Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tea Towels

On November 13th I wrote about my visit to Jeffrey's Antique Mall where I purchased two vintage tea towels.   The purchase prompted a look at my other tea towels, which I've decided to share today.  
Some are vintage and hand embroidered...
Some are souvenirs...
[Empress Hotel, Victoria, British Columbia]
[Irish Linen Store, Victoria, British Columbia]
[Harrods, London, England]
Some are collectible...
[Sandy Clough]
Some are gifts...
[Laura Ashley, London, England]
And some are purchases from here and there...
 [Cracker Barrel]
[World Market - Cost Plus]
Some references claim tea towels came into use during the 18th Century, while other sources link them to the early 19th Century.   Either way, they originated in England and were a special linen drying cloth used by the mistress of the house to dry her precious and expensive china tea equipage.   Tea towels were also wrapped around  teapots to insulate and keep the pot warm in place of a tea cozy, and either wrapped around, or laid on top of a serving basket or bowl to keep fresh tea scones, tea cakes or muffins warm.  They were sometimes used to take care of  tea-time spills and clean-up too.
Linen was the fabric of choice because it was lint-free and wouldn't scratch fine china or glassware.  The 18th Century servants hand hemmed and embroidered the tea towels as well as ladies of the home.  The embroidery was done with such great skill and care that  tea towels often became family heirlooms.
Tea towels are mass produced today and can be easily purchased in many stores, so their importance has diminished unless you're a tea lover who likes to collect anything associated with tea.
Do you collect tea towels?


  1. I do...and they are tea themed as well. It's is so nice to remember where you got the souvenir ones when you bring them out. I love your collectible vintage tea towels! So glad they are being loved & treasured...so many are turned into rags because they are "out of style". Cheers for you!

  2. Very cool - another tidbit of history! I don't think I have a single tea towel actually :( Go figure!

  3. Lovely collection! It's always exciting to find a tea themed towel!

  4. I love your collection of tea towels. They are all so different but all really fabulous. I do not collect them, but I would love to begin : )
    I spent many years in upper Ontario, out in the middle of no where,and the women were still using linen tea towels exactly as you explained. Except for wiping up tea spills, it stains too much. We wrapped tea pots with them regularly, unless we used a knitted or crocheted tea cozy. I learned about tea from these wonderful ladies.
    Thanks so much for your very interesting post.

  5. I do collect tea towels, especially the vintage ones with those charming old graphics. And I must say, I am amazed to see so many designs here that are new to me -- most of them, in fact, which makes me marvel at how very many tea towel designs there ARE!

  6. I love your tea linen collection! I hadn't thought of collecting them though it sounds like a fun idea! Thanks for sharing YOURS!
    Have a lovely week!
    sandy :)

  7. Love seeing your tea towel collection. I do have a few of them myself. I say they don't take up much room, but bring so much pleasure.

  8. Phyllis, you have a really nice collection of tea towels! I enjoyed looking at each one.

  9. Love seeing your collection. And thank you for the little history tid-bits about tea towels. I found that very interesting.


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