History of the tea towel
Britain was actually the first country to coin the ‘tea towel.’ In the 18th Century (1870 approx) Great Britain’s tea towel was a special linen drying cloth that the lady of the house would use to dry expensive pieces of China.
With its delicate weave, linen was considered the fabric of choice as it would not scratch pieces of fine China or glasses. During the 18th Century, British servants were charged with hand hemming and hand embroidering the tea towels. Each tea towel was embroidered with care with many of the tea towels becoming the subject of family heirlooms.
Linen was considered the best use of soft fabric; however it did require a lot of handheld care. Water temperatures could not be that warm (between 50-90) so all linen had to be hung out to dry from the sunlight. When the tea towel was just a bit damp, it needed to be ironed on the reverse side.
It is highly known that British people love their tea and pride themselves on how they serve it. At tea parties the table was amazingly dressed with the finest of linens and the most beautiful crystals and China, complete with matching napkins and tea towels.
Dry and clean tea towels were often used as a tea cosy (the tea towel was wrapped around the teapot in insulate and keep the pot warm), as well as a basket warmer. The tea towel was wrapped around or laid on top of a serving basket or bowl to keep fresh tea scones, tea cakes or muffins hot.
Ireland also is in line with the British when it comes to the tea towel and drinking cups of tea. In fact, they serve and drink tea as much as they do in England. 1794 was the year of yarn prohibition which turned Ireland like the British, to become excellent weavers with fine weaving a long and time honoured tradition.
Tea towels were massed produced by the Industrial Revolution with companies nowadays creating tea towels and other kitchen textile products displaying a variation of pictures, images, trends and styles etc.
Tea towels are also seen as wall hangings or in encased frames as well as pictures on a wall.