As soon as it was time to put away the ornaments and leftover wrapping paper, the stores had their shelves stocked with tempting treats for the next holiday on our calendar, Valentine’s Day . I was honestly shocked when I walked into Target in the 1st few days of the New Year and saw all things pink, red, and sweet lining the aisles already. As a result, I have spent the past few weeks wondering what Valentine’s Day craft I might want to do. Quick, cheap, cute, and kid-friendly were all adjectives I wanted to hit with this project. So, when I looked at several new flour sack kitchen towels I had received for the holidays, I thought why not decorate some of our own using the whimsical method we all remember from our own childhoods, potato stamps.
There have been lots of fun potato stamping tutorials around the web recently. I saw an adorable one for Halloween treat bags, and several around the holidays for wrapping paper. So cute, but disposal. I wanted to make something that would make a nice gift, but that I could also add to our own arsenal of dish towels. I use my dish towels for EVERYTHING. I normally have several scattered throughout the house on a daily basis. I was thrilled when I saw that I could grab a pack of 12 on Amazon for just under $20. I recommend washing your towels before you begin the project.
I chose to try tea dyeing some of mine so I could mimic a light beige color of ones I have at home from local artisan Tina Produce. I had every intention of sharing pictures and steps of how I did this, but this initial stage of my project went a bit haywire so the best I can do is share my learnings. I read several blogs and articles about tea dyeing cotton. I chose to refer to this post, as well as this one. I decided to combine the 2 approaches and used 30 tea bags, 14 cups of water, and 1 cup of white vinegar. I boiled the water, added the vinegar and tea bags and let it steep for about 10 minutes. I removed the tea bags and then added my towels.
I began panicking 5 minutes later as I watched them turn an orangish shade. I think where I went wrong is I chose to buy the cheapest tea I could find, which was basic Lipton. I believe I should have used a true BLACK tea. So, I quickly removed them and rinsed in cold water. I then brewed a full pot of black coffee, dumped it in with the tea water, put my towels back in and let them soak in the mixture for about 20 minutes. My final result turned out quite nice, but again, haywire method :o)
On to potato stamps. I chose to hand cut my hearts using a paring knife and craft X-Acto. My initial plan was to use a cookie cutter, which I had seen in this post. I thought this was a great way for getting a nice, clean shape. However, I couldn’t track down the right size so I hand cut them. I also picked up a tip somewhere on the web to cut a handle into them which I thought was great for the kids.
I set the kids up at the table with the towels taped down and a few bowls of fabric paint. I had picked up several shades of red, pink, and purple at Beverly’s. The brand I used is DecorArt which cost just around $1.20 a bottle.
The kids lasted about 10 minutes with this, and then we were off to the zoo. I then finished off the remaining towels during nap time. The towels are quite large as you can see in the above pictures. I chose to tape them to the end of the table so they could hang over, and worked upside down. I kept it basic and did simple patterns in opposite corners, or just a single row of hearts along one end.
I will say that I was moving pretty fast due to a short window of time and a non-napping toddler, so I was quickly dipping the stamps in the paint and then onto the towels. I have seen other tutorials where people actually brush the paint onto the potato stamp first. This may or may not result in a slightly cleaner stamp. I also noticed that if I had a bit too much paint on and lifted the stamp quickly, I would get splatter on the towel. Learnings for next time! Also important to note that since flour sack towels are quite thin the paint does bleed through a bit. I did have paint on my oil cloth mats after each towel I worked on, but I just kept a sponge at hand and gave the mat a quick wipe in between towels.
Overall I got a handful of towels that are gift worthy, and plenty that are worthy of the abuse I put my dish towels through…and of course the kids versions :o)
I am sure more potato stamping projects are in my future. I love the simplicity of the design that these create. I hope you are inspired to try your own potato stamping project!
All photos by Adrienne Schell