I collect tea towels. There you are, I’ve said it out loud. I don’t know how many I have 400+ and growing. I bought my first tea towel in 1970 in Swansea. I was at university, realised that tea towels were quite a useful thing and bought one with key words of the Welsh language. I hadn’t realised what this would be the start of. I’ve still got that tea towel and when I look at it, it reminds me of the amazing, mind-blowing time I had there. I suppose that’s why I got started; it wasn’t a conscious decision in the beginning. It is now. It’s a hobby, a collection.
In my opinion, tea towels are a practical, useable item, not something to be stored away in cupboards or hung on walls. You have to use them, enjoy them, admire them, laugh at them, be amazed at the different sizes, materials, quality and artistry. Some of them are really works of art. These days, you can create your own – one offs with photos and text and so on. For me, tea towels are a way of making washing up a pleasure – I look at the tea towel and remember where I got it from, why I bought it. As my collection grew, people have given me tea towels as presents or even bequeathed them to me. It is a living, personal history of happy times, or sometimes even poignant memories. They go beyond just a holiday souvenir; tea towels have a significant place in my life. They are part of my weekly routine. I usually use between 4 and 8 tea towels a week. They take up the whole of my airing cupboard. They are stacked carefully and used on a strict rotational basis. If I ironed nothing else, my tea towels would always be ironed but, as you will see with some of the photos, the weight of tea towels does mean there are some creases!
Since 1970, I have only had to throw away 2 tea towels because they wore out – actually got tangled up in a washing machine so they were demoted to dusters and are still in use.
Friends of mine used to say I ought to start up a tea towel museum. No, definitely not; they are not display items but I do worry what will happen to them in the future – who will I leave them to in my will? Who will cherish them? Do I actually know anyone who has more than 10 tea towels? Will they have a significance to anybody who doesn’t know their history? Then I had an idea …
I am within 2 months of retiring and thought … how about setting up a blog as a historical record of my tea towels? WOW, who would be interested in that? Who knows? So here we begin a regular blog, with photos; maybe somebody will recognise one? Watch this space.