Why do towels have that strip of non-towelliness at one end?

I asked this question a couple of years ago but nobody seemed to know the answer.

Why do almost all towels have that little strip, an inch or two wide and a few inches from one end, that is a not actually towelling but made of a different type of fabric? (As seen here.)

As mentioned on he previous thread, it’s annoying (it often shrinks in the wash so you have to stretch it out to restore the towel to shape) and seems to serve no purpose whatsoever. Some towels don’t have it, so it’s obviously not essential, but the overwhelming majority do. Why? :confused:

1- Because they have always had it so new towels are made that way even if no one knows why.

2- So you can dry an clean in places where the thick part is too thick like your ears or toes.

It’s not different material. It’s a different weave. It’s there because it’s decorative. You can buy towels without a decorative banding if you try to. They even charge slightly more for the effort of making that band sometimes. When you see two towels that look the same and one costs a $1 less, you can figure one is plain and one has a decorative feature like a band.

That’s what the corners are for.

So that when you hang them on a towel rack, they look nicer.

They don’t all have it, it’s an optional decorative feature. Most of my towels have no such strip, and the ones which do are ones I received as gifts from less discriminating relatives.

No clue why they have them, but they came in handy when I worked at Target a while back as the towels in the linens aisle had be folded a very particular way. They had to go ribbon to ribbon (what they called the strip) once (with the tags on the inside of the fold), then folded in the same direction again, and then folded once in the other (perpendicular) direction. Nowadays I think they’ve gone to the tri-fold for the last step to take up less shelf space. Then, the towel would need to be on shelf with the big fold outward and all all the ribbons perfectly aligned. I hated working in that department (but I learned how to fold towels).

It probably also helps prevent them from unravelling. My mom weaves rugs, and she always puts a similar band at each end of a rug for that purpose.

On our towels, it’s where the hotel name is.


But if they didn’t have the ribbon, you wouldn’t have had to fold them a particular way, right?

I always assumed it was some sort of selvage.

Couple of WAGs.

Could it be descended from when women would embroider on their napkins? This would be the place where a towel could accept embroidery without hampering usefulness.

Or maybe it is a bit of decoration meant to distinguish a bath towel from a regular old kitchen rag. Back in the day a terry cloth towel must have been a bit of a prestige item, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the strip is just another way to fancy it up.

If you have a really thick towel and really rinkydink clothespins, the ribbon can be used as a fold line to drape the towel over a clothesline. Since the ribbon isn’t as thick as the rest of the towel, the clothespin won’t pop off or break.

Or, you know, the decorative thing.

That strip is called the “dobby”. It is a big fat nuisance and I will not buy towels with it, as the strip shrinks and the towels don’t stay nice and flat when you fold them. I am more or less really anal :rolleyes:about how I fold my towels so things like this make my head go wugga wugga.

A “dobby” on a loom is the attachment used in weaving small figures. Likely handwoven towels had such a design and it became traditional.

Terrycloth towels are fairly modern, they were once always made of linen. Don’t know much about Turkish towels, although our modern terry towels are meant to be like Turkish towels.

[rant] I hate it when I buy towels that look lovely and soft and absorbent and then turn out to be about as towel-like as a plastic bag, and, yes, these are 100% cotton towels.[/rant] I try to find towels made in the USA, but they are getting as scarce as hen’s teeth.

I’m bumping this thread, rather than starting a new one (probably in the pit). I’m currently shopping for a new set of bath towels, and it’s damn hard to find one that doesn’t have that pointless strip. I understand that, to many people, it’s “decorative,” but I really don’t need such a decoration on my bath towels.

My bath towels (technically, bath sheets) have always had them, never really occurred to me to look for them without, but I don’t like them either. Then again, haven’t had the shrinkage problem described upthread - perhaps because we don’t tumble dry them.

Some people are describing what is called a “cam” rather than a “dobby.”

What is a CAM or Dobby on a Towel?

Both are decorative. The cam is simpler and cheaper because the dobby has patterns woven into it.

It’s there so you can keep track of what surfaces you have already used (and are wet). A well designed towel has the dobby patterned differently on each side for better tracking. They are hard to find and very expensive. I always check the guest towels at a house I am visiting to see what kind of company I am keeping.







(Tongue firmly in cheek. Merry Xmas.)