I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of waste I produce and one way I’ve been doing this is to use fabric to wrap presents rather than wrapping paper. Wrapping paper is one of those things that we buy and it usually goes straight in the bin.
Colourful squares of left over fabric makes awesome wrapping for presents and ribbons of fabric, like colourful silks make lovely ribbons.
Once the present has been unwrapped the person can keep the fabric to use as wrapping, to make something with or give the fabric back to be used again.
So then I thought, how about wrapping could be used like another present? And I came up with the idea of designing tea towels for friends and family. I tested out the idea, designing a tea towel each for my Mum and my two sisters and one for myself (which turned into a separate project). I'd seen some lovely tea towels custom printed using Spoonflower, so for this project, I started up my computer and got designing.
If you haven’t heard of Spoonflower, they custom print fabric (and other things). You upload your design, choose your fabric and they’ll print it and send it to you. You can also buy other people's designs. Here is their tea towel selection.
I sourced my images from Freepik and from a book of vintage images that are copyright free. Freepik, like their name suggests, lets you use their images free, so long as you credit them as the author. Different sites have different rules about how their free stuff can be used and how they like to be credited.
I used Illustrator to put my design together, if you don’t have software like Illustrator or Photoshop, Spoonflower has a tutorial for making tea towels using Pic Monkey which is free to use.
For my youngest sister I used a space background with a vintage type writer with her and her partner’s initials. For my younger sister I used her name, her husband’s and their kids in age descending order on a colourful background.
My Mum loves to go traveling with her friends in their caravan so for her I used a cute caravan graphic from Freepik and added her face in the window with some of the places from her travels surrounding it.
They all turned out great, but I had forgotten that really dark colours can rub off a bit, so when I washed the outer space tea towel some of the printing inks came off already. If I do something similar next time I’ll adjust the colours.
Four tea towels will fit into a yard (they’re in America, so it’s in inches, yards, etc) or one tea towel will fit into a fat quarter. I used the linen cotton canvas, which Spoonflower recommends for the tea towels and its lovely stuff.
Buying metres (it's in yards, but I think in metres) from Spoonflower to make something gets expensive really quickly, so doing a one yard project keeps the cost down. One yard of the linen cotton canvas cost USD$24.30 plus USD$7 shipping (plus I ordered a colour guide for USD$1). So that's USD$7.80 for each tea towel, which is pretty damn good.
This is a super quick and easy project to do, great for beginner sewers. Before hemming the edges the fabric needs a good wash, and a quick iron too.
Cut out the tea towels, pin a narrow hem all the way around, sew using a wide stitch and voila! You have a tea towel!