Why retro fans (and others) love “kitschy” souvenir tea towels?

What memories do YOU get from those old vintage touristy-looking tea towels? (or dish towels as they call them in the US).


In this dishwasher age, I haven’t thought about tea towels for years – but they bring back so many warm and funny  and comforting memories.

I actually bought a tea towel today when I stumbled across a whole  vintage tea towel “shop” at at antique store that offered an amazing collection of unused vintage tea towels.

tea towels 1

Happy memories came flooding back of childhood holidays to touristy spots. Also childhood memories of  (before we had a dishwasher) doing the dishes as a family – YOU WASH, I’LL DRY!

Back before the American influence of “doing the dishes” – we called it washing up and wiping up!

Washing up time was a great time to talk about your day and there’s something about talking while you are doing a “task” that made the conversation flow.

Tea towels remind me of my parents – especially my mother of course. I’ll have to check out her collection next time I visit for a cup of tea!

When I was traveling te world as a TV reporter, I’d collect tea towels and tea spoons for her. Some she treasured so much – she wouldn’t use them to dry the dishes! I bet she’s still got a stack of the tea towels I got her – in pristine condition!

I know that tea towels can be wonderful reminders. You can be doing a mundane task of washing up in suburbia – but the tea towel reminds you of your exotic trip to some wonderful place like the Big Banana or if you were extra lucky – Surfers Paradise!


It’s funny, I didn’t know this before – until researching for this post – that the expression tea towel is very British and you’ll mainly find “tea towels” in the UK, Australia and NZ.

In the US they call them linen dish cloths – and vintage ones are prized items!

souv dish towel

Apparently, the original tea towels were designed for only trusted people (servants in the grand manors) to clean the valuable crockery. I don’t think they had cheesy  touristy and kitschy tea towels in the grand manors.

Anyway, please don’t get me wrong – I’m not a collector or anything – but I did get one wonderful example today – the one with the retro BBQ scene in the middle of this photo!

Just looking at it makes me want a big juicy hamburger – an “Aussie” one with lots of onion and pineapple and beetroot!

tea towels 2

I certainly don’t mean to be insulting to people who sincerely like this stuff. I do understand the warm memories tea towels can evoke. I just find tea towels delightfully daggy and amusing – in a good way!

In “researching” for this post I found some interesting sites for tea towel aficionados and some very creative uses – including creating works of art like the tea towel table cloth.

tablecloth from tea towel3

And who could forget the clever and “doubly useful”, fantastic and functional  tea towel calendar – you’ve got a calendar for one year AND then a tea towel for life!


retro tea towels

Many of these images and much more are from the blogs below. I would never have found these blogs if I hadn’t stumbled upon that special tea towel store. Something tells me, like Arnie  “I’ll be back”

Please let me know your reaction to tea towels and the memories they bring back?



P.S. In my “research” I also found something I thought was very clever on so many levels – tea towel wedding invitations and thank you‘s. A lasting memory that can be used later – and it’s environmentally friendly and eco! The tea towels will save dishwasher electricity and maybe enhance the relationship as couples talk about their day as they do the washing up!


This image is from this website.



2 thoughts on “Why retro fans (and others) love “kitschy” souvenir tea towels?

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