Daily Archives: January 9, 2014

unwrapping: family recipe kitchen towels

Two years ago I asked my dad to be sneaky and locate some of the handwritten recipe cards of my grandmother’s from my mom’s stash. My criteria was that it had to be a recipe that we actually use a lot in our family, and it had to be in her own handwriting. We have plenty of recipe cards with my grandmother’s recipes that were copied and written in my mom’s hand, but I wanted to use something in her original script. He scanned and sent me half a dozen, and I was excited to see that two of them were perfect – they were recipes that we use a lot, and they have sentimental value to me. Those fried peach pies were made following every family trip south through Georgia, picking up crates of peaches on the return trip, and no one celebrates a birthday in my family without the churning of homemade ice cream. I was also excited that the two recipes seemed to go together – and now I suddenly have this really intense craving for fried peach pies a la mode. I also have an intense craving for 75 degree weather and white sandy beaches.

I wanted to use those recipe cards to make kitchen tea towels as a gift for my mom. I used Spoonflower for the custom fabric printing, and I did a little research to determine how large the images needed to be, and how to convert a yard of fabric at the correct width to appropriately size and layout the recipe card scans. I knew that one yard of fabric (the minimum required order) would make four nice sized kitchen towels with room for hems, so I started laying out the cards in Photoshop. I used a green very similar to the green color in my mom’s kitchen for the borders so that I would have the color contrast of a fabric binding on the edges of the towel without having to use an additional fabric. The green also went well with the images on the recipe cards. I didn’t worry about the various food stains on the recipe cards – I could have cleaned those up in Photoshop, but I liked the way the cards looked well used and loved.

I placed the order, selecting the linen-cotton canvas fabric, and held my breath that the finished fabric would look like it did on my computer screen. It did, and I was thrilled.

This project has been on my plate for longer than I care to think about – but Christmases and birthdays passed by without me getting around to it. It almost got past me again this year because my drive to get things done really plummeted, but I rallied. Part of my delay on any sewing project in my house is the fact that I have to jump through the hurdle of setting up an area to sew, and then I have to actually set up the sewing machine given to me by my grandmother. This will involve some time – reading manuals, trying things out, lots of practice and patience. I blinked, and then it was December, and I knew that was too big a hurdle to jump at that point.

So I called a friend, and she kindly let me use her already set up machine – and she helped me troubleshoot a few things, even though she had exams to grade and final grades due the next day. She’s my kitchen towel hero.

I did the prep work the night before – and that really took a lot more time than I thought it would. I washed and dried the material and then ironed it, trimming the edges and double rolling the hem, pinning them in place.

I’m a little embarrassed to show you a photo of my trial towel because the stitching on it is wonky, and I was trying out various corner stitching ideas. We were also having some issues with the appearance of the stitches on the underside – so after messing around on this one, I shifted to stitching on the front side, being very careful to stay straight and not miss the edge of the underturned hem. And of course I didn’t photograph the other three finished towels that ended up looking much better! I also added a small loop in the top corner so that the towel can be hung on a hook or a knob.

I headed home, wrapped them up – one for my mother, one for my grandfather and one for my sister, and I decided to keep my trial one for myself.

Everyone loved them, and I’m so glad that I finally got this project out of my head and onto the table. (Or the kitchen counter, in this case.) I miss my grandmother so much – I miss the conversations we would certainly be having about all the crazy projects and ideas I get myself into these days. I like seeing her handwriting on this towel, resting on the counter where I like to work.


And a little disclaimer I’m putting on all the posts for the next week or two: I’m MOVING! (the blog). Things are going to look a little wonky for a bit as I’m stretching myself and learning, but I’m excited about this month’s changes. I’m no expert coder and I’m a slow study, but a persistent one. More exciting things to follow – I think you’re going to like it.