The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a tea-towel as, “ ...a cloth for drying dishes.”
Made of linen, cotton, or a combination of the two. The increasing availability of affordable textiles during the 18th Century brought about decorative tea-towels. Becoming more than a functional item in the kitchen they were (and still are) used to cover baked foods cooling from the oven, insulate tea-pots, to decorate the tea-tray (hence the name) as well as drying dishes. During this time they were often embroidered and gifted to friends and family. They add a decorative touch to a tea-tray and look pretty in a kitchen.