Tea towels are not only practical to have in the kitchen, but they can add some color, patterns, or texture to your kitchen theme as well. The only problem is that tea towels can be pretty expensive, and the prettier and the higher-quality of the tea towel, the more you will pay.
One way to have some stunning tea towels in your kitchen without having to spend a fortune is to make your own tea towels at home. This gives you the freedom to choose your fabric to suit your needs, your own print, or to even design a pattern to print on your own fabric!
When making your own, which is the best fabric to use for making tea towels? Ticking fabric, flannel, cotton, waffle weave, bottom weight, diaper fabric, monk’s cloth, homespun fabric, huck toweling, and terry cloth fabrics are all good fabrics for making tea towels. Opt for 100% cotton cloth choices whenever you can.
There is no single perfect fabric to use for making tea towels, but all of these fabrics we’ll present in this guide can be used to make tea towels. You can choose the fabric which has the texture you want for your kitchen.
Once you know the different fabrics you can use to make your own tea towels at home, you can choose the one that you would prefer to use and go from there!
So read on and happy towel making!
Choosing The Right Fabric For Tea Towels
In the process of making tea towels, choosing the right fabric will probably take you the longest! There are so many different options for the type of fabric to use, and then you have to narrow it down to color, patterns, and designs.
To make this a little easier, here are some tips to remember when choosing the tea towel fabric which is right for you.
Picking the Right Features
1. Look For Absorbency: You should choose a fabric that has natural fibers, such as cotton or linen. Linen tends to be stronger and more absorbent, but cotton is often much cheaper. Ultimately, either fabric will serve you well.
Then check the weave. The tighter the weave of the fabric, the more absorbent the fabric will be!
2. Avoid Polyester: It is best to avoid using polyester and any other man-made fabrics, as these are not as absorbent as natural fibers.
3. Choose the Right Color/Pattern: The fun and frustrating part is to choose your pattern next. Think about the colors in your kitchen, whether it is a themed gift, is it a holiday tea towel, all of these will hopefully help you narrow down the many, many choices and make the decision a bit easier!
When in doubt, opt for timeless classics like plaid and stripes, or neutrals. But if you’re ready for bright pink and lime polka dotted towels, we sure won’t stop you!
Picking the Right Size/Amount of Fabric
You should have an idea of how big you want your tea towels to be when purchasing your material, so you know how much to have cut.
The standard tea towel size is 18 inches by 28 inches, which is a generous size. So, if you buy fabric measuring 54 inches by 36 inches, you will be able to get 3 tea towels made.
However, you can make your tea towel whatever size you want. Just have it all worked out before purchasing your material, so that you don’t land up with a bunch of wasted scraps. Though you could always save the larger pieces for scrap quilting.
The Best Tea Towel Fabrics
The below fabrics are all suited to be used for making tea towels, and all fair well when used in the kitchen.
1. Ticking Fabric
Ticking fabric is made from 100% cotton and usually is sold at 45 or 60 inches wide. The ticking fabric has a twill weave and stripe pattern, similar to pillow ticking, which is what is used to cover pillows.
There are two types of ticking – a thicker and a softer type. You will want to purchase the soft, towel-like ticking fabric. This makes wonderful tea towels in the kitchen and can even be used to make aprons!
We recommend this “homespun” striped ticking fabric from JCS sold by the yard. Not only does it have that classic kitchen or tea towel look, but it’s nice and soft and just what you need to get the job done.
Flannel is a great fabric to use to make kitchen tea towels. It works best if you sew two panels together, which makes the tea towel thicker, and you can then stitch or quilt it to hold together.
There are many different patterns and prints available in flannel, so it should be easy enough to find one that suits your kitchen. You can also look for diaper flannel, or quilters flannel, which can be thicker than normal flannel.
This polka dot flannel fabric from A. E. Nathan is perfect for the job. It’s a cotton flannel (which is more common nowadays than the traditional wool kind), so it’s both sturdy and absorbent. Plus, it comes in multiple color choices and is sold by the yard, so you can get exactly what you need.
3. Waffle Weave
Waffle weave fabric is 100% cotton and is also known as waffle weave muslin. (You can a waffle weave rayon fabric, but this is not ideal for tea towels.) It is usually sold as 60 inches wide.
While this is a very suited fabric for tea towels and dishcloths, you do need to preshrink it before measuring as it does shrink so much. It is a very thirsty fabric, and you can decorate it in so many different ways.
We like this waffle weave fabric from HomeBuy. For 150 cm (or about 4 feet), you can make a set of tea towels easily. We also appreciate a variety of both vibrant and muted colors; there’s something for everyone here.
4. Bottom Weight Fabric
Bottom weight fabric is a plain weave fabric that is often used to make pants and skirts. There are a good few choices of tea towel fabric in this section, but make sure to look for 100% cotton fabric.
You can either choose a plain weave or a twill weave, both work well. You can use the leftover bottom weight fabric to make placemats, a tablecloth, or some napkins to match your tea towel.
We’ll be honest, finding a true 100% cotton bottom weight fabric online can be tough. You may be better off checking the local fabric store. If you’re desperate however, you can try this polyester-cotton blend from Field’s Fabrics. We’re not sure how absorbent it is, but it may be just fine for more decorative purposes.
5. Diaper Fabric
Diaper fabric is woven using a birds-eye weave and is made from 100% cotton. It is usually sold at 36 inches wide.
Diaper material makes really great tea towels, and you can paint or embroider plain diaper fabric yourself to give it a little more color or to add a pattern to match the rest of your kitchen.
We recommend this birds-eye weave diaper cloth from E. E. Schenck. Three feet wide and sold by the yard, you can easily get plenty for your tea towels. Plus, the classic ivory color makes the perfect background for practicing your embroidery.
6. Monk’s Cloth
Monk’s cloth is a thick fabric and is often a 100% cotton. Monk’s cloth is usually sold at 60 inches wide. It has a very large weave and is often used as a cross-stitch fabric.
You could actually cross stitch or needle punch on the monk’s cloth, which works up quickly, to personally decorate your own tea towels, or to decorate them up to gift them off. Monk’s cloth can also be used to make tablecloths or placemats to complete the set with your personalized tea towels.
We like this monk’s cloth from Weabetfu. Although they advertise it for needle punch, it works just as well for cross stitch. This is another great choice if you’re looking for a tea towel fabric you can personalize. You get about 26 x 20 inches, which is enough for a couple of smaller towels – but that’s plenty if you take the time to embroider them.
7. Homespun Fabric
Homespun fabric is also 100% cotton and works to make great tea towels. However, again, you must make sure to only use the 100% cotton variety. This type of fabric is usually found near the quilting cotton at the fabric store.
This plaid homespun fabric from A. E. Nathan is a great cotton fabric for the job. Plus, we love the classic plaid look for a tea towel. It manages to dress up the fabric while also keeping it appropriate for any season.
8. Huck Toweling
This narrow fabric is usually sold at about 15 inches wide, and the edges are finished off with a selvage. It is made with a distinctive vertical raised thread within the weave and is very soft and absorbent, making it ideal for a kitchen tea towel.
It can be difficult finding huck toweling outside of a fabric store, but E. E. Schenck has this nice cotton fabric available online.
It comes in at about 18″ wide and a yard long, which is enough for a couple of smaller towels. Or you could get creative and make one larger towel and use the leftovers for coasters.
9. Terry Cloth
Terry cloth is made from 100% cotton and is either sold at 45 or 60 inches wide. It is great to use for tea towels, hand towels, and dishcloths, so you can have a complete set in the kitchen!
Last but not least, we recommend this terry cloth from Richland Textiles. Although white is not always the number one choice for anything that will be mopping up spills in the kitchen, it can always be bleached. Plus, nothing says fancy like white linens.
You already get 36″ by the yard of this 100% cotton fabric. Cotton is nice and durable – perfect for anything that might get some heavy duty use in the kitchen – and this fabric is safe in washer and dryer on cold temperature settings.
You may want to purchase extra to make bathroom hand towels while you’re at it.
What Else You Need To Make Tea Towels
There really isn’t much that goes into making your own tea towels at home. The most important bit is choosing the right fabric, which the above list should help you to do.
Other than the fabric, you will need coordinating thread, an iron, your sewing machine, and/or some sewing needles if you are doing some hand stitching. You could also make a no-sew version of the tea towels, but then you would need some fabric fusion glue and some fabric fusion tape.
Follow a trusted pattern or make up your own and you will have some beautiful, and handy, kitchen tea towels made up in next to no time! Plan to make a few extra if you can, so you will have a few on hand for when the first ones need replacing.
Are Cotton or Linen Tea Towels Better?
Linen is a stronger fabric than cotton and therefore can withstand abrasive action of rubbing and scrubbing. Linen tea towels are also more absorbent than cotton, and their drying performance only improves with use.
Linen tea towels are also lint-free, so no bits of fluff will be left behind, which is particularly beneficial when cleaning glassware. However, linen is more expensive than cotton, and cotton does work well as a tea towel, so it is up to how much you are willing to spend.
Is a Tea Towel the Same as a Dish Towel?
Kitchen linens can be confusing. A tea towel can also be known as a dishcloth or drying up cloth, or a dishtowel.
Simply put, it is a cloth that is used to dry dishes and cutlery once they have been washed.
They are not used to clean or scrub, so they do not get as damaged as scrubbing cloths or sponges. Tea towels are also used to add some color and décor to a kitchen, with pretty patterns and delightful designs.
Review: The Right Fabric For Tea Towels
With so many options of fabric available to make tea towels, you will definitely be able to find one that suits your needs, your kitchen, and your budget.
Make sure to plan what you need beforehand, knowing how many tea towels you want to make and what size you would want them to be. This way, you can ensure you buy enough material to make all the tea towels you want, and you can spend more time in the fabric store picking out your favorite patterns and colors!
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