Scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits, red-eye gravy, grits, butter, and orange juice. Growing up, my grandmother routinely cooked up this breakfast spread for my family on the last morning of our weeklong visits to her home in rural North Carolina. She would send us off with full bellies as we piled into the family station wagon at sunrise, driving west across the long state of North Carolina and back to the our home in Nashville.
My grandmother, Josephine, was always known to cook traditional Southern foods like skillet cornbread, Brunswick stew, and coconut custard pie. Come to think of it, she always greeted our arrival with a hot custard pie freshly pulled from the oven, still bubbling atop a trivet on the counter. Our visits were always bookended with these food rituals, and I always hoped to learn to re-create my favorite recipes of hers.
After asking around in my family, I was able to track down her index card recipes in an old tin box -- they smelled like her furniture and were dappled with vanilla extract stains. Grateful for the tangible heirlooms, I wanted to ensure I wouldn't lose such precious family mementos.
I revisited this useful tutorial written by Emma Jeffery for Spoonflower about preserving handwritten letters, and I thought it was perfect! As you'll see, Emma moves through the step-by-step process of turning handwritten recipes from her mum into gorgeous and sentimental tea towels for daily use. It's easy to scan the letters into a high-quality digital file and have it printed on soft fabric by Spoonflower.
Spoonflower’s linen-cotton canvas is the perfect fabric for dish towels. Linen is known for its super-absorbent qualities, and with a 54-inch-wide printable area, one yard is perfectly sized to fit a set of four dish towels. I began by taking photos of each recipe page, saving them to my computer and opening them in Picasa. The originals were old and yellowing with discoloration in some areas, but by using some of Picasa’s edit tools -- specifically the "retouch" option to minimize some of the blotchy discoloration -- I was able to get a cleaner appearance to each page. You can use a different image editing software if you like.
I then turned my selected images into a collage that measured 54" x 36", which will fit exactly on the one yard of linen that I want to buy. Make sure there is a 1/2 inch around each recipe so that you have room for a hem.
To transform your tea towel design into fabric, you can upload your design on Spoonflower and order it to be printed on linen-cotton canvas. I always recommend ordering test swatches before committing to ordering the actual yardage, that way you are able to make color and size adjustments without spending a lot of money.
The tea towels were simple to sew up. I cut them out along the grid lines and turned back the hem twice for a double hem. A small length of twill tape sewn into the corner will allow you to hang your tea towel from a hook.
I'm excited for the chance to be able to see and feel the recipe tea towels every day and be reminded of my grandmother sitting around the table with us, smiling and chatting. In fact, this would also make the perfect gift for any member of my family.
The linen-cotton canvas is a beautiful fabric and will only improve with extensive washing and use. The really nice thing about these is that if they ever do suffer from wear and tear I can simply have more printed, without even having to dig the original paper copies out from storage.