This article in the LA Times says it all . . . I'm starting to think dish towels are the most undervalued household item around, when you think of all the things you can use them for.
I'm so glad there are aficionados like myself who can't resist a new kitchen towel, and who continue to delight in seeing them anew, after a wash or a long time in the drawer.
They're like old friends -- they brighten your day, no matter how long it's been, and you pick up right where you left off.
The Beyond Her manifesto is pretty simple: "Life is too short for ugly dish towels." But the more I think about it, the more I'm sure this thought needs a major revision.
In truth, life is too LONG for ugly dish towels.
We all know how much time we spend in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning up. Why wouldn't you want to be surrounded by things that you love to see, and like to work with?
Little things like handsome hand towels can make a difference. They provide a kind of decoration that changes with the laundry, and if you're like me, you will often be more in the mood for one towel than another.
And anyone who has spent any time making dinner or doing dishes knows that there are good dish towels and there are bad ones.
The good ones, like ours, are a rich 100% nice cotton muslin, and really soak up water and wash up well. The bad ones, even the cute ones, are shiny, slick and pretty useless when it comes to doing their job.
People often have a regretful reaction Beyond Her kitchen towels -- after they appreciate the hand-dyeing, the original art, the surprising colors, the modern aesthetic. "I could never use these, they're too pretty," they mourn.
Too which I say, dishtowels are not rags.
For god's sake, don't clean up messes with them. Don't wipe up the floor! That's what paper towels are for. Use hand-picked, soul-satisfying, sensual dish towels for your hands and for dishes -- and perhaps for the occasional place mat, bar towel, or gift wrap.
Go ahead - live a little, in the kitchen and beyond. Get a lovely dishtowel!
We've all heard me say it: "Life's too short for ugly dishtowels." Well, my new policy is, dishtowels are NOT just for drying dishes!
In my little universe, everything can be seen as art supplies. Just because something starts out as one thing doesn't mean it can't become another.
With that in mind, think creatively about what you can do with dish towels. Help them to live outside their box!
I'm not just saying this -- I truly believe it, like some people believe in, well, heaven, or free markets, or Santa Claus. As anyone, most painfully my children, will tell you, I am not an extravagant person or a big consumer. I'm pretty thrifty when it comes to most things -- and like my mother I am ALLERGIC to collections of anything.
I always laugh that once my mom gushed over a beautiful little gold clock I gave her for a birthday after she retired, she stopped abruptly, stared me down and said, "Now, don't buy me any more of these."
A few years later, one of my friends was absolutely floored when I gave her my perfectly wonderful wallet because I had bought a smaller new one. "What, you can't own two wallets?" she asked, dumbfounded. It had honestly never occurred to me. What would I do with it?
Lest you think I am some kind of ascetic, I will assure you that I do buy and collect, freely and without remorse, my fair share of dish towels.
Curating the Collection
Long before there was a Beyond Her, I was buying various tea towels, guest towels, and kitchen towels that I considered works of art. If they were truly worthy -- meaning if they were abosorbent, durable, a pleasure to use -- I grew to treasure them. There were (and still are) some I still love to see come out of the drawer or the dryer.
As another textile-loving friend once said, "When they get a little hole, that's how you know a good towel from a bad one." See, I'm not the only one.
And yet, market after market, I see perfectly wonderful, conscious, well cared for people deny themselves this little, yet to me so important, pleasure. "I can't buy them," they say as they fondle the cotton and linen towels, "they're too pretty."
You know what I consider too pretty? The Hope Diamond. A white Bentley. A Manhattan penthouse. But we're talking about a $16 dish towel here. Seriously?
Art for Every Day
Here's my philosophy: Dish towels are something you look and use every day of your life. They sit on your counters, get used as hot pads, line your breadbaskets, get tied on as aprons. Shouldn't they be gorgeous? Especially for under $20?
My daughter told me that her friend clued her into one way to justify seemingly outlandish clothing epxenditures. "It's called 'cost-per-wearing!" she proudly exclaimed. Well, if you use "cost-per-looking" on a dish towel, it's just about the best value in the house.
One of my proudest moments came recently at an outdoor market. A man, and we get very few of them in the Beyond Her booth, was lingering around. He finally approached me and said, "I didn't want to use your towels, but I did. And now I really like them."
Joy! A convert! Evidently, someone had given him a set of Beyond Her towels as a gift, and he hadn't realized they were, truly, built for the real world.
Which they -- and ideally all of the Beyond Her collection -- are. I have holes to prove it.
Her Point of View
Designer Paule Hewlett takes on design, culture and modern life.
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"Life is too short for ugly dish towels. Really, ugly anything."