DIY tea towels make great gifts as everyone needs them and if you look in most kitchens, most need replacing. We all hang on to the ones we have for far too long. I had the idea for this tutorial this week after visiting my sister and seeing that the last ones I had gifted her were worn out. They were expensive designer ones and I figured I could make much nicer ones myself for a fraction of the cost. So lets learn how to make tea towels!
Best Fabrics for DIY Tea Towels
FIBERS – Tea towels need to be absorbent so the best fabrics are made from natural fibers. Choose a medium weight fabric that will be soft when washed. Polyester or man-made fibers generally don’t absorb as much water, so stick to cotton or linen. Linen/cotton blends work well and are reasonably priced fabrics. Tighter weaves tend to be more absorbent.
PATTERNS – Choose bright and fun patterns that reflect your personality and match your kitchen. Tea towels don’t have to be checkered! Someone somewhere, long ago decided that all tea towels should have checks. I don’t understand it. I want flowers and Llamas and fun prints that make me smile while I’m doing boring kitchen jobs. I’m not sure if choosing your kid’s favorite pattern for a tea towel will make them want to help do dishes but it is certainly worth a try. Dinosaurs, unicorns, cats, …anything that works.
Tea Towels vs Dish Cloths
These terms tend to be used interchangeably and can be specific to the country where you live. Tea towels tend to be manufactured from cotton and linen whereas dishcloths can be cotton, linen or toweling. In my family, we call anything used to wipe dishes a tea towel regardless of what it is made of. So don’t get caught up in the words! Just start sewing.
Size of DIY Tea Towels
Like most house decor there is not a standard size but rather a range of sizes. Tea towels tend to vary from widths of 16-20 inches (40-51cm) and lengths of 25-30 inches (63-76cm).
Consider using fat quarters which are a pre-cut fabric readily available at quilting and fabric stores. Fat quarters are generally 18×22 inches in size (46x56cm).
To make it easy, we’re going to make tea towels of 20×25 inches (50x65cm). This means we can get 2 tea towels from 3/4 yard (0.70m).
Supplies for DIY Tea Towels
- 3/4 yard (0.70m) of fabric
- Optional – 4 inches (10cm) of ribbon or tape to make a hanging loop – I used 1/2 inch (12mm) wide.
- Sewing supplies – machine, thread, pins, iron
Pre-Washing DIY Tea Towels
Most fabric from the shops has some kind of finishing infused in the fabric to make it sit nicely on the bolts and not look too creased. Pre-wash your tea towel fabric before sewing to remove the finishing otherwise they will not be as absorbent in the kitchen. Otherwise, just wash it at least once before you start using it.
Iron the fabric after pre-washing.
Cut a rectangle of fabric 22×27 inches (56×68.5). You will get 2 tea towels from your fabric so you can cut 2 rectangles if you wish and make them at the same time. Give the second one away as a gift.
Alternatively cut a rectangle 2 inches (5cm) larger than your desired finished size. This will allow for the hems.
Sewing a DIY Tea Towel
- On the long sides of the tea towel, press over the raw edges by 1/2 inch (12mm) and then press then over 1/2 inch (12mm) again to form a double fold hem.
- Pin the hems to hold them in place.
- Stitch the hems on the sides
- Repeat for the ends making sure you backstitch well. You can see the cross over of the hems in the photo below.
Finished! That was super easy wasn’t it. It will take you longer to cut than to sew.
Optional – Insert Hanging Tape
Across the diagonal of the top right corner, slip the tape under the hems before you sew.
Adding a Border to DIY Tea Towels
You can add a border to your diy tea towel.
- Cut a strip of fabric the same width as your tea towel rectangle (ours is 22 inches) and the height you desire plus 1 inch (2.5cm) for a seam allowance.
- Press over the long sides of the border by 1/2 inch (12mm) on each side. Stitch it to the tea towel rectangle making sure it is not too close to the bottom.
- Hem all the edges in the same way as the plain DIY tea towel.
DIY Tea Towel with a Ruffle
- Cut your main piece of fabric 4 inches (10cm) shorter.
- For the ruffle, cut a strip of fabric 5 inches (13cm) wide and double the width of your tea towel. This will give a 4 inch (10cm) finished ruffle.
- Create a narrow double hem on one long side of the ruffle. This will be the bottom hem. This means you will press the raw edge over 1/4 inch (6mm) and then 1/4 inch (6mm) again. Stitch across the hem.
- Stitch two or three rows of gathering stitch along the long raw edge.
- Pull the gathering to fit the width of the tea towel.
- With right sides together, stitch the ruffle to the tea towel with a 1/2 inch (12mm) seam allowance.
- Finish the seam with a serger or zig-zag stitch.
- Complete the tea towel by hemming the three edges as in the plain tea towel instructions.
Decorating Tea Towels
Now you can make a basic DIY tea towel, why not decorate it. Use ric-rac, lace, pom-pom trim or applique scraps of fabric. If it is a gift, try some embroidery letters or embroidery flowers. Make the body of the tea towel in a plain fabric and then put a strip of fabric across the bottom. DIY tea towels are so easy to decorate you could have something different every day of the year if you wish.
Tea towels can be easily made into aprons so don’t forget to check out my apron tutorial.
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