This week guest author Emma Jeffery from the blog Hello Beautiful shows us how she turned her grandmother’s handwritten recipes into tea towels for her own kitchen. This popular gift can be handmade by uploading your own family recipe and sewing yourself like Emma. You can also let let us do the work and order tea towels sewn just for you in our Durham, North Carolina factory.

Read Emma’s how-to and watch the video tutorial from Spoonflower member Theresa below. In the video, Theresa will take you through each step from Emma’s tea towel concept. You’ll learn how to edit your scanned recipe in Photoshop, all the way through to how to sew up the tea towel with a finished double-hem. 

Tea Towel featuring a handwritten family recipe

Spoonflower team member Theresa shows you step-by-step how to create Emma’s concept of a recipe tea towel, from start to finish.

Emma: For a woman who keeps a newspaper from the day she was born, my mum has surprisingly few keepsakes or handwritten memorabilia from her own mother who passed away in 1999. When I asked her to trawl through her old papers and files, she managed to find three handwritten recipes from my grandmother. They appear to be the only remaining examples of her handwriting left in the world, and they are as precious as they are priceless.

I decided to use these recipes to make a set of dish towels for my mum and I. This way, the handwritten originals can be safely stored away yet the joy of being able to see my grandmother’s handwriting in an everyday context will continue to make us smile and feel close to her.

Spoonflower’s Linen Cotton Canvas is the perfect fabric for dish towels. Linen is known for its super absorbent qualities, and with a 54” wide printable area, they are perfectly sized to fit a set of four dish towels on to one yard.

I began by taking photos of each recipe page, saving them to my computer and opening them in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. The originals were old and yellowing with discoloration in some areas, but by using some of Photoshop’s edit tools — specifically the ‘auto-tone’ option (to minimize some of the blotchy discoloration) — I was able to get a cleaner appearance to each page.

I then turned each recipe into a landscape orientation by going to Image > Image Rotation > 90 degrees.

Handwritten family recipe scanned into a computer and rotated

After editing all three images (I only had three recipes, so two of my recipe dish towels are identical), I created a 54″ x 36″ 150 DPI file in Photoshop.  Select “File” > “place embedded” to bring in each of the recipe images and arrange them into a collage. Each recipe will be on a different “layer” and you will be able to edit and move them around as you please.

I added a grid spacing in between each image so that I would have a convenient cutting line, and by making the grid lines a color, I had an eye-catching feature for the back, hemmed edge of the finished dish towels. To make your own solid colored grid line, just create a new background layer (“Layer” > “new layer” then drag the layer to the bottom underneath all of the others in the layers palette).

Then fill the layer in with a color by selecting the layer and going to “Edit” > “Fill.” You can resize each recipe to make it fit neatly within the file by selecting your layer, then hitting CMD + T (control + T on a PC) then dragging the image to be the size you want.

Four handwritten recipes

Keep in mind that 54” x 36” at 150 DPI (8100 pixels x 5400 pixels) will fit exactly on to one yard of the Linen Cotton Canvas and this tutorial will produce 4 tea towels. If you just want to make one tea towel, make your file the size of a fat quarter instead (27″ x 18″). Once your file is complete, save it as a JPG and upload the design to Spoonflower. Select the quantity you want and the fabric type (Linen) and add to cart!

I always recommend ordering test swatches before committing to ordering the actual yardage, that way you are able to make color and size adjustments without spending a lot of money.

The dish towels were simple to sew up. I cut them out along the grid lines and turned back the hem. I also sewed a small length of twill in one top corner of each dish towel for convenience.

No access to Photoshop?

See what designs programs eight Spoonflower team members used to make their own version of our most popular DIY project

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Theresa holding her handmade tea towel in the kitchen
SF Recipe tea towel
About the Author
Emma headshot

Emma

Hello Beautiful

I’m an obsessive sewer, often leaping into projects with more enthusiasm than talent, more bravado than skill and more good luck than anything else. This technique has worked well for me so far and more often than not, I make things I love, even if they’re not absolutely perfect. And though I’m no expert, I have a passion for fabric, color and design. I know what I like and what I like makes me smile.

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241 comments

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  • Pat Kennedy

    These recipe towels are just fantastic! What a brilliant tribute to someone special. Some clever soul, whoever thought of it deserves a pat on the back and a big hug!

  • kathy wilson

    Is there anyway to have the recipe printed and ya’ll sew them also? I was kinda wanting a finished product.

    • Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for your interest! You can upload you own designs and have our sewing team sew up tea towels for you! Here’s a blog post that will help with designing for a finished tea towel. See the section “Designing Tea Towels for Fat Quarters.”

      Best of luck with your project!
      Amy
      Spoonflower

  • Hi Emma, I love these tea towels and am attempting to make four for my sisters. I had no problems making and uploading the design based on your great directions. I am, however, having a problem sewing the linen cotton canvas due to its thickness and texture. I am using heavy weight cotton polyester thread and a 100/16 needle. I’m having issues sewing through the material without it starting to jam. I’ve tried experimenting with the tension, rethreading the machine, cleaning the bobbin holder, etc. I have a Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 machine–just 1 1/2 years old. Any suggestions on what I might try to alleviate this? Thank you.

    • Hi Adrianne,

      We’re sorry to hear you’ve run into some sewing troubles! Our top tips for sewing heavyweight fabrics will be a great resource to help you out. We especially love the tip that shared more details about using a “hump jumper” on pesky intersections that tend to be thicker. I hope that helps, but if you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask!

      Take care,
      Amy
      Spoonflower

  • Thank you so much for this idea. I am going to try to make towels for my daughter and her family. Some of the recipes are from my mother, and though they are not in her hand writing, they will be in mine and my grandsons can have something to practice reading cursive!

  • Susan Harber

    Should we assume that if, once we get the one recipe all set to be printed, but we select a full yard of fabric, that we will get 4 identical recipes printed on that yardage, or are there further steps that need to be taken with the software?

    • Hi Susan,

      You’ve got the right idea! If you upload one 27″x18″ recipe tea towel design and choose the yard option for Linen Cotton Canvas, the design will automatically repeat across the fabric to yield four identical recipes. Keep in mind that the preview window is the best way to predict how a design will print. I hope that helps, but if you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask!

      Best Regards,
      -Meredith F.
      Spoonflower

  • Kari Gallagher

    How do you do this if I don’t have photoshop?
    What other program can I upload my recipe to to creat the file for the towel?
    Thanks
    Kari

    • Hi Kari,

      If you don’t have access to Photoshop, we recommend this tutorial that uses the free program PicMonkey. I hope that helps, but if you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask!

  • Rosemary Williams

    What a fabulous blog. Does it show how to make cushions for replacement dining chairs?

    • Hi Rosemary,

      Thanks for stopping by! This tutorial is a great place to get started for replacement cushions. I hope that helps, but if you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask!

  • My boyfriend & I love this idea… we plan to find some of his mother’s recipes that were hand-written, turn them into tea towels and gift them to relatives as wedding gifts, along with all the non-perishable ingredients the recipes call for (so they can make the recipes themselves). It would make a lovely gift basket idea to do something like this even for a housewarming party!

  • Thanks for my DIY idea, I’m an Aquarium and couldn’t understand why every piece of paper was very important to keep . So now I will transfer some to fabric.

  • Ramona Hensley

    Hi,
    I love this idea, it’s precious. I would love to do this for my sister but do not
    Have a computer. Plus I’m not tech savvy at all.
    My question is, is there a way I could send in recipes and you guys make them?
    Do you guys do that? This would make a wonderful Christmas 🎄 gift!
    Sincerely
    Ramona Hensley

    • Hi Ramona,
      Thanks so much for your question! Unfortuantely we don’t offer design services at this time but you may want to try reaching out to a local school in your area to see if there are any design students who might be able to assist you. If you have any specific design related questions, please don’t hesitate to send us a message at help@spoonflower.com

  • I really want to do this to make Christmas gifts but I am so inept with a computer. I read the instructions and I just have no idea what is being talked about. There has to be an easier way to do this. I really want the words to be printed on with professional printing so that the towel doesn’t fade so much. I am afraid I may have to just bag this project…

    • Hi Wren,
      We’ve also linked a tutorial for this project that uses the free design program PicMonkey if you prefer to not work in Photoshop. You can access the full tutorial here.

  • Thanks so much for this! I made some for my mom, and for me, from handwritten recipes of my Grandma and Great Grandma, and they turned out so beautifully. They are truly treasured. I’m a graphic designer, so the file creation process is familiar to me, but I’m going to note a few things which may be helpful to others who create these using Photoshop 🙂

    – The video describes ordering one towel on one fat quarter. To order a yard instead, so that you get four towels, start with an artboard the size of a yard (54″ by 36″, and set DPI to 150). You can set up your guides the same way as she does in the video, but you’ll be placing extra guides because you will divide up the 54″ by 36″ space into four sections.
    – IMPORTANT: The written tutorial makes a mistake on an important detail. When setting up your 1″ (colored) seam allowances, each allowance is 1″ wide along all exterior edges of the yard of fabric as shown. But in the two INTERIOR sections (where the seam allowances border two adjoining towels), you need to make the seam allowance 2″! This is because you will cut the seam allowance in half (resulting in 1″ for one tea towel, and 1″ for the other). The image that is provided in the written tutorial has 1″ of seam allowance throughout the entire layout, and doing this would result in a mistake. (By the way, I personally found the 1″ seam allowance a perfect size. I folded the edges in, as shown in the tutorial, which results in the colored edges on the back of the towels being about 0.5″ wide.)
    – Several of my recipes were really way too short to fill up an entire tea towel. So I simply scanned several recipes and used 2 and 3 recipes per towel where needed, to fill the space appropriately.
    -If your recipes are old like mine, they may be stained and yellowed. I used Photoshop’s tools to clean up my scanned recipes before placing them into my 54″ by 36″ layout. (I colored all my backgrounds white, erased some of the smudges where there were too many, and ensured the black in the writing was boosted so it wouldn’t print too faded).
    – One yard of fabric makes 4 perfectly sized tea towels. I would highly recommend sticking to this number. When you divide the yard into 4, you get perfectly sized (standard) tea towels 🙂

    Hope this helps others!

  • Thanks so much for this! I made some for my mom, and for me, from handwritten recipes of my Grandma and Great Grandma, and they turned out so beautifully. They are truly treasured. I\’m a graphic designer, so the file creation process is familiar to me, but I\’m going to note a few things which may be helpful to others who create these using Photoshop 🙂

    – The video describes ordering one towel on one fat quarter. To order a yard instead, so that you get four towels, start with an artboard the size of a yard (54\” by 36\”, and set DPI to 150). You can set up your guides the same way as she does in the video, but you\’ll be placing extra guides because you will divide up the 54\” by 36\” space into four equal sections.

    – IMPORTANT: The written tutorial makes a mistake on an important detail. When setting up your 1\” (colored) seam allowances, ensure each allowance is 1\” wide along all exterior edges of the yard of fabric. But in the two INTERIOR sections (where the seam allowances border two adjoining towels), you need to make the seam allowance 2\”! This is because you will cut the seam allowance in half (resulting in 1\” for one tea towel, and 1\” for the other). The image that is provided in the written tutorial has 1\” of seam allowance throughout the entire layout, and doing this would result in a mistake. (By the way, I personally found the 1\” seam allowance a perfect size. I folded the edges in as shown in the tutorial, which results in the colored edges on the back of the finished towels being about 0.5\” wide.)

    – Several of my recipes were really way too short to fill up an entire tea towel. So I simply scanned several recipes and placed in 2 and 3 recipes per towel where needed, to fill the space appropriately.

    -If your recipes are old like mine, they may be stained and yellowed. I used Photoshop\’s tools to clean up my scanned recipes before placing them into my 54\” by 36\” layout. (I colored all my backgrounds white, erased some of the smudges where there were too many, and ensured the black in the writing was boosted so it wouldn\’t print too faded).

    – One yard of fabric makes 4 perfectly sized tea towels. I would highly recommend sticking to this number. When you divide the yard into 4, you get perfectly sized (standard) tea towels 🙂

    Hope this helps others!

  • I love this project. Has anyone had success using an iPad Pro for this project? I apologize if this is included in another post. I didn’t read all of the comments. Thanks!

  • Best idea ever. I cannot wait to get started. I have been saving handwritten recipes for years.
    Thank you!

    • Hi Pam,
      This is one of our favorite gift ideas and a great way to protect those precious family heirlooms.

  • I’m curious. If you want to upload 4 different ones for the 1 single yard of fabric, how do you do that? The video was GREAT but it didn’t give additional instructions for uploading multiples for the yard of fabric.

    • Hi Cindy,
      Great question! If you’d like 4 tea towels on one yard of fabric, you’ll need to place all four designs in the same file prior to uploading. A yard of linen cotton canvas is 54″x36″ so you’ll want to make sure your file is set at this size wen getting started.

  • Love this idea! I make tea towels as gifts, but have only used preprinted fabric in the past. Fantastic to add my own recipe!
    Tip: I add a piece of ribbon about 3-1/2″ long and sew into the towel on the back as I hem. Place at a 45 degree angle at the top corner so the towel can hang.

  • Deidre Cassidy

    Wow, I did it. I got a photo of my girl friends much treasured Christmas Pudding, that her late mother made every year, and now she makes it. I have zero experience with Photoshop but followed step by step. My tea towels arrived in the mail yesterday and I am thrilled. Now to get ordering for Christmas presents for my special friends.

    Thank you so much for your wonderful video.

    D

    • Hi Deidre,
      Thanks so much for sharing! We’d love to see photos of your finished tea towels. If you’re sharing project photos on social media, be sure to tag @spoonflower and add #spoonflower.

      • Deidre Cassidy

        I will share on instagram but only once I have given them as gifts.
        thanks again.

        D

  • I’ve read through the comments trying to create a game plan sans photoshop to create a yard with 4 different recipes. My conclusion: photoshop seems like a sanity saver. I tried the picmonkey, but I had very limited options in determining the exact size of my boarders (and keeping them equal size) as well as exact size of recipes (all I could do was use my mouse to stretch the image, I couldn’t input exact measurements). I gave up before even seeing the project through via pic monkey because I didn’t want a subpar product. Pic monkey might work just fine for 1 towel with 1 recipe, but doing a collage turned out to be tedious and I couldn’t get it to work. Back to the drawing board…

    • Hi Kayla,
      We’re so sorry for the trouble! While there are some limiting factors with PicMonkey, it’s a great tool if Photoshop is unavailable.

      • Thanks for the reply– my fabric came and it looks fantastic! My biggest struggle with picmonkey was attempting to lay out four quadrants on a yard, it seemed like an easy tool if I wanted to a singular fat quarter. But o’ well, my determination paid off!

    • Edit: I ended up using basic paint on my PC. I edited the images to make them black & white and then put those images on a paint document that I sized to be 8100×5400. Before inserting the images I sized the document, filled the background with my border color, and drew a 4 quadrant grid to (having the gridlines turned on) to help with placement of recipes. I left my 4 quadrant gridlines to be printed to give me a cutting line. It easily uploaded to spoonflower. Photoshop will give you a lot more fiddle room, which I like, but paint will do a very basic job to help you do the project without access to a paid program (picasa no longer exists, google pulled it)

  • Deana Stratton

    Do you make these to sell?
    I love this so much and would love to have this done for my mom.

    • Hi Deana,
      We’re so glad you enjoyed this project! While we don’t sell finished tea towels, our sister company, Roostery, can create a finished tea towel for you! All you have to do is scan your recipe and upload it to Spoonflower!

  • Hello
    Love this idea! I don’t have Photoshop is there another program I can use?
    Thank you so much!

    • Hi Meredith,
      You’re in luck! We also show how to create a handwritten tea towel using PicMonkey and you can find the full tutorial here!

  • We did try this with some images and simple text recipes from my Mums old cook book, the tea towels were really quite cool..We us Class Printing for our tea towels they can do singles as a one of or entire print runs. We did a printed tea towel christmas present with a Christmas Pudding recipe printed 25 and sent them to friends and close family. They worked really well and people still go on about them now!

  • My mother and I each received a towel with my Great Aunt Florence’s Apple Pie recipe printed on it for Christmas. It was a wonderful surprise to both of us from my daughter. Thank you for the post – we love our towels!

  • Allison Greenwald

    How long does it take for you to print them? I wanted them for a wedding shower and need to know how long it will take.

    AG

  • I love this and would love to have some . . . . but I have no idea, nor the ability, to do it! Does anybody know who might be willing to do this for me (and possibly others??) for a fee? I would gladly pay for your expertise. As my son says, I know just enough about a computer to get into trouble. Have a lovely day, and I hope to hear from you.

    • I agree Kristin. My computer skills are not enough that I can follow these instructions and come out with a lovely, printed product.

  • Thank you for posting this! I plan on stealing my mother’s recipe cards for all of our family recipes (my mother at 85 still cooks every holiday meal and dinner is at their house) for my children and my nephews wives. I might need a few towels so they get them all!

  • Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to your blog before but after going through some of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m definitely pleased I found it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!
    offering high quality Salon towels

  • This really is actually fascinating, That you are a quite specialist blogger. Ive joined your rss feed and sit up for looking for more of your excellent post. Also, I have shared your web site in my social networks! dfecbgdeegacbefc

    • You can fit four tea towels on one yard of Linen which costs $24.30 to have printed with us, or you can just buy one fat quarter (one tea towel) at a cost of just $12.60.

  • Chandra Patton

    This worked out great!! I ended up using Staples to format my file needed to upload to Spoonflower. It was under ten bucks for the formatting. Thank you Emma for sharing such a unique way to cherish recipes. My plan is to make more.

  • I have two images that I am trying to double; however, when I upload the image it looks huge and I can’t see the entire recipe. I can’t figure out how to make there be 4 images on the material.. does that make sense?

    • Make sure you hit the “smaller” button once your design is uploaded to Spoonflower, it sounds like the file was too high-res and enlarged when Spoonflower converted the file to 150 dpi. Set up your Photoshop file to be 54″ x 36,” then pull in your four recipes, each filling up a single quadrant of the yard to create four total.

    • You can fit four tea towels on one yard of Linen which costs $24.30 to have printed with us, or you can just buy one fat quarter (one tea towel) at a cost of just $12.60.

  • What a wonderful idea! I am attempting to make mine now, however, I cannot get the images to change to landscape. Any suggestions?

  • Hi, I’m stuck at the collage stage, with the grid spacing……it doesn’t seem to do anything? just outlines the one print, but I don’t see any option to move the pics etc………

  • dcdarula@gmail.com

    Just read this now. What a wonderful idea! Is this something that is still available to do? I would have to have my husband figure the computer part out for me but I would really like to do this for my sister-in-laws with family recipes. Does Spoonflower than manufacture the towels? thanks.

    • yes this is definitely still something you can do! Spoonflower just prints the fabric so you would need to hem the tea towels yourself, OR, you could try Spoonflower’s new sister company Roostery, who will print your recipe on a professionally sewn tea towel: https://roostery.com/e?products=orpington

  • Hello! I plan to do this for my mom, her sisters and all of my female cousins for Christmas. I am planning to do 2 towels for each of the 17 people so wondering how much this cost. I understand it may have gone up since then. 🙂

    • You can fit four tea towels on one yard of Linen which costs $24.30 to have printed with us, or you can just buy one fat quarter (one tea towel) at a cost of just $12.60.