What is a Pestemal
We fell in love with pestemal towels knowing very little about them. When we decided to consider the viability of importing pestemals, our education about these wonderful cotton towels began…
The Pestemal was historically used in Muslim countries as part of the hamam ritual. Historically, the hamam was a gathering point, a place to meet, relax, and catch up with friends and family. The Pestemal was used in the hamam as both a towel and as a status symbol of sorts – generally an individual’s pestemal was indicative of his/her status in society.
Traditionally, the pestemal was made by artisans on hand-looms. However, as technology has improved, handlooms have largely lost out to more efficient, automated machines, which can make pestemals much more quickly than artisans, can (whereas an efficient artisan may be able to produce 10-12 pestemals a day, a machine can produce many hundreds). Call us naïve, but before visiting Turkey on our first sourcing trip, we thought all pestemals were still hand-made the traditional way. Not so! Today, the vast majority of pestemals produced in Turkey are made on automated looms. Although these techniques produce pestemals, which appear very similar to the traditional, hand-loomed pestemals, the touch and feel of hand-loomed pestemals is unmatched.
Unfortunately, hand-loomed textiles are a dying art in Turkey, and many other countries around the world. Lower-cost, machine-made textiles have taken over the markets and forced many families of artisans, who have passed their handicrafts down from generation to generation, to find alternative means of survival due to lack of a market for their goods. What a shame! Although they cannot compete on price, it is difficult, if not impossible, to surpass the quality of hand-loomed textiles.
One of the significant differences between hand-loomed pestemals made of organic cotton and those manufactured in factories on automated machines is the chemical treatment used to make non-organic pestemals absorbent. Unfortunately, this chemical treatment creates towels that become stiff after they are washed and dried. In addition, fabric softener builds up on the fibers of the cloth, ultimately water-proofing the towels. By contrast, hand-woven, organic pestemals become softer and more absorbent with each wash.
Thus, after visiting multiple cities and meeting countless pestemal producers and vendors, we ultimately decided that we would carry only hand-loomed pestemals. Not only are we committed to supporting small artisans preserve their traditional crafts, but the superior quality of hand-loomed pestemals is hard to resist.