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 let's learn how to make tea towels!
DIY Tea Towel Pattern Tutorial
This tutorial will show you how to make 3 different types of kitchen towels or tea towels.
- Simple Tea Towels
- Tea Towels with a Border
- Tea Towels with a Ruffle
Supplies for DIY Tea Towels
- Fabric - ¾ yard (0.70m) of absorbent fabric. (Read how big is a yard of fabric)
- Optional - 4 inches (10cm) of ribbon or tape to make a hanging loop - I used ½ inch (12mm) wide.
- Sewing Tools - Sewing machine, thread, pins.
- Cutting Tools - Scissors, or rotary cutter and rotary mat.
- Pressing Tools - Iron and ironing board.
- Measuring Tools - Ruler or yard stick.
What Material Do You Use to Make Tea Towels?
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.
Best Fabrics for DIY Tea Towels
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 vs Kitchen Towels
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.
Standard Size of Tea Towels
Like most house decor, there is not a standard size for tea towels or kitchen towels but rather a range of sizes. Tea towels tend to vary from widths of 16-20 inches (40-51 cm) and lengths of 25-30 inches (63-76 cm).
Consider using fat quarters, which are a pre-cut fabric readily available at quilting and fabric stores. Fat quarters are generally 18x22 inches in size (46x56cm).
To make it easy, we're going to make tea towels of dimensions 20x25 inches (50x65cm). This means we can get 2 tea towels from ¾ yard (0.70m).
How to Make Tea Towels Step by Step
Step 1 - 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, it 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.
Step 2 - Cutting Instructions
Cut a rectangle of fabric 22x27 inches (56x68.5). 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.
Use sharp scissors or a rotary cutter to get clean straight edges.
Step 3 - Sewing Tea Towels
- On the long sides of the tea towel, press over the raw edges by ½ inch (12mm) and then press then over ½ 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 your main fabric 22x27 inches (56x68.5cm)
- Cut a strip of fabric the same width as your tea towel rectangle and the height you desire, plus 1 inch (2.5cm) for a seam allowance. I cut a border fabric strip of 22x5 inches (56x13cm)
- Press over the long sides of the border by ½ inch (12mm) on each side.
- Stitch it to the tea towel rectangle making sure it is not too close to the bottom. I placed mine 3 inches (7.5cm) from the bottom.
- Hem all the edges in the same way as the plain DIY tea towel.
DIY Tea Towel with a Ruffle
- Cut a rectangle 22x23 inches (56x58.5cm).
- Cut a ruffle piece of fabric 44x5 inches (112x13cm)
- 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 ¼ inch (6mm) and then ¼ 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 ½ 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 DIY Tea Towels
Now you can make a basic DIY tea towel, so 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 plain fabric and then put a strip of fabric across the bottom. DIY tea towels are so easy to decorate that you could have something different every day of the year if you wish.
A great idea for kids is to use potato printing and stamping to decorate a DIY tea towel made in plain fabrics.
How to Make Tea Towels With Hand Sewing
If you don't have a sewing machine, you can make a tea towel with hand stitches. The best hand stitch for the hems is a small running stitch. This simple up-and-down stitch will look good on both sides of the tea towel and, when sewn in small stitches, will be durable and attractive.
DIY Tea Towels Without Sewing
If you are looking for a no-sew method of making tea towels, then use hemming tape under the hems. This double-sided fusible tape is placed in between the hem and then ironed. It normally comes in 1-inch widths, so you may need to cut it narrower for the smaller hems on your tea towel.
You could also use fabric glue for the hems.
More DIY Tea Towel Patterns
Tea towels can be easily made into aprons, so don't forget to check out my tea towel apron tutorial.
DIY Tea Towel FAQs
Can You Make Tea Towels from Calico?
Yes, you can make tea towels from Calico. Calico is an unleaded cotton fabric that is suitable for many craft and sewing projects, including making tea towels. Decorate calico tea towels with stencils or potato printing.
How Do You Print on Tea Towels At Home?
The best way to print on tea towels at home is to use fabric stencils or potato stamping. These simple printing methods will give you beautiful tea towels for your kitchen. Use fabric paints or add fabric setting mediums to acrylic paint.
- Sewing machine
- Cutting Tools Scissors, or rotaty cutter and mat
- Meauring Tools Ruler
- ¾ Yard Cotton or linen fabric
- Cut a rectangle 22x27 inches (56x68.5cm). Cut a border piece of fabric 22x5 inches (56x13cm). Press over the long sides of the border by ½ inch (12mm) on each side.
- Place the border piece on the main rectangle and stitch the top and bottom.
- On the long sides, press over the raw edges twice by ½ inch (12mm). On the short sides, press over the raw edges twice by ½ inch (12mm). Slip tape under the hems at a diagonal. Stitch hems.
- Press the towel and it is ready to use.
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