Sara from Girls Can Tell is, hands down, one of my favorite illustrators. Her detailed (and sort of quirky) diagrams are the perfect combination of nerdy and cute. You might even recognize her stuff, since it’s featured everywhere from Anthropologie to Amazon (she’s pretty big time that way). Here’s Sara, educating us on the history of tea towels, sharing how she started printing them, and offering a fantastic giveaway, just for you guys! (SPOILED.)
Very often I get asked “what are these?” about my work. “These” are tea towels. Very often, people then ask what a tea towel is. So I thought I’d provide more information than you’ll ever need to know about tea towels here today. Yay!
So, what are tea towels? Well, frankly, they’re just great. But more specifically, tea towel is a term used to describe lint free, highly absorbent, natural textiles (typically linen or cotton) used in the kitchen or on the table – they can be purely decorative or endlessly functional.
The name “tea towel” is derived from the towel’s British origin, and dates back to around the early nineteenth century, when ladies who lunched would often use them to care for their best china – to personally care for their tea set themselves (lest some careless servant chip or break a saucer… oh, the horror!). During the twentieth century, tea towels were often made of spent seed sacks (giving us the common towel descriptive “floursack”), and often embroidered heavily to give the repurposed fabric a more decorative look.
Today, you can still use floursack tea towels for so many tasks in the kitchen – to cover food, to wrap around the outside of a serving dish to insulate heat, to carefully dry your stemware, to wipe your hands, doubled up as a hot pad, to take care of any spills, or just about any other task you can think of in the kitchen.
Why did I start printing towels? Well, it was really mostly a lack of self confidence, I think. I wasn’t convinced people would buy my illustrations if they weren’t printed onto something useful, and so I taught myself how to screenprint, and towels seemed like a natural canvas for my weird little drawings of everyday things… and so a line of tea towels was born. It wasn’t until after I began selling them that I realized how really great tea towels are.
Tea towels also make a truly excellent gift. They can be personalized without being too personal. They’re useful without being utilitarian or dull. They’re on trend with this foodie phase pop culture seems to be obsessed with. They’ll never go out of style. They’re a quaint and traditional housewarming, hostess or shower gift, and yet you can never have too many of them. You can frame them to hang on a wall, or toss it over the oven door handle, and use it to wipe your fingers. You probably already know someone who collects tea towels. Odd as it may seem, tea towels are really one of the most versatile, practical and wonderful gifts imaginable.
We’re giving away a set of four tea towels on Happy Sighs this week – four classic designs: the stand mixer, the pig, the cow and the beer glassware. Keep them, love them, give them away… it’s up to you! And for all those who aren’t the lucky winners, if you use the code “happysigh” at Girls Can Tell, you’ll receive 20% off your order of $20 or more before 10/22!
Thanks, Sara! You heard the lady! Leave a comment and we’ll pick a winner next Friday. Good luck!
(Sorry friends, this one is open to US residents only.)
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