Why Do Bath Towels Always Have A Hard Edge?

Towels are often wonderfully soft, except for a narrow edge

What could be finer than a bath towel that is nice and soft, thick and fluffy? It feels like pure luxury in the bathroom. But even the softest towels always have a narrow, hard edge. It is located a few inches from either end. What purpose do those strips serve, anyway? Quest has the answer to this. 

Weaving Method
You may not think about it every day, but it is a luxury that we can dry ourselves off with soft bath towels. Two centuries ago this was very different. No one had yet experienced the softness of terry cloth. This material was in fact only invented in 1841. The secret of terry cloth is a weaving method in which thousands of woven cotton loops protrude upwards and downwards. And the larger those loops are, the more water a towel can absorb.

For rich people
In the past, only rich people could enjoy this new invention. Cotton was far too expensive for ‘ordinary’ people in those days. As a simple farmer or citizen you had to be happy if you had a linen cloth to dry yourself with, including scrubs. Meanwhile, terry towels were becoming more common and people discovered that the ends unraveled at the short ends after intense use. Housewives therefore applied a classic sewing trick: the double hem. In doing so, they turned the frayed sides inward twice, and sewed the whole thing back on there.

Hemmed edges
A great solution that has always remained. The double hem automatically gave towels those distinct hem edges, a few inches from the end. These were often sewn a little thicker for added strength. Later, these distinctive edges also proved to be ideal for placing decorative embroidery, such as patterns or names, on them.

By now, those hem edges are not at all as necessary as they were two centuries ago. Before the edges start to fray, we have already bought another pile of new bath towels. Still, this tradition is kept alive, even on washcloths, because the thick bands look nice and evoke an association with clean towels. Aha!

Source: Quest | Image: Pexels