When my grandmother died about ten years ago, she left me a box of embroidered towels - several pairs in beautiful colors. I never really knew much about them except that they were embroidered by her in the 1940s. I sometimes used the red and white ones during the holidays, but otherwise kept them packed away.
When I learned of the dishtowel apron challenge last month I considered using one of the towels for my entry. But then found the fruit towel and changed my mind. So, I had to laugh when I saw Sarah's entry in the gallery - it was almost exactly what I was going to do. I commented on it and that led me to do a bit of research about the embroidery technique, which is called Swedish weaving, huck weaving, huckaback darning, huck embroidery, and punto yugoslavo.
While it dates back several centuries, it had a resurgence in the US in the 1930s and 40s (which is when my grandmother did hers) using huck toweling. Traditional huck fabric has pairs of threads, called floaters, that alternately run vertical and then horizontal on top of the fabric to make a row. Swedish weaving is the embroidery done on this fabric by sliding the floss under the pairs of threads to create a geometric design on top of the fabric - no threads on the back!
If you buy vintage towels they'll likely be huck but it's more common these days to use Monk's cloth for this type of embroidery.
There are several traditional patterns, like trees:
and mirror image designs:
Here's a pillow I made from a vintage turquouse huck towel with black embroidery - love this color combination!
If you'd like more information, here are a couple of sites you can check out: