Save Our Tea-Towels!

By Alison January 22, 2005 15 Comments 3 Min Read


Ladies and Gentleman, as the woman in charge of domestic affairs both here and abroad, it has come to my attention that the humble tea-towel is about to go the same way as our dearly beloved Dodo, i.e, extinct! 

Due to the prevalance of dishwashers in even the most vintage of kitchens, it seems that homemakers across the land are abandoning these little fabric works of art, in their droves…

But tell me this and tell me no more: What are these people drying their hands on? Polishing their silver and glassware with? Do they abandon every item of crockery they own in the dishwasher and leave it there to rot till they remember to turn it on? Would they never dream of filling the washing up bowl with hot, soapy tangerine suds and scrubbing the breakfast dishes clean, ready for polishing them to a sparkle with a crisp Irish linen cloth? Don’t people know how to enjoy themselves anymore??

Too many questions and not enough tea-towels.

Now I love my dishwasher as much as the next woman. I would go as far as to say it changed my life. But I love tea-towels just as much. Who wouldn’t love that souvenir map of Llandudno towel your Nana brought you back from Wales?  Who doesn’t feel a tiny thrill when you see a neat little pile of freshly laundered glass cloths? Who, in their right minds, doesn’t appreciate the the sheer quality of beautifully embroidered linen tea-towels?   

They are lovely. One of the very few ways to bring fabric in all its flowery glory into the kitchen.  Yes, they are deliciously old-fashioned, but in the frugally challenged, miserable kitchen, nothing brings a little bit of cheer like a new set of cherry striped traditional glass towels.

We can’t let it happen. We can’t let tea-towels go to the great linen cupboard in the sky. This is an order: Go out and buy a new set of tea-towels. Then do with them what you will:

Cut up your old ones and make a patchwork tablecloth.

Thread them onto cafe rods for  sweet little curtains.

Upholster your kitchen chairs with scrumptious stripy cooks tea-towels.

Sew three or four together in a loop, then thread onto a paper towel holder, for a permanent rolling hand towel. 

Sew two together, add a ribbon drawstring and use as a peg-bag.

Make a cushion from one too delicate to use.

Cut them into triangles and make bunting.

Line baskets with them.

Hell, you could even dry the dishes with your favorite!

The campaign to SAVE OUR TEA-TOWELS starts here!


  1. Laughing Lily says:

    I can hardly wait to purchase my first set of tea towels. I plan on purchasing a separate set for my oldest daughter who also likes vintage. Do I have to have a theme, or will just any mixture of vintage fabric do?

  2. Sharon says:

    You didn't mention just framing them and hanging them as works of art! Vintage tea towels RULE, Martha Stewart's magazine did a special on them a couple of years back. And they can be had to match vintage print tablecloths and other accessories as well!

  3. Rachel says:

    I'm glad to know that I am not the only one to love a stack of freshly laundered tea towels! Cheers to this post!

  4. maria says:

    I'm so glad I found your blog.
    I am a tea towel lover too!It reminds me
    of my mom….she used to love them too.
    I do not own a dishwasher and do not plan
    to ever own one.I love doing dishes and
    use my beautiful tea towels.

  5. MidwestMetlox says:

    I spend hours of my life hunting for beautiful vintage kitchen towels. I don't mind people making something else from vintage tea towels, but be sure and leave some for drying your martini glasses to a sparkling shine!!

  6. Nina says:

    Please…! Someone tell me where I can buy some towels to embroidery on.

  7. Mimi says:

    I may even have seen this idea here…if I have, apologies! But too fab not to share, even if it is old news here! I read about someone having a whole wonderful pile of tea towels, and she had embroidered her initial onto a corner of each one.

  8. Rosemary says:

    I love my teatowels, most have memories as I try to buy one when I visit anywhere special,also those which family and friends have given as gifts.I do not have a dishwasher and do not want one as have found when using other people's that by the time you have loaded,waited then unloaded you could have washed them by hand,dried and put away and forgotten about it.

  9. sharon says:

    i personally think tea towels should be dipped in ice cold water wrapped and twisted up real tight and then swatted incredibly hard against the backsides of missbehaving partners (you know when youve done it right when you see the tears ! his from pain and yours from laughter!

  10. Betty says:

    The place to buy one's to embroider on is Hershnerr's online

  11. Janet C says:

    I love tea towels. When I got my embroidery machine I couldn't wait to make some to start a new tradition of collecting them. I agree either people say they are to pretty or they can't see a use. I love them though and will continue to make them.

  12. Dawna says:

    I've used tea towels for years!! I dry my hands and the kitchen counter. Not everything I have is dishwasher safe so I hand wash and dry them. I actually wear my tea towels out!! When they are no longer good for dishes they become dust rags (doesn't anyone do that either anymore!?!?!)

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  14. Diane says:

    I too luv luv my tea towels. Have stacks and stacks and family think I am nuts(those who use paper towels instead uggh) I love to iron them with scented iron water. New this week is lilac.

  15. Dianne says:

    What is the best way to get cigarette smoke out of vintage tea towels?

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