Ask Sewfie... advice for the sewing obsessed, because you know you need help.
Send your question to "Ask Sewfie" today!
My sweet niece gave me a tea towel for Christmas. I have to admit, I don’t even know what is tea towel is. What is it and what is it used for?
The term “tea towel” originates in England and refers to the type of towel used to dry china tea service as well as other valuable serving pieces. Tea towels have been both highly functional and decorative, moving during the last century from service to showpiece.
Linen is the traditional fiber for tea towels, since it is highly absorbent, lint free and can be used to dry delicate plates and silverware without the risk of scratching. Tea towels are made with a simple weave, rather than a looped terry, and are made in a hand towel size. The size and material they’re made from also provides an ideal background for decorating with embroidery or printing. Nineteenth century English ladies embroidered their tea towels for decorative usage during tea time to cover food. Decorative printed towels were hung on the wall. Tea towels have been printed with monarchs and other famous people, country scenes, nature themes and calendars.
Not to be confused with the common dish rag, a tea towel is kept spotlessly clean, because it is used on freshly washed dishes and as a cover for food intended for consumption. Clean tea towels may be spread over a tea tray before tea things are put onto it, or used to cover warm scones or a tea pot to prevent heat loss. When the tea towel becomes damp, it is hung up to dry, and it will also be periodically washed for better sanitation. A dish rag, on the other hand, is a small towel used to wash dishes and wipe down counters.
Tea towels are now often sold as souvenirs, particularly in Great Britain and Ireland, two nations well known for their tea. While these tea towels are perfectly usable for their intended purpose, they are typically kept for ornamental rather than practical reasons. Travelers may bring back tea towels for friends, or keep them as a reminder of the trip.
Thanks to the DIY culture and artsy crafting sites such as ETSY, handmade tea towels are now quite popular as gifts, collectibles and eco-friendly kitchen accouterments. They can be framed, used to make aprons and other craft projects or even used as gift wrapping.