The other day my sister stopped by with some flour sack dish towels.
She had a pack of 10 for me, and a pack of 10 for herself. We ended up going shopping and doing some other things that day, and I never did get around to asking her what her intentions were for these towels. But she did leave them all with me, so I was guessing that she wanted me to dress them up a bit … both hers and mine.
It seemed like a no-brainer to use my mini-stencils from Jami Ray Vintage on them.
I really wasn’t sure how well paint would withstand the frequent use and washing that dish towels experience.
But what the heck? My sister bought them, so no loss to me if it didn’t work (I’m smirking as I’m writing that, sorry sis).
I decided to use acrylic craft paint for this project rather than chalk paint. Since chalk paint doesn’t have any sort of built-in top coat, I felt fairly sure that it would mostly wash out of the fabric. As you may remember, I have used chalk paint to dye fabric and quite a lot of the color did wash out (although setting it with heat helped with that). I suppose the ideal medium to use would be fabric paint, but I didn’t have any on hand.
I started out with washing the dish towels in hot water first, then drying them in the dryer. If they were going to shrink (and since they are 100% cotton I was guessing they would), might as well get that over with before painting them.
I chose a navy blue paint and the more ‘American’ of the stencil designs for my sister’s towels …
And I used grey paint and the ‘French’ stencil designs for myself.
They looked fantastic freshly stenciled, but that’s not saying much is it? The real test is whether or not they’ll hold up to washing.
Before washing them, I decided to heat set the paint in the dryer. When I did that with my dyed linens it made a huge difference. However, my online research says you don’t have to heat set acrylic paint. Well … I did it anyway. Better safe than sorry, right?
So I ran them through the dryer on a high heat setting, then I threw them in the wash on a medium heat cycle and dried them on high again.
As you can see, the dark blue (left above) fared better than the grey (right above). So the lesson learned here, stick with dark paint colors for stenciling flour sack towels.
Of course, I suspect the designs will continue to fade away over time with multiple washings, but these weren’t expensive towels to begin with and they definitely won’t last forever anyway.
Let’s face it, nothing can beat the quality of vintage flour sack towels, they just don’t make ’em like they used to.
But still, this was a fun craft project for a January afternoon and I’d definitely do it again. In fact, I’m going to do it again. I saved 10 of the towels to experiment on with the new Dixie Belle Silk paint that is coming out soon so be sure to stay tuned for that.
One last thing I want to mention before ending this post, if you are struggling to perfect your stenciling skills I highly recommend stenciling on fabric to practice. Because fabric is very … what should I call it? … rough? textured? toothy? None of those words seem exactly right, but basically fabric is not as slippery a surface as painted wood, so you can easily get a clean, crisp result stenciling over it. So give it a try if you want to work on improving your stenciling technique!