Quiet Friday: Thick and Thin

A vote of confidence from someone you look up to can make a world of difference. When I saw Joanne Hall’s exquisite towel made with thick and thin threads, I asked her, “Do you think I can weave something like that?” “Of course you can;” she replied without hesitation, “it’s plain weave.” Keep in mind that I was a complete novice on the floor loom; and I barely knew how to handle one shuttle, much less two! I plunged into the ambitious project and came out with a winner! The blue and cream towel hangs on the oven door in my kitchen as a daily reminder of the powerful impact of an encouraging word. Thank you, Joanne!

Cotton tea towel, thick and thin. Karen Isenhower

First thick and thin towel, completed as a beginning weaver. This is one of Erica de Ruiter’s designs, found in “The Best of Weaver’s Thick’n Thin,” Edited by Madelyn van der Hoogt.

Thick and thin is just as fascinating this time around. It is delightful to revisit a rewarding experience. Who knew that plain weave could be this much fun?

Zebra warp on Glimakra warping reel.

Zebra warp with thick and thin threads on my new Glimakra warping reel. One of three bouts, 10 1/2 meters.

Warping trapeze in action.

View from the crossbar at the top of the warping trapeze, looking down. Ready to untie choke ties and add weights to the warp bouts.

Threading Texsolv heddles.

Thick ends alternate with thin ends as the heddles are threaded. Left hand separates the shafts‘ heddles for ease of threading.

Ready to weave thick and thin towels!

Weaving begins as soon as the warp is tied on and the leveling string is secured. I use the first few inches to check the threading and sett, and to do some sampling.

Border pattern for cottoln towel on the loom.

First border is captured with my iPhone camera so that I can easily reproduce the pattern at the other end of the towel.

Plain weave with three shuttles creates interesting patterns.

I added a second double bobbin shuttle to make it easier and quicker to switch weft colors. Plain weave gets even more interesting with three shuttles!

Thick and thin cottolin towels on the Glimakra Ideal loom.

End of the third towel.

Black and white towels on the loom. Karen Isenhower

View from under the breast beam. I love to see the fabric rolled up on the cloth beam.

Temple in place for weaving black and white cottolin towels.

Temple keeps the fabric at the optimum width for weaving. Red cutting line serves as the separation between the end of one towel and the beginning of the next. Ready to start another fascinating pattern.

May you give a vote of confidence to someone who needs it.

Happy weaving,


  • Betsy says:

    Who would have thought black and white would look so interesting. I would like to see all the different towels when they are finished. Thanks for sharing. Something else to add to my list.

  • Betsy says:

    PS. I’m going to Vavstuga in February.

  • Helen Hart says:

    I really enjoy your blog and these towels are fascinating. I see one white thread is a “ladder” thread? Can you tell me the brands, sizes of your warp? I won’t copy and sell I promise. Thank you very much.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Helen,
      I’m thrilled that you enjoy what you see and read here! Thanks for keepin’ comin’ back!

      I don’t know what you mean by “ladder” thread…
      The warp and the weft are the same: Bockens 22/2 Nialin (cottolin, cotton/linen blend), used doubled, in bleached and in black; and Bockens 30/2 Cotton, in bleached. I ordered mine from GlimakraUSA.com, but there are many good USA suppliers of Bockens’ threads.

      All the best!

  • linda says:

    best guess. ladder thread used for counting. love those towels. Did you by any chance play with a color in the warp??? LPJ, linda

    • linda says:

      I’m tired……I meant in the weft for the color. it’s been a lon day and more to go. LPJ, linda

      • Karen says:

        Hi Linda, I have not used color for the weft…yet. But I’m far from finished. After the fourth towel, you will see me play with bits of weft color. It’s going to be fun!
        I hope you get some good rest in the coming days.
        LPJ to you,

  • maggie says:

    Hi Linda
    i really enjoy your blog. what setts did you use for the different size warp threads?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Maggie, It’s great to have you here!

      This sett is 24 epi, with doubled thick ends and single thin end per dent.

      Thanks for asking,

  • […] you remember the black and white towels? I love the fascinating results of weaving with thick and thin warp ends, and thick and thin weft […]

  • Marjo says:

    Absolutely stunning towels! I wish I had seen this blog a few years ago, I could have purchased one of them.
    Interesting read, so much information. Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Marjo, Thank you! Im glad you like the towels. They were enjoyable to weave, and I learned so much by doing them.

      All the best,

  • Nancy says:

    ha c’est vraiment tres beau je peut tu avoir le passage en lame et le pédalage est comment vous avez fait

  • Cécile LACORRE BOTZUNG says:

    Hello Very Nice
    I would like to know which loom you used ?
    How many SHAFT ?
    And how many TREADLES ?

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