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Medieval Towels?

Posted: Tue May 20, 2008 10:23 am
by Laffin Jon Terris
No, not an anagram from Faulty Towers. :roll:

I have an event this weekend but also want to take part in "Towel Day" in memory of the late, great D.N.A. (click on the link in my signature for more info)

So my question is this...

What kind of thing would a man in the WOTR period have used as a towel- did they even use towels?

I'm thinking along the lines of a simple piece of linen or some such, I wouldn't expect the sort of fluffy towels we use these days, but thats why I'm asking isnt it!


Posted: Tue May 20, 2008 11:03 am
by John Waller
IIRC from a visit to a turkish towel factory many years ago. The turks claim to have invented the 'fluffy' towel in the 18th century. Prior to that just flat linen or cotton.

Posted: Tue May 20, 2008 1:31 pm
by Merlon.
There is a particular type of linen "Diaper" which is used for towels and napkins

Re: Medieval Towels?

Posted: Tue May 20, 2008 2:31 pm
by Karen Larsdatter
I would imagine that a simple piece of white linen would be appropriate. For someone who could afford it, there's the fancier linens that were produced and exported from Perugia (which, if you don't feel like weaving & brocading yourself, you could certainly emulate with embroidery; there's at least one example of an embroidered linen made to look like the Perugia linens, it's in Medieval Craftsmen: Embroiderers, but I don't think I've seen it online). See ... &catid=642 for examples of these sorts of towels & linens. has some examples of towels depicted in artwork from around the WOTR too.

Posted: Tue May 20, 2008 2:34 pm
by sally
there are some replica serving towels out and about, like these ... =get_topic

Posted: Tue May 20, 2008 2:39 pm
by Tuppence
Probably just a simple hemmed pure linen.

Remember linen has fabulous absorbancy, so the fluffiness isn't needed (why even today the best tea towels are linen).

Posted: Tue May 20, 2008 3:26 pm
by Dave B
Bernie the bolt has some really thick soft unbleached irish linen, quite cheap. I got some to hem up as a sheet for wrapping the baby up in, but it would be pretty good as a towel too.

Posted: Tue May 20, 2008 11:37 pm
by Fair Lady Aside
sally wrote:there are some replica serving towels out and about, like these ... =get_topic

Those are the table cloth and napkin sets made by Historic Enterprises in the US. Gwen put a lot of time and study figuring those out. They're beauties.

I have one made of 100% linen made by a lovely lady in Ireland. Also one made by Medieval design in Italy. (I like the big diamond/lozenge patterns).

Probably simple linen would work. You see both plain and diapered throughout the iconographic record. With and without blue borders. Howard Household books also mention various linens.

Posted: Wed May 21, 2008 6:35 am
by sally
If we could just persuade one of the big manufacturers to weave narrow width linen, all you'd need to do is fringe the ends of lengths.

Such a shame its hard to get narrow loom with stuff these days

Posted: Wed May 21, 2008 12:40 pm
by Colin Middleton
Wouldn't they be likley to weave it on a jet loom anyway, giving you those modern selveges, rather than those found pre 1900?

Posted: Thu May 22, 2008 1:37 pm
by BigM

Briefly looked into this a while ago for my own kit. The evidence (mostly pictorial) seems to point to towels with a honeycomb or diamond jaquard weave. You sometimes see this in tea towels today, it increases the surface area and absorbancy (though tea towels are a wee bit small for the larger user!). Would suggest honeycomb weave towels as a good starting point for a search though.


Posted: Fri May 30, 2008 7:48 pm
by Fair Lady Aside
Diapered Linen

Historic Enterprises

Most cost effective option. Small diamonds cotton/linen weave; broad and narrow indigo decorations.

Medieval Design Scroll down toward the bottom of the page. You see table cloth and towel/napkin; cotton, linen, custom sizes available upon request. Large diamond with basic indigo decoration.

Detail photo

Extant XVe and XVIe diapered linens Castoria-Umbria

15th c Castoria-Umbria



16th c Valnerina-Umbria

Custom Linen Cloth I commissioned from a lovely lady in Ireland a few years back.

Posted: Sun Jun 01, 2008 5:23 am
by Karen Larsdatter

Posted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 9:14 am
by Vez

...Wouldnt it be fun to set up a bath tub on camp....... it would go nicely with the thread in the friends forum for ladies in stripey hoods....

Thus runs the thoughts in my head.

Posted: Wed Jun 18, 2008 3:06 pm
by Wolf-Rampant
Still havn't done the public bathing display yet but any ladies wishing to offer their body for such a display will be attended to by many a servant , as long as you are prepared to cover your head...were not THAT immoral you know :lol:

Posted: Wed Jun 18, 2008 5:31 pm
by lidimy
Wolf-Rampant wrote:, as long as you are prepared to cover your head...were not THAT immoral you know :lol:

Thank you, very well said.

Posted: Wed Jun 18, 2008 6:32 pm
by red razors
that tub looks a little too small for my backside... :?

Posted: Thu Jun 19, 2008 11:44 am
by vlasta
Hi. [url=če]Here[/url] is a nice site about medieval towels. I don't know what language is that, but there's plenty of pictures.

Posted: Thu Jun 19, 2008 8:36 pm
by Ace Rimmer
my guess would be something slavic for the language. Nice pics though :)

Posted: Thu Jun 19, 2008 9:55 pm
by George P.
slovenian :wink: