Tea towels started as a way (before the tea cozy was invented) to cover a teapot to keep the heat in. They became simple towels used around the kitchen. In the U.S. we usually call them “dish towels since they are often used to dry dishes. These days tea towels have become collectibles, craft projects, and a lovely way to decorate your tea table. You can never have too many, since they are essential to tea time and a clean kitchen. Time to stock up on tea towels!
A lot tea towels are made of 100% cotton to assure maximum absorbency and are a simple weave as opposed to the loop weave of your bath towel. Others are 100% linen and are considered non-scratching for drying delicate teawares and silver, but the ones I have are not as absorbent as the cotton. You can also get tea towels made of suede (think “chamois” like you would use on your car), microfiber (think “ShamWOW”), and twill (65% poly/35% cotton). A good size is 15 inches by 25 inches, but other sizes available include 18×29, 20×28, 23×35, 28×30, 31×32, and 30×38. Some tea towels come in a velour finish. I have a few of these and find that they are not sufficiently absorbent, but they look great. You might get 2 or 3 to have for show when guests are over for tea.
Tea towels come in many designs. Some of these designs are printed on. Some are woven in. Some are appliqués. Still others are embroidered. For me, the first two are best for everyday use, since I’m too worried about ripping out delicate embroidery stitching or having the appliqué peel off. Typical designs include flowers, wine bottles, veggies, coffee beans, fruits, recipes, birds, kitten, puppies, and of course tea stuff. There are also tons of souvenir designs, sporting the Eiffel Tower, London images, the Royal Wedding, whole country maps, etc.
Some famous designers have even gotten into the act of creating something unique for your kitchen and tea table. Often, there are matching tea cozies, hot pads, place mats, and aprons. April Cornell is one designer, and Jean Vier of the French Basque region is another. April is inspired by her travels along the silk road, from Istanbul to northern India, where the colors and patterns dazzled and addicted her. From Chinese Flower Paisley to Garden Lantern to the Madeline floral design and plaid design with matching cozies, her bright colors and lively images will entrance you. Jean has veered from his usually bright stripes to create a line of tea towels to please a French market that loves art even in mundane things. His Basque heritage also comes through clearly.
Also, there are lots of ways to turn old tea towels into something useful. In fact, there is a whole book to show you how: Dozens of Ways to Repurpose a Tea Towel. You will never throw out an old, worn, dingy tea towel again.
Need a great housewarming or hostess gift? A gift basket of tea, goodies, a teapot and perhaps a mug or two, plus a lovely tea towel will certainly be well received. That is, if you can bear to part with any of those tea towels. Better to horde them in the pantry so you always have plenty for tea time!
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