Tea towel worthy of study

20:26, Nov 27 2013
Pat Veltkamp Smith
Columnist Pat Veltkamp Smith was Southland Times women's editor until 1997 and is a former president of the Southland Justices of the Peace Association.

Just as soon as something's not in current use it becomes an art object or something to be studied or used differently, like cart wheels which become part of a decorative fence line or boobs which become totally decorative and out there.

And now tea towels, which seem still to be the most needed things in a kitchen but are deemed not so essential if you have a good dishwasher installed.

In their supposed decline they are part of a university study.

Now, admittedly, it is the Bath Spa University and it is in the Bath Spa School of Art and Design but still . . .

Honestly, aren't tea towels about the most important kitchen accessories there are? Clean dry tea towels with which to clean and dry and cover.

Not finding a dry bath towel is a downer yet the Japanese bathers manage to dry themselves with a facecloth; but we wipe dry kitchen sinks and benches with something so small.


But tea towels, without them we can go no further, can not cook or cover or cool or anything at all.

Yet the idea of studying tea towels must meet with approval because the best of them have long been used for advertising slogans, travel posters and kitchen hints, even recipes for handmade breads.

The Invercargill Methodist Church, fundraising for their Lindisfarne Community Centre, had tea towels printed with buildings of interest in the south, from Invercargill's original railway station to the water tower.

They were beautiful, sold like hot cakes and, of pure Irish linen, lasted for years - two years lightly starched as a wall hanging, another two, more starched, as tray cloths - and finally their original use, the end use, soft, really good limp tea towels which can crush and dry and polish glasses like you wouldn't believe.

We once had tea towels featuring famous Kiwi holiday places, like Caroline Bay in Timaru.

Our last lot of tea towels came in a packet from the supermarket and turned out to be soft terry cloth in black which sounds odd but is OK, although they are what they are and only that - tea towels with neither hope nor ambition to be anything else . . . except perhaps in a university study.

The Southland Times