Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Made This: Table Runner from Vintage Travel Tea Towels

tea towels runner

I did not make up this craft idea, but for the life of me, I can't remember where I saw it.  What you do is grab a few vintage tea towels that you like, not worrying if the widths don't match up (in fact I prefer it if they don't) and use them to make a quick, no-sew table runner.


blackpool towel

This is a great solution for you if, like me, you have a little problem with vintage textiles. The problem being that the average human lifespan is only 76 years and that's not long enough to enjoy all the vintage textiles I own.  So making a table runner is one way to get them out of the drawer and let them breathe.

I don't know if this look would appeal to everyone. Maybe too eclectic? It might depend on your dining room.  Or you could use more delicate, ticking strip, pastel, or embroidered towels to go in a sort of Cath Kidston direction.

I got a bunch of these vintage tea towels on ebay (search "vintage tea towel lot"), these are all from English tourist attractions.  I think I paid about $25 for seven towels, and most of them are heavy Irish linen. Not too bad.  My favorite part is that they're somewhat quirky.  Like this Cornwall towel (the brown-edged one) that celebrates someplace called the Lizard Peninsula.

helston furry dance

Who could forget that night we whirled together in the Helston Furry Dance?

goonhilly downs

And then climbed the fence at Goonhilly Downs and made out under the big satellite dish thingie?

Truly, the tea towel really makes me want to visit this Lizard Peninsula.

Anyway, this is super easy if you are so inclined.  First I spent a few minutes laying out the towels and choosing which ones I liked together.  My table is 90" long, and I used four towels.  Then I ironed the fold lines out of the towels and used some of that fusible binding tape that you iron (Stitch Witchery is one brand) to stick the tea towels together.  The only even slightly tricky part is making sure you line up the towels so that your runner will go straight.

tea towel runner

I think it will look cuter with the table set, but I wanted to show y'all the pics.  Next I might do one with the Australia towels I brought back from our trip down there last year.  I have a towel with wombats in teacups that makes you want to die.  Cause of death: cuteness.

As a crafter, I tend to gravitate towards things that are easy and a little bit wonky. This fits the bill on both counts. Maybe a lot wonky. Honestly, I'm too close to it to judge.



Megan said...

1. I love you, because now I have Xmas gift ideas for several family members.

2. I love you, because now I can make a cool, unique table runner for Thanksgiving (one my husband will hate because it's not uniform in size, but whatever).

3. I love you, because before this blog I had never heard of a "travel tea towel." It is my new favorite vintage item.

Quick question... are they permanently fused now, or can you un-fuse them later? Feel the love? Thanks, Teach.

Becky said...

Megan, I'm feeling the love! Thanks!

I don't think they are permanently fused, but hopefully someone who has tried to unfuse this stuff will tell us. I could be wrong, but I think that if you heated it up again with the iron, you could work it apart. I went with the fusible tape instead of fabric glue because I thought it would be less damaging.

Keely said...

"Goonhilly". Hehheh.

I shall reserve this idea for the point in the future when I acquire a house with a dining room and therefore a dining room table. Because as much as I adore it, I think it would look silly on my tiny (but vintage) kitchen table.

Michele said...

I, like Megan, love you for this idea. I have lots of tea towels hanging around my place. Most of which are faded and frayed. Think shabby chic.

Kelly said...

I would very much like to see wombats in teacups.

Elizabeth-Flourish in Progress said...

These tea towels are in fabulous condition. I'm always wary of buying things off Ebay, but this has certainly boosted my confidence.

I love crafts that can be done without the loss of blood or tears! This seems like something I could manage!

Thank you for the wonderful idea.

Ginny Marie said...

Those tea towels look fab on your table! They look just right.

Elizabeth said...

great idea -- you're my kind of crafter!

laura said...

Nice ebay score! Usually lots have one worthwhile thing and the rest is crap. You realize you have probably driven up the price of vintage travel tea towels with this cutehead project and now all of your loyal readers will be bidding against each will be mayhem and a blood bath on ebay.

Becky said...

Ha, I know! And bidding against me, I should have kept my mouth shut!

I didn't even photograph the best towel--a very vibrant '70s one of Anne Hathaway's cottage. It's actually got an artist's signature; they don't usually.

M said...

This is a pretty cool idea and I love the look on your table though the asymmetry would keep me up at night. The owner of the little coffee shop down the street hails from Scotland and she has a few tea towels framed and hung on the walls--Queen's jubilee, etc. They really rock the cottage-y feel she's going for.


janimal said...

I grew up in England and our visits to Blackpool are wonderful memories. So I totally want that teatowel.
Your runner looks great! Although aren't you breaking the suburban rustic italian Pottery Barn decorating rule of your neighborhood?! Harhar.

Beth said...

I cannot tell you how much I love this. WOOT.

As one who has used fusible web before (I believe this may be the technical term), I think it is pretty permanent. I usually use Steam a Seam, and when I've done that sucker is STUCK. No matter, though, I would say, I think this runner is to DIE.

You are craftilicious!

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

Hmm. I've never collected travel towels. Didn't even know there was such a thing. Stuckeys and pecan logs are about as far as I've ventured, truth be told.

But my grandmother has sent me oh so many spoons over the years. Wonder if I could make a spoon runner?

Anonymous said...

The Lizard is one of my favourite places in the world! I have been to Helson but was denied any furry dancing. There is a seal sanctuary near though so that was furry enough. Does it have Kynance Cove on it??

gretchen said...

Okay, I swear that you once said that those Australian tea towels were going to be a giveaway! Cough 'em up!

When my eccentric Uncle Francis died we found a chest of drawers FULL of old tea towels. I mean hundreds of tea towels. I still have about 40 of them. This is meant as a cautionary tale.