Hand Embroidery Tutorial: How to Make an Aunt Martha’s Tea Towel

Posted by on Jun 23, 2014 in Embroidery | Comments


The Aunt Martha’s embroidery patterns are extremely popular and well-known. For those of us who have been embroidering for years, Aunt Martha’s patterns and embroidery supplies have been, and continue to be, essentials in any stitcher’s arsenal. This hand embroidery tutorial for tea towels uses this traditional pattern collection for a classic project that’s an essential for all embroiderers.

Aunt Martha's Embroidery Patterns

The story behind Aunt Martha’s embroidery

Aunt Martha’s began in the 1930’s as a cut-to-size quilt company during the Great Depression. Today, this once small company has grown into the Kansas City, Missouri based company Colonial Patterns, Inc. Even though the company offers an array of products and patterns, they are probably most known for these iron-on transfers and continue to be lovingly referred to as “Aunt Martha.”

I know that I am not the only one whose grandmother told her that, “Every good stitcher and seamstress’ home should have at least one set of embroidered ‘days of the week’ tea towels.” I am fairly certain Aunt Martha would agree. That being said, Aunt Martha’s offers an array of patterns, including blank tea towels, ready for you to transfer and stitch up.

dow tea towels

Aunt Martha’s patterns are all fantastic ranging from vintage motifs to anthropomorphic kitchen tools. As difficult as it was to do, I chose one pattern, and transferred the designs to show you a set of Aunt Martha’s days of the week towels.

Aunt Martha's pattern

Make your own Aunt Martha’s “days of the week” tea towels!

Materials you will need:

  • 7 tea towels from the Aunt Martha’s collection (I used the vintage multi-striped towels)
  • One Days of the Week Tea Towel pattern set
  • Embroidery hoop (I used a 7-inch hoop)
  • 6-strand embroidery floss in various colors
  • Embroidery needles and scissors
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Pins
  • Scissors

Step 1:

Wash, dry, and press the tea towels to prepare for embroidery.

Plain Tea Towels

Ironing tea towels

Step 2:

Remove the pattern from the envelope and cut around each day’s design. Make sure to leave enough of an edge around the pattern to pin to the tea towel when transferring.

Fun vintage Aunt Martha's pattern

Aunt martha's cut pattern

Step 3:

Pin the pattern face down on the area of the tea towel where you want to transfer the design. With a hot iron, steam setting off, carefully begin to run the iron over the paper to transfer the design.

You can take one pin off of one side and lift the design to ensure proper transfer, but make sure not to move the design or you’ll end up with a blurry transfer. Repeat the transfer process for each of the seven designs on each tea towel.

Embroiderer’s note: There is a test image that comes in each pattern that you can use to try out the transfer process. I recommend testing this on a piece of fabric other than the tea towel you intend to embroider, as there is a warning with the pattern that indicates it might not wash off of some fabrics.

pinned pattern

ironing transfer

transferred pattern

transferred pattern

Step 4:

Place the tea towel in your hoop and stitch. Repeat for all seven towels.

Embroiderer’s note: For this particular project, I chose the Aunt Martha’s Happy Gadgets pattern # 3929. I used 6-ply floss for the running stitch on the gadget body and text and used 3-ply floss for backstitch on the arms, legs and eyes.

embroidering tea towels

Step 5:

Once complete, I recommend washing the tea towels either by hand or using the hand-wash setting on a washing machine and then line dry. If the towels need to be ironed, iron the reverse side without going over the stitches.

embroidered tea towels

Step 6:

Enjoy your lovely vintage-style embroidered tea towels!

Colleciton of days of the week tea towels

I really love having days of the week tea towels and this set is no exception. I hope you head over to the Colonial Patterns, Inc. website to check out all the patterns and blank goods they have available, or visit your nearest fabric or craft store to see which Aunt Martha’s patterns they have available for you.

What’s your favorite classic embroidery pattern?

Comments

  1. Mary Young says:

    My former mother in law used to make the towels out of white flour sacks and they were more square than long. Wish I still had them. I do have some of Martha’s transfers so maybe I should get busy!