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A towel animal is produced when a towel or washcloth is folded into the shape of an animal. An animal created this way could include a rabbit, elephant, dog, or swan, to name a few. One of these creatures is often found on a cruise ship or in a luxurious resort because staff routinely places them on the pillows of their guests to make them feel welcome.
The process of folding towels to create different shapes is known as towel origami. This craft is much like paper origami, with the exception being that towels are used instead of paper. Bath towels, hand towels, and washcloths are all used to make towel animals. Other linens, such as napkins or handkerchiefs, could also be folded into the shape of an animal.
Towels are usually made of terrycloth, which is ideal for making a towel animal. This fabric is easy to fold because it is not very stiff. The softness of the material also contributes to the charm of the finished product, often resulting in creatures that somewhat resemble stuffed animals.
There are many different animals that can be created by performing towel origami. Some of the more popular ones include rabbits, dogs, monkeys, and elephants. Even so, virtually any animal can be created with this method. Some unusual creatures formed from towels include snakes, swans, lizards, and frogs.
Staff on cruise liners often place a towel animal in each guest cabin just before passengers board the ship. Workers at many resorts also make these and put them in guest rooms. Spas, hair and nail salons, and bed and breakfast inns might also use them. These animals could also be created for a nursery, bridal shower, or to accent a gift basket. Children are especially fond of them, so they might be a nice accent for a birthday party as well.
A towel animal may sometimes be held together with rubber bands or clips. This is especially true if more than one towel or washcloth is needed to make the creature. The fasteners are usually placed inconspicuously so as not to distract from the overall design. Some crafters may elect to use ribbon or bows to cover them as well.
People who would like to make a towel animal might want to purchase a book on towel origami. Many cruise ships that place these animals in guest cabins also sell books about them in their gift shops. Books can also be found at craft and hobby or party supply stores.
I don't think I'd ever heard of towel animals until I talked to people who had been on cruises and they said they always got a towel animal in their staterooms every night.
It's a really cute idea for a baby shower, too, and is a twist on wrapping a plain box. Make a towel animal out of the gift towels and it's a unique presentation.
This would probably be a good skill to learn for someone who works in a gift shop -- especially if they sell towels, like a hospital gift shop. A towel animal gift might brighten a patient's day. Not a bad idea.