Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How to Love a Towel

I've long desired to have a wonderful Turkish towel in my life.  Decades ago I heard that they offered a long-lasting, quality relationship and I've brought a few into my home over the years but, frankly, we never really bonded. While I loved them at first, after awhile they didn't seem any nicer or better than any other towel I had in my life.  Sooner or later they all became non-absorbant and rough.  It turns out that, despite all my good intentions and consistent, caring use of fabric softeners,  I wasn't treating my towels right.  

But now, thanks to the education provided to me by Jennifer and her staff at her shop, Jennifer's Hamam,  ( located in the Arasta Bazaar next to the Blue Mosque) I'm a bit wiser and can look forward to the embrace of soft, cuddly, absorbent towels in a delightful long-term relationship.  

A Canadian, Jennifer is deeply committed to preserving the dying Turkish tradition of hand-woven towels.  The weavers she buys from use 100% organic cotton on ancient-style looms.  Thus, no two towels are exactly alike.  Jennifer says that there are two simple secrets to having and holding wonderful cotton towels:

First, before washing or using, soak cotton towels in water for 24 hours and line dry.  This allows the cotton fibers to open and become more absorbent.  Then wash and dry either on a line or in a dryer.

Second, never use fabric softener on cotton as it coats the fibers and, over time, they loose their ability to absorb water. So no softeners in the rinse, no dryer sheets, no detergent with fabric softeners. With proper care Jennifer says her towels will last 20+ years if you use a dryer and 30+ years if you dry them on a line. How satisfying it would be to have an item that is lovely, comfortable, useful and cherished for so long!  A great investment and a good feeling that you're helping preserve an artistic tradition.

According to information I've found on the Internet, it may be possible to soak old towels in vinegar to remove built-up fabric softener.  It would certainly be worth a try in order to salvage or improve old towels, shirts or anything else made of cotton.

These pestamels look like throws or tablecloths but, in fact, are thin, lightweight towels used in hamams, Turkey's famous baths.  Wrapped around the bather and the person who scrubs you down (and then floats lovely bubbles over you) they get soaking wet yet are light enough to stay put around each and all concerned.

Stylish and unusual as well as multi-purpose, I couldn't resist these lovelies.  I'm thinking that drying off with a thin, light towel might have advantages over a thick, heavy towel, especially in the summer. Jennifer says they also make great scarves and picnic blankets.

I also bought this hand-woven pestamel for my mother thinking it would be perfect for her after her water aerobics classes.  Note the Evil Eye protectors.

Jennifer has a very informative website with videos of her weavers in action and an explanation of her admirable philosophy at www.jennifershamam.com.  She does not have an online store but says customers can email her for photos of her stock. Her weavers can also make custom designs.

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