As I write this blog post we are on our way to Blenheim (via Nelson) for the wedding of a couple of crazy lovebirds. This time, we are Georgia-less (and dog-less), our first weekend away since our little pixie was born, and our first wedding since our own! As per usual I made the most of the travel limbo time (thanks to the 50 minute airline delay) by writing this Product Spotlight on our luscious Turkish Towels.
Hands up who’s seen a Turkish Towel for sale on onceit, rolled up in a basket alongside a garden flamingo at Collected, or, seen glossy images of Turkish Towels on Instagram? Now, hands up who’s still unsure what a Turkish Towel actually is (beyond, perhaps a towel that is of Turkish origin?).
I wasn’t entirely sure either. All I knew was that some of these mysterious ‘Turkish Towels’ were labeled ‘made in China’, others were soft and luxurious, some felt ‘starchy’ and they all seemed to come in a range of colours and designs and appeared beach appropriate.
So let’s start at its origin. A Turkish Towel, also called a pestemal, hamman or fouta, is traditionally woven by woman on hand looms to produce a large and flat cloth. Pestamals were greatly favoured by the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire while relaxing in Turkish Baths, (the Hamman) which is an important part of Turkish culture. Since it’s creation, the Hamman has been much more than just a place of relaxation. A regular trip to a Turkish bath was a ritual for cleansing and purification. It was intimately bound to everyday life, a place where people of every rank and class, young and old, rich and poor, townsmen or villagers, could go in freely. Turkish Baths continue to be an ideal gathering point to meet, catch up with family, friends and to celebrate major life events such as weddings and births.
Turkish towels are made from Turkish cotton – a premium type of cotton with extra long fibers. Longer fibers = fewer joins + stronger + smoother threads. Because of this unique characteristic of the cotton, Turkish towels are notorious for becoming softer, fluffier and more absorbent with successive washings.
A ‘worn in’ Pestamal is as absorbent as a traditional towel, dries super quick, is extremely space efficient and easy to carry. These features make the Pestemal a perfect accompaniment for the beach, bathrooms, travel, pools and the spa. Double them up as a throw, wrap or blanket and they are ideal for babies and kiddo’s too. Pestemals are so much more than a beautiful piece of linen hanging on your towel rail. Versatility, tick. Functionality, tick. Aesthically pleasing, tick.
So, if you’ve read this far you’re probably thinking, right so I need a bit of a Turkish Towel or two in my life, where shall I get my Pestemal from? What’s the difference between the specimens I see for sale online and in stores? Factory made, or hand-woven?
Sadly – like the shrinking nature of many ancestral skills – the majority of Turkish towels are mass produced in China with poor quality cotton. These ‘replicas’ are far diluted in their functionality and beauty. Fortunately, a few families in Southern Turkey continue to handloom Turkish towels, in collaboration with fair trade organisations and businesses.
So the next question really is, how can you tell the difference between machine sewn versus hand-woven?
Tip number one. A hand-woven Turkish Towel will feel starchy to begin with. If it feels soft and lush, it’s unlikely to be a true pestamal made out of those long cotton threads (as I mentioned earlier). But fear not! You can speed up the softness and absorbency of your pestamal by soaking it in a bucket of cold water for 24 hours before washing it normally (in cold water and with mild detergent). Avoid fabric softeners – they will damage the cotton.
Don’t rate yourself as able to identify high quality linen when you see it? (unlike my hairier other half, Dave, who continues to surprise me with his ability to pick high quality silk from a barrel of textiles with his eyes closed). Here’s tip number two – like most high quality, fair trade products – the price tag will give you an indication. My rule of thumb for purchases I make these days is, if an item retails for X dollars, how much could the person who made it have been paid? Generally speaking, a Turkish towel, of the highest quality Turkish cotton (which has been hand-woven under fair trade conditions) will retail around $80 – $140 NZD.
Tip number three. Go to BOHOME + ROAM and see for yourself.
BOHOME + ROAM Turkish Towels are currently sourced through Home & Loft, which are US based, and Turkish in heritage. David and Handan spend the US winter in Istanbul, working in collaboration with the artisans to produce their designs and creations. You can shop our hand-picked selection here.
As a blog special, we’re offering 20% off our full sized Turkish Towels for one week only. Just use the code ‘ TURKISH20 ’ at check out to redeem this offer. Be quick BOHOMERs, this offer expires on Friday the 17th March. You’ll get free NZ shipping for orders over $75 too.I hope you’ve enjoyed our first product spotlight. We’d love to know what you think (leave us a comment below!), or even if you want to say “selam!” we’d love to hear from you.
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With wander + lust,