We choose them to wipe our sticky fingers after trying vanilla custard. They save us during unexpected pasta water and coffee spills. It’s what allows us to wrap up fresh bread or bring hot cheesecake to a sick friend or a favorite neighbor. This modest kitchen friend has been with us for over 200 years, becoming one of the most versatile items in our home.
Of course we are talking about the kitchen towel!
IT ALL STARTED OVERSEAS…
We have to start our story in the USA, where the prototype of the kitchen cloth was first used. The small roll of cloth was particularly popular among the middle class Victorian homes where it was customary to have afternoon tea. In the 18th century, the tradition was extremely entrenched, and the whole ritual boiled down to elegant table setting (e. g. using a linen tablecloth) and preparing dedicated tableware. At a certain hour, the whole family would gather for afternoon tea, where sandwiches, cakes and juicy fruit were served alongside the aromatic brew in porcelain cups. Leaf tea was particularly popular with its intense aroma. . . and a stubborn sediment that remained on the inside of the cup. The hosts, to protect the delicate dishes from this residue and possible scratches, served the tableware along with fine linen cloths. Their main purpose was primarily to protect porcelain and food. To this day, we still know the custom of placing bread in a basket lined with a linen cloth, thus protecting it from insects, dust and browning.
The tradition of making afternoon tea and the custom of wrapping china in fine fabrics caused servants and housewives to create linen napkins and cloths by hand. Many of them captivated with their delicacy, embroidery, originality and prestige. These beautiful patterns have become an inspiration and a souvenir which is especially loved and easily hunted down by antique and flea market lovers.
The custom of making small napkins and the tradition based on embroidery contributed to the creation of decorative dishcloths. It didn’t take long for mass production to take an interest in this inconspicuous idea. The prospect of having a soft cloth to help wipe up spilled coffee, wet hands or a metal soup ladle has been a driving force for many manufacturers. It was mass production, during the industrial revolutions, that made cloths more popular. Women, delighted by the new idea and the prospect of change (they had previously used cut-up flour sacks), took an interest in buying them, starting a trend that continues to this day. Thus, by the middle of the 20th century, there was already a strong, unshakeable market for dishcloths.
They were originally intended to be durable and able to withstand frequent use in the kitchen. Over time, they became beautiful decorations featuring bold graphics, strong colors, floral patterns or personalized embroidery. To this day, many of us remember the cloths hung on hooks that were later placed on top of a bowl of yeast dough.
Over the years, taking into account the differences of generations and the development of trade that does not always support our environment, we have also offered our own version of linen napkins and linen cloths. Their durability and natural design will blend in perfectly with many arrangements, serving us during Sunday cooking or creating holiday baked goods. As part of our zero-waste policy, we have a few other inspiring ideas for you, where our napkins or tablecloths can play the main fiddle:
- Take them to picnics in the park and garden where you can enjoy colourful sandwiches, yeast cake with raspberries and fresh fruit salad with your loved ones,
- Cut out a pattern from them and hang them in a wooden frame, giving your interior a homely feel,
- Prepare a tray of cheese and snacks for a movie with friends. Decorate it with a linen cloth, which by the way will protect the table from stains,
- When the cloth loses its freshness, do not throw it away – it will serve you perfectly as a floor cloth, replacing other disposable and non-ecological solutions.