Please let me know…do you love embroidered towels?  Do you use them?  Do you collect the patterns?  Is it only Kayla and I?

52 thoughts on “The $5 Goodwill Bag

  1. Rose

    I love those towels too! and I do use them for dish drying.
    I love the prices on those. patterns! We’ll never see those
    prices again sadly.
    What a fun find!

    Reply
    1. Wanda

      I love these old patterns too! I did the dish towel set that begins “Hi”, “ Guy” , etc when I was in grade school some 55 years ago! Am using them now, finally, after being married 49 years.

      Reply
      1. Pamela C Cohen

        I love tbe old embroidery work, too. A friend gave me a box of towels, etc. when his mother passed in her 90’s.
        My problem lies in not being an expert at getting stains out like veg. Oils and fruit, etc. Does?anyo e have a summary? I hate to ruin all the time taken to create the piece.
        My mother had a quilt top done in brown crossstitch. All the kids would take time working on it. Needlework is something I enjoyed.

        Btw: BiMart has embroidery patterns, too.

        Reply
        1. Pamela C Cohen

          Pardon the type-o’s, above.
          My favorite stitch was the daisy petal stitch.
          Anyone made rag rugs?

          Reply
        2. Kathleen G.

          Try soaking overnight (or longer, if necessary) in Biz.
          Adding water, Fels Naptha Soap can be worked into a paste, spread on stains, and left to “marinate” overnight.

          Reply
        3. Cindy

          Hi you could frame some and just display others.
          Stains. I found the girl at wash and fold/ cleaners knows alot about stains check with yours. Or someone who is a Master
          Dry Cleaner.

          Reply
      2. Linda

        I used to embroider a lot. I have some of those, have made some of those, and recently bought a new PKG in hopes that my old hands will once again be able to make some. I’ve been embroidering for nearly 60 years (yikes, that was a surprising thing to type!). I have some squares my great aunt started to make a quilt. They would cut bedsheets into squares to save money.

        I used to embroider drying towels with the last name of a couple for a wedding or shower gift. It’s hard to find decent towels anymore. They are thin and cheap so I don’t like to give those as gifts.

        I have also done a bunch of freestyle embroidery to sew down an interfacing that doesn’t want to stay in place. I used to make my own dresses and that pesky interfacing would sometimes turn outwards on me.

        My grandma and my mom only did pillowcases. I’ve done clothes, pillowcases, dresser scarves, towels, quilt squares, appliance covers, and more over the years. I taught Biblical homemaking with all the old craft arts as part of the curriculum for a while years ago when I was homeschooling.

        Fond memories.

        Reply
  2. Bonny

    I absolutely love embroidered dish towels and like you, am thrilled to find patterns in thrift stores. I use mine, I gift them, and enter in Fairs. Unlike counted cross stitch, transfer patterns are totally portable, zen like needle and floss! During my dad’s final months, time spent in his room was spent working on a dishtowel. 42 were made during this time!

    Reply
    1. Diane

      I have a few embroidered dish towels that I have used after copying the pattern if it was something that I like; I have Dutch girl days of the week, some cocker spaniels, some Kewpies, and some dinnerware patterned towels. I have a lot of floral-embroidered pillowcases. Most of my things were embroidered by my great-grandmother who had only one eye. Nobody else wanted her needlework.

      Reply
  3. Jeanne Bugg

    I too LOVE all the different patterns ..I have seen some for my sister and me we both have way too many embroidered fish towels ! Is there a market for those?

    Reply
  4. Cheryl in St. Paul

    I love them, too. I think I have a zillion and my collection will probably end up in the thrift store someday, too. Lots of times I do the towels without stitching the day on it. Thereby, squelching the guilt I feel using a Tuesday towel on Friday!
    Because I am a church musician a friend of m8 e scours thrift stores and tag sales for Sunday towels. I have quite a few of them.

    Reply
  5. LaLani

    Yes I love them and I use them every day. I have a set of the squirrel ones that I have pretty much worn out. They were a gift about 35 years ago from my step-mother. She still makes them. She’s 85 and has gifted lots of them through the years.

    Reply
  6. Kris in WI

    I’m glad I’m not the only person who rescues needlework patterns at the thrift store! I’ve never seen the squirrels before. So cute. Yes, I use the dish towels I embroidered for DH’s aunt after they were passed back to me – dishes with XS edges and floral centers. She was the matriarch of the family and they bring back good memories. During early Covid, a past work friend embroidered dish towels and gave one to each of us that worked together. Can’t wait to see what other folks have to say!

    Reply
  7. D.JANICE RUSSELL

    I’ve made many sets of them for my family members. They love them. It keeps me busy at night when I watch TV. I did some sets all in red; they come out beautifully. There were some sets that were Amish ladies in long dresses and those I did all in red. Redwork, I guess they call it.

    These sets will become antiques as the young people don’t do these any more.

    Reply
  8. Lorraine

    Yes, I love my embroidered dish towels and I use them. Especially after seeing the treasures my Mom had and never used. I believe in enjoying them.

    I had never seen those first embroidery patterns. Very cute! If you don’t want the days of the week on a towel, just cut it off the pattern before ironing it onto a towel.

    So fun that you and Kayla share this love of embroidery!

    Reply
  9. Jill

    I love embroidered towels. I do the embroidery, give as gifts, and use them every day. My mother did wonderful embroidery.

    Reply
  10. Kate

    How fun to see all those patterns. I haven’t ever had those towels, but would have cherished them. I, too, was interested in the price of the booklets, Oh my! I have a few sewing patterns that were about that price, very ancient for sure!

    Reply
  11. Dianne R

    I think Walmart still sells the Aunt Martha iron on transfers. I have a few of the transfers. I have more dresser scarves than the dish towels.

    Reply
  12. Gail in Ohio

    What a find! So much fun… love looking at those patterns.
    I found some iron-on patterns at one of the box stores a while back – ended up with some jumping into my cart. My big find? A set with tractor motifs!
    I have an iron-on pencil for tracing so that I can use any number of designs… I don’t know if those are available anymore.

    Reply
  13. Susan

    I absolutely love them and use them every day. I have some that my grandmas and mom have done. When the towel gets worn out and thin with a few holes…I cut the embroidered area out and sew on to a new towel so my relatives’ handiwork lives on in another towel!

    Reply
  14. Ann

    i have some of my mother in law’s….both patterns and towels. I use the towels in the guest bathroom.

    Reply
  15. Marian

    So enjoyable. Thank you for sharing with us. I have memories if my grandma, mother, and an aunt making them. I still have several and they must be 60 years old. You will have a hard time to pick the set you would like to embroider!!!! Let us know!

    Reply
  16. Donna Graham

    Before I married, I embroidered a set of towels with herbs. When my maternal grandparents passed, I inherited some of her towels that are in excellent shape. A few years ago, my mother-in-law embroidered a set for me with girls in big skirts and the days of the week. I wore out my herb towels but I daily use the gift from my MIL. Reminds me of my childhood!

    Reply
  17. Judith M Fairchild

    My granddaughters are learning to embroider. They just might fall in love with these. Such fun to look at. I don’t know why you can’t leave the day of the week off. The stitching police don’t need to know. Besides how cute those pictures would be on pillow cases and sheets.

    Reply
  18. Cathy Kizerian

    I love and collect the embroidered towel patterns, although I’ve never stitched one. I don’t care for thin cotton dish towels to use; I prefer terry towels. But I always figured I could use the patterns on something else. Haha! It doesn’t surprise me that so many of us love the same things – sewing, embroidery, cross stitch, reading, thrifting, and on and on!

    Reply
  19. Robin Boggan

    I made a set when I was in HS and used primary colors and saved them for when I got my first apartment. I still have them after 48 years! One of my customers gave me a set that did made and I really cherish them!

    Reply
  20. Brenda King

    I too love embroidered anything. My sis used to make embroidered kitchen towels, and gave them as Christmas gifts, until she found that I used mine daily, and wore them out! (She wanted me to keep them just for show!) So, some are used for everyday still, and a few kept for “good!” Since I’m 72, I don’t know how much more opportunity for “good” I’ll have to use them! Love my sis, and the towels! : )

    Reply
  21. Bonnie in SE CT

    I have always loved embroidery. Those designs take me way back to my childhood. I have embroidered dish towels and pillowcases that I used to keep put away but decided to use and enjoy them. So glad that $5 gave the two of you such a great time together! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  22. Roxanne

    Such a fun and interesting thrift store find. I have picked up several at estate and garage sales. They often look unused, but I do use and enjoy them.

    Reply
  23. Marilyn in SD

    Both Walmart and Hobby Lobby sell Aunt Martha patterns. Mom loved doing embroidery in the evening when watching TV. Instead of towels, she used high-quality muslin. Then she would set the embroidered blocks into a quilt. She did several redwork Christmas quilts, but my favorite is Sunbonnet Sue and Overall Bill stitched in a variety of pastels and pieced with scraps of pastel prints. That would be a different way to use the transfers.

    Reply
  24. Kim from TN

    What a treasure trove and for such a great price. I have some towels my grandmother made, and I hope to put them in a quilt top using 30’s fabrics. I treasure them. I think the sunbonnet sue’s were my fabrics because of the short dress.

    Reply
  25. Stacie

    I do have embroidered dish towels. I use them daily, I’m not effected by the day of the week on the towel, ha! They are my absolute favorite towels to use. We use them daily and are hard on them. Love all these vintage towel patterns.

    Reply
  26. Betty Woodlee

    What a great find! In the 60’s my mother made five or six baby quilts using the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep pattern. That five dollars was well spent!

    Reply
  27. NJ

    Farm stores are a good place to buy quality dish towels. Ours has stamped patterns & floss too. My grandchildren get a set of 7 for their wedding shower gift. I often give 1 or 2 for birthdays.

    I found many embroidered dresser scarves and such in my Mother’s things. I ironed a piece of “wonder under” to the backside and cut out the design leaving a good margin all around. I cut in a “cloud” shape instead of straight lines. Peeled off the paper backing and ironed the embroidered piece to a dish towel. I used a decorative stitch on my sewing machine and sewed around it. It recycles the embroidery & eventually the dish towel wears out then I’m ok with delegating it to the rag bag. Some have been given to people who knew my Mother.

    Reply
  28. susie Q

    One Christmas my mom had my sister and I embroider some dish towels for my grandmother. My sister did her towel which said dishes long before xmas. I on the other hand was stitching until the end my glass towel was a mess. Both were washed and sparkly clean. Thing is my towel the knots were not great and many many came undone. Soooo, since then I have not been a fan of embroidering.

    I can see how much fun you both had going threw the bag!!!

    Reply
  29. Kathryn Martin

    Thank you!Thank you!Thank you! for writing about this fabulous find. So interesting!
    I Love Embroidered Towels. Embroidered anything.
    I tend not to use them very often, though. But I really should, right?
    I have collected some patterns. But it’s so much work for someone who doesn’t understand how much goes into it. But I never thought about giving just 1 or 2 towels. That’s a great idea.
    I LOVE THE FIRST BIRD COLLECTION !!!!! And the BEE collection!!
    Your post is timely because I have been wanting to do a small embroidery project, just for a break. Now I am really determined to look in my stash for something fun.
    I can believe you looked at the haul for more than an hour. Fun and nostalgic. And the hand-written list brings someone into the story of these patterns. A life we didn’t know but maybe she was like us or our mother or grandmother. We probably would have had fun stitching with her.
    p.s. Using a towel on the wrong day bothers me too, but you can usually use a towel for more than a day. So I take a deep breath and try to remember not to sweat the small stuff. Even have made a joke about “What kind of kitchen are we running here? Don’t even have the right towels. Who’s in charge around here? etc”

    Reply
  30. Sharon Browne

    I do love embroidered towels but I don’t have any myself and I don’t think I would use them either because I’d be too afraid that they would get ruined. I’ve never seen such a huge collection like Kayla found at Goodwill. She really hit the jackpot! The Goodwill store where I usually shop has patterns for sale for $1.00 each! They could be quilting patterns or sewing patterns, old or new, used or not, and they are the same price – $1.00 each. And they very rarely ever have any good quilting patterns and I haven’t seen any fabric at all for a very long time either. I have picked up a few of those embroidery patterns here and there thinking that maybe I would start embroidering again, but I haven’t had the time and I’d rather be piecing quilting blocks anyways.

    Reply
  31. Judy

    I wondered what to make for my volunteers at our food pantry for Christmas this year! Now I know!! I used to bake cherry bread for them but it’s getting harder and harder to do as I get older and older!! (Thankfully, there are lots of volunteers…25-30 at times….that’s a lot of cherry bread!) Now I can do a Christmas towel this year and then do a different one each year plus, as a bonus, it’s a sit-down job! So glad I saw this…thank you for the idea!!

    Reply
  32. Robin

    Hello all, I have picked some of these up at my local Goodwill also, I use them in a different way. I iron them on wood pieces and them paint them. I love the floral ones I found
    Thanks for sharing
    Robin from Ohio

    Reply
  33. Will

    I made a custom set of these towels that I designed to appear like the recipient and I modeled after things I know they do. They appreciated them and display them. But, they never use them lol – they think they’re “too special”! (And I just think, “I still have the patterns and I’m still here, I can make more if needs be”)

    Reply
  34. Donna krich

    My mother, aunt & grandmother did embroidery, I, too, did a few pics ,not so much towels. Have u seen a design for “twins” also “Ike & Mamie EIsenhower”? They are beautiful! Not sure where they found patterns. Guess I need 2 look thru my family goodies again!

    Reply
  35. Jen

    I agree, I love her list!! What a find!! I went to an estate sale once and bought a few books. When I opened them I found the owner had taped in her own findings. In the book of works by Norman Rockwell she taped other articles and images of his work. In the hymnal I bought she taped little historical notes about the various hymns and their composers that were probably originally printed in the church bulletins. I’m 45 And only now getting into embroidery myself. My Grandmas used to do towels and pillowcases. About 20 years ago one grandma found a woman who sold embroidered towels so we all got a huge pile for Christmas. It’s not quite as special but it still makes me think of Gram when I use those towels.

    Reply
  36. Lesley

    When I was younger (I’m 75) it was common to give embroidered kitchen towels for a wedding shower or wedding gift. What a wonderful and personal thing to do!

    Reply
  37. Kim Webb

    At 1st, I thought some of those were my Mother, or my Mamaw’s. Some I haven’t seen before. I did recognize, but I have some of those that my mother did do on towels & pillow cases..(she passed 5-08-18..) she had sooo very much of that stuff, I still have different tools that she used for any type of sewing.. If your interested, please let me know,, I would luv to pass them off to a good home..My MamMaw owned a doll hospital, years back, on W 1st. & Taught ceramics.. But I have all kinds of that stuff, old patterns etc. Please contact me!!
    Thank you
    Kim Webb
    918 932 4543
    Email: kimleawebb@gmail.com

    Reply
  38. Diane

    My Mom embroidered towels, dresser scarves, birth record wall hangings and taught 5 kids to embroider. She traced simple designs from coloring books for beginners. My younger brother made one with a snowmobile and gave it to me. I did many dish towels 50 years ago, gave some away. Ruined some on cast iron pans. Haven’t seen most patterns shown here.

    Reply
  39. Lorraine Merrell

    When I was a teen I learned how to embroider. I embroidered sets of kitchen towels and pillow cases for my trousoe,

    Reply
  40. Michelle

    Oh my gosh! I thought I’d seen all of the vintage patterns, too, but your wedding cats are different than the ones I’ve seen. I’ve stitched the kitten on a bicycle and the squirrels with the tree for my never ending vintage embroidery quilt. I love, love, LOVE the pioneer girl sitting in front of the stove! What’s the name of that one?

    Lots of the Aunt Martha patterns have been reprinted and are still available new. They’re dirt cheap at Walmart, but the selection is limited. There are also flickr groups that post patterns old enough to have fallen into public domain, for those who don’t mind tracing them.

    Reply

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