Colourful drawings of flowers and fruit on a dish towel.


Hand-Drawn Dish Towels: A DIY Gift

May 5, 2017

We love making handmade gifts for friends and family members, but when coming up with ideas, we always try to keep one thing in mind — what can we make that they'll actually use?  In the past we’ve made personalized phone cases, portrait mugs, coffee sugar scrub, potted salad gardens and ‘I love you’ pillowcases, and this time around we tried our hand at making our very own hand-drawn dish towels! They’re such a simple and sweet gift that can truly be made for anyone for any occasion, but ours were made for our beloved grandmas for Mother’s Day and I already know that they’ll be treasured when used in their kitchens.

Hand-drawn towels, fabric markers, pencil and painters tape.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • a pencil (preferably a dull one)
  • fabric markers
  • solid, white or light coloured dish towels*
  • something to protect your work surface
  • painter’s tape (not required, but helpful)

* We chose really nice quality flour sack dish towels from our local kitchen goods store, but also came across great plain (or mostly plain) dish towels at Ikea and HomeSense. The key is to choose towels with as little texture and stretch as possible, as this will make drawing and colouring on them easier for little ones.

First, you’ll want to protect your work surface with some newspaper, cardboard, or a plastic placemat. Marks made by fabric markers are made to last, so you really don’t want to have them seep through onto your kitchen table. Next, place your dish towel on top of your protected work space and use your painter’s tape to secure it down to the table so it’s nice and taut. This step is optional, but it really does make the project more manageable and it’s also great for defining the drawing space you want your little one to use.

Child does a pencil drawing on a dish towel.

When ready, invite your child to draw a picture directly onto the towel using a pencil. Most kids will have plenty of ideas of their own, but simple things like flowers, fruit, fish and hearts would be absolutely lovely, as would be a portrait or printed name. Drawing on fabric is definitely different than drawing on paper and the key to making this step easier is a dull pencil and short, sketch-like strokes.

Using fabric markers to colour in pencil drawings.

When your child is done their drawing, go ahead and invite them to colour in the drawing using fabric markers. Once again, the key here is lighter, shorter strokes instead of big back and forth strokes you might use when putting a crayon to paper. 

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Don’t worry if the picture is not perfectly coloured in or there are some strokes outside of the lines — this is a gift made by kids after all! Plus I have a little trick that I like to use that will help make the finished product pop and look super polished.

Marker drawings on dish towels.

When your little one is done colouring, it’s your turn to do the final step! Simply grab a black fabric marker and outline their drawing exactly as is. It’s a simple (optional) step, but it will give the illustration a pop and make the edges look perfectly finished.

Black fabric marker is used to outline child's drawing to make it pop.

Lastly, heat set the illustrations following the instructions that came with your fabric markers. This usually involves ironing or drying the piece on high heat for a certain amount of time and ‘seals' the marker into the fabric so that it can be washed without fading.

Ironing the towel to

And that’s it! Fold your towel in a way that showcases the hand-drawn art, tie a ribbon around it and give it as a thoughtful, from-the-heart gift.

Folded towel with colourful flowers.

Article Author Jen Kossowan
Jen Kossowan

See all of Jen's posts.

Jen is a teacher, blogger, and mama to a spirited little lady and a preemie baby boy. She's passionate about play, loves a good DIY project, adores travelling, and can often be found in the kitchen creating recipes that meet her crunchy mama criteria. You can follow Jen on her blog, Mama.Papa.Bubba, and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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