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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Process Review: Drawloom Jewels

It is exciting when Maverick walks by. Although he never comes in my drawloom studio, he does stop for a moment to look my way. You’ll see him in the slideshow video below. But what happens inside the studio is even more exciting, especially when it’s time for cutting off!

Drawloom with 16 pattern shafts.
Drawloom, set up with sixteen pattern shafts. I graph out the designs in Excel on my computer. Then, I print out the gridded pattern to use at the loom. I keep my place in the pattern with a magnet and magnet board made for cross-stitch embroidery.

This is Tuna wool, so I expect some shrinkage, but how much? I take careful measurements before and after wet finishing. Besides the main piece of fabric that I’m using for a garment, I have two sample pieces. I can experiment with the samples before wet finishing my garment fabric.

Here are my findings:
Sample 1. Hand wash and air dry.

10% shrinkage in width; 13% shrinkage in length.

Sample 2. Machine wash (3 minutes agitation on a gentle cycle, with a short spin) and machine dry (low setting) till damp, finish with air drying.

13% shrinkage in width; 14% shrinkage in length.

~How to do the shrinkage calculations~
First measurement (on the loom) minus the second measurement (after washing and drying) equals the difference. The difference divided by the first measurement equals the percentage difference.
For example, 50 cm – 43.5 cm = 6.5; 6.5 / 50 = 0.13; 13% shrinkage.

The first sample fabric is softer than the unwashed fabric, but not as soft as I’d like. The second sample fabric is beautifully soft, like a nice warm sweater. So, with confidence, I wet finish the garment fabric—with great results. It’s perfect for the fall/winter vest that I’ll soon be wearing, made from this fabric!

Wool garment fabric from a drawloom.
Like a sweater, this soft fabric will be comfortable to wear.
Making a pattern for handwoven garment fabric.
Muslin pattern for a simple vest. First, I’ll make a vest out of a wool throw, woven on my rigid heddle loom ages ago. Then, I will cut into the new drawloom fabric, with confidence about the fit.

Enjoy this photo show of the drawloom process.

May you enjoy the process you’re in.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

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Tools Day: These 6 Apps Are Great for Weavers!

I love mixing new technology with the old, passed-down tradition of handweaving. My iPhone has become a regular accessory in my daily routines. Since my iPhone is usually in my back pocket, the ease of using apps as weaving tools makes a lot of sense. (These apps are useful, even if you are not a weaver.)

Here are my favorite apps for weaving and how I use them:

Things gives me a simple way to organize my daily activities and responsibilities. I especially like the way I can break down a weaving project into parts or steps.

Things - iPhone App useful for weavers

Kitchen Calculator makes conversions between metric and imperial units super easy. I use it to convert weight units and length units of thread and yarn.

Kitchen Calculator app - useful for weavers

WolframAlpha is my go-to app for more complicated calculations, such as when I want to convert two numbers in an equation. Some websites list yarn in grams/yards, which makes no sense to me. This app does the heavy-lifting math so my brain can save itself for more creative work.

WolframAlpha app - useful for weavers

My Library keeps a list of all the books in my weaving library. This certainly helps keep me from duplicating purchases. The books are organized by category in the app, so I have them arranged the same way on my bookshelf, making it easy to find a particular book.

My Library - app that keeps a list of my weaving books

OfficeTime – Time and Expense Tracking makes it easy to track the time for every phase of a weaving project. I can also set a dollar amount per hour, so I can see the cost of labor at a glance.

OfficeTime - iPhone app useful for weavers wanting to track time and expenses

Google Translate helps me make sense of my stack of Swedish weaving books. I type Swedish words and it translates back to me in English. Usually the translation is not quite right, but close enough that I can understand what it means.

Google Translate - iPhone app useful for understanding Swedish weaving books.

Have you found apps that are useful for weaving? Please tell about them in the comments!

May you reach a new level of efficiency that makes room for even more creativity.

Thankful,
Karen

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