How to Sew Upcycled Vintage Tea Towels Into Tie Top Curtains

Spring is almost here! What a perfect time to freshen up and brighten our homes. This one is all about how to sew upcycled vintage tea towels into tie top curtains. I think you’ll agree that the end result is pretty darling!

My Love for Vintage Tea Towels

I have a confession; I’ve been meaning to do this curtain sewing project for literally years. You see, I absolutely love vintage tea towels. Over the years I’ve collected quite the pile of these retro little gems. I’ve purchased them from antique malls, garage sales, and thrift stores. I just can’t help but love the colors, patterns, and heavy old fashioned fabrics.

But at the end of the day I was never really sure what on earth to do with them! Using them in the kitchen means they’ll get worn out and stained quickly. Hence the idea of upcycling these beautiful old tea towels into cafe curtains!

cafe curtains made from tie top vintage tea towels that have been upcycled life full and frugal

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The Advantage of a Tie Top Cafe Curtain

Every home needs its privacy. No one wants people able to look into their windows at night. Cafe curtains are the perfect solution for kitchens and bathrooms because you get the advantage of privacy without sacrificing the beautiful sunshine! 

Why “Tie Top” Vintage Tea Towel Curtains?

Good question! I considered sewing a 1 1/2 inch pocket seam onto the back of each tea towel, and then simply pushing the curtain rod through the seam. The only problem is that doing curtains this way makes opening them up very difficult. Cafe curtains designed this way tend to bunch together tightly at the top, preventing them from opening completely.

Adding tie tops to the top of each vintage tea towel makes cafe curtains:

  1. More easy to push open completely to let the sunlight in. (We live in a dark house, so we need all the sunshine we can get!)
  2. More frilly and feminine. I just love the look of the cotton tie top bow!
upcycled vintage tie top tea towel curtains life full and frugal

What You’ll Need to Sew Tie Top Curtains

Here is a list of items you’ll need to get started with this sewing project. Improvise wherever you need to!

  1. A measuring tape (to measure your window and hand towels)
  2. A cafe curtain rod
  3. 4 vintage tea towels (or as many as you like!)
  4. 1/2 inch cotton twill tape
  5. A needle and white thread
  6. A sewing machine (if using)
  7. Scissors

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Let’s Put Some Vintage Tea Towel Curtains Together!

Step 1: Measure the window you plan to put your new tie top cafe curtains in. This will help you get the correct size curtain rod. It will also ensure your tea towels will be the correct and desired length.

a kitchen window with succulents and white lights life full and frugal

Step 2

Next place the new cafe curtain rod onto the window frame. Make sure you have at least 4 vintage tea towels that will be the proper length from the top of the rod to the countertop.

  • I wanted to make sure the hand towels I chose for my curtains were not too long. I do not want them dragging along the back of the kitchen sink getting wet or dirty. Measure and choose accordingly.

If you do not have *vintage tea towels*, no worries! Use any pretty towel that fits your fancy. Places like Walmart and Ikea have some really beautiful kitchen towels to choose from. Use what you have!

vintage cotten embroidered tea towel life full and frugal

Step 3: Measure and cut about 20 inches of cotton twill tape. (You may want your tie tops to be a little longer, but that is totally up to you. Measure and cut accordingly.)

  • To make sure the twill tape does not fray and fall apart, consider hand stitching a seam on each end of the tape. Fold about 1/4 inch over twice, and stitch tightly. This will help the tie tops stay strong when you wash your new curtains. Alternatively you can simply tie each end into a tight knot and it should do just as well at keeping the fabric from fraying.

Step 4

Once your twill ribbon tie tops are ready, it’s time to pin them onto the tops of each of your vintage tea towels. I chose to place 4 ties on each towel. This makes it so that the curtains hang slightly, but are not droopy. Use your best judgement.

  • Measure the top edges of the tea towels. Measure about half an inch in from each top edge of the tea towel. Place a pin in each place. 
  • You will need 2 more pins, for a total of 4. For my tea towel curtains the top edge measures a total of 16 inches. Minus the two 1/2 inch pins, that leaves 15 inches to work with in the middle. 15 inches divided by 3 is 5. This means to evenly distribute the remaining two pins, you will need to place a pin at the 5 inch mark and a pin at the 10 inch mark.
sewing cafe curtains from vintage hand towels life full and frugal

Finally, fold each twill tie top in half, and at the fold, gently pin each one where you have marked each place with the pins above. Place each tie about 3/4 inch over the front edge of the towel. Each tie should now be secured into place with the prepared pins. 

Step 5

With your prepared sewing machine, gently place each tea towel into position and sew across each tie top. Stitch completely across (about 3/4 of an inch or so) and then reverse back and forth a few times. This guarantees that the seam is strong and will not come loose. Repeat the process for each tea towel cafe curtain.

The Upcycled Tea Towel Curtains are Ready!

And last, but not least, it is now time to hang your beautiful new vintage tie top curtains! Simply tie each twill ribbon into a bow on the newly installed cafe curtain rod. Now just enjoy the beauty of your handy work! It’s so rewarding!

tie top cafe curtains made from vintage upcycled tea towels life full and frugal

Vintage Tea Towel Curtains: A Welcome Addition to Our Decor

I always describe the decor in our home as eclectic. Our house is country cottage, French countryside, Anthropologie, granny chic, and Karen Larrson all wrapped into one! For me the most important decor features are both vintage and feminine. I believe these upcycled vintage tea towel curtains are a welcome addition to our look! The colors, patterns and textures are the perfect fit.

tie top vintage tea towel curtians life full and frugal

Sewing Tie Top Cafe Curtains is Perfect for Beginners!

One of the best parts of this curtain sewing project is that is really perfect for beginners! In fact, had I known it was so easy I would have done it sooner. If you have a sewing machine, all the better! You only need to do some short seams in each tie top, and you’re good to go!

No sewing machine? No problem! You could *almost* just as easily make these curtains by hand sewing! If you have a needle and thread, you’ve got everything you need. It’s kinda of fun to hand stitch at night while watching a movie. These little tactile experiences are so relaxing!

No Time or Patience to Sew?

If you’re simply too busy or not patient enough for this sewing project, no problem. Try these curtain rings with clips to do this job in a jiffy! Shanna loves these!

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