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 ?   :-)

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