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Vintage linen tea towels — from Parisian Prints, Kay Dee, Martex, Tammis Keefe, Vera Neumann

vintage linen tea towlsEarly in my estate-sale-hunting life, I discovered vintage linen tea towels. It seemed that every home I entered had a stash of vintage linen tea towels — unused — many still with their labels — finally unpacked from a drawer and now for sale. These also are abundant on ebay, at very reasonable prices.

rooster tea towelI began snatching these towels up, and began using them. 

roses tea towelNot only do I love them for their (1) terrific vintage graphics and colors, (2) thrifty cost, (3) provenance — but I really love them functionally as well.

strawberry and cherry tea towelsMost importantly: Linen kitchen towels really soak up the water. They dry fast. Yes, they fade as you wash them — but, they get softer and softer and still retain their absorbency. Indeed: Nothing Dries Like Linen!

I use them every single day, exclusively, as kitchen towels.

I will guess they came to be known as “tea towels” because… what?… they were used by the Mrs. when she served tea? 

Hmmm. All I know is that they work great as daily kitchen towels. Don’t keep them packed away! Use them!

Above: Some designs were ‘mod’.

Above: Some designs resemble Thibault murals.

Above: This one has a very 1940s look to me — very sweet… like a Meyercord decal.

Back in the day, popular makers of linen tea towels seem to have included:

  • Parisian Prints — this was the biggie, I *think*.
  • Kay Dee
  • Martex 
  • Tammis Keefe — glorious!
  • Vera Neumann — glorious!!
  • Fallani & Cohn (thanks, Janet!)
  • You also saw custom made as location-based souvenir towels and labeled as such.
  • And… as special event souvenir towels (thanks, J D!)
  • They also were sold as calendars. 
  • Who else made them?

In my collecting, I’ve picked up lots of roosters and chickens. 

Santas too. Put out novelty towels for the season!

Fruits and florals also were very popular.

I love vintage tea towels. How about you?

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