A Message from Ruth at Antiques And Teacups

Welcome to the blog of Antiques And Teacups! Let's share a cup of tea and talk about the things we love...like teacups, antiques, collectibles, visiting England, antiquing and learning about victoriana and quirky gadgets. Fun!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thursday Tea Things And Talk, Tea Towels

Hello dear blogging friends! Welcome to Thursday Tea Things And Talk. 

I am so glad you have joined me. I have loved tea things since I remember. I have shred before, but I think I got my love of taking tea and tea related things from my Nan...my English grandmother, or Nana, Emma Bridgewater nee Rice. Here photo is there on the right sidebar.  We always had afternoon tea when she was around, and it was then over the teacups that she told me stories of growing up in the late Victorian and Edwardian era in England before she came to live in the USA with her husband George Bridgewater and my mother and aunt. She had lovely stories about the reign of Queen Victoria, various celebrations, customs and activities. Sigh...I think of her often...especially when I have a cup of tea...I still have many she gave me when I was 16 that I treasure.

My tea related item today is....the humble tea towel. I have a huge stack of them in the closet, and rotate them in and out of the kitchen. Tea towels originated as just pieces of absorbent cloth to dry the crocks...dishes...with. But for home making women, a boring strip of cloth, often made out of the remnants of sheets or grain sacks just wasn't nice enough. Tea towels were embellished with embroidery and trimmings, and when the use of printed cloth became popular, prints were used as well. 

Then with the mid Victorian era, something new happened. The Victorians were great travelers and explorers. And whilst souvenirs had always been brought home from the Grand Tour of the continent by the wealthy, the Industrial revolution freed everyday working families to have enough leisure and money to also take trips...albeit shorter and closer to home than the Grand Tour.  They went to Brighton and Blackpool and Inverness, St Ives and Bath. And besides the crested and souvenir china they brought home, they also brought home souvenir tea towels to ad an expensive, portable as well as bright and cheerful souvenir of their day out. The tea towel reminded them of the jaunt each time it was used to dry the tea things. Bliss!

The tradition continues to this day with the only change being the change from linen to cotton. Tea towels have been issued for most major occasions. Below is for the 1981 Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana. 

The tea towel below marks the 100th anniversary in 1978 of Lady Margaret Hall, the first ladies college at Oxford.

Tea towels are also the recorders of social trends and styles. I love this retro design from the 1950s in Poland:

And from the 1950s in the USA when colonial, Early American or Pennsylvania Dutch was such a design trend:

And German housewives were just as houseproud. The Victorian era German women invented the "overtowel". The industrious and resourceful ladies took a towel and embroidered it, and used it for "best" to cover the old dingy and stained eveyday dish cloths and dish towels if company was expected. Here is a late Victorian example. There was some use of overtowels also in the USA Pensylvania Dutch ares of the country as the German immigrants of the 19th century brought the practice with them, which fit in well with the so called red work, or red on white embroidery that was popular in the US. This cloth or overtowel has both cross stitch and a running stitch and a silk embroidered ribbon, which was an expensive, "store bought" embellishment.

Tea towels are still marvelously decorative. A discussion recently on my facebook page revolved around uses for them so they didn't just live in the closet. The suggestions were myriad, from framing them to hanging them on a line strung from the ceiling to utilizing the rungs of an old ladder leaning  or mounted on the wall. A fun thing to think about. All of these are currently available at Antiques And Teacups. Just click on the photos for more info.So...don't underestimate the power of a "cheap and cheerful" decorating accent...the tea towel!

I am joining the blogs below. It's always so much fun to see the wonderful things on the blogs! And please link your tea related post. I would be honored! Have a wonderful weekend, and have a cup of tea with a friend!

Vintage Thingie Thursday
 Mrs. Olson ~  http://jannolson.blogspot.com/
Share Your Cup Thursday
Cup of English Tea
Pink Saturday


  1. I love, love the tea towels, specially the one of Diana and stupid Charles, lol...Lovely, though. Thank you for hosting. Big hugs,

  2. OH, the tea towels are grand! I have found a couple lately when out thrifting, yours are so pretty! Happy VTT!

  3. I love your tea towels! I too have a huge collection, some old and embroidered from my grandmother and others which I have collected in my travels from all parts of the world. I have been thinking of posting them but they are hard to photograph! Linda

  4. This was an interesting post Ruth. I love tea towels and often look for nice linen ones though they are very hard to find these days. I have a few from the 60's and 70's. I find the ones in the stores - cotton and waffle weave - are not that great and just don't dry well at all. Hugs, Pam

  5. Great post! So interesting! Makes one think of more ways to utilize their beautiful tea towels! Thanks.

  6. When I was a girl in the late 50's and 60's, a very popular tea towel came with a wooden dowel rod at the top to be hung on the wall because it contained a year's calendar.

    At the END of the year, it went with all the other tea towels.

    Our family had one of those for quite a few years during that time period.

    I believe all of the former calendars have long since worn out and been tossed away - - - but my parents used them for years and years as tea towels.

  7. Oh, oh, oh... I just love the Polish one from 1950s.. :)

  8. I collect tea towels as well and greatly enjoyed seeing your fun designs! I had not heard of the "overtowel," so this was very educational too!

  9. Thanks for the informative article! I'm joining your Facebook page.

    I'm hosting my Homemaking Linkup Weekend and would love to have you join, if you'd like!

    Have a great day!
    Mrs. Sarah Coller

  10. Hi Ruth, You have many special tea towels. When I was growing up, the only ones we had were the hand-embroidered ones.

  11. I remember mom having some with a calendar on it.

  12. Such a neat collection of tea towels....and so interesting. I always learn so much from you, Ruth!

    Thank you for hosting! Take care!

  13. I love the 'over-towel' idea. I received a tea-towel from Greece last year and it will always be a very special one. I received the Free Bates t-shirt today, Ruth. Thank you so much for it. I haven't seen all of the 3rd season of DA (I hear you can get it on video) so I anxiously wait for him to be freed. ' Go Bates'. Deb

  14. Hi Ruth, I really enjoyed your blog today. I just love tea towels. Thanks for all the info. How's the weather up north?

  15. What an interesting, informative post, Ruth! Your grandmother sounds like she was a real special lady. I enjoyed learning about overtowels, too! I'll be following soon. (Have to retrieve a photo on my home computer.) Have a lovely weekend! Bess

  16. Oh, I can just imagine the wonderful storie she told you. No wonder you have developed such a love. Your towels are such a lovely collection! Thanks for sharing with SYC.


Thanks for visiting and we love to hear from you! We read every comment. If my husband's health permits, I love to visit andreply. Have a wonderful day and a cuppa tea always at hand! :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...