Tried and True: How Far Will Your Quill Go?

Do not overfill your quills. It may seem efficient to load the quill as much as possible so you can weave as far as possible. Like me, you may have to learn this the hard way. A too-chubby quill that has to be coaxed through the shed takes more time and effort than winding a few extra quills. So much for efficiency.

Cottolin bath towels on the Glimåkra Standard.
Cottolin bath towels on the Glimåkra Standard, in twill, broken twill, and reverse twill.

It helps to have an idea of how far the thread on a quill will go. With this information, you can wind a few in advance without ending up with an excess of wound quills at the end of your project. I like to have the next quill ready to go when I am weaving so that I can put the new quill in my shuttle and keep weaving with very little interruption. This is especially helpful when the treadling sequence is tricky, like with the reverse twill in every other large color block on these cottolin bath towels. 3-2-1-6-5-4

How to Estimate Weaving Distance for Filled Quills

1 Start a new quill, leaving a 4 – 5 cm tail on the surface of the cloth. Or, start a new quill at the beginning of a color change.

How to measure how far a quill will weave.
End of one thread. Ready for a new quill.
How to know how far a quill will weave. Tutorial.
With the threads overlapping in the shed, the tail of the thread on the new quill lies on the surface.

2 Weave until the quill has emptied. Leave a 4-5 cm tail on the surface of the cloth.

How to know how far a full quill will weave.
Quill has emptied. Tail is brought out to the surface of the cloth.

3 Replace the empty quill in the shuttle with a new quill and continue weaving 1 – 2 cm further.

4 Measure the distance from the first weft tail, or line of color change, to the second weft tail. Place a straight pin, in line with the first weft tail, directly under the second weft tail. Measure from the pin to the second weft tail. This is the approximate weaving distance you can expect to cover with a new quill. Notate the quill’s estimated weaving distance on your project notes for future reference.

Tutorial on how to know how many quills you need to wind.
Measure the woven distance.

5 Trim the weft tails close to the surface.

6 Increase accuracy by repeating the process three times, and then use the average as your quill’s estimated weaving distance.

The large color blocks on this bath towel are 14 cm long. A single full quill will weave 5 1/2 – 6 cm; therefore, I make sure I have 2 full quills, plus at least another half-filled quill before I start a new color block section. It’s nice to be able to leave my foot on the treadle while I change out quills, so I don’t lose my place.

Cottolin bath towels.

May your efforts prove to be efficient.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

12 Comments

  • Beth says:

    Oooo! I love these colors!

  • Nannette says:

    Good morning Karen,

    I just noticed you work in metric measurements. I hadn’t before. Hmmm. Is that the side effect of transposing 2.54 cm per inch so many years? Metric does make the math easier.

    Moving/estate sale in 5 weeks. The epiphany is textile projects will have to wait until the basement in Wausaukee is set up. The last visit I made up north the home made floor loom was to the point of hooking up the castle. I stopped after I put it on backwards.

    Thank you for your reality touchpoints.

    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, I started using metric measurements for weaving after going to Vavstuga Basics. It makes sense to me.

      Blessings on all your transition events.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Joanna says:

    You always give us such great tips! Thanks, Karen. And thanks for using metric measurements, I wish everyone did.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, I’m happy if a tip is helpful to you. As I mentioned to Nannette, metric measurements make sense to me for weaving. I am not a math whiz, so I like the simplicity of metric math.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Linda Adamson says:

    I really like your colors as well. Did you set the cottolin at 24 epi? If so is it thick enough this way?
    Linda

    • Karen says:

      Hi Linda, These really are comfort colors for me. I’m using a metric 50/10 reed, so my sett is 10 ends per cm, equivalent to 25.4 epi. So, 24 epi would also be a good sett for this twill. I wouldn’t call these towels thick, but they will be soft and absorbent. My experience with Bockens 22/2 Cottolin is that the cotton/linen blend makes great towels. They seem to get softer and more absorbent the more they are used and washed and dried.

      I haven’t made cottolin bath towels before, so hopefully I can give you a good report when we start using them!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Maureen says:

    Hi Karen,
    May I ask, what are you using for a bobbin? It doesn’t seem to be the rolled piece of paper that is usually used for a quill. Where did you get them, is it from purchased yarn? I’ve found that some of the empty yarn spools don’t fit in my Glimakra quill shuttle.
    Your weaving is always so inspiring, you have a wonderful colour sense and technique.
    Maureen

    • Karen says:

      Hi Maureen, The quills that I use are narrow cardboard tubes made for this purpose. These cardboard quills function like the rolled piece of paper that you describe, and come in different sizes to fit the Glimakra quill shuttles. I purchase the cardboard quills from weaving suppliers in the USA, like GlimakraUSA.com or Vavstuga.com. If I need extra quills, I make them from rolled paper, too.

      Your kind and encouraging words mean a lot to me.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kristin Girod says:

    That’s a wonderful tip, Karen! I’m definitely going to try that with my next project. And I’ve always trimmed my tails after washing. Do you trim to the fabric while on the loom no matter the size or type of yarn?

    • Karen says:

      Kristin,

      Good, I’m glad you found this tip helpful!

      I trim weft tails as I go–regardless of size or type of yarn. I like to trim as much as possible while it’s on the loom because I don’t want to have to go back and do it later. 🙂

      I try to make sure to have my weft threads overlap enough in the shed to take into account shrinkage that will happen with washing and drying. If you trim before it’s washed, the added benefit is whatever bit of thread that is left on the surface will nicely disappear as it shrinks into the cloth.

      Happy weaving!
      Karen

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Handwoven Detail Notes

It is the smallest of details that set handwoven towels apart from ordinary towels. With that in mind, I am writing some detail notes in the margin of my project notes. Borders: Towel 1 – sea blue, apple green – contrast thread – ultramarine; Towel 2 – ultramarine, sea blue – contrast thread – maize; Towel 3 – apple green, ultramarine – contrast thread – sea blue; Towel 4 – dusty, sea blue – contrast thread – apple green.

Cottolin bath towels coming up!
Beaming the cottolin warp for bath towels.
Warp is tied on and leveling string is attached.
Warp is tied on and leveling string is attached.
Preparing to weave 7-color bath towels.
Seven different colors of wound quills. All seven colors are in each towel, warp and weft. The weft sequence varies with each towel.
Boat shuttles vie for the starting line, like in a regatta.
One boat shuttle for each color. This reminds me of sailing with my dad and my sisters. Boat captains would vie for the regatta starting line, shouting, “Starboard!”

There are seven colors of cottolin in the warp, and the same seven colors in the weft, just like the accompanying hand towels I completed in April. (See Process Review: Jubilation Hand Towels.) Narrow warp-wise and weft-wise stripes of broken twill produce interesting patterns in the cloth. The deep borders I am planning on the bath towels give me a chance to add simple details that only a handweaver can do.

White ribbon shows where to place details on the handwoven bath towel.
After weaving a short section to test the threading, I start the first towel. A red line, as always, denotes the cutting/starting line. I placed marks on the white ribbon at the left that show me where to place details along the length of the towel.
Simple handwoven details make all the difference.
Single ultramarine thread is laid in with the sea blue to outline a change of treadling. A simple handwoven detail.

Have you ever identified a master craftsman by the specific details that show up in the hand-crafted article? In the same way, we can recognize our Maker’s hand through the magnificence of the details we see in each other. You are his masterpiece. Hand-written instructions guide the details. When we come to the Lord as our Maker and Redeemer, we find his hand-written details woven into our hearts, something only the Grand Weaver can do.

May you attend to the details.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

14 Comments

  • Joyce Lowder says:

    These towels are so beautiful…and as always, your words of faith, reminding us of the blessings we have been given by God. Thank you for your inspiration! I know you give the credit for all you do to our Lord. God Bless you! 🙂

  • Beth says:

    Beautiful color choices and details!

  • So pretty. I hope one day to be able to make towels like this. Thank you for your help to the weaving world.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Brigitte, One step at a time, and before you know it, you’re weaving the very things you were hoping to do. This has been my story, and I’m sure it will be yours, too!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    It is the details between common chocolate cookies and Boston cream pie.

    May we all enjoy Boston cream pie from a master craftsman.

  • Joanna says:

    Isn’t broken twill a blast to thread? I just love it. Your towels will be lovely.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, Yes, I do enjoy a threading pattern that requires thinking. The treadling is that way, too, with these towels. This is the kind of project that is very satisfying to do.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Anonymous says:

    Always love your posts! I love the way you incorporate a story into each post. I hope to weave this well one day! I’m a super beginner.

    • Karen says:

      Hi super beginner, You have a kind way of expressing yourself. Thank you for the encouraging words! I have no doubt by you will reach excellence in weaving. All it takes is time, practice, and patience. Enjoy the journey!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kristin G says:

    I look forward to seeing the finished towels. I’m sure they will be gorgeous! And I particularly enjoyed hearing about the memory of sailing with your family. Those must be precious memories!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kristin, Those sailing memories are memories I cherish! I’m looking forward to putting these towels to use as soon as they’re finished.

      Thanks so much!
      Karen

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Tried and True: Designing Handwoven Towels

How do you come up with a design for standout hand towels? Sometimes it’s nice to start with someone else’s ideas. There is a gorgeous wool throw, designed by Anna Svenstedt, in Favorite Scandinavian Projects To Weave: 45 Stylish Designs for the Modern Home, by Tina Ignell. This Colorful Throw—Reverse Twill makes a perfect template for designing eye-catching hand towels.

New handwoven towels.
Warp chains with seven colors of 22/2 cottolin for standout hand towels.

Decisions:

  • Colors – a set of seven colors, to be used in warp and weft
  • Fiber – 22/2 cottolin for warp and weft
  • Reed and sett50/10 metric reed, 10 ends per centimeter (~ 12-dent reed, 24 ends per inch)
  • Finished size of towel – 39.5 cm x 63 cm (15.5” x 24.5”)
  • Number of towels – 2 pairs of towels = 4 total
  • Spacing of warp stripes – add two more narrow stripes at each selvedge to balance the pattern

These decisions enable me to prepare a project plan, make calculations, and write a new weaving draft.

New handwoven towels.
Testing, testing…

When the loom is dressed, the design process continues as I begin weaving a sample section. This is where I decide what weft colors to use, the spacing of weft stripes, and specific treadling patterns. I add these notes to my project sheet, which I keep at the loom as my weaving roadmap.

Measuring for weft stripes.
I place my measuring twill tape along the reed to mark the spacing of the warp stripes. I will use that same spacing for weft stripes to make plaid towels.
Testing colors and patterns.
Sample weaving to try out colors, stripe spacing, and treadling patterns. And, simply to practice this broken reverse twill treadling, which requires concentration.
First towel starts after the red cutting line.
First towel starts after the red cutting line.

These hand towels are a preview. If they turn out as hoped, I may have to make some bath towels to match.

May your designs stand out.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

14 Comments

  • Charlotte says:

    You will love the cottolin for your bath towels. I’ve used cottolin for warp and linen for weft. That works well. But, the balance of cottolin for warp and weft makes a wonderful bath towel.

    Your hand towels will be a treasure!!! The colors are smashing!!!!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Charlotte, I like the idea of using linen for weft with a cottolin warp. You would get the softness of the cotton in the cottolin and the extra absorbency of the linen. I may consider that for the bath towels. What size linen do you recommend for that?

      I’m already thinking these may be my favorite hand towels.

      Thanks!
      Karen

      • Charlotte says:

        I am sitting here at home, sipping my first cup of coffee. Hence, I don’t have my notes available to answer your question. But, I usually try a weft and weave a few rows of blocks to make certain I can square the block. If the yarn is too thick for the weft, but I’m crazy about it…I’ll weave 1/2 blocks for the cloth. I’ll treadle 1, 2, 3 and change to the next pattern row: 4, 5, 6. Does this make sense?

  • Anonymous says:

    Absolutely beautiful! Gorgeous colors. Eight shaft?

  • Joanna says:

    I wish you more joy with your plaid than I have had with mine. It’s been stalled on the loom forever. What was your inspiration for the color choices? I keep looking for echoes of your beautiful Texas Hill Country.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, I know it is disappointing when something on the loom is less than what we’d hoped. What if you just finished your towels off with a single weft color, having only the warp stripes? Would that work? At least you could get them off the loom sooner.

      I have a set palette of colors for our home in Sherwin-Williams paint chips. I spread those paint chips out when deciding on thread colors for weaving that will be used in our home. I have yarn samples of all the main yarn/thread that I use (Yarn in a Jar from Vavstuga is fantastic for this) so I can spread the yarn colors out, too, and find pleasing arrangements.

      I hope you find a way to put joy back into your towel weaving.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kevin says:

    Really beautiful! I love the colors and the pattern!

  • Barb says:

    Love the idea of using the warp stripe pattern as the spacing for the weft colors! It is an idea i will sample on the striped cotton towels on my loom. Thanks so much for sharing, I always find inspiration in your weaving journey.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barb, Copying the warp stripe spacing is an easy way to bring a cohesive look to the towels. Good for you to sample the idea for yourself.

      I sure appreciate your kind encouragement.
      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Beautiful weave.Love your color choices.

    Thank you. Much needed as I sit next to totes being filled with decades of craft supplies to be moved to the retirement home and the empty boxes to be filled for the anticipated rummage sale. The Reed Pleater will have to be sold. Can I let go of the silk screening supplies from my college days?

    In the next 9 months there is much to do to make the transition.

    Between you and Curmugeom66 my creative soul is renewed. (His last VLOG was snow blowing his yard just south of Green Bay.) That said, he has posted quite a few VLOGs using cottalin.

    Thank you for keeping me in the loop with your wonderful projects..

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, I understand. I, too, had to let go of many prized saved things when we prepared for our retirement move. Happily, I have no regret of letting go, and I have not missed any of it. The move became my chance to start fresh. That doesn’t make your challenge any easier, but I hope you will be encouraged. You have a bright future to look forward to.

      All the best,
      Karen

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