My family’s hoarding tendencies paid off for me again this week when I found a lovely stash of vintage tea towels sitting in the bottom drawer, long disused and forgotten. They’re of that linen variety popular in the good old days, donning elaborate paintings celebrating particular Australian towns. A kind of useful souvenir, I suppose. They’re certainly far more practical than those funny ornamental teaspoons that were also popular at the time. Luckily, I realised the value of the find stashed in our bottom drawer because I’d been scoping out a pricey vintage shop in Collingwood just days earlier. One of these little beauties was on sale for $12… would you believe it?!
At first I found it flabbergasting because I’ve always thought linen is such a bad material to make a tea towel out of. The poor stuff has a pretty hard time soaking up water, and when it finally dries your dishes after too much scrubbing, the towel itself becomes so quickly soaked that you end up having to use another one. And whose idea was it to cover one side of the tea towel with paint, making it even harder to use for any practical purpose?
The good news here is that these tea towels make fantastic material for repurposing. When I wrote about upcycling a few months ago, I’d just started noticing a real trend around markets of people creating beautiful and useful things out of old junk. It’s one of my favourite concepts and totally justifies, even celebrates, my household’s messy, hoarding ways.
This week I put one of the tea towels to good use by transforming it into a simple plastic bag carrier. You know the one – the long tube with elastic at both ends that you hang on the side of your fridge. We always had one or two in our house growing up and it was a great way to effectively store annoying run-away plastic bags.
Because I used a linen tea towel instead of a raw piece of material, I didn’t have to worry about any fiddly stuff like folding extra hems. I just made a big hem at either end of the tea towel by folding it over and sewing it, leaving enough room to run some elastic through.
I then simply folded the tea towel in half long-ways (and inside-out) and sewed it together to make it into a tube (but not sewing the ends where the elastic was going to go).
After cutting my elastic to size, I stitched it with cotton to a fat wool needle, which was easy to thread through the little tunnel I’d made for the elastic at either end of the tea towel (trying to thread elastic on its own without anything solid to lead it through it pretty much impossible).
And voila! Seriously, this is one of the easiest projects that can be attempted, so if you’re looking for somewhere to store your plastic bags, I’d definitely recommend giving it a try making one. Otherwise, if anyone wants me to wiz one up for them out of any of the four tea towels in the photos at the top of this post, drop me a line!