As the rest of the world was wallowing in the drabness of rags with which to dry themselves. The Ottomans, however, looked at a towel as a very important part of daily life and the habitual visits to the hamam.
Their flat woven towels, called pestamel (sometimes spelled peshtamel, pestemal, peshtemal), were always adorned with beautiful hand embroidery and fancy tied tassels.
On special occasions such as a ceremonial bath of a bride before her wedding, a beautiful towel was an expected part of the experience. The hamam also had an undeniable relationship with towels and again were expected to supply each of its guests something lavish, assuming the guest did not bring their own special towel.
The Sultans' weavers during the Ottoman era were in Bursa and the Sultanesses of the palace constantly urged the weavers to exceed the beauty and quality of previous pieces. Without this pressure to excel beyond the norm, the towel might still be just a simple piece of flat-woven material.
It was in the 17th century that the Ottoman weavers in Bursa gave birth to the first towel dawning loops. The new invention was called 'havly' and it sported rows of loops making up small rectangular shaped raised areas on the fabric. Later the loops spread over the entire piece and the emergence of a much thicker, more luxurious towel became a reality.
The weavers had cleverly used a second warp thread and pulled it above the surface of the material and then locked it in place with a weft thread.
Over time, their 'havly' invention became known as havlu, which is the Turkish word for towel; 'hav' meaning the loops and 'lu' with ... 'with loops'.
Turkish towels became world renowned for their ability to outlast all others and were considered a luxury item that was unrivaled in quality.
No one else in the world made these thick, looped towels until small factories learned how to duplicate the same look. Although this aspect could be copied, the factory machines were unable to replicate the structure and still to this day there is no factory towel that can match the strength and longevity of the original thick, looped towels made on old-style shuttled looms.
Jennifer's Hamam is the only company on the planet working with the last Turkish weavers that still make thick, looped towels the ancient way - on old style shuttled looms. It is a precious art in jeopardy that they are fiercely trying to save. Those clients that have experienced using one of Jennifer's Hamam's towels can tell you the experience is completely unique.
Two examples of mid-18th century towels with loops and extensive hand embroidery designs
Jennifer acquired this towel in Central Anatolia at an old Konak turned restaurant. The owner's great grandmother wove the towel on an old-sytle shuttled loom. She stopped weaving in 1910, so we know it's at least 107 years old.
Just the fringe would have taken several days to tie.
Some of the light yellow stripes are made from cotton threads and a few are from silk.
Badly abused during the last decade of its life, this historical treasure is intact and has no damage other than some tomato stains from wiping tables. A true testament to the longevity of a thick, looped towel made on a loom.
The 100+ year old towel is available for viewing when you visit us in the showroom.