DIY tea towel tutorial {from little birdie secrets}

by @according2kelly on September 20, 2011

for the entire month of september will be baking, sewing & crafting up a storm, preparing handmade gifts for this holiday season…

welcome to our holiday-inspired “bake, craft & sew along.” we will be baking, sewing & crafting up a storm, preparing handmade gifts for this holiday season all month long. yep! yep! 30 days of projects. so dust off your sewing machine, & head on over to skip to my lou for some fabulous sewing projects. a southern fairytale is spotlighting lots of edible yummies & holiday-inspired recipes you definitely don’t want to miss. & to check out ALL of our crafty & creative projects go HERE.

today, our featured blogger is the totally awe-inspiring mandy, of little birdie secrets. mandy writes…

I’m Mandy from Little Birdie Secrets and I am so excited to be a part of the Holiday Craft Along again this year! I loooove the holidays and the these brilliant ladies are getting me to work on my Christmas crafts before December 15, which is huge for a procrastinator like me. I’m sure none of you out there have that problem. 😉 But just in case, here’s a super quick and easy gift you can throw together for neighbors and friends for less than $1.50 each.
Christmas Tea Towel Tutorial {Citrisolv Fabric Transfer}

*Citrasolv Natural Cleaner & Degreaser and small bowl (find it at Whole Foods, some craft stores, or on
*Fabric dish towels (I used flour sack dish towels.)
*Image copied on a copy that uses toner (inkjet printed copies will NOT work–go to your local copy shop where toner-based copies will run you around $.08-.10 each)
*Wide paint brush
*Stack of newspaper
*Scotch tape or sewing pins
*Embellishments (optional–I used buttons and ribbon, but you could also incorporate stencils and paint, beads, etc.)

I found these tea towels, or flour sack towels, in a 2-pack at WalMart. They used to sell them a 5-pack for $6, like when I was making a ton of these Christmas tea towels, but no more. The good news is the 2-pack is actually cheaper per towel–only $.98 each!

Choose a black and white image, or desaturate a color image in your photo editing software, and print it out in reverse if you have any text. (The image used here is from the fabulous Graphics Fairy. I went with a vintage graphic because then I didn’t have to worry about how well the transfer was made–if it wasn’t perfect it would just add to the vintage look!) Take your printed image copy store and make copies with their toner-based copier. Note: Inkjet home printers and color copies will not work. Be sure to use REVERSE image for anything with text, or it will come out backward! To reverse, open it in photo editing software and flip it horizontally before printing.

Be sure to work in a well-ventilated area. Lay your fabric out on top of a stack of newspaper. It’s good to have a little cushion to make the burnishing easier later. Put your copy image-side-down on your fabric and tape or pin in place (you don’t want it to move or you’ll have a blurry image). Pour a small amount of Citrosolv in a bowl and have your paint brush ready.

Dip your brush in the Citrisolv and wipe over the image until you can see it. Be careful not to use too much Citrisolv–if you soak it you may make your image blur! A little goes a long way.

This is the step that will make your image transfer to the fabric–burnishing. Rub the entire image with the back of a spoon, being careful not to miss any spots.

When you’re sure you’ve covered it all, carefully life the copy off the fabric. If you do it slowly and notice you missed a spot, you may be able to replace it and burnish it a little further, but this is a good way to blur your image, so I wouldn’t recommend it.

Now we need to heat set the image. Again, working in a well-ventilated area, place a towel over your ironing board (to protect it from smelling like Citrisolv!) and set your iron to the cotton or linen setting. Iron over the image to heat set it. And lastly, wash and dry it like normal to remove the Citrisolv completely from the fabric.

You may be completely done now, or you may choose to embellish your towel. I used a little ribbon (see our easy ribbon ruffle tutorial for a little fancier edge) and some ric rac. Then I sewed on a few vintage-looking buttons and voila! A beautiful gift for just over $1 each.


Wrap it up with some ribbon and a cute tag and you’re ready for gifting! Or included it with a home baked treat for an extra special gift.

I recently made up a few of these towels for Halloween and some french-inspired ones for thank yous and birthdays. They are such a quick project! I hope you’ll come see us over at Little Birdie Secrets for more holiday ideas. Happy crafting!

for more great ideas be sure to visit mandy at her blog little birdie secrets. & be sure to connect with her on facebook.

about little birdie secrets: Little Birdie Secrets was born from the crafting obsession of friends. It started with crafting playdates and blossomed into a place where we could share our ideas, knowledge, and finished projects with fellow crafters. Our mission is to share fun and creative crafting projects, tips, and tutorials to make crafting easier and more fun.

baking, crafting & sewing along at home? don’t forget to play show & tell… upload your photos to our flickr group HERE. follow along with all of our featured bakers, crafters & sewers on twitter HERE, & tweet about the holiday-inspired “bake, craft & sew along” using the hashtag #handmadeholiday.


Do you have any tips on this process.  I am doing everything just like is show in the tutorial and brunishing with the spoon as hard as I can .... a tiny little smudge in one corner is all I get ... definitely not a transfer.   I tried a light coat of Citrasolv.  I've tried soaking it.  I've tried putting Citrasolv on the towel and the paper.  I've tried putting citrasolv on the front of the image, back of the image, etc.,  nothing is getting me a transfer, just a little smudge.  I've tried different images...I copied them all on a copier with toner.   Baffled.   Any thoughts?


Thanks a bunch for the reply!!


Are you using regular copy paper for your image or photo paper?! Great idea...thanks!


regular paper.... the Image should be copied using something that uses toner (inkjet printed copies will NOT work–go to your local copy shop where toner-based copies will run you around $.08-.10 each)


What a wonderful idea!! I'm glad to know it's not too early to do holiday posts :)

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