A Thing For Dishtowels…

 

I have a thing for dishtowels.  I love ‘em.  I find ‘em, I paint ‘em, and I make ‘em.  To me, they’re kitchen art.  Here’s probably the reason why:

My great grandma made this dishtowel (the only one of hers we still have). Every year at Christmastime my mom would pull apart the tissue on a boxful of hand-embroidered (and ironed) flour-sack dishtowels that her grandma made for her, and get tears in her eyes, and show everyone who would look  (we weren’t quite as into dish towels at the time as she was!).  My mom hung them over the oven-door handles, so they were always there in the kitchen where we grew up.

So the minute I figured out what things made me happiest, I found an old 1950′s O’Keefe and Merrit stove just like my mom’s, had it refurbished, brought it home and that’s where I hang my dishtowels, on the handles, just like she did. I probably wouldn’t have been complete as a person until I did that. 

And ever since my stove became a dish towel “gallery,” I’ve been on a hunt.

To find the funnest most interesting dishtowels to hang there. Here’s one Joe found for me. I think he likes it ’cause his name is on it!

 

 

I bought this darling  Mary Engelbreit towel ages ago and take good care of it.  I don’t want it to ever wear out!

They don’t make ‘em like they used to!

 

 

Then there’s my Beatrix Potter dishtowel . . .

 

 

 

 

 

…sent to me by my English girlfriend Rachel (half of you know her already because of her sweet blog http://www.mozartsgirl.blogspot.com/).  She went up to the Lake District to Beatrix Potter’s house and got it for me there . . . so it’s a treasure! 

And I really don’t mind if some of my dishtowels are strange.  Someone made this, see the tiny stitches?  It has Christmas colors!

I made these chicken dishtowels, all by hand, applique and embroidery and ironing board,  to go with the “Island Farm” rug I designed… and if, by any chance you are in the mood to make some dishtowels, the pattern is here on this web site … just click on Shopping, and then in the menu on the left, click on “Love to Sew,” and scroll to where it says, “Patterns and Quilt designs.” (We have cupcakes you can applique too!)

Another good reason to be a dishtowel collector: everyone knows bread dough rises better under an old dishtowel.

Scones really do taste better wrapped in a vintage towel with crocheted edging.

Biscuits stay warmer in a basket, wrapped in an old embroidered dishtowel.

Dishes dry better on the Irish linen dishtowel we bought when traveling, designed by the wonderful British artist Pat Albeck. Nothing like dishtowels from a trip!  Memories!

Our refrigerator door handle looks much better draped in old dishtowels.

Even the clothesline looks better decked out in dishtowels.

Lobster tastes better when you have a thick and thirsty dishtowel for a bib/napkin.

And every change of season is just better with dishtowels

Oh yes, I am crazy about dishtowels.  For just a little money, they are decorating bang for the buck.

Changing them for the holidays or for the season is one of the fastest easiest decorating things there is!  Just a little thing…makes a sweet difference.

74 Responses to A Thing For Dishtowels…

  1. Jan says:

    Oh, I LOVE dish towels! I’m always on the hunt at flea markets and second-hand stores for old dish towels…they’re the best. If only they could talk of their past life with families, kitchens, kids, mothers, grandmothers, good food, and conversations around the table. Fascinating to think of the dishes they’ve dried and the clothes lines they’ve hung on. The old dish towels are soft with a kind of character about them.

  2. Joan Lesmeister says:

    Wonderful dishtowel collection! My daughter is collecting dishtowels from different states they visit…so far… 2! Love the embroidered towels! I’ve made appliqued ones for my friends, but the embroidery is just too much WORK! I too, have seasonal dishtowels! What a great stove, no wonder your recipes are so good! And, what is it about a clothesline, I even like to see pictures of clothes on clotheslines! I may have already told you this, sorry if I’m repeating myself, but, when we were in Scotland and walking from the village back to our B&B, I took a picture of a clothesline with bloomers hanging on it (I think our B&B hostess told me they’re knickers). I should have taken a picture of our laundry hanging on lines (they used a pulley system) across the ceiling of the victorian kitchen over the AGA stove (the hostess insisted I hang them there to dry)! Good bloggin’, thanks!

  3. cathie donahay says:

    I enjoyed reading your articles on embroidered dish towels. I have two of my great grandma’s dish towels that she had embroidered and crocheted edging. I came to think hey I would love to do it on my own dish towels with your art designs on it like birds, home, fruits and etc. That would be great. In quilt stores they have a little package with already designed pressed papers that I can press with iron on pillowcases or dishtowels then do embroidery. That would be neat…… :-)

    • sbranch says:

      I used to buy those and iron them on to dishtowels, pillow cases and baby’s bibs when I was little; I love to embroider.

      • Lisa Muncy says:

        Yes, I have a book with those iron on appliques. I need to buy some white linen and embroider some dishtowels. They would make great gifts, those are the best kind of gifts, don’t you think. . .homemade and straight from the heart. I lucked into some beautiful embroidered dishtowels and hankerchiefs at a thrift store, they were on the very bottom of the household bin. One has a beautiful embroidered peacock on it, so pretty I might make a purse out of it, or curtains (as I read someone did in another post) or make it the bodice of an apron. I love making something different out of pieces meant to be something else!!

  4. Mammamisia says:

    Uwielbiam Twoje ściereczki. Są słodkie. Ja też mam kolekcję ściereczek, ale Twoje sa wyjątkowe. Pozdrawiam! Iza

    • sbranch says:

      Here’s what Google translate says she is saying : I love your cloth. They are sweet. I have a collection of cloth, but your are unique. Yours! Iza

      I think we are talking about fabric…. now I will answer her, via Google translate

      Dziękuję bardzo Iza … tak miło cię widzieć na mój blog Zapraszam ponownie! Susan
      Which means:
      Thank you so much Iza…so nice to see you on my blog! Come back soon! Susan

      The magic of computer world!

  5. Karen Ruth says:

    What I love the most about you give us is that you give us the courage to be ourselves; our uniqueness, to put our crazy-inspired ideas to good use, not worry what others will think of our ideas, and to remember to give the people who have touched our lives credit for doing just that. Most of all, you teach us how to make others smile when we’ve finished having tea with our girlfriends and our hearts are again warm again and life feels good once more. Just one more time: we love you, Susan!!

  6. Eileen says:

    Thank you, Susan. You cheer me each day. Thank you.

  7. DedraToo says:

    I have stove envy :)

  8. Tam says:

    We embroidered dishtowels once in 7th grade home ec. I wish I still had it. :(
    I LOVE your stove! I would love to have an old-fashioned looking one. A house we got to live in one winter had an old white stove similar to that – but smaller.

    • sbranch says:

      My first house on the island came equipped with a stove of that era; when I sold the house, the people got rid of the stove!!! I couldn’t believe it. I should have taken it with me, but I was thinking, “oh they need that darling thing!”

      • Carolyn Freitag says:

        We had a stove like that when we moved into our house 30 years ago. The oven had to be lit with a match..it made the kitchen so cozy. I used it for 20 years, but there was a problem with the gas and we had to replace it. We purchased a new gas stove, but it just isn’t the same.

  9. Kathy says:

    Love your website! It’s my new favorite, and it makes me smile. How do you care for your dishtowels? I have a lot of my grandma’s dishtowels and linens, and so far I just keep them in a drawer because I’m afraid of ruining them! I’d love to put them out and use them, but would hate to just put them in the washing machine and dryer. Wondering what you do to keep them looking so fresh. Thanks.

    • sbranch says:

      I wash them in the washer in warm water, but I hang them on a rack in the pantry to dry. Maybe you should use just one. You should try to get them out of the drawer if you can! Just be sure to save one forever.

  10. Anita Drapeau says:

    Hi Susan,
    Your home is just absolutely lovely! So welcoming, calming and relaxing -the feeling of a safe haven in this troubled time. Thank you for the reminders of the pure joy of the simpler treasures of life! My daughter and I also share your love of dishtowels and we are delighted to be encouraging my son’s girlfriend into this pleasure!! I was happily reminded of sitting at my kitchen table(years ago) with my sisters, cross stitching dishtowels for Christmas gifts -so wish I had some of those gems. Also love the vintage Christmas Books so count me in the drawing of your special treat! Merry Merry Christmas, to you, Joe and your beautiful felines.

  11. Lori Edmonds says:

    A dear friend gave me your “Homemade Recipes” binder for Christmas this year and I went to your website this morning and have spent hours there! I was familiar with your work but never had visited your website before (what was I thinking!?!). What a lovely way to end 2011…relaxing in my kitchen, reading about things I love, too, like glass, dishtowels, England, etc., and all the while surrounded by my cat Tinsel and my beloved dog, Baxter. Your website will be a favorite place to visit in 2012. Happy New Year to you!!!

    • sbranch says:

      So nice to hear Lori, Happy New Year!!

    • Judy Young says:

      I too, spend hours browsing all the wonderful stuff on your website, there is still so much to discover and I love reading all the comments. I was the lucky recipient of many handmade, embroidered dishtowels when my mother-in-law passed away last year. She and her mother were very prolific in making dishtowels and pillowcases. I have some of the cutest ones, some that include embroidery and crochet. I especially love the ones with a girl in a crinoline dress, done in beautiful pink colors and they are part cutwork, embroidery and crochet. Darling! Their work was exquisite, oh to be able to have the time nowadays just to sit and embroider or cross-stitch. Those ladies didn’t know how lucky they were!

  12. shelly matter says:

    weeeee! Love your dish towels and I too have long been a fan of your stove<3 We have an older stove now that I love love love and although we are going to remodel the kitchen this spring the one appliance that simply MUST NOT be replaced is our stove, lol. My grandma just gave me the most darling dish towels. They are white cloth w/ red ric rack at the bottom. One has a lamb embroidered standing on a stool playing with yarn and the other is a kitty playing w/ yarn. I adore them! I just today hung little lamby on the handle of the warming drawer door, after putting the christmas one away:) Amazing how such small touches bring such great big joy and contentment!

    • sbranch says:

      The dishtowels sound darling! I have a special place in my heart for ric rack! Those touches, I know just how you feel!

  13. Cindy says:

    Oh, I have a thing for dishtowels too! At Thanksgiving, we were cleaning out the old farmhouse that my husband’s mom and dad lived in (his mom died 10 years ago and his dad lives in town, now)…but we uncovered a box of linens she had embroidered at some point…blue bird days of the week dishtowels!!! We brought them home, and have them in a nice little stack with some other linens to put in a hope chest for our lovely grand-daughter…we thought we had found buried treasure!! The clothesline looks like a work of art with those dish towels hanging on it…I will have to add to my collection just for a photo op!

  14. Melissa says:

    Oh I love dish towels, too! I love that feeling of just “happy” when I put a new one out and hang it on the stove handle at the start of a new season. It’s just one of those simple pleasures in life that can make you smile. Thank you for sharing yours, Susan! I am new to your site and I am really loving it :)

  15. jane zamudio says:

    I love the pictures of your dishtowels Susan! I just started doing embroidery dishtowels this last week. Im doing them in memory of my mom who died a year ago. Ive been doing cross stitch pictures for awhile, but something said “Dishtowels!”. I like to think its a nudge from heaven!!!

  16. Michelle says:

    I love dishtowels, too! They really cheer up the kitchen and add character. I wish I had taken better care of my Mary Engelbreit ones, but at least I enjoyed them while they lasted. My favorite dishtowels are ones my sweet mama embroidered for her mother-in-law when she was newly married. They are mine now and I love them and use them only for display so they will last my lifetime. :)
    Michelle

  17. Rhonda P. in Woodson, TX says:

    I just found the “dish towels” and had to share. When I was growing up my mom had the “Bear in Mind” days of the week dish towels and when she passed away I found them. There were 2 missing, but…I found the pattern for them on the internet!! I was so excited and made plans to make the 2 “Bears” so the set would be complete. Then I started trying to find the dish towels. I know they probably will not match but I’m having trouble just finding some that will work.
    I would appreciate any help you can offer. Thank you for your time and the wonderful blog!

  18. JOANN CARO says:

    Hi Susan,

    I have a garden flag from your collection and I am so sad that it ripped is there any where I can go to purchase it again?

    WELCOME- Blue Skies smiling at me Nothing but blue skies. RED & White VW Bug and Light house.

    It has so much sentimental value and I would love to have another.
    Any direction would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you so much!
    A loyal fan
    JoAnn

  19. kathleen dohack says:

    I have just found your website and I would like to say how delighted I am to have found it! Your words and photos stir my heart and imagination and have made my day. I can’t wait to hear more from you. I recognize your work because I have cards made by you and remember seeing lots of other pieces along the way. I love your nostalgia, your whimsy and your gentleness. I am so pleased to become acquainted with you through your blog and all the other lovely ladies who enjoy it also. P.S. I want your stove! Kathy

  20. Carole says:

    DISHTOWELS……….are one of my most favorite treasures…thank you so much
    for bringing them back to life and memory.. Always such a warm welcome memory for me seeing them on the ovens door back then…..of family and friends…….the embroidery is such a form of comforting art! Thank YOU!

  21. Sherry Winchester says:

    Give me a vintage textile, and I’m a happy gal!

  22. Erin @ I Heart New England says:

    This was such a lovely post… Dish towels are so charming!

  23. Sandy Fox says:

    I love tea towels! Growing up in KS. we call them tea towels! Both my Grandmothers and my Mother and her sisters all embroidery tea towels for their daughters! We are so blessed to have them. I can’t break up the 7 day sets, (always 7 day sets), so I buy my tea towels that I use daily at estate sales, wash them in Oxyclean and they are beautiful once again! Mom’s are in the antique dresser, safe, beautifully pressed and tied with a matching ribbon…..just like she gave them to me. Some days I open the drawers and look at her beautiful stitches! My Mom now has Alzheimer’s, but her tea towels to embroidery are still beside her favorite chair. Sometimes she will make a stitch or two! They will always hold a special place in my heart!

  24. Belen says:

    And so I start my day…reading your blog…what a wonderful life! Loved the pictures of your dish towels!! Off to work I go!

  25. Pat says:

    I’m a grandma now and haven’t embroidered since I was a school girl. Back then I used to embroider aprons and towels for Christmas gifts to my Mom and grandma as well as special family friends.

    Now I too look for hand worked linens all over the place.

    Thanks for the memories,
    Pat

  26. Joanne Wood says:

    Hi Susan – I love your cheerful sites.
    Here we are close to the end of your pretty dish towel year! I have collected colorful dish towels now and then {like I have a blue and white one from Farmers Almanac} but I hadn’t thought to look for embroidered ones. Great idea. I’m headin out to look. Hot pads too, and thanks for your idea of how to soak them clean. I was about to give up on a couple of favorites. Oh, and by the way. I don’t have a stove like yours, but I have a nifty Tappan with a raised warmer on top like a shelf that started me out here in my house over 43 years ago. When it started acting grumpy, someone said, oh just get a new store. Instead, I had it repaired. It is still cooking,cannning and baking happily AND it has on oven door handle perfect for a dish towel. Why didn’t I notice that before??

  27. matty says:

    OH my GOD…always for me the dishtowels are my tresure, i love to wash,smell, used and iron. but the best of all its to see a pile of them waiting for hang up at the kitchen. just love it. huges matty.

  28. Lisa Muncy says:

    Hi Susan,
    I love old dishtowels, linens, and aprons. I think you would enjoy these two books by EllynAnne Geisel: The Kitchen Linens Book and The Apron Book. They are absolutely delightful! Filled with nostalgia and color photos. You’ll love them as much as I do, I’m sure!!

    • Lisa Muncy says:

      So sorry!! LOL, forgot to tell you that I got them off Amazon.com. After reading the reviews I had to try them. I also got most of your books from there, too!!! And I’m in love with them, also!! Thanks for your wonderful, down-to-earth blog that makes us all feel like we’re sitting at your kitchen table sharing a cup of tea. Kindred spirits. . .girlfriends!!

    • sbranch says:

      Thanks Lisa!

  29. Carla Schroeder says:

    I am just finding your blog-site after years of loving your books. I still pour over them….especially at this time of the year. “Christmas Joy” is part of my annual tradition. More about my love of your print materials later. Dish towels…they are a wonderful tradition they are in our Texas family. My Grandmother and Mama taught me to embroidery on old flour sacks. When I married 36 years ago, my new Mother in law and I discovered a common love of embroidery and especially dish-towels. When we lost her two years ago I went to work and made every one of our siblings and close relatives new flour sack towels using the old Aunt Martha patterns. Everyone was happy and we pass on that love now to new daughter-in-laws, granddaughters, nieces, etc….Thank you for helping keep family traditions alive and helping new generations embrace ‘Home’ and the small things!
    Blessings Susan…and Merry Christmas

  30. CarolK (NJ) says:

    Susan, I just ordered and received the set of three dish towels (red/white/hearts) from your on line store and absolutely love them! What nice quality material and sturdy too. I don’t have a stove with handles that I can drape them from but the handle on the fridge accommodates one, the cabinet door just under the sink another and the third I’ve got hanging on my improvised towel rack (actually an old wooden canoe seat that I hung unside down on the wall). I love all your stuff. P.S. The bright red colors really jazz up my tiny kitchen. Thank you very much……..

  31. I, too, am a lover of dishtowels! I have about every vintage pattern Aunt Martha makes!! I make them as gifts, and really need to take the time to make some for myself. I LOVE the old stove… we have a company here in Tucson that refurbishes them, I go visit and drool over all the old wonderful appliances he has! antiquevintageappliances.com/ It is fun to just go to the website and dream!! I keep hoping my stove dies… and that my husband will somehow be mesmerized into wanting to part with that amount of money!!

  32. Blessed Mama says:

    Another commentor mentioned being from KS and how they are called tea towels there. I too am from KS and adore sweetly embroidered tea towels. How fun to find others feel the same way!

  33. Anita Page says:

    I love dish towels too! The other day I went to lunch with a couple of my girlfriends on the occasion of one of my girlfriend’s birthday. I gave her a pretty dish towel, and the other girlfriend said, “Where did you get that? I’m obsessed with dish towels!”. I said, “So am I!”. Seems a lot of us ladies are obsessed with these delightful, small (for the sake of storage), bits of pleasurable collectibles! I started out collecting quilts, then gradually downsized to tea towels for the sake of storage room. What fun!

  34. Beth in SC says:

    Few things beat the thickness and crispness of old linens. The then skill and talent in the designs…love! The vintage white and red just feel like home to me. So glad I started my morning with this post, I’ll be smiling all day long!

  35. Joan Lesmeister says:

    They are “little bits of art”! I recently bought a patriotic tea (yup, prettier word than dish) towel from the wonderful little “Antique Gardener” store in Sutter Creek. The towel needs to hang on my oven door in July! Right now I have a tea towel printed with tea cups hanging there. My husband knows the oven door towels are to enhance the décor, not for wiping up spills! I’ve had to kindly train a few others who didn’t know! xo

  36. Pam D. says:

    I absolutely love tea towels ( I’ve always called them tea towels). I have many from my mother, I’ve embroidered my own, and continue to buy them at garage sales and flea markets. I just can’t resist them!! They are beautiful and they are the best things to dry dishes, counter tops, etc. Thank you for all your tea towel pictures and comments.

  37. Traci says:

    I love ‘em too! I’d like to send you one…B-U-T, I need your address or P.O. Box.

  38. Just one more thing we have in common! My mom always hung dish towels for handy use. I do the same.

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