The Perfect Something For Your 'Surf Dad'

By Claire Smail

The other day I received a message from my Brother asking for confirmation of our Dad’s address (yes, my father has lived at the same address for over 20 years) which could only mean one thing…Father’s Day must be imminent! Now normally I am pretty organised when it comes to these kind of things but for some reason I had completely forgotten that Father’s Day was not in July after all but in fact Sunday 16th June.  Thankfully on a casual visit to my local Saltrock shop I was relieved to see that Saltrock had stocked up on some perfect Father’s Day gifts.  ‘Phew’, I thought. Now all I had to decide is what would make the perfect gift; would it be a hamper of gifts for his van, including an air fresher and mug? Should I buy him the t-shirt with the image of a MK4 Zepher (a car he proudly once owned) or could he really do with a warm, fluffy changing towel that he could use every time he surfs?


The van hamper was appealing but decided I would need a few more additions that I did not have time to find and after further considering the current colossal size of my Dad’s t-shirt collection, the clear winner  was the changing towel. I thought it would just be the best present as the thick black toweling fabric will be so warm when getting changed and the addition of the hood will make those rainy beach days less noticeable.   I also settled on this item, as I really like to make any gift I give individual and so the plain fabric is perfect for me to personalise.

I thought about adding some hand embroidery so everyone knew it was my Dad’s changing towel. I could have added his name or initials but decided against this as the toweling has an overly thick pile which is perfect for warmth but hard to make embroidery stand out on.  I also thought about lining the hood and hems with bright surf inspired patterned fabric to make it unique for my Dad but changed my mind as this would be purely for looks and not really improve the changing towel in any way. 

So what do I want to do?  Well I want the towel to clearly belong to my dad and be a unique present just for him.  Thinking it through appliqué letters or images would allow me to embellish the towel with colourful fabrics in his favourite colours and patterns. I can write whatever I want; his names, initials, capture a simple shape or write a fun title like ‘Surf Dad’.

Appliqué is a decorative sewing technique where you sew onto a larger piece of fabric, smaller fabric shapes to make a pattern.  You can do this using hand or machine stitches which makes it a great technique for everyone.

You will need:

Saltrock Changing Robe

A variety of different light weight cotton fabrics in a range of colours/patterns

Iron on Vilene (optional but very useful)




Fabric Scissors


Cotton thread (in a colour matching your chosen fabrics)

Embroidery thread (only is you are sewing by hand)

Sewing machine or hand sewing needle

How to make:

Once I got the towel home I had to first decided what I wanted to appliqué and where.  I could create his initials or sew a simple surfboard design but as this is a Father’s Day gift I chose to appliqué ‘Surf Dad’ onto it.  I then needed to pick the fabric I wanted to make each letter out of. As there is seven letters I wanted to use seven different fabrics that would stand out but still go well together.

Next I needed to make some paper letter templates, as I wanted ‘Surf Dad’ to be made out of similar sized shapes. I started by folding a piece of A4 paper in half (I like to use grid paper when making templates as I find it easier to make sure each shape is a similar size) and then each half into three even sections. Within each section on the paper I then drew my chosen bubble writing letter until I had a template for each letter I would need. When I was happy with each template I cut them out.

I then check each template would fit on my pieces of chosen fabric.  The larger pieces of fabric I cut down into smaller, more manageable squares (this will also mean I waste less iron on Vilene).

So that this appliqué fabric is easier to work with when sewing and will last longer on the towel I am going to iron Vilene (a stiffening fabric that has heat activated glue on one side) onto the backs of each of my fabric square.   To do this I lay on the ironing board the piece of Vilene shiny or bobbly side up (as this is the glued side) then place each piece of fabric onto it (as the nice ‘right’ patterned side is facing up at me).  I then cut round the fabric pieces so I do not have a load of Vilene around the sides. To prevent any excess Vilene sticking to my iron I also place a piece of baking parchment on top of the fabric before I apply an even (medium to high) heat with the iron. After a minute or so of ironing the Vilene should be glued to the back of the fabrics, if it is not you will need to iron it for a bit longer.

Now pin each template letter onto each fabric square before you carefully cut out each letter using fabric scissors. Once each letter is fully cut out, lay them out and check you are happy with your choice of colours and letter shapes.  Once you are happy you can then arrange them on the changing towel. Then pin them into place. At this point you could tack them on (a temporary hand stitch) so they stay exactly in the right place and then they will also be easier to sew (it does take a bit of extra time though).

To sew them permanently in place you can do it by hand with a blanket stitch but as I am pushed for time and want the appliqué to last a long time I am going to use a sewing machine.   Set your machine to a zigzag stitch and change the stitch size so it is slightly smaller and closer together (this will make the appliqué strong and prevent any of the fabric from fraying over time).

When the machine is set up you then need to sew around each letter. The aim is to sew half on the appliqué fabric and half on the towelling fabric.  I always reverse stitch at the beginning and then end of each letter to make my stitches extra strong and so less likely to unravel (I also finds this saves then having to tie off each lose thread that will appear after sewing).

Once you have sewn around each letter you will find you can just cut off any loose threads and tad-da! One finished, customised Saltrock Changing Robe for the best Dad in the world.