Illustration by Amelia Bates

By Nancy Jorgensen

Today, the foot pedal on my vintage sewing machine hums mechanically as I guide the needle through a batch of linen tea towels. My fabric, with 4-inch-wide stripes of cream and umber, gleams in the sunlight. It is a heavyweight material, 7.1 ounces per yard, with imperfect slubs that feel bumpy between my fingers. Although it would look at home in a country painting, its value goes beyond its winsome appeal. I know from making previous towels that it holds its shape with washing, but it also softens so it can be folded or squished. It is rustic and reliable, perfect for wet hands or dripping dishes. Someone accustomed to the fluffy synthetic towels from a discount store may not recognize the virtues in this authentic cloth, a true natural fiber.