DIY Tea Towels with Fabric Pens

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Since my brother decided to get married a few months back, I’ve been worried about wondering what to gift him and his wife-to-be. Since he’s my brother, something off the registry just won’t do alone. Since we’re already spending a lot to fly all the way across the continental US for a weekend, it also can’t be too pricey. Giving just money or a giftcard would reveal just how little we have available, so ixay on that too.

My wife and I are both good at handmade things, so I decided to go that route. I wanted it to be super useful to make up for being handmade (bro’ doesn’t value handmade stuff like we do), and also not too big because the couple will be moving within the month. So: cheap, handmade, personal, but also useful enough that it won’t be a burden to move.

I settled on a kitchen theme, since – at least in my experience – kitchen stuff is almost always useful. I could dry some herbs from our garden and also pick a few kitchen utensils off the registry. I looked around our kitchen for one last thing, tallying up all the things others had given us over the years, and what had always been useful. Towels. Kitchen towels. They’re ubiquitous and useful and it’s difficult to have too many.

I’d had this DIY tutorial pinned since last Christmas but hadn’t had time to actually try it. Or really, just didn’t trust myself to do it right. This time, I decided, I would at least try it. So I went on the hunt for plain kitchen towels last weekend to try.

I found some white linen ones at World Market for relatively cheap. By the time I got them home, though, I’d decided I really didn’t like how white they were. So I stained them beige with tea.

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I boiled three kettles worth of water and soaked the towels with six tea bags for over an hour, stirring them every once in a while to keep the color even.

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When I deemed them ready, I took them outside and let them dry overnight. The next morning I ironed them all out neat and nice, then scoured the internet for plain line drawings of the states I wanted. I printed them out to the same size as a plain sheet of paper, then slid them underneath the linen. Since it’s a relatively thin cloth, the lines showed up just fine.

Then I took a fabric pen and set to work.

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It was hard at first to get over my perfectionism and not winced every time a line wasn’t completely straight, but I kept at it. I toyed with grabbing a ruler for the lines, but decided the imperfections would only add to the charm. Before I finished the lines, I drew a little heart for the cities where my brother had/was going to live, then filled the lines around it.

I redrew the lines to make them darker, then let the whole thing dry overnight again.

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Once dry, I ironed the drawings to help them stay fast. I don’t know if that actually works, but it didn’t smear them either, so I figure it couldn’t hurt.

Then I spent a moment admiring my work. For once, a DIY project actually turned out much better than I was expecting. Maybe because I was careful not to expect too much this time? 🙂

Either way, I’m pretty sure I’ll make more of these in the future. I kind of want one for myself now.

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1 Comment

Filed under helpful tips

One response to “DIY Tea Towels with Fabric Pens

  1. I like the idea of tea-dyed tea-towels. 🙂
    Ironing to set the color was exactly the right thing to do. You can also heat-set in a hot dryer.

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