What is all the fuss about Turkish Towels?
Funny, when I was growing up in Turkey, pestemal (pronounced PESH-te-mall) were not something one would see outside of the Turkish baths. As a child of the 80s and 90s, I grew up in an area that was more Westernized, and traditional items were somewhat disregarded in favor of more modern home and life products. Visiting Turkish baths was also not terribly popular - tourists and traditionalists being the exception to this.
Over the last decade or so, I have noticed that the country has begun to return to its traditional roots, with the previously western-looking population embracing the very items that did not have a place in their lives in the past. Pestemal are a prime exaple - not only have they been been "rediscovered," they have taken on a life of their own. Still found in Turkish baths, they are popping up in homes and hotels and are not just a simple towel any longer. The traditional pattern of stripes are still used, but have been modernized and expanded upon. Now you can see everything from stripes to diamonds to tie dye and beyond. Techniques have also evolved to appeal to modern homes and businesses, opening up an endless range of possibilities when it comes to using these beautiful textiles.
What makes Pestemal different?
These towels have been produced in the same manner for centuries - a flat weave on an open loom, with hand-knotted tassels. Made of 100% cotton (and sometimes bamboo as well), they differ from a terry towel with the length of their fibers. Longer fibers mean fewer seams, fewer seams mean a smoother textile, lighter weight, unparalleled absorbency, and fast drying time. The more the towels are used, the softer and more absorbent they become. That musty smell that renders your terry towels unusable does not happen with pestemal.
Where do we source our Pestemal?
At Thriae, we source our pestemal directly from a manufacturer in the Denizli region of the inner Aegean coast. This is not far from where I grew up and is the capital of textile production in the country. While technology has crept into the manufacturing process, our pestemal are still made in small ateliers that have been family run and operated since their founding. Working with small and independent businesses is one of our missions, and we selected our source very carefully to ensure that we fulfill that. This helps keep the textile industry thriving, while supporting family-run businesses. We will share more on our manufacturer soon!
How do you use a pestemal?
Now is where the fun really begins! The possibilities are truly endless:
- As a bath, hand, or kitchen towel. This is a given, but they make great travel towels as well since they are so lightweight and compact.
- As a sarong at the pool or beach. There are some lightweight styles perfect for this such as the Halicarnassus and Koressos.
- As a pool or beach towel. The flat wave makes this a sandless towel!
- As a scarf. I have so many I use when it’s cool out.
- As a shawl. I keep one everywhere - in my car, bag, and office to ward off chill.
- As a travel blanket. They are perfect for airplanes/trains/buses and do multiple duties - throw one in your carry on and use as a shawl, scarf, towel, or blanket!
- As a throw on your bed, favorite chair, couch, etc.
- As a picnic blanket.
- As a gym towel. I have a stack ready for use in my home gym at all times!
- As a yoga or meditation blanket. I keep one in my car to take to the beach for my quick morning meditations.
- As a tablecloth or runner.
- As a hair turban.
- As a curtain or window covering.
- As a unique way to wrap a gift.
- And more!
Pestemal also make the perfect gift. Give them for birthdays, holidays, basically any time of gifting. Give a set rather than a bottle of wine when visiting friends. Pair them with candles, journals, or jewelry via one of our signature gift collections.
Most importantly, find what works with your style and have fun with it. Don’t forget to take photos of how you use your pestemal, post on social media, and tag us! @shopthriae on IG and Facebook.
A note on the names of our Pestemal collections: You will notice our pestemal collections are all named ancient settlements in Anatolia - I have always been drawn to them. Growing up on the Aegean coast gave me many opportunities to visit such sites and allowed me to develop a love of ancient history. These sites are also where I developed my love for and began my education in photography. My most cherished memories revolve around visits to these sites throughout my childhood and teenage years. I'm so happy to incorporate some of my favorite sites into the names of our collections. You will find a brief note on each settlement on the product pages.
A note on imperfections: Because of the handmade nature of our pestemal, there may be slight variations or imperfections in each piece. Please embrace these as a unique aspect of your textile.
A note on care: Care is simple. Warm water wash, tumble dry or line dry. Our pestemal are pre-washed, so they are soft when they arrive. However, using while vinegar during your rinse cycle will soften them even more. If you happen to have any of the truly traditional, more “rough” varieties, vinegar is definitely your friend to help soften them up - that and frequent washes.