Good morning all! I haven’t posted anything in a little while, but will catch up soon. I’ve been a little under the weather for a while but have been doing some interesting things in the kitchen between bouts of bronchitis.
I received a very nice note and thanks from the co-owner of the Radical Tea Towel Company for my mentioning them in my previous post about tea towels. He asked if I would share more information including a link to their site so I hope you enjoy this. To get to his site go to theradicalteatowel.com and for this and more information from their website, go to the history page.
History of the tea towel
Since we humans first emerged from the primeval swamps we’ve needed to keep our cooking utensils dry. No wonder we’ve developed such a fascination with that most fundamental of accessories, the tea towel – or dish towel as it is sometimes called in the US.
Fast forward to the 18th century. The tea towel has reached the pinnacle of its perfection (never again to be matched until the arrival on the scene of the Radical Tea Towel Company in the 21st century).
Tea towels are now gracing the highest tables of the land and are made of linen, a delicate fibre derived from the flax of linseed plants. The soft texture of the fabric makes them ideal for drying expensive bone china, and tea towels are flourished with pride by the grand ladies of the time who are more than happy to do the drying up, not trusting their prized plates to their clumsy servants.
When not drying their crockery, these ladies would embroider the towels, creating beautiful heirlooms to be passed down through the generations. In today’s more democratic times, the Radical Tea Towel Company is pleased to be able to bring fine tea towels to the masses.
Made of linen, tea towels in those days were fragile – they needed to be washed very carefully and dried away from the glare of the sun. Fortunately for today’s crockery dryers, the Radical Tea Towel Company’s products are made of far tougher and durable high-grade cotton.
True to its name, the tea towel was in its element as an ingredient in the great British tea ceremony. There it rubbed shoulders with the finest crystal and chinaware and was designed to match the rest of the table linen. Often it was wrapped around the tea pot to insulate it, used to prevent drips or gracefully draped over bread and cakes to keep them fresh.
It was not until the Industrial Revolution that the tea towel became a mass-produced consumer item and manufacturers turned to fibres such as cotton.
In the early 20th century, American housewives – in good democratic tradition – would often reuse rough cotton animal feed sacks by cutting them up into dish towels. Not content with their unfinished appearance, however, they embroidered them with intricate patterns, despite the difficulty of working with the coarse weave of the sacks.
In modern times, tea towels can be made of cotton, linen union (a mixture of linen and cotton) or terrycloth, a thick cotton pile.
Still an object of fascination in the 21st century, the tea towel has become the canvas on which we paint our life and our obsessions. At the Radical Tea Towel Company we use the finest materials and printing techniques and combine them with bold messages. The results are unique tea towels and aprons that you will want to keep or give as presents to rally family, friends and relatives to the cause!
© 2013 The Radical Tea Towel Company