Clever ideas for displaying vintage kitchen towels?

auntjenDecember 2, 2008

I've managed to amass a small collection of Mexican-themed kitchen towels, which go perfectly with my decor. Problem is, I've been storing them away because I can't think of an ideal way to display them. I thought about making curtains and/or valances out of them, but I like my current curtains/valances and really don't want to change them. I considered looking for some sort of rack to display them on, but I'm really out of wall space, so wouldn't be able to hang anything like that. The best I can come up with thus far is just to put a basket out on one of the horizontal surfaces (that are already over-crowded, I'm afraid), and stack the towels in that. Of course, they'd have to be folded "just so" in order to showcase the designs in the best way.

I haven't been actually using the towels that I have -- they aren't all that absorbent, and a couple are so old that I'd hesitate to subject them to repeated laundering. Soooooooo ... Just thought I'd see if any of you collect vintage towels too and ask how you display them, or if anyone just has a clever idea, let's hear it please! :-)

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Have you thought about adding towel rods to the ends of your cabinets (or island if you have one) and hanging them from there??

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 7:37PM
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I saw a great idea in a catalog a while back. Although it was for vintage hankies, the idea would work for your vintage towels, too. They strung a thin kind of clothesline from the ceiling, swagging it a bit. I think the line was attached with old-fashioned looking, ornate cup hooks. They used small wood clothespins to hang them along the line. I loved the idea to hang my own smallish collection of vintage handkerchiefs in my laundry room. I found the small clothespins at Hobby Lobby in their craft section. I need to paint the laundry room before I hang them up, so it's my after the holidays project, but I do have everything ready and waiting.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 8:30PM
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AJ how cute. I have a Mexican table cloth or at least it is a vintage style cloth!
I also have a small collection of vintage towels that I plan on using at least the sturdiest ones. I also have no idea or room for it. I like the clothesline idea which I may use in my laundry room as I also have a collection of vintage hankies. I have enough to make quilt and then a few for hanging. I also saw a cute table runner made of hankies but then thats a highjack sorry,
But how about making a quilt out of them for your bed? Now that would be awesome!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 8:46PM
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I have all of my vintage towels and tablecloths in my Mom's family picnic basket in the sunroom. I take them out and rearrange them . I also place different ones on the table. I really like Lynn's idea.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 8:50PM
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My mother collects vintage towels. She has them displayed on a one of those vintage, folding wooden, drying racks for laundry.

The wood ones are hard to find and I don't think they make them anymore. You'd have to check out second hand shops. They make them in plastic now but since you like color maybe the colorful plastic ones are better?

Of course these take up a bit of floor space but you can display a lot of towels and rotate the ones to the front to change the look.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 9:01PM
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auntjen, I purchased a swing arm towel rack on ebay. The 3 dowels swing way a part or close together. However you want. I hang decorative towels on it in the front. Then on the 3rd bar (in back) I hang the hand towel of the day. Or hang towels on the front bar and use both of the other dowels for everyday towels. Would this be something you would have room for?

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 9:43PM
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Hi, Auntjen...I have a couple of towels similar to yours that belonged to my grandmother. Mine are 1930's vintage and I'm afraid to launder them any more. I think I'm going to frame them and hang them on the wall.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 9:50PM
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Find a low table, wood or metal, Victorian would work well, depending on your preference. Paint it white or any other color that would show off your towels. Place one of your cute towels on the top and cover it with glass cut to fit the table. Your towel will be protected while it brightens up the space. Perfect for serving drinks, coffee, tea, lemonade or snacks on the porch.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 9:33AM
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I like Susieq's idea of framing them and hanging them on the wall. What about a shadow box with the towels artfully arranged inside? One final suggestion although considering the age of your towels you may not want to try this. How about buying small canvasses and then stretching them out on the canvas and stapling and then hanging them on the wall.

BTW, beautiful towels!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 10:20AM
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I was thinking along the same lines as beach rose, making a table out of them. BUT, instead of just using one on the top, frame each one, hinge them together along the sides to make a tall, square "box," add a bottom of wood, some little feet or wheels, and a top of glass with another towel under it.

Do you know what I mean? Instead of a table with legs and a towel/glass top, it would be more like a box, with a towel on each side and a towel on top. Depending on the sizes of your towels, you may have to fold the top one to make it square.

And, if you just frame the towels without any backing, you could put a tap light in the bottom of the "box" and light it up. Some light would/should get thru the towels and make them glow a little.

maybe this idea is just too goofy...

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 11:21AM
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I have a dresser painted blue in my sitting room, and I have two vintage towels hanging from the drawers. The drawers are closed, keeping the ends of the towels in place. I think it looks quite nice.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 3:00PM
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I also have a small collection of vintage kitchen linens; tablecloths, napkins and dish towels. Since no one in my family left me any treasured family tea towels, I have to pick up mine at garage sales and thrift shops and such, so I try to choose pieces that can stand up to being (gently) used.

I do like the swinging towel bar, the idea of being able to flash all that extra color around is very appealing. :^)

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 10:30PM
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How about using them for napkins? You could use them only on special occasions and thus save on wear and tear. If were me, I'd say what the heck, and use them every day.

That way you can be enjoying them every day while using them for the kind of purpose they were meant.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 11:29PM
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here is a creative idea I found that I am thinking of stealing.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 11:55PM
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I've seen dishtowel cafe curtains, but not a whisk broom valance. Very original.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 11:08AM
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We painted an antique ladder and attached it to the floor and ceiling for a towel bar in our guest BR.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 12:53PM
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Wow! Thank you all so much for all of the wonderful ideas and inspiration! I'm now thinking that (unless I still go Trailrunner's route and display them in a basket), I'm going to track down one of those cool swing-arm racks that Mary Lu posted. While I love all of the other ideas presented here, my space is so very limited, but I think I could surely find a place for a little rack like that.

Msjay, that's an adorable idea! It looks like the whisk brooms might be attached to a roller shade somehow - ? My cats would think I'd just installed a new toy for them I'm sure, but it's such a cute and clever idea!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 5:18PM
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If you want to limit the amount of space to devote to your towels, think about finding one or two wooden serving trays... old ones, or new ones from the craft store that you could paint. Have a piece of glass or plexiglas cut to fit the bottoms, and use whichever of your towels you feel like looking at that day under the glass.

If you decide to frame some of them, I'd recommend investing in good museum quality acid-free mats and liners. I don't think I'd want to put lights in, because the heat might damage the linens over time.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 6:11PM
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How about an old shutter or two, propped up against the wall.
Or, since you're short on wall space, a shorter shutter or two on a table and propped up against the wall.
Or a side rail from a toddler bed?

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 7:02PM
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I have a drawer full of them as well and don't know quite what to do with them either. I have friend's that display them in the bathroom and also the kitchen on hooks and such. And they look wonderful. I have a monogrammed antique tea towel hanging on a train rack in my downstairs bathroom. Here is a picture, talk about a plain Jane.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 7:30PM
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I have the business end of a garden rake (the short toothed heavy duty kind)(handle removed :^) hung upside down in my kitchen. On the "teeth" I hang antique kitchen tools and vintage towels.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 5:23PM
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Another thought...if you have space, what about an antique fruit picking or library ladder leaning against a wall with the towels hung on the rungs? Here's a link to a place that has some. (I don't know this merchant, so can't be a reference...)

Here is a link that might be useful: Antique ladders

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 5:29PM
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I saw a small rustic ladder in an antique mall a week or so ago that I might be able to prop up at the end of the buffet in my breakfast room. Then again, the cats would probably proceed to repeatedly knock it over for me.

I am just so limited on space, and even so, I found myself bidding on (and winning) yet another cute vintage towel on eBay last night! I'm addicted, I tell ya! Although these racks aren't the most spectacular-looking things on the planet, I am considering buying a couple of them and putting them on the side of my fridge that faces towards the kitchen counter/sink. They are magnetic, so that would definitely work on the fridge. I figure I could display at least 3 towels on each rack.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 5:43PM
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Auntjen, if you have the foot or so of wall space, hang two coat hooks high and hang the ladder, cats can't knock it down.
In our Bathrm we attacked door stops on the bottom to hold it out a little from the wall.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 6:54PM
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