Friday, May 10, 2013

Tea Towels Transformed



NZ publication available from Fishpond
Every tea towel might tell a story, but nothing rhymes with 'tea towel'  - is this true?  
 There is a lot of interesting information surrounding the humble tea towel ... The name 'tea towel' originates from early 19th century Victorian England. The tea towel was the linen of choice for Victorian ladies who liked its absorbent, fine weave soft linen fibres. They deemed it ideal to dry their expensive and delicate china, glassware, and serving pieces without scratching or leaving surface lint. A popular Victorian pastime was to embroider personalised tea towels which were used at tea time to cover food, to wrap around the outside of the teapot (tea cosy), and to take care of any spills....During the early 20th century , American housewives showed great ingenuity by transforming empty animal feed cotton into dish towels( tea towels). The feed sacks  were cut into suitably sized pieces of material, and the women would embroider intricate designs onto plain cotton to give them a decorative and feminine look. The coarse cotton weave of the feed sacks was more difficult to embroider than the finer weave of linen, nonetheless embroidery was decoratively applied .
( from http://www.all-tea-towels.co.uk ) 
art print tea towels by Thea and Sami
Only a couple of days ago, I was reminded about the practice of embroidering tea towels. My mother and her two friends, for quite a few years, set themselves a collaborative challenge of embroidering the linen tea towels released by the Country Womens' Association (CWA) as part of their annual cultural studies.   
These tea towels have been transformed into works of art... 



These tea towels started with commercially printed outlines and then were hand embroidered, appliqued and embelllished  by these three embroiderers who collaborated on the design, divided up the work, handing the tea towel on from one to another.












While a lot of the embroidery  on these tea towels may be considered traditional, there are also many contemporary techniques used to achieve desired effects, textures and dimension.




These beautifully worked tea towels won competitions some years ago, but  are now  usually hidden from view in storage  This week, I was very lucky to see them and  I  relished  the opportunity to take these photos. Congratulations Joyce, Nola and Hannah - these are really creative textile art works you can be very proud to display. Happy Mothers Day! 

1 comment:

  1. Those towels really need to be professionally framed. They are exquisite!

    ReplyDelete

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