Doesn’t it seem like nowadays you can get your monogram on just about anything? But back in the late 19th century, long before the West Elms of the world, monogrammed hand towels were once a privilege only of the upper class. With wonderful detailing like intricate crochet work and embroidered scallop edges, monogrammed hand towels became family heirlooms passed down for generations. In my collection, I have several, most of which I found at flea markets and thrift shops for reasonable prices.


Counterclockwise from the top left: (1) an intricate monogram in an exuberant script; (2) a blackletter M; (3) a script E; (4) a block letter K; (5) a blackletter B (perfect for serving dinner rolls!); and (6) a modern script ER. This last one I was particularly excited to find, as it was part of a pair of beautiful damask striped towels with my own monogram.


I love combining different styles, and when grouped together, these towels add charm and history to a home. Plus, you never know when a hand towel you just happen to find will make the perfect gift for a friend with his or her monogram on it. Just be sure never to use chlorine bleach on white antique linen. Instead, I like to use a mixture of mild detergent, lemon and boiling water. And definitely never put them in the dryer. Always air dry, then iron them with a pressing towel over the monogram to keep it looking fresh.