Many Readers may remember a random Tweet that I sent out on 5 January 2021 “Alright the news is miserable and scary. Let a tea towel help you out. Anyone want to send me a photo of a tea towel and let it be part of the Virtual Tea Towel Museum?”. I can remember sitting on my favourite armchair, feeling sorry for myself. It was the start of Lockdown Number 3 AND I felt ill, not COVID-19 but the results of my first nocturnal seizure. I’ve had seizures for more than 20 years but never one during the night. It felt scary. But the amount of pictures of tea towels swamping my Twitter account truly cheered me up.
It seemed to me that it would be disrespectful to all those beautiful tea towels, to just post them in the Virtual Tea Towel Museum, without a little ‘flurry’. To achieve this I wrote a Tea Towel Blog called ‘Tea Towels and Lockdown’ and I knew I was going to have to number them. Each Blog had at least six tea towels but more commonly ten, sometimes even fourteen.
A day later, on 6 January 2021, I added “I asked for pictures of your tea towels to put in the Virtual Tea Towel Museum, something to do if you were bored in Lockdown. The response has been amazing. Thank you so much much but keep them coming in. I haven’t seen a duplicate yet”. From more than 500 tea towels there were only three tea towels that were duplicated. And I still have enough tea towels for yet another three Blogs, at least.
We have been in Lockdown Number 3 in England for many weeks. The Prime Minister announced a ‘Road Map’ out of Lockdown Number 3; he said it should be dependent on “data not dates” but, as usual, he confused the country. Stage 1 was children going back at school; five weeks later, data would be reviewed and if everything was OK, Stage 2 would be introduced – the opening up of Non-Essential Shops (some of us are still confused how Garden Centres, selling clothing, weren’t considered non-essential but, hey ho, let’s move on). 12 April 2021 is Stage 2. One night, I lay awake and thought that I should celebrate the ‘Opening Up of Non-Essential Shops’. Tea Towels will be on sale again. But that isn’t exactly true because there are a lot of Tea Towel Designers who have adapted their websites and continued selling Tea Towels galore, very efficiently. I thought I’d like to introduce my Readers to some of them, with the hope that on 12 April 2021 people will go out and seek shops selling unique, British made Tea Towels.
“Hi, I have been doing a project on Twitter called ‘Tea Towels and Lockdown’ where people have shared pictures of their own tea towels. 50 Blogs so far, more than 500 tea towels….On the day non-essential shops open I would like to display some of the best tea towels that people can buy. Would you like to share photos of four of your latest/best sellers/ ones you want to sell, to put in the Blog?” I had some great, and enthusiastic, replies “Fab” “Wonderful, I’ll get them over to you” “That would be great, thank you” “That’s a lovely idea”……. Why not invite some tea towel designers/producers to submit a tea towel, or two, to co-incide with Opening Up on 12 April 2021? Great idea but taken up with so much enthusiasm that I realised I needed to make some changes. I have invited Tea Towel Designers/producers and asked them to submit four designs each. Each Blog will introduce you to three such designers. Here we go!
All the ‘Tea Towel and Lockdown’ Blogs had a ‘Headliner’ tea towel. How was I going to to that with three designers to a page, and be fair? I’ll worry about that later because today’s is a really awful photo but significant. Yesterday, I went for a walk at @ElvastonFriends, a beautiful country park in Derbyshire. They have a small shop and Information Centre which has only been open for the selling of chocolate and drinks for a year but I knew they had sold tea towels and I knew they did have some pinned on the walls. I went inside and there were three still on the wall, not for sale, behind the Perspex glass. I asked the assistant If I could take a photograph. I imagine she thought I was bonkers but allowed me anyway. “On Monday, this part of the shop will opened up” she said with such excitement “Can’t open the whole shop yet but at least it’s a start”. I told her I’d be back because I will buy all three of those tea towels. Sorry about the quality of the photograph, it was the best I could do with a phone, through Perspex. It’s the nearest I’ve been to a Tea Towel in a Shop for five months.
Today, I’m going to introduce you to the first three, very different, designers. First is @PerkinsMorley. I have been aware of their work since 2016 when my friend Fee bought me one of their Collective Nouns Tea Towels. They are stylish and distinctive. “The Collective Noun tea towels are our three best sellers”. And I know why.
The Collective Noun tea towels with 15 ‘squares’ are their most recognisable but they have expanded to doing one Collective Noun on a tea towel, like the Circus of Puffins. That colour is absolutely stunning. However, I will add the Hum of Bumble Bees because I won it in a competition. The Collective Nouns are also available as coasters, mugs, key rings and much more. Their goods are available in many niche gift/card shops but have an excellent online service. Personally, I highly recommend their Collective Nouns jigsaw puzzle (Since Lockdown Number 1 I have become addicted to jigsaw puzzles as well as tea towels).
Today’s second tea Towel Designer is @ShelliGraham. Anyone who read ‘Tea Towels and Lockdown’ might be familiar with @ShelliGraham’s tea towels because she has some big fans. @ShelliGraham’s USP is her ‘Alphabet’ tea towels, creative, coming up with an illustration for every letter of the Alphabet under the theme. I’ve seen her ‘Cats’, ‘Gardening’ and ‘Christmas’ already. Her first two today are ‘Dog Alphabet’ and ‘A Very Scottish Alphabet’
But @ShelliGraham has expanded her range of tea towels to towns so I also offer you ‘Bristol’ and “Birmingham’. However when she said I could choose my four she said “However, ‘Lockdown’ has pretty much sold out (only one in stock) so probably avoid that one”. A tea towel about ‘Lockdown’‽ I had to have that. It arrived today so I will add that to the next line.
The final Tea Towel Designer for today is @emmaballltd. I bought my first @emmaballltd tea towel in 2015 in Sidmouth, of ‘Sidmouth’. It brought back some incredible memories of my mother, who went on holiday to Sidmouth in about 1985 with her friend, a year after my father had died. I remember her telling me that she and Beryl sat on their hotel balcony, drinking gin and tonic, looking over the sea. I wrote a Blog about it and ended up being interviewed by the local newspaper. They wanted me to be able to pinpoint the exact hotel; it was 35 years ago and I wasn’t even with them on that holiday! Today I offer you “Our best selling Puffin one, can’t discontinue that one and a new one for us by Eric”
But @emmaballltd does a lot of place-specific ones, as well as some really cute ones. I am adding ‘Sidmouth’, which is mine, to ‘Penguins in Jumpers’ and ‘Birds’ because it has happy memories. But the thing that I didn’t know is that @emmaballltd’s business is based in Nottingham. I could just pop down the road for my next tea towel.
I am challenging any Reader to buy a new Tea Towel once the Non-Essential Shops are open and send me a picture so that it will have a place in the Virtual Tea Towel Museum. We need to support the Tea Towel Designers and small shops. If you prefer to buy online here are their contact details: