23 April 2016
The Humble Tea Towel
I am a massive fan of tea towels! Show me a sale – buy 3 and get one free, 25% off – and I will go bananas! With Mother’s Day right around the corner I have my fingers crossed for a tea towel and I have instructed my husband to take the kids shopping and to let them pick one out for me. I am sure this will mean that on Mother’s Day morning I’ll be unwrapping one covered in pandas or ponies and the other in cars, but I don’t care. Actually, I hope they do pick something like that.
Wombat tea towel by Busaria Workshop
My Mum still has an oven-mitt that my brother got her for Mother’s Day when we were kids. It’s a cow and when you open your hand, the mouth has grass in it… oh the memories! My Dad took us into Woolworths and gave us $2 each. My brother got the mitt for Mum and I got a set of 4 rainbow parrot glasses, which over the years have all hit the deck. Whenever the cow mitt comes out, we all have a laugh about it and for two bucks the old girl is doing remarkably well – and is still a great at her job.
‘Venezia’ tea towel by Contemporary Art Prints
So anyway – back to the tea towel talk. It’s an item that most of us would use every single day, but do you know where it came from? The history of the tea towel? Well if not here is a brief run-down.
England was the very first country to use the term “tea towel”. In the 19th century tea time became a very popular – almost universal – daily event in Britain. Tea time developed into a very serious affair, showcasing the family’s finest china, precious crystal, and linens.
‘Some Bunny Loves You’ tea towel by Rondelle Designs
Originally the linen tea towel was used for… you guessed it, drying out Tea Sets. The linen was so soft that it didn’t scratch the expensive items of china and crystal. Then tea towels got a little makeover with beautiful and delicate embroidery, and many pieces became family heirlooms.
With the addition of the embroidery, tea towels were then treated almost as carefully as the fine china. Washed in mild soap, never scrubbed, dried flat out of the sun and carefully ironed. They were almost always featured in the table display for tea time.
‘Babushka' tea towel by Little Miss Gee
Did you know…
The great Van Gogh, late in his career, often ran out of conventional canvas, which was very expensive. While he waited for his brother to send more, he painted on whatever came to hand, and if that was a tea towel, so be it. In fact, some of his works seem to be painted on tea towels with a red border.
Do you share my love for the humble tea towel?
Meredith (a.k.a. “Honest Dave”)
Creative coach, pixel perfectionist and handmade obsessed.
Store: Dee Dub Designs