• History of the Towel

    by Lifeboat Admin ,

    Towels have a long history in civilization. They have been given separate names by various cultures. For example, the towel was named the sarung in Asia, the kikoi in East Africa, and the kanga in Africa. Here we will take a look at the history of Turkish towels, Egyptian towels, and towels in the United States.


    Turkish Towels

    The Turkish towel has been around for hundreds of years in different forms. Turkish towels have always been an important part of Turkish social life, including the ceremonial bath of a bride before her wedding. The Turkish towel was actually invented in Bursa (now Turkey)which was the capital of the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century.

    By the 17th century, the Ottomans had pushed to make the towel more intricate. Women in the palace wanted weavers to make stylish designs with flair. The Hammam towel, also known as the Pestamel, was made of cotton or linen and then embroidered by hand. The towels were woven on hand looms by women in the Black Sea and Aegean regions.


    People wore towels in the bath and in Hammam - the traditional steam rooms. Some people also wore towels wrapped at the waist to keep their clothes from becoming contaminated when working. The Hammam was very absorbent and stayed light even when wet. Hammam towels could be wrapped around the body easily. In the 18th century, weavers made the first looped towel called a havlu, which means “with loop.”


    Today, Turkish towels are woven on advanced looms in distinctive colours and patterns. The style depends on the region where it is made. Materials include linen yarn and cotton yarn. A silk pestamel is called a Fota.


    Egyptian Towels

    Egyptian towels can be traced back to 3000 B.C., when they were first used by farmers in north-western India. In order to make the towels, cotton fibres were spun into yarn. Then the yarn was made into a lightweight textile. When the Egyptians discovered specialty cotton growing along the Nile River, it quickly became a popular material for both clothing and bedding.


    Early Use in America

    Hundreds of years ago, people did not bathe as often as they do now. Towels were very expensive and took a lot of effort to make. At first, it was only wealthy women who purchased towels, ordering hand and facecloths in magazines and catalogues.  When the textile industry became mechanised in the 19th century, it made towels more widely accessible.


    Absorbent terry cloth was used to make the towels. It was available as material for women who wanted to make their own towels. They would buy it by the yard, cut it to size and hem it up. Eventually weaving factories mass-produced terry cloth towels and they could be found in every home.


    Now people use many types of towels on a daily basis. For example they use hand towels to dry their hands after washing, wash cloths to bathe, and even beach towels for drying off on holiday. Most homes have so many towels that they must look for new ways to store them.
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