We’ve previously discussed the many uses of a tea towel beyond drying the dishes. But several of our customers have since come up with more adventurous ideas. Alternative applications for the humble tea towel have in fact existed since the rise of its initial popularity in the 18th century as a tool to dry the bone china dish sets of the English upper classes.
Here we give a rundown of a few more ‘radical’ uses for the kitchen tea towel:
- As a shepherd’s head dress in your child’s nativity play
Normally better to use a striped or cross-hatch design for this one… unless these shepherds are devotees of the anarcho-syndicalist movement, of course.
- As a flag at a demonstration
Shepherd or not, there’s nothing preventing you from attaching your tea towel to a stick and using it as an alternative to those socialist worker placards at your typical demonstration.
- As a canvas for your next Van Gogh imitation
Strapped for cash and unable to get his brother Theo to send him more canvas quickly enough, Van Gogh resorted to the tea towel as a base for his creative genius. Some tea towel paintings date from Van Gogh’s time in the mental asylum at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole in Saint Rémy de Provence, and it is speculated they came from the asylum’s kitchen. Later works were painted on tea towels with a red border, possibly from the kitchen of the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers, the small village to the north of Paris where Van Gogh spent the last two months of his life before shooting himself.
Sadly no one (even us) has yet invented a self-cleaning tea towel, so just like cloths, hand and bath towels, they still need washing to avoid smelly bacteria and remove stains. We’ve previously written about how to wash and take care of your tea towels, and have decided to update our advice given the apparent popularity of this subject!
Brand new towels of any kind are not that absorbent, due to excess dye and oils left over from the manufacturing process. We therefore recommend washing your tea towels in warm water before use.
You’re best off washing any colourful tea towels independently of other items the first time round, in case the colours run. Using a little diluted white vinegar in this initial wash can also help make your tea towels more absorbent.
Particularly bad stains are best treated with a clothing stain remover beforehand, but your regular detergent should work for the most part. You can just chuck cotton and linen tea towels in with the rest of the washing machine load – hand washing isn’t really necessary.
A hot temperature (40 degrees plus) is fine for white tea towels, but for coloured ones, we recommended you stick to the 30-40 degree range for the best balance between killing off bacteria and maintaining the colour. Using a biological washing powder should ensure a thorough clean at these medium temperatures.
Whether you use a dishwasher or do it by hand, nothing is more likely to provoke arguments than the hundred and one ways of doing the washing up. Disagreements may centre on whether, after washing the dishes with detergent, you should simply dry them with a tea towel (suds and all); leave them to drain until the suds disappear; or rinse them by re-filling the sink with fresh water or running water over them from the tap or a jug.
There are no right answers to these questions and much of it boils down to practicality, habit, personal or cultural preference.
What is not controversial is that things have moved on so much since the days when the washing up was done in a single pot sink with traditional hot and cold taps, limited hot water and a tiny draining board. And this has made the rinsing option much easier. Continue reading
Since we started out, many people have come to the conclusion that our radical tea towels are just as good up against the wall as on the draining board.
Apparently, you can get some decent frames cheaply from IKEA that don’t do a bad job of fitting the tea towels, which measure approximately 48cm wide by 76cm in length (the half panama cotton ones are slightly shorter at 73cm length).
At one point we thought about offering a framing service at the checkout stage on the website, but decided we’d probably be better concentrating on making tea towels than cutting chunks of wood and going about the float glass process.
The pictures below aren’t the first examples of tea towels being used for wall-hung art. Late in his career, an impoverished Van Gogh often ran out of conventional and expensive canvas, and had to think of alternative bases for his paintings. A still life with flowers by Van Gogh, painted on a tea towel, sold for £2.1 million at auction in 2000.
Who knows, perhaps in the future radical tea towels will fetch such sums as rare artefacts from the early 21st century!
Here’s a selection of a few we’ve received via Twitter: Continue reading
We love finding radical tea towels in unusual places. It’s common to find people have framed Gandhi and put him on the wall rather than dare to get the great pacifist wet!
Nathalie Ramirez Anderson, an English teacher at the Mary Erskine School in Edinburgh, Scotland, has taken the tea-towels-as-posters phenomenon to a whole new level – and we heartily approve. She pinned up a total of eleven radical tea towels on her classroom wall, and they make quite a sight (seven visible):
From left to right: Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Luxemburg, Wiliam Wilberforce, Thomas Paine, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King. The tea towels, not the kids, silly!
We got in touch with Nathalie having seen her pictures: Continue reading