Christmas Project #4: Custom Kitchen Towels


This is a big spoiler.  Because my step-sisters were sick at Christmas and I haven’t seen some other family members yet, they haven’t received their gift.  And I know they are reading this so…surprise!

One of the things I love about my family is that we are really very simple people.  It’s the seemingly common things in life that make us the happiest.  We can be just as happy with a thoughtful, inexpensive gift as an expensive present at Christmas. We truly enjoy exchanging homemade gifts, a tradition we unofficially adopted after the kiddos started coming along.  This year cousin Ashley made homemade ranch dressing mix, Andrea made salt caramels, Amy made delicious jams, and so much more.

I wanted my gift this year to be something my siblings could enjoy for a long time and I landed on custom kitchen towels.  Originally, I wanted to imprint something Christmas-y on flour sack towels.  They are so useful and are easy to clean.  But I was having trouble finding a suitable size towel and then one day I stumbled on these lovely, almost vintage looking tea towels, with blue threading.  I just loved the texture and the color.  Not that I’m a cheapskate, but I do have a rather large family, so I was able to buy a big stack of towels for, get this, $10! 

Next I had to decide what I wanted to put on the towel.  It was harder than I thought it would be.  Some of us really get into the whole Santa-thing, while others not-so-much.  “Merry Christmas” was just too obvious and I was worried that a picture of a Christmas tree or holly would get too muddled over time.  The towel had such an Old World feel to it, I wanted an Old World graphic to match.  And that’s how I landed on “Joyeux Noel”, which literally means “Merry Christmas” in French.  I chose an Old English type of font to print the words out onto plain old paper.

Are your ready for the transfer process?  It’s super easy.  I took pictures of the trial run on flour sack towels with a different graphic, so don’t be confused!

towel finished

This is the finished practice-towel.  I have tried several different transfer methods and so far this is my favorite.  I don’t know if it will work with a color print…hmmm… might have to try that some other day.

Citri-Solve Transfer


This is the stuff, CitraSolv.  It’s an all natural cleanser/degreaser, I bought mine at Whole Foods ages ago.  It’s strong stuff so don’t go splashing it around!  And you’ll only need a little bit for this project.


You will also need a graphic, printed with a toner-based printer or copier.  An ink-jet printer will not work hereImportant: you must reverse your image, particularly if there are letters or numbers involved.  If you don’t mind if the project comes out backwards, then it doesn’t matter so much.  As you can see here, I have printed this pretty label out backwards (I think this graphic came from Graphics Fairy).  Cut your graphic out BUT leave about and inch border of paper around so you can tape it down to the towel.

towel burnish  

After you have taped the graphic face down to your towel, with a small paintbrush “paint” a small amount of CitraSolve onto the back of your graphic.  You don’t want it soaking wet with solvent because your image will bleed and get sloppy.  It should look a bit like an oil-stain.  As soon as you’ve applied the CitraSolve, grab a spoon.  Using the back of the spoon you will rub or burnish the back of your graphic into the towel.  Use small, swirly motions and be sure to travel the spoon over the entire graphic.  It takes about 1-2 minutes, depending on the size of your graphic.  Be careful, you don’t want the graphic to slide around because it will cause your graphic to transfer unevenly.  This is not always a bad thing, but if you are transferring letters or small details they may not be the most clear.


As soon as you are done burnishing with the spoon you can carefully peel of the paper, your image will be transferred…ta-dah!  But you’re not quite done.  Now, I don’t know if this part is necessary, but someone else told me to do it so… just do it and don’t ask questions!  Place an old rag, dish towel, scrap of fabric, etc. directly underneath your newly transferred image and run over the top of your transfer with a hot iron.  Supposedly, this helps dry up any excess CitraSolve.  I have no idea if it’s true, but it smells good!


Here is my image, fully transferred.  You can see that the small lettering gets a little muddled, mostly due to the texture of the towel but also because of the burnishing.  I don’t mind it, I think it lends to the vintage look.  If I wanted perfect letters I would have to do silk screening, something else I’m dying to learn.

Over time, especially with the use of harsh detergents or bleach, this transfer will fade.  But again, I think that lends to the antiqued feel of it and I like it.


So that’s my last Christmas Project for this year!  I vow to be better prepared next year and get some of this stuff done e
arlier than the night before Christmas.  Who am I kidding, I will procrastinate next year just like always.

2 thoughts on “Christmas Project #4: Custom Kitchen Towels

    1. The transfer ink is fuzzy but still hanging on. Long term, I don't expect it will stay forever especially if harsh detergents or bleach are used.


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