Thistle Rose Weaving is the fifth in my Sunday series featuring American Artisans. There are so many exceptionally talented craftspeople across the country who share a love of all things handmade, and this is my chance to introduce them to you. These artisans are creating beautiful and useful products that elevate the experience of everyday cooking and eating, and they’re using skills and techniques that might otherwise be lost in our era of throwaway mass production. Their work makes me happy, and I hope it does the same for you. Each feature will be paired with a giveaway to give you the chance to experience their work for yourselves. I’ll be doing these features every other Sunday for the foreseeable future, so be sure to check back, and enjoy!
Hey all! Today I’m excited to introduce you to Martha Witcher. Martha weaves traditional Scandinavian style textiles from her home studio in Metamora Illinois, under the watchful eye of her Old English Sheepdog, Sam. Martha is a completely self taught weaver, and yet Thistle Rose Weaving has been a Martha Stewart American Made Finalist for the past 2 years, and has won numerous other awards and distinctions. It was her beautifully thick and colorful dish towels that first caught my eye, and I thought they’d be something that you, my fellow cooks, would love to see. I think these towels, maybe more than anything else in this series so far, symbolize the whole larger issue of handmade vs mass produced products. On the one hand a dish towel is the most lowly of possessions, and you might be thinking, why would anyone spend time and money on something that is essentially a rag? Well, read on…and as always, check the bottom of the post for the details on how to win one of these beautiful towels for yourself…
Why buy handwoven dish towels? For starters, just like with most hand made things, you’re getting super high quality. Martha weaves her textiles, one thread at a time, from pure cotton, and cotlin (60%cotton, 40% linen) yarns. The weave is precise, making a long lasting and durable product. For those of us who love to cook and spend lots of time in our kitchens, dish towels are in constant rotation, they get a lot of use and abuse. They’re tools of our trade just like a cast iron skillet or a good knife, and it pays, over time, to use the best.
I happen to love textiles, so for me, the most compelling reason to use these towels is because they are so beautiful. They’re woven with an artist’s eye toward color and pattern and are striking enough to become part of your kitchen decor. You can use them on the tabletop, too, as bread basket liners, for instance. A stack of colorful, neatly folded dish towels front and center on my counter makes me feel organized and happy. Every night before I go to bed I like to set out a fresh towel for the next morning and that little gesture helps me get closure on the day, and wake up to a fresh start.
Martha says “handwoven towels are perfect for those of us who aspire to pare down and simplify our lives, why buy several mass produced towels when you can buy high quality long lasting hand woven towels that will last far longer?” I agree, and right now I’m in the process of clearing out the excess ‘stuff’ in my life. I think it started because we’ve recently made several moves in a short period of time, and the packing and unpacking all of our possessions made me stop to re-evaluate what was important, and what was just dead weight. I love the idea of replacing a pile of dish ‘rags’, or an endless parade of paper products, with a few of these beautiful towels. It just makes sense.
Finally, it’s a rare pleasure to know the name of the person who made the things I use (or eat!) on a daily basis. I love looking closely at the weave, and the colors, and imagining the process that went into making them. It’s the same feeling I get when I buy produce from a farmer at the Sunday market, or eggs from a local farm. I’m trying to incorporate those connections more into my life, and Martha’s wonderful towels are a part of that trend.
I asked Martha about the issue of stains, because personally, when I buy dish towels, I always look for deep colors to minimize any discoloration that happens over time. She told me “If I do get a stain on my white towels I soak the towel in 1 cup of white vinegar in a sink full of warm water for about 20 minutes. White vinegar is a great way to get rid of stains like ketchup, oil, and even blood. I also use 4 heaping tablespoons of borax in every wash load – thrown in along with the Tide liquid detergent. Hot water for whites and warm for color. For a really tough stain I have discovered Clorox gel stain remover – it’s awesome stuff.”
Martha says “I have heard many many times that my handwoven towels are too pretty to use and that my buyers would rather just admire them and not use them. I can’t stress enough that the more you use my handwoven towels the softer and more absorbent they will become. Enjoy your towels, they are meant to be used and enjoyed — I can always weave more! ;-)”
Thistle Rose Weaving is generously giving away an exquisite hand woven towel of your choice to one lucky reader!
To enter, please visit Thistle Rose Weaving, HERE, and leave a comment below…
(Giveaway ends Friday April 3rd)
The winner of the giveaway is Catherine Cappiello Pappas from Living the Gourmet — congrats Catherine!
*I have not been compensated in any way by the artisans in this series.