Tutorial Tuesday – Appliqued Tea Towel

Appliqued Tea Towel

A friend had just given me a package of vintage tea towels. Her aunt died and she was cleaning out the house.   They were still wrapped in plastic and never used.  Old new stock as American Pickers call it.  They were a bit dirty and yellowed but they ended up washing up beautifully.  SAM_0463

I love this type of tea towels. They look great deorated.


The fabric is from Craigslist.  A woman had a little quilt shop she recently closed and had 50+ bolts of fabric still unsold.  She was selling full bolts of high quality quilting cotton for $10.00 each.  A friend and I bought 12 bolts and shared. The cost worked out to $.60 to $.75 per yard.  I wouldn’t use this fabric in a quilt but it is a perfect kitchen/tea towel fabric.

I am fortunate to own an Accuquilt Go cutter and I decided on using the small rick rack and the word EAT for the embellishment.  If you do not own a cutter, not a big deal.  This is easily done without a cutter.  Draw the rick rack on a piece of paper and use as a template for cutting.  Or use a straight piece of fabric across the tea towel.

For the letters, follow this tutorial from Sew Like My Mom or this tutorial from Skip to My Lou. You need only a simple font printed from your computer to use as a template.  My letters were 3″ tall. Use the printed letters as your pattern and carefully cut out.  Make sure your fabric and letters are in sync.  If you are going to use as a pattern, your fabric would be face up with paper on the top.  If you are tracing on the back then cutting out, your letter would need flipped.  **Check twice, cut once.

If you are following the instructions from Sew Like My Mom or Skip to My Lou, DO NOT use any Heat & Bond or Wonder Under.  NO HEAT & BOND OR WONDER UNDER or ANY PAPER BACKED, IRON-ON ADHESIVE.


I use paper-backed, iron-on adhesives very sparingly and not at all in this project.  When I use a paper-backed, iron-on adhesive and stitch over it as in applique, I get a headache proportionate to the number of inches I am attempting to sew.  My machine will definitely skip stitches.  My needle will surely gum up and it is guaranteed that I will soon be calling my machine and anyone within a close vicinity not-nice names.  It is a vicious cycle that I don’t want to ever repeat. Therefore, we will use white glue. Mine is the cheapo brand just like Elmer’s glue. Washable glue is the key here. Any brand will work.


Cut out your fabric trim – the rick rack shape or straight piece of fabric and your letters. Position on the towel as you want them.  Place a thin line (or if you are like me and do not properly close your glue cap so when you go to use your glue the next time, you push as hard as when you gave birth but still no line comes out, you can use a series of dots around the edge.)


Do one piece at a time.  Place your glue around one letter.  Position on the towel and iron with a hot iron. You must iron for the glue is to hold and work on fabric.  Proceed gluing and ironing until everything is glued down on the towel securely.


Once everything is glued and ironed in place, stitch around all the edges of the letters and rick rack or trim.


I used a zig zag stitch to sew the applique down.  Zig zag is great, straight stitching works just as well as does a blanket stitch.


I am using an Open Toe Foot on my machine.  The foot allots space so I can see where and what I’m sewing.  If you have one, use it. If you are using a zip zag stitch, you need to position your foot so that the right entry point of the stitch is on the edge of the fabric as shown above. If you are straight stitching, stitch close to the edge of the fabric.


See how nicely the glue is holding my fabric. No puckers, lumps or bumps when I stitch. The glue is holding perfectly.  Stitch carefully around all the letters and any trim.  Stitch the trim to the edge and stop.  Back stitch at all starting and stopping points too. SAM_0471

Trim any excess fabric from your trim.  Leave about 1/2″ over hang.


Finger press the 1/2″ over.  Zig zag or straight stitch the piece as shown.


That is it.  You are done.  Tea towels are great little housewarming gifts, and perfect small gifts for teachers too.  I start stashing things away for Christmas gifts now too.

Any questions, send me an email and I’ll be happy to answer.












2 thoughts on “Tutorial Tuesday – Appliqued Tea Towel

    • Thanks for the invite. I did go over and link up. Good luck on your linky party. I’m sure they are lots of work to organize. You are doing a great job. Thanks again.

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