If you are looking for a special something to make in time for the Queen's Golden Jubilee in June or maybe something to make your mum for mother's day, these tea towels will make anyone feel like a queen.
These tea towels were inspired by a story my mum told me about her mum. Apparently, when I was just a baby, my mum, my grandmother and an infant me were riding in the car. I was feeling ill and was unfortunately and spectacularly sick all over my grandmother. My mum pulled the car to the side of the road and changed my clothes in the boot of the car (that's the trunk for North Americans). My grandmother stood to the side of the car, gingerly and by all reports, rather uselessly dabbing at herself with a tissue when she said in a very dry voice "I was born to be royalty, but something happened".
What you need:
- Standard sewing equipment such as sewing machine, thread, hand sewing needles, pins, shears etc
- 1 yard (1m) of 60" (152cm) wide fabric for tea towels OR two pre-made plain white tea towels (try to get one without a nap or texture). If you are using fabric look for something thicker than quilting cotton and thinner than canvas in cotton that can be washed.
- a selection of quilting cottons to be used for appliquing the crown and Union Jack flag (I used 7 different fabrics)
- Double sided bonding sheet such as Steam a Seam 2 or Wonder Under
- An embroidery hoop (I used a 8" or 20.3cm in diameter hoop)
- A darning foot or free motion machine embroidery foot for your sewing machine
- High quality polyester sewing thread such as Gutermann in black for decorative stitching and in colour to match tea towels if you are making your own from fabric
- Purple fade away marker
You'll also need the templates for the applique and embroidery, click the links to download the two templates in PDF format:
How to make the tea towels:
1. Pre-wash all your fabric. Check that none of the dyes in the fabric have run in the applique fabrics in particular. If the colours have bled, choose another fabric or your finished tea towels could be ruined after their first wash.
If you are using pre-made tea towels skip to Step 4.
2. Tea towels do vary in size so you can make them any size you wish (you may want to use one of your own tea towels as a template for size). My finished tea towels are 15½" x 22" (39.4cm x 55.9cm). Add 1" (2.5cm) to each edge as an allowance for hemming. So to cut tea towels the exact same size as mine, cut two pieces of fabric each 17½" x 24" (44.5cm x 61cm).
3. Turn the raw edges on each edge of each tea towel over by ½" (1.3cm) and press. Then turn them over another ½" (1.3cm) and press again. Pin the hem in place. By machine, edge stitch the hem down.
4. Print the applique and embroidery templates that you downloaded onto paper. If you have a light desk, break that out and fire it up, but if you don't own a light desk, simply tape the paper templates to a window with the sun shining through. Lay the hemmed tea towel on top of the paper template. If you are using a window, you may need to tape the tea towel in place.
5. Using a purple fade away marker, trace the letters onto the tea towel fabric. As much as possible you will try to stitch continuously from one word to the next, so use the marker to draw lines that gracefully connect one word to the next.
6. Place the tea towel in an embroidery hoop. Normally you would want the lip of the hoop to be on the wrong side of the fabric, but in this case, you want the lip facing up, so that when you take the tea towel to the sewing machine, the wrong side of your work will be facing down and flat. You will not be able to get all words to fit into the hoop at once.
7. Set up your sewing machine for free motion machine embroidery. Change your presser foot to a darning or free motion machine embroidery foot. Be sure to either drop your sewing machine’s feed dogs or cover them with a plate (the feed dogs are the metal teeth which feed the fabric at an even rate through the machine). If you don’t know which you need to do for your machine, consult your sewing machine manual. Thread your machine and bobbin with black thread.
8. When your machine is set up, you will need to gently lift your darning foot to sneak the embroidery hoop under the foot. Both a darning foot and a free motion machine embroidery foot are on springs, so it is very easy to push the foot up in order to accommodate the lip of the hoop.
9. When you begin stitching, loosely hold the top thread in your hand and use the hand wheel to lower your needle into the fabric where you wish to begin sewing, and keep the presser foot up. Bring the needle back up again using the hand wheel and pull on the thread to bring the bobbin thread to the top side of the fabric. You do this by pulling the tail of thread on the top side of the fabric to bring up a loop of the bobbin thread. Pull the loop until the bobbin thread sits on top of the fabric. Lower your presser foot and begin stitching. You can travel in any direction and you control the speed at which the fabric is fed through the machine.
10. Stitch over the outline of the letters a total of three times. You do not need to keep the stitching neat, in fact, the loose and slightly messy look really works well for this project. When you travel from one word to the next, do not go over the join three times, just the once will do. This helps to make the join less obvious making the bolder letters stand out. You won't be able to stitch the entire phrase at once, as the whole thing will not fit in the embroidery hoop at one time. I completed "I was born to be" at one time, then "but something". I then moved the hoop and completed "royalty" and then "happened".
11. When you are finished, use your hand wheel to lift the needle to its highest point, lift the presser foot, pull the fabric away from the machine and snip your threads leaving longish tails. At the end of your stitching pull the tail of thread on the bottom side of the fabric in order to bring up a loop of the thread from the right side. Pull the loop until the thread sits on the wrong side of the fabric. Tie both the threads from the beginning and ending of your stitching in a reef or an square knot or thread the tails of your thread onto a needle and anchor the thread tails into the existing stitching and cut the ends off. This means that, the tails from the beginning of the stitching will be tied on the right side of the fabric and the tails from the end of your stitching will be tied on the wrong side of the fabric.
12. Now to create the applique. Flip your template over to the wrong side of the page and place it on your light desk or tape it to a window for tracing. With your template flipped, you can now trace each element of the applique crown design onto the paper side of a piece of double sided bonding sheet.
13. Iron the double sided bonding sheeting to the back of a different fabric for each element. Although I traced the circles from the points of the crown and the "jewels" of the crown above, I ended up using fabrics with a circular printed motif, so I simply cut out the circles as they were printed on the fabric. Cut out each shape on the outline. Neither your tracing nor your cutting needs to be overly accurate as again this design looks good a little messy.
14. Peel the paper from the back of the cut out applique pieces. Position the applique pieces using the template as guidance for placement. When you are happy with the position of the applique pieces iron them to adhere them to the fabric.
15. Put your tea towel back into the embroidery hoop, with the lip facing up as you did before and using the same techniques as you did for outlining the letters, outline each element of the applique design a total of three times. Remember that messy stitching works for this project.
16. Repeat the same steps for the second tea towel using the Union Jack applique pattern.
© Colleen Babcock 2011, All Rights Reserved
You are welcome to make as many of these tea towels for your own personal use, including to give as gifts.