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Vintage Tea Towels

Updated on August 9, 2013

Collecting Vintage Tea Towels

Collecting vintage tea towels is a great way to hold on to a piece of the past. These vintage tea towels can be used in the kitchen or simply displayed to help preserve them.

Vintage tea towels come in a variety of designs but they are usually all 100% cotton. The tea towels were often made from white flour sack material (actual sacks that flour came in instead of paper, like how we buy it now), which was often embellished with embroidery in designs like animals and scenes.

Other styles include tea towels made from printed fabric with all sorts of patterns. Some popular ones were sold as calendars suitable for hanging. When the year was up, the calendar could be removed and used as a tea towel in the kitchen.

Little Dutch boy and windmills tea towel from my collection.

Photo Credit: Peggy Hazelwood

Vintage Tea Towels from My Collection

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Vintage tea towel with embroidered duck.All photos here by Peggy Hazelwood.Stitch work depicting a sailboat on vintage kitchen towel.Cross stitch flowers.Striped vintage towel.Baskets with fruit on linen tea towel.Printed tulips on cotton tea towel.VIntage tea towel with Dutch designs:  windmills, Dutch girl, Dutch boy, and more.Blue vintage tea towel, linen with saying.Vintage tea towel calendar from 1971.1977 vintage tea towel calendar signed Vera.
Vintage tea towel with embroidered duck.All photos here by Peggy Hazelwood.
Vintage tea towel with embroidered duck. All photos here by Peggy Hazelwood.
Stitch work depicting a sailboat on vintage kitchen towel.
Stitch work depicting a sailboat on vintage kitchen towel.
Cross stitch flowers.
Cross stitch flowers.
Striped vintage towel.
Striped vintage towel.
Baskets with fruit on linen tea towel.
Baskets with fruit on linen tea towel.
Printed tulips on cotton tea towel.
Printed tulips on cotton tea towel.
VIntage tea towel with Dutch designs:  windmills, Dutch girl, Dutch boy, and more.
VIntage tea towel with Dutch designs: windmills, Dutch girl, Dutch boy, and more.
Blue vintage tea towel, linen with saying.
Blue vintage tea towel, linen with saying.
Vintage tea towel calendar from 1971.
Vintage tea towel calendar from 1971.
1977 vintage tea towel calendar signed Vera.
1977 vintage tea towel calendar signed Vera.

Fun & Collectible Kitchen Towels:

1930s to 1960s

Colorful Vintage Kitchen Towels

(Schiffer Book for Collectors)

Handmade Home:

Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures

Vintage Animals:

Quilts, Pillows, Towels, and More

Vintage Tea Towels for Your Collection - Be sure to check the towel's condition when buying online.

Whether you want to start a vintage tea towel collection or add to an existing one or maybe buy some fun vintage towels as a gift, you can find great kitchen towels online.

The condition of the fabric can vary on vintage linens, so be sure to check the item description when buying online. Some older fabric that was used extensively can develop holes or be very thin.

Vintage tea towels in this condition can still look beautiful hanging in your kitchen, but these vintage tea towels are probably not suitable for everyday use.

Make your own "vintage" tea towel like this one from The Graphics Fairy.
Make your own "vintage" tea towel like this one from The Graphics Fairy.

Make Your Own "Vintage" Tea Towel

Use a vintage graphic and a new towel

Karen at The Graphics Fairy recently offered a lovely vintage French grain graphic and examples of how she used it to make her own "vintage" tea towels and place mats.

Visit her blog for the printable, which she offers in both forward and reverse options in case you want make a transfer like on hers, shown in the photo.

Photo Credit: The Graphics Fairy

Are you a fan of vintage tea towels?

See results

Tea Towel with Rick Rack Flowers

Vintage tea towel with rick rack flowers.
Vintage tea towel with rick rack flowers.

I recently found this wonderful vintage tea towel at a thrift store. I loved it, but I showed it to my daughter and asked her if she wanted it (she usually doesn't). But she said, sure! So, this beauty now lives at my daughter's house. I'll visit it from time to time and may even try making a rick rack flower or two on some plain flour sack towels I have in the drawer. Isn't it pretty?

Craft Challenge:

Dozens of Ways to Repurpose a Tea Towel

The Kitchen Linens Book:

Using, Sharing, and Cherishing the Fabrics of Our Daily Lives

101 Tea Towels

(Quilting)

Stitchin For The Kitchen:

Tea Towels, Applique and More

More Vintage Tea Towel Photos

Embroidered ducks on tea towel.
Embroidered ducks on tea towel.
1970 vintage tea towel calendar. Photo:  Peggy Hazelwood
1970 vintage tea towel calendar. Photo: Peggy Hazelwood

Vintage Tea Towels / Calendars

Linen was a popular fabric for calendars.

Some popular vintage tea towels were originally sold as calenders suitable for hanging in the kitchen. The calenders came with a dowel and string for hanging. The fabric was usually linen or cotton.

When the year was up, the calender could be removed and used as a tea towel in the kitchen. It's fun to collect vintage tea towels from your birth year. I've given friends calender tea towels from the year they were born. It's a gift that shows you care and took the time to find for just that person.

Photo credit: Peggy Hazelwood

Calendar Tea Towels - Click a small image below to enlarge it.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
1969 vintage tea towel calendar1970 vintage tea towel calendar1979 vintage tea towel calendar1981 vintage tea towel calendar1984 vintage calendar towel1980 vintage tea towel calendar
1969 vintage tea towel calendar
1969 vintage tea towel calendar
1970 vintage tea towel calendar
1970 vintage tea towel calendar
1979 vintage tea towel calendar
1979 vintage tea towel calendar
1981 vintage tea towel calendar
1981 vintage tea towel calendar
1984 vintage calendar towel
1984 vintage calendar towel
1980 vintage tea towel calendar
1980 vintage tea towel calendar
Painted tea towel. Fabric paints were widely used in the 1960s to decorate tea towels.
Painted tea towel. Fabric paints were widely used in the 1960s to decorate tea towels.

Painted Tea Towels

Easy Embroidery!

I grew up in the 1960s and I remember Mom having tubes of fabric paint on hand for us to paint on cloth. First she ironed on a stencil then we decorated tea towels and aprons or whatever with the tubes of fabric paint. Fabric paints mimic the look of time-consuming delicate embroidery.

This was fun and the end result was a useful item. I recently found this vintage tea towel at a thrift store. It took me right back to those days. As you can see, this guy is singing and is as happy as, well, a bird! Read more about paint embroidery.

Photo Credit: Peggy Hazelwood

Paint Your Own Tea Towels - Everything you'll need to make new "vintage" tea towels!

Grab some flour sack towels, some fun iron-on transfers in fun kitchen scenes or days of the week motif, and fabric paint pens. This craft project would be perfect for girl scout projects, as girls-night fun, or have each guest make one for the bride at a bridal shower.

If you don't want to take the time to actually embroider designs, fabric painting is a great alternative for decorating tea towels!

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure

Peggy Hazelwood is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Do you like vintage tea towels? Do you collect them?

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    • profile image

      John 

      3 years ago

      Debbie is my daughter. Great job with the phoots of her and my grandchildren. Not only is Debbie beautiful outside, she is a terrific person that puts others before herself.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Yes, I love Tea Towels and certainly enjoyed seeing your collection. I have some that were my mothers and then I have one framed from our trip to Scotland. One of our local Antique Shops keeps Vintage Tea Towels and I love to go look to see what is new each time. Most of the time, I end up purchasing at least one.

    • profile image

      laurenrich 

      5 years ago

      I love vintage tea towels. I have not started to collect them. This is a very beautiful lens. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      sherioz 

      6 years ago

      I like the calendar tea towels. I had forgotten all about them. Now that is something I could get into collecting. But I will control myself. I have enough collections as it is.

    • marigoldina profile image

      Heather B 

      6 years ago

      Absolutely. I collect tea towels of all sorts - mostly ones with Welsh expressions written upon them.

    • Stacy Birch profile image

      Stacy Birch 

      6 years ago

      I own one or two, but I never gave it much thought, these are very cute.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      i have lots of old austraila tea towels that my grandmother brought when she travelled around australia some of the places that are on the tea towels dont exist so if your interested in buying some please email me at traceyfuente@hotmail.com

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 

      6 years ago

      Great collection, I have a coupe but I don't know that they are so old to call them vintage...

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      My Mum used to have quite a few. It was common years ago to buy one from different places that you went. You have a lovely collection of really old ones.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      I need 1983,1985,1958,1962,2005,1938

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 

      6 years ago from So Cal

      I saved my towels because I didn't want to mess them up but now I use them daily. As a collector, they were great to have and all of them are from my childhood. I discovered that being tucked away into drawers wasn't the best use for me. Now, everyday I have a tactile reminder of my childhood and that means more to me. Great lens Peggy. I also liked the Tri Chem paint and remember hours of fun coloring the towels (and whatever else I could get away with).

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 

      6 years ago

      I made a quilt for my sister with our great-grandmother's embroidered tea towels. She made them when she was a very young girl using flour sacks, as you mentioned. Nothing was wasted back then.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      Hi scarlettohairy,

      I love my vintage tea towels! I am drawn to the embroidered ones, and have several. They are used by my bathroon guests at Holiday time. I always get compliments on them . . . they are quite the conversation starter!

      N T T

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 

      7 years ago

      Yes I like vintage tea towels because the fabric is way better than the new ones.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      They are so soft and dry better than many modern tea towels. I mostly display them though as I don't want to wear them out.

      I love vintage fabrics.

    • Scarlettohairy profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      7 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      @Pam Irie: Yes, those are darling!

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 

      7 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I love vintage linen in general and embroidered tea towels are my favorite. I especially like the "cartoon" style of embroidery...the kind that gives faces and personalities to spoons, dishes and all sorts of inantimate utensils. :)

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 

      7 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      I have a few that came from various places. I enjoy the ones I do have. I remember those striped ones a lot from my childhood. Those were the utility towels that every woman had in her kitchen.

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