Teatowel of Ignominy

Ever do something just for fun?  Sure you have.  From an impromptu picnic to cooking a lavish dinner.  Sporty things, family things, shopping expeditions or entering a competition in the name of fun.

Recently I designed a book-themed teatowel for fun.  There was a prize involved but I won’t dwell on that because I did not win.  However, it did spawn this blog piece…

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G-B-W©Book Lifecycle artwork (Australia)

For those born into a dishwasher world, I will elaborate.  A teatowel is used to dry crockery and cutlery.  It is made of an oblong piece of linen or cotton material, naturally absorbent, hemmed on all sides and printed with a design.  The design is printed on one side, in portrait position.  Teatowels can be any colour, any theme, but traditionally the same fabric and size.  They can also be displayed poster-like on a kitchen wall.  The following teatowels are not ignominious!

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Raspberry Thistles©Scott Inness (Scotland)

Tourist destinations sell souvenir teatowels, the most glorious ones are those in public art galleries.  Gift shops offer cute ones with flowers, teacups, recipes or cow designs.  Craft groups use them as fund-raisers, while cookware stores display matching sets of oven mitt, apron and teatowel with a trendy designer logo.

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Friesian Cows©Rodriquez (Australia)

I have a large proportion of Australian flora and fauna too well-laundered to show here.  The examples displayed are the best I could find in the kitchen drawer.  A lovely giraffe print from Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo NSW, was singed from a cooking incident.  My recently purchased Cecily teatowel (below) is part of a book-themed series from New Zealand.  It will not suffer the fate of another limited edition teatowel which, shock horror, was used to wipe the stove griller.

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Cecily©Moa Revival (New Zealand)

Teatowels sound old-fashioned and domesticated but they can become the focus of teenage washing-up disputes and used as a weapon to flick people.  Snap!

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Babushka Dolls©Ladelle (Australia)

Apparently teatowels originated in Victorian England and were used at teatime to keep the china in good condition.  Baked goods were often laid on a teatowel to cool or alternatively kept moist under a teatowel.  The name is different in different countries, in Australia a dishtowel/dishcloth is used for more heavy duty cleaning.

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Tidy teatowel (Unknown)

No doubt there is an online history of teatowels and teatowel aficionados around the world, but I am content in the knowledge that I have owned many useful hard-working ones over the years.  Lightly imbued with nostalgia and sentiment, some were gifts, most I have bought, and one I designed myself which is not destined to be printed.  That’s a good thing.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward