Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tea Towels—Graphic Inspiration

Mr. Peacock has a fondness for screen printed vintage linen tea towels (or kitchen towels). Every time I spot an interesting one at the flea market or eBay, I’ll try to purchase it. I'll use some tea towels in my kitchen, but others seem too nice to be used simply for drying dishes. I’m mostly drawn to these vintage towels because of their inspirational graphics—the color palettes, typography, and illustration styles. Here’s a few of my favorite ones from my own linen closet:

This linen towel is kind of kitschy, but I like the colors and interesting symbols.

It’s from the Finnish company Tampella, and was designed by the Mid-century textile artist, Eva Taimi. I actually found another one online, exactly like mine—if you like it, you can purchase it here.

I like the colors and layout of this “French-menu” themed linen towel from Ireland. It’s made by Lamont, which has been producing tea towels since the 1830’s.

This towel is probably from the late 1950’s. It looks great draped over my bar cart, when I have cocktail parties. Sometimes there are interesting Lamont towels here.

Mr. Peacock likes the color palette of this 1950's duck themed linen towel—three different shades of green with brown and black highlights.

The leaves add a woodsy touch.

African animals are highlighted on this linen towel from the late 1960’s-early 1970’s.

My photo doesn’t do justice to this towel, the colors are actually more deep and rich. It seems very masculine to me, especially for a tea towel.

This linen towel with pink carnations doesn’t seem masculine at all, however, I like the “scrolled” patterns mixed with the stylized leaves.

It’s probably from the early 1960’s.

You can still find reasonably priced vintage linen towels at flea markets and eBay, and they’re “greener” than buying new towels, or paper towels. I found these tea towels posted on eBay: Northern Territory Birds, or stylized roosters.

Mr. Peacock likes the “graphics” of these eBay towels (from left to right): a “dish” towel, 1950's chef with herbs and spices, and a cheery towel with zinnias by Vera.

What is a tea towel exactly? A tea towel was used to dry dishes and cutlery after they were washed. Linen is the traditional fiber for tea towels, but cotton is not uncommon either. Decorative tea towels were sold as souvenirs, especially in England and Ireland. I think the idea of tea towel seems somewhat old-fashioned, but Mr. Peacock likes the contrast of vintage tea towels used in modern kitchens. But don’t limit yourself to use vintage tea towels just in your kitchen—you could also use them to make pillows, napkins, placemats, whatever…there’s many more here. A set of vintage tea towels would make a great gift too!

5 comments:

CalamityJem said...

I love all those tea towels, they are smashing!
They are such a great thing to collect aswell, cause they are not so in vogue, over here anyway, at the moment I can usually find really nice ones at car boot sales, house clearences & charity shops for mere pennies.
They are often unused too cause like you mentioned, a lot of the time they were bought as souvenirs.
Great post :)

Pigtown-Design said...

I agree with you and Calamity... i find lots of brand new tea towels that were probably brought back from a trip and then never used. I did a post on tea-towels last year and got tons of comments! It's here.

sarajo f said...

ooo, what a good find you are this morning. what better way to celebrate earth day, than beautiful tea towels (ok, somewhere there is a connection--no paper, use cloth?) anyway, great finds and delightful posts, also the one on emile norman. many thanks!

MJ said...

Hello. I'm visiting from Jason's.

I have a fondness for fruity vintage tea towels...cherries in particular.

Christina - WhatsInYourManPurse.com said...

I've gone and started bidding on the Vera Neuman Zinnia towel. See what you've done! I'm going to have to have this shipped to my workplace if I win, since I told my husband I was done collecting tea-related items. Though, based on your description, it doesn't have all that much to do with tea...