DIY Painted Tea Towels

We all know at least one person that just loves to cook. Every holiday they’re found in the kitchen, tirelessly cranking out fresh cookies or casseroles for friends & neighbors. They have carefully-guarded family recipes, a small fortune in cookware, and get misty-eyed when they see Martha Stewart pull out that perfectly-browned Thanksgiving turkey. Even if they aren’t the best cook they’re always looking to improve, scouring the latest Southern Living for the perfect fried chicken.

Yes, we all know at least one person that just loves to cook, and to that friend I say, “…really?

Don’t get me wrong, I love receiving freshly baked holiday presents and going to your house for Friday night lasagnas. [Keep ’em coming, please!] I’m happy there are people like you in the world to keep people like me alive, I guess I just don’t get cooking. I’ll spend hours hovering over a sewing machine or paper mache-ing an old lamp, but if that microwave burrito takes longer than 2 minutes I’m calling it quits & eating that week-old Chinese takeout. And after sopping up the shirt crumbs from that last stale eggroll, I’ll stumble across your Facebook picture of tonight’s eggplant parmesan and feel the familiar pangs of guilt, shame and past-due Kung Pao Chicken. “I’ll never be an adult. I should really start eating healthier, drink more water, get more exercise,” I mutter to myself, until I ultimately begin thinking of all the forgotten New Year’s resolutions and making pacts with myself to get a fresh start tomorrow. And this shame spiral of broken dreams will usually continue for the next hour or so…until I’m hungry again or find a Frasier marathon on TV.

But you’re not here to read about my Wednesday nights, so let’s paint some tea towels!



  • Tea Towels
  • Cardstock
  • Fabric Paint
  • Paint Brush
  • X-Acto Knife

TIME: 45 minutes per towel

Once you decide on a pattern or design, draw or print your image onto a piece of cardstock. You can make multiple towels with the same design or create a series, just make sure the image is simple enough to make into a stencil.
Using an X-Acto knife, cut out your design to form a stencil. Take a reasonable amount of time on this step, but don’t overanalyze it. The lines should be clean & straight, but you can always make adjustments as you’re painting.
Make sure there is something underneath your towel, such as a piece of paper, to prevent the paint from seeping through. Place your stencil where you would like it on your towel, making sure it lays flat across the fabric.
Using a light stroke, stencil your design onto the towel with fabric paint and a small brush. Alternately, you could transfer the image with a stencil sponge. Again, it’s up to your personal preference.
Once the image has been outlined, remove the stencil. Paint over your outline in layers, following the paint’s drying instructions between layers. In this step, you can make adjustments to your design and straighten out any uneven lines. The main point is to keep a steady hand and use the stenciled outline as a guide for your final design. Or, if you’re feeling frisky [or lazy] you can skip the stencil entirely & freehand the whole thing. Once you finish, make sure the towel isn’t sticking to the surface underneath. If the paint has seeped through, gently lift up your towel to remove it from the surface and lay it across a clean sheet of paper to dry completely.

You can buy boring towels anywhere. Don't be afraid of fun!

And now you have a fresh new tea towel! If you don’t want to buy new towels, you can make your own from an old curtain or table cloth. I love using a soft flour sack material, but this process works the same with most fabrics.


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