One of the things that keeps me busy is a site called Swap-Bot. It’s pretty much the way it sounds, you swap things with other people by mail. Sometimes you swap post cards, other times you swap things you’ve made. It just depends on what swap you sign up for. Recently, one of my groups based on a shared love of Discworld had a swap called A Nod to the Elders where we were supposed to send something that, not surprisingly, gave a nod to the elders. I chose to do a vintage inspired tea towel.
I have always loved tea towel embroidery. We had a number of towels when I was growing up. When I moved out on my own, I had a habit of checking the thrift stores for the embroidered towels. I never thought about making my own until a couple years ago. Some of that was worry that my stitches wouldn’t stay in place after washing.
I’m fairly certain the ones in my house were made by my grandmother or great-grandmother, but I don’t remember either one of them actually embroidering one. Years after my grandmother passed away, my grandfather started dating a wonderful woman who worked on embroidering tea towels during her morning coffee. One of my favorite Christmas gifts was a set of towels from her.
The pattern for this towel came from an awesome Flickr site full of vintage designs. I used an outline stitch and DMC cotton floss.
I used to suck at the stem stitch, but I’m pretty happy with the way this one turned out. I think the next few towels I do will be in outline/stem stitch. It’s much cleaner than split or chain stitch.
I did a quick Google search for the history of tea towels and it seems like the embellished flour sack towels became a big thing in the Great Depression. That’s also when companies started printing pretty patterns on their sacks for women to collect. How awesome is that?