A Laid-back Approach to Printing Linens

There are some activities that are perfectly suited for keeping the hands busy and the mind quiet. Like knitting; the meditative, therapeutic effect of repetitively wrapping and twisting yarn around two little sticks. Unfortunately, after many attempts and a failed stint at a knitting group, I am just not a knitter. I did, however,  find my true peace with my exacto knife. I could sit for hours, carving out the most intricate and microscopic lines without even glancing at a clock.

Are you a knitter or a carver?

You know those kitchen linens that are always featured in home design magazines that are so gorgeous and elegant, yet so impractical because you probably wouldn’t want to wipe spaghetti sauce on such a beautifully designed $32 dollar tea towel?  Well, I love those towels! So I make them myself, and you can, too!

There are many different methods for printing fabric, all of which I will write about in time. This one, using freezer paper is one of my favorites because 1. I get to use my exacto knife and 2. It’s pretty darn easy.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Fabric Paint (Martha Stewart has a nice new line of fabric paint available at Michaels)

Exacto knife with very sharp blade

Freezer paper

Light colored cotton fabric, tea towel or dinner napkin, washed and ironed


Step one. Using a pencil, trace your design onto a sheet of freezer paper (shiny side down). Don’t have a design? Here’s a PDF of mine, feel free to print it out and copy.

Step two. Using your exacto knife, carve out the areas that will be painted.

Step 3. Place your freezer paper stencil on top of the fabric, shiny side down.  Using a medium hot iron, iron over the paper. It will adhere to the fabric pretty fast. Once the whole paper is adhered on, you are ready to paint.

Step 4.  Painting time! Add a few drops of water to the paint to thin it out a bit. Since we are painting a piece of fabric that will be used in the kitchen, we want it to have a softer feel. If the paint is too thick, it will get hard and crunchy. I used a sponge to paint, but you could use a paintbrush or even your fingers.

Step 5. After the paint is completely dry, peel the freezer paper away from the fabric. Now we want to “set” the paint using a hot iron. If you skip this step, the paint will fade after it is washed a few times. So get your hot iron and a piece of scrap fabric. Lay the scrap of fabric over the painted design and press with a hot iron for about 3 minutes, circle it around a bit over the design, so it doesn’t scorch the fabric. Or set it on fire. We don’t want any fires.

Now you have a designer towel!


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