Vintage Tea Towel Pillows

March 9, 2010

I’m such a fool for vintage linens.  I especially love heirloom fabrics with hand embroidered details, or cottons with a touch of ladylike lace.  Vintage tea towels remind me of something I’d see nestled on top of my grandmother’s vanity beside her silver comb and mirror. 

So when I spotted a stack of vintage tea towels at a local antique store for a few dollars each, I purchased three to create some unique pillows for friends who are about to have little ones. 

Just like a bride, I think every nursery deserves a touch of something old and something new.  So I created these tea towel pillows  – they are sewn together with a crisp cotton  vintage tea towel, a scrap of accent fabric, and some modern trim. 

cg tea towel pillows

tea towel pillows pair

green tea towel pillow (2)

Simple Sew Vintage Tea Towel Pillows

Supplies:  Tea towel (mine were 24” x 15”); scrap of fabric measuring 15” x 15”; cotton lining measuring the size of your tea towel; polyester batting/filling; trim of choice; fusible web (optional).

Note:  I am the first one to disclaim that I have limited sewing skills.  Me sew straight line.  Me sew good straight line.  Me no sew anything else but good straight line. 

Step One:  Secure cotton lining to tea towel with fusible web (is it web or webbing?), or with straight stitch on sewing machine. 

fusible webing

Press your cotton tea towels nice and crisp with an iron. 

crisp tea towels

Let’s pause.  Freshly ironed crisp white cotton and lace is a weakness of mine.  A definite infatuation.   A borderline obsession.  There I said it.  I feel better.  Now let’s return to our regularly scheduled programming. 

Now is a good time to attach any trim to the front edge, whether underneath (like these ruffles) or on the top, like the pom-pom trim on the green version.   I (foolishly) waited until the end to secure my trim.   Lesson learned: do it in the beginning ! 

attach trim

Step Two:  Measure the length of your tea towel (mine was 24”) and divide by two.  Allow for a few extra inches for your tea towel to overlap your accent fabric.  I measured approximately roughly kinda sorta something like nine inches. 

nine inch measurement 

Secure with pins and sew tea towel to accent fabric. 

sew towel to accent

Now your tea towel should overlap your accent fabric and look kinda sorta sumptin’ like this. 

overlap fabric

Step Three:  After you’ve attached your tea towel to your accent fabric, fold it inside out and secure with pins on the three open sides.  Do not pin the top since you won’t be sewing it closed on that side. 

fold inside out

Sew bottom and two sides, allowing for a few inches in one corner to stuff your pillow.  Do NOT sew the top seam of the pillow since the tea towel folds around and over the top.   

Step Four:  Stuff your pillow with batting and hand stitch your pillow closed.  You can see in this photo how the tea towel forms the entire back of the pillow, and the accent fabric appears only in the front. 

stuff and stitch 

tea towels trio

Just about any kind of tea towel can be refashioned into a fresh accent pillow.  I can imagine vintage embroidered cottons paired with bold bright modern fabrics like Amy Butler or Heather Bailey designs !  You could even use an inexpensive linen napkin in a fresh pastel from a retail store to pair with any tea towel.  Add beading, trim, ruffles, lace – whatever makes you happy.  

cg trio of tea towels

The only thing that remains is to hand embroider the baby’s birth date in the corner. 

Now isn’t that just sew sweet ?   :-)


56 Responses to “Vintage Tea Towel Pillows”

  1. Sue says:

    These pillow’s are absolutely beautiful!!!!!!! I am a pillow fanatic (my hubby believes I need therapy for my addiction I will be sure to watch out for some vintage tea towels at the markets. Gots to make me some of these ;-)
    Thank you for the inspiration!

    Happy Tuesday!


  2. Marg says:

    They are sooo beautiful, I wish I could find vintage tea towels here. Thank you for the tutorial and the inspiration.

  3. Lori H says:

    These pillows are some of the cutest things I have seen! Unfortunately me no sew even straight line! But after reading blogs, I almost feel like I need a sewing machine. Almost.

  4. Rhonda says:

    These are the most beautiful pillows ever! Thanks for sharing the tutorial…

  5. Amanda says:

    Adorable! And question: in your first sewing demo photo, what is that neat soft blue/taupe paisley fabric???

  6. Suzann says:

    These are amazing!!! I will be on the hunt so I can have these in my home. WOW! Thanks for sharing this idea and tutorial.

  7. Alison says:

    Wow! They turned out so fabulous! You did a great job! I cannot even sew a straight line yet, but it is on my list of things to do this year, so I need to get to it. Then I can make a cool pillow or two. They would look so good in my little girls room! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Jenny says:

    Precious! What a special gift for baby and mom.

  9. You ought to list a few of those in your shop, if you haven’t done that already. They are lovely! I guess I can add vintage linens to my “thrift list” for the Spring/Summer. ;) I love the pom pom one!!

  10. Heather says:

    those are so adorable!! i especially love the pink stripes.

  11. Shannah says:

    Love it! Simple and unique enough to have the feeling of a this-will-be-a-family-heirloom.

  12. If I learned to make these, I would burn the motor in my sewing maching. These are super sweet!

  13. Laura says:

    So glad you share your infatuations/obsessions with us! What an awesome use for those towels. So pretty! My favorite is the green with the pom pom trim. So super cute!

  14. Terri says:

    Oh, these are so beautiful! I’m going to have to keep my eye out for some vintage tea towels. These would be perfect for my daughter’s room. My sewing skills are very, very basic, but I think I can do this!

  15. mary beth says:

    I love these! Recently I discovered a shop that is loaded with linens and had even thought to myself that pillows might be a fun way to reuse them…all great minds run on the same track, right? I had to laugh when you got to the part about hand embroidery though! How about a permanent marker? Me no do hand embroidery! You are brilliant as usual..thanks for sharing it with us!

  16. Suzanne says:

    Your pillows are absolutely beautiful. They remind me of spring!

  17. Raru says:

    Oh…. Love these. My favorite is… oh… I love all!!!!

  18. Those pillows are gorgeous. What a great idea! I have a whole cedar chest full of crocheted embellished antique linens that I didn’t use because they were too old fashioned. What a wonderful way to update them!

  19. Rebekah @All Thingz Related says:

    Your pillows are beautiful! Great job!
    Rebekah {All Thingz Related}

  20. Julie says:

    Great tutorial! These are beautiful!

  21. Pam Kozel says:

    There’s definitely something to be said for sewing a good straight line. You did a beautiful job on these pillows. Such an inspiration to do something simple and elegant without being over the top..

  22. The pillows are gorgeous! This is a great idea for a baby shower gift.

  23. Wilma says:

    A.dor.a.ble! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!! I’m going to go dig through my linens now!

  24. Those turned out so great!

  25. Nadir @ hodgepodge says:

    These are just darling! I love them!

  26. Sharla says:

    I love these!

  27. Karena says:

    Talk about repurposing! These are beautiful!!
    Art by Karena

  28. Molly says:

    My goodness – those turned out just beautiful!
    I am a sucker for vintage linens as well and being able to get them out and use them in a way like this is a great idea to keep them useful and more importantly SEEN (unlike the entire suitcase full I have stuffed under my bed) ;)

  29. Jessica says:

    These are so cute! Perfect for a nursery! I am on a pillow kick right now…just discovered how to make no-sew pillows (check out on how I did it).

  30. judi says:

    THank you for the great idea. Your pillows are just adorable! You could also use those “travel” size pillow forms for covering with your tea linen case if made like a sham. I have several of these smaller sized pillows and love them. You may need to line the cover if the pillow form has a stripe covering like many do. This would allow for washing the cover as well. Love your blog…SO many wonderful ideas and projects.
    ~judi ;)

  31. cribtales says:

    simply lovely!

  32. Oh I’m definitely going to try this. Thank you for sharing.

  33. Laurel says:

    Now you know I just am ga-ga over those! They are so awesome and would look good in any nursery – especially my little girls’ room.

  34. Diana says:

    Very pretty!

  35. What special gifts for your friends!! I just bought my first sewing machine over the weekend and one of my goals is to make some nice pillows for our house. I will be referring to this tutorial. Any other tips you have for learning to sew would be wonderful! Send them my way!!

  36. Adrianna says:

    These would be so sweet for a baby’s room! The embroidered birthdate would be such a beautiful personal touch.

  37. Debbie says:

    Wow, these turned out adorable. I have ooodles and oodles of vintage linens, tablecloths, quilts. This is a great idea. I have made pillows before from them but not this style. I really like this since it shows off the embroidered part. Thank you for the wonderful idea.
    Hope your week is blessed!

  38. Kacey says:

    Lovely! Such lucky babies (and friends!). You’re making me want a sewing machine…

  39. Those are simply perfect!!! Love them!!

  40. Sooooo cute…luv your idea! I have all the supplies…sooooo I think I will try to make some…thanks for sharing! Hop over and show them off at my NIFTY THRIFTY TUESDAYS party:)


  41. Get out! I just picked up a sweet tea towel that has been hand embroidered with a flower *swoon* at SVdP for this very purpose! Thanks for the inspo to get it done!

  42. Andrea T says:

    These are so cute. A friend of mine is having a baby this summer, but I’m not sure if this is something she’d like to have?


    Something I could actually do – pillows I can handle!

    I have actually done this before with vintage linen napkins – with the edges meeting together in the center on one side, and tied with ribbon, it really shows off the embroidery! Love the pretty colors – I’m going to go digging through my linen closet when I get home…

  44. Charo says:

    Your work is absolutely gorgeous!!!

  45. Jen says:

    Those are absolutely luscious! Lucky babies :)

  46. Grace says:

    I love them. I have some old linens from my grandmothers that are stained in places and I always intended to make pillows like that – but I haven’t so far.

  47. Melinda says:

    These pillows are absolutely beautiful. Any new Mom would be proud to receive one of your gorgeous pillows. Thanks for sharing the directions. Love & blessings from NC!

  48. Holly says:

    Oh my goodness. I love them. Especially that sage green one. Super cute! Fantastic idea.

  49. These are so beautiful. The baby (and mommy) that gets these are going to have a real treasure. I am looking for tea towels like these- one of my guest rooms is white, and these would be just perfect.

  50. Jori says:

    These are beautifully wonderful. Where in the World do you find tea towels? I haven’t sewed anything for 12 + years, but this has inspired me.

    Any advice on where to find tea towels would be greatly appreciated! Take care.

  51. D'Anna says:

    SO CUTE!!!! I just started sewing this month . . . think these pillows will be my next project!
    Thank you for sharing them with us!

  52. So cute! I love vintage linens!

  53. Amanda says:

    These are SO cute! My daughter was just asking me if she could have some throw pillows for her bed. I found a great tea towel on etsy and have some Heather Bailey fabric left over from a quilt I made for her bed. Yay! I can’t wait to see the finished project. Thanks so much!

  54. Wonderful!
    I am mad of french vintage tea towels, as you can see on my blog, these pillows are very cute

  55. Sunday Burquest says:

    These are beautiful! I’d love to make them as shower gifts, you did a wonderful job! I’ve scoured the internet for a spot to get the tea towels – do you have any suggestions? Thank you!

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