For the love of a good tea towel

cotton ethical business made in England manufacturing raw materials small business sustainable business tea towels the cost of things

In which I discuss the new designs, how my tea towels are made, and my unfortunate urge to rub up tea towels in shops...

As we prepare to restock with current tea towels and launch two new designs, I wanted to share a bit more about why I decided to introduce tea towels to my product range back in 2019. It’s also important to me to be transparent about my manufacturing process.

Ellie Good illustration studio organic cotton tea towels

You may have seen in my About section that an important part of my ethos is to ‘only ever make products that are useful, meaningful and made-to-last.’ And it was this, along with the fact that I could source top quality organic cotton through an English tea towel maker, that sealed the deal. So, they’re useful, made to last, printed and sewn in the UK, and organic. All big tick boxes that keep the carbon footprint right down. However, if truth be told, the idea came to me initially because I’ve always had a big thing for tea towels. A really Big Thing. 

Wherever I go I gravitate to homeware shops, almost with the sole purpose of properly feeling up the tea towels. It’s become a bit of a problem. The combination of a textural (texy? That should so be a word) fabric with a banging design really gets me going. (Perhaps you have the same need? I can't be the only one...) Below are a few of my well-loved favourites, although I’m devastated I can’t show you one from the 70’s that my Mum handed on to me, as it was used for some very messy DIY a few years ago. I thought I’d kept the end that hadn’t been badly polyfilled, but I can’t find it. The pattern can only be described as cherub-chubby, naked babies climbing out of spiky chestnut shells. It had to be seen to be appreciated!

Ellie Good's favourite tea towels

A note on the importance of organic cotton

Standard cotton, although technically a natural fibre, is hugely unsustainable because growing it requires huge amounts of water and a cocktail of chemicals, which can often leave soil unusable after it has been intensively grown for a period of time. Plus, there are many awful reports of serious health problems in cotton workers. Unbleached, organic cotton, like I use, is a far better option. It uses 62% less energy and 88% less water, keeps soil healthier and doesn't use harmful chemicals. Yes, it’s more expensive, but if we consumers commit to always buying less but better - and valuing what we have - this environmental pressure would be lessened. Here is an in-depth look at cotton production if you want further info

And for more info and ways to use your consumer power to make a difference, visit my side project The Shift 

Magic manufacturing

I’m so pleased to be working with Magic Textiles, based in Leek, to produce my tea towels. They’re a family business, and a total joy to work with. They also have a strong environmental policy, working directly with Better Cotton Initiative producers and using non-toxic inks. Although the cotton is supplied from a mill in Pakistan, by manufacturing in the UK I avoid a load of carbon output from transport if I were to use a manufacturer in, say, Turkey. 

The designs are printed in batches onto material lengths, then cut and sent off for sewing. It's about a 6 week turn-around in total. Here's a video of my modern floral tea towel being printed. 

The new designs

My new designs will be available in the shop from early August 2022, and I am super excited about this launch for two reasons. Firstly, the designs are a bit of a departure from the previous, creature-focussed icons because I wanted to create something more illustrative with meaning. The tea towels are part of a new collection being drip-fed into my shop over the coming months. It's called We Are Nature and highlights the way humans interact with, and are part of, the natural world - as opposed to separate from it. I wanted to celebrate our symbiotic relationship with the world that made us. 

Secondly, I worked with my wonderful email subscribers to choose which designs should be printed, and it has felt truly collaborative, with such wonderful feedback and ideas from everyone. For those who helped, I hope the finished goods will do you proud!

Ellie Good sketches

Ellie Good organic cotton tea towel sea design

Above is the Sea Swimmers design, which was inspired by those who feel a deep connection with the earth’s water and its inhabitants.

Ellie Good organic cotton tea towel nature celebration

This was such a close second, I had to print it as well. As the name suggests it is about that celebration of the natural world, the joy it brings, and its diversity.

“I can get one much cheaper in the pound shop!”

Yes, you can. But it will have been made by slaves from fabrics that rape the soil. And the design won't be nearly as exciting, right? #Fact.

I suspect if you’ve read this far, you appreciate a well-made product and value sustainable raw materials, so it’s here that I also want to explain the absence of a hanging loop in the new batch of tea towels. The cost price of my goods has always been high, due to UK production and using non-nature-bashing materials (you can read my rant about that here). The horrible, recent inflation on top of this has meant that I either had to lose the loop or sell my tea towels at about £14 to have made even a penny profit per product when selling wholesale. To me it was an obvious, but forced decision. RIP hanging loop. Sorry. If you’re quick and order my current stock you may still get one with a loop. 

It's my hope for all my fellow tea towel perverts out there that my little creations satisfy your feely needs, and for all the normal people, that they make you smile and last for years of drying up.

If you want to feed back to me on any part of the above (or anything else, in fact) please do get in touch at . We love to hear from you! 

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