In perfect kitchens in perfect homes, dishtowels (or tea towels) are not actually used for drying the dishes or for...well for whatever tea towels were meant to be used for. However I do not have a perfect kitchen, and my home is far from it as well. I mean cute Instagram photos aside...we live here and we have dishes that need drying and spills that need cleaning up. Despite laundering them, I go through towels quite frequently.
In addition to needing them for practical uses, I think dishtowels can be a fun way to decorate for the seasons and all kinds of events. I love funny quirky sayings and pretty patterns alike. I always see ones I like, but I can't justify spending money on them when they get pretty beat up. Sometimes, I have an idea in my head of one that I want, but can't find it in the store. You know where this is going, it only made sense to find an affordable way to make them myself. So here it is, for around a $1.15 you can make endless possibilities of towels!
You do need a few things for this. First of all you need the towels. I got a 4-pack of flour sack towels at Target for $3.99. They are even cheaper at Walmart but I happened to be at Target anyway for...well do we ever actually go to Target for a specific reason? Anyways, I picked some up there. If you don't live near a Target or can't find them, you can actually order them on Amazon as well. They're slightly more expensive, but still a great deal!
.The second thing you need is a product called CitraSolv. It's an all natural, orange cleaner and degreaser. It's a concentrated solution so it's a bit pricey. A bottle will run you around $13 but you only need a few drops of it (about .$.05 worth in all seriousness). If you plan on making these towels, this could last you for years, or I suppose you could actually use it for cleaner (it makes around 20 gallons of cleaner)! Again, this may be tricky to find. My local Whole Foods had it, but again if you can't find it near you, Amazon has it for a similar price.
Finally, you need an image. For my test run, I found a Julia Child quote that I really like. I used Canva (you could use Photoshop, Microsoft Word, or any processing program) to style it up the way I liked. I used Amatic Small Caps for the font, because it had a Rae Dunn look about it. You're welcome to use it if you like:
If you don't want to do a quote or a saying, The Graphics Fairy has tons of free vintage images. You can find French Typography, florals, tea labels, all of which would be perfect for a dishtowel. The sky is really the limit here.
Once you have your image, and this step is very important, you need to print it as a mirror image, especially if it's text. Since you will be putting it print side down on the towel, whatever way the image is printed will be reversed on your final product. If you are using the Julia Child quote, here it is in mirror image:
The second very important part of this is that you need to print it using toner. You may have a printer that uses toner at home, but if you don't, use a photocopy or fax machine to copy your image. You can just do it on regular paper, nothing special needed here. Just be sure it's toner, regular ink will not work!
Once you have all your components it's easy. Tape your image down where you want it to be on the towel, printed side down. Take a paintbrush, dip it in a little bit of Citrasolv and paint it over the paper. You only need enough to the point where you see the image show through the paper. Trust me, it's just a little dollop. You actually don't want to use too much.
Using a spoon, you're going to "burnish" the image. This is a fancy way of saying you're going to rub the paper with good pressure to transfer the toner ink from the paper to the towel. Be sure to use good pressure, and go over the image a few times. Once your image has transferred, remove the paper and, voila! You should see your image on the towel. It will be slightly faded, so this is best for "farmhouse style" or "vintage."
Using an iron, apply heat to the image to set it. I recommend using a towel under the dishtowel so that you don't get Citrasolv on your ironing board. While you may enjoy the scent or oranges, sometimes enough is enough. Once your done ironing you should toss the towel in the wash to get out the Citrasolv and then iron it (which is exactly what I did wink, wink; I totally did not just hang it up and move on with my day).
In total, it takes just a few minutes to make them, and they make great gifts! This process also works on napkins, pillowcases, and many other materials. The tighter the weave, the stronger your image will be. I plan on doing some vintage inspired napkins for my dining room using some old French hotel labels. You can also use this method to do personalized monograms or all kinds of fun things! What do you think? Will you try this? What saying or image would you put on your towel?