Ella Lou Hand-Loomed Pestemals Work for Beach, Bath or Pool

These traditional Turkish bath towels are way better than terrycloth.


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Photo by Lance Yamamoto

Lindsay Thomasson claims that once you’ve tried a pestemal (traditional Turkish bath towel), you will leave your old terrycloth behind. “They’re super-absorbent, fast-drying, and are ultimately more practical — they don’t mildew and take up much less room in the washer and dryer.”

Thomasson, founder of Ella Lou textiles, fell in love with pestemals on her family trips to France, where they are widely used as beach/pool towels, blankets, and even tablecloths. In Turkey, she found artisans who hand-loom the multipurpose textile on traditional shuttle looms. Ella Lou pays fair wages to local weavers directly to cut out the middlemen and helps to preserve the art of hand-looming in this age of cheap factory goods.

Thomasson’s interest in textiles began while visiting grant recipients in developing countries as an international development consultant. After her daughter Ella was born, she founded her company in 2012, which was born “out of a love for discovering new places, beautiful products, and learning about the people who make them.” Her Piedmont company offers pestemals, blankets (which are made on the same looms as the towels), and other small-batch goods. Check out the city-themed, children’s playmats (the perfect baby shower gift) and pillow covers made from vintage Hmong textiles and mid-century ikats from Uzbekistan.

Thomasson’s own creativity can be seen in her hand-dyed and hand-painted table linens. She channels her inner Jackson Pollock in the Funfetti splatter-painted line of napkins, plays with natural indigo dye with her Japanese shibori cocktail napkins, and is currently exploring cyanotype (photographic blueprint) methods after seeing Robert Rauschenberg’s life-size versions at a recent retrospective.

In the future, Thomasson hopes to curate more international collections and work directly with artisans in India, whose rich tradition of textile handicrafts demands exploration, and in Mexico, where she bought a hand-embroidered caftan at a bazaar that has inspired her to branch out into resort/beachwear.

Organic cotton pestemals range from $32 for the colorful Blissful collection to $72 for the high-end Cassis. You can find all of Ella Lou’s products at ShopEllaLou.com.

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