Sunday, September 13, 2020

Tea Towels for Every Use and Style

Photo by Kristen Lawson

If you were born and raised in the country, especially in the Blue Ridge Mountains, you grew up on stories of feed and flour sacks and the many ways women used them. Both cloth and cash were scarce in the 1800s and early 1900s so the cloth sacks that animal feed and flour came in were utilized by the family seamstress to make clothes and kitchen towels. Any scraps were gathered and made into the quilts that are now legendary in the area for their beauty and designs. Manufacturers of the sacks began to print beautiful patterns onto their cloth to attract women to their products. A story in our community from the time period is of one woman who would accompany her husband to the feed store and the workers hated to see her coming. She would peruse the stacks of feed and point out the material she liked, no matter where it was in the stack and the workers would have to shift all the feed to get the ones she wanted.

We have a delightful line of feed sack tea towels in the shop that combine elegance with utility. Made by Green Bee Tea Towels, a woman-owned business in Kansas City, Missouri, these sturdy towels are imprinted with creative designs featuring animal themes, botanical, comic and farm life. Although they are called tea towels, they can be used to dry dishes, for decoration in the kitchen, as hot pads, as an absorbent pad to keep salad greens crisp, and to tuck into any gift to make it a little extra special.

Green Bee hand screen prints their towels on sturdy cotton flour sack material that is soft, durable and absorbent. They use specialty inks that adhere to the fabric so that the designs don’t fade, peel or come off on other fabrics. All towels are pre-washed, pre-shrunk and 100% cotton. Our towels measure a generous 28 x 28 inches.

Photo by Kristen Lawson

The directions for care from Green Bee say to just wash and dry. Using a bit of care in this process will make your lovely towels stay bright and last longer. It’s always recommended to wash and dry your towels before using. Use a delicate or gentle cycle in the washer and a gentle detergent. You could also consider handwashing. For the first wash and if you don’t ever use the towels in the kitchen, use cold water. Tumble dry low or preferably air dry if possible.

To keep your towels looking white, use a non-chlorine bleach because chlorine will damage the natural fibers over time. It’s also best to avoid using fabric softeners because they can leave a residue that can build up over time on the towels, reducing the absorbency. The coating can also trap moisture, leading to mildew or bacterial buildup and odors.

No matter how careful you are with your tea towels, eventually they are bound to get stained. Recommendations are to try to deal with the stain immediately, especially if it’s wine or sauce. Baking soda is a fine and safe stain remover for cotton.   It can also be used in the washing machine to keep towels fresh by adding ½ cup to the final rinse cycle. To remove stains, make a paste of 2 parts baking soda to one part water in a bowl and then apply to the stain before washing. For really tough stains, put baking soda on the stain and let it sit before washing. Another method is to put the baking soda on and then run hot water through the back of the stain. Never heat dry a stained towel. If the stain doesn’t come out, pre-treat again and wash. There are also commercial spot stain removers that can work well.

Photo by Kristen Lawson

If you use your towels in the kitchen, you will need to use hot water to wash to kill possible bacteria. One tip is to never use your drying towel for dishes to dry your hands and be sure to keep it away from possible contaminant sources like surfaces where meat has been prepared. Rinse the towels thoroughly before washing to remove dish soap and dirt. It’s best to wash just dish towels together. Use hot water and a regular cycle. Try not to leave wet dish towels in the laundry basket before washing to prevent mildew buildup. Between washings, hang your dish towels between uses so that they dry quickly to prevent mold or mildew. Wash frequently to kill possible bacteria.

The longer you use your towels, the softer and more absorbent they will become. Since they are cotton, if they are dried in your machine dryer they may wrinkle a bit. Taking them straight out of the dryer when it’s done will help reduce wrinkles or hanging to dry instead will help as well. Natural fibers change over time and your towels will wrinkle less as they soften.

Tea towels are a fun and creative way to decorate your kitchen and to give as special gifts. Our best selling design at Christmas last year said “Call Your Mother” and we also have some great cat and dog themes along with other fun and elegant designs. Stop in or check our web site for more details!

Poppy's 10 Concord Road Meadows of Dan, VA 24120 Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM Thursday to Monday April to November. Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM Friday to Sunday December to End of March


Sonita Harris said...

I love your tea towels! Thanks for the care instructions. I also love the history behind the flour sack fabric. The hardest part is deciding which one to buy!!!

Leslie Shelor said...

I bet you know some stories as well!