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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Rosepath Whispers

This fifth rag rug on the warp has the same classic rosepath design as the others. This rug, however, has rosepath as a whispered hint instead of the usual bold statement. Colorful beauty? Yes. Yet, it’s quiet. Restful.

*Rosepath Whispers* rag rug.
Hints of rosepath pattern.
Rosepath Whispers rag rug.
Design plan sits nearby for reference as I weave.

The rosepath pattern is fully present, but soft-spoken. In the pattern areas, there is only slight contrast between the pattern weft and ground weave weft. The print fabric that is used for some of the pattern weft leaves spots of color, which also helps to blend the pattern into the background. The hint of a pattern makes you take a second look to see what is really there.

Winnie the Pooh is going into this rag rug.
Winnie the Pooh fabric is used for some of the ground weave weft.
Texture from rosepath pattern.
Texture of the raised rosepath pattern is clearly seen from the edge.

A restful person is like that, making us want to take a second look to see what’s behind that demeanor. Rest is a form of trust. Trusting God’s grace means believing that God will give us what we need. And that brings rest, the kind that is on the inside. Deep inside, where the pattern of grace is fully present, our being is transformed. And whatever is on the inside will show on the outside. Colorful beauty? Yes; and quiet, too. Restful.

May you be restful on the inside.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

12 Comments

  • Wanda Bennett says:

    This is beautiful!

  • Nannette says:

    Good Morning Karen. I just wove a rag rug using a print for the background of a simple rosepath. The pattern is in colors of the tabby. A subtle pattern is a beautiful thing. Your word: Whisper…

    Thank you for sharing.

    Nannette

  • Linda says:

    Very interesting!

  • Joanna says:

    Restful is such an underrated quality. Thanks for the reminder. I think I like this rug the most.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, In our busy world, it’s refreshing to find rest, and live in a restful state. This rug may be my favorite on this warp. I’m looking forward to seeing it rolled out on the floor.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Kathryn says:

    This is so beautiful! What a fun project. How do you get that part of the pattern to raise up like that?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kathryn, You are right—this is a very fun project. The rosepath pattern stands out because the pattern rows (with longer floats) are sandwiched between tabby (plain weave) rows. This is one of the reasons I enjoy weaving rosepath patterns—the pattern seems to be elevated above the background.

      Thank you,
      Karen

  • Anonymous says:

    thank you so much for your lovely website and for sharing your talent and beautiful work and your stick-toitveness through the years of weaving. Your work is inspirational as well as your encouragement and words of wisdom and encouragement. Sometimes we reach and find something that we need to hear or see when we are in a downtime and trying to come to life impacting decisions and feeling a lost. That was my experience today, but the words on your site were a reminder that God is in the picture and hope is always there. Thanks again, Nancy

    • Karen says:

      Dear Nancy, You are saying important things–God is in the picture. Yes, he certainly is. Hope is always there–Yes, always!

      It’s always my prayer, Nancy, that the words I write would meet the need of someone who reads them. It seems that God is answering prayers from both of us.

      Hugs,
      Karen

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Looms Quietly Waiting

Merry Christmas Eve to you. Looms are quietly waiting to resume their rhythm. Meanwhile, songs of joy and hope fill the air because the Savior of the world is born.

Pictorial tapestry on Glimakra Standard loom. Only 6 cm remaining.
1. The Standard
Pictorial tapestry, with only 6 centimeters of the cartoon remaining.
Rosepath rag rug completed on the Glimakra Ideal loom.
2. The Ideal
Second rosepath rag rug completed. Two short rugs yet to be woven on this warp.
Wool handwoven scarves.
3. The Little Loom
First of two scarves is started. I am using the Stardust draft by Mona Nielsen, published in Happy Weaving, from Vävmagasinet, but with yarn and colors of my choosing.
Drawloom getting set up for weaving rag rugs with single unit drawloom.
4. The Drawloom
Warp is threaded and tied-on. Single-unit draw cords have been prepared. Next step: Attaching draw cords to pattern units. And then, tie up treadles and start weaving!

May your night be silent and holy, calm and bright.

Happy Holy-days,
Karen

17 Comments

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Yarn Is My Paint

The best thing about weaving a pictorial tapestry? Having a cartoon to follow, with row-by-row definition. This Siblings tapestry has its joys and challenges. It is a joy to weave Ari’s hair, as if I get to comb his locks into place. At the same time, it’s a challenge to see up close what can only be recognized at a distance. Lucia’s shirt is a joy to weave because of the bright colors and distinct shading. But what a challenge to get the right value of turquoise for the leg of the rabbit hutch in relation to the value of orange in Lucia’s left shoulder.

Five different shades of butterflies for this hair.
Ari’s hair has butterflies in five different shades of brown. Sometimes while handling the yarn, it almost seems like real hair. And I reminisce about my sisters and I braiding each others’ hair way back when.
Color decisions in a pictorial tapestry.
Trying to find the right hue for the turquoise rabbit hutch. Choosing a darker hue helps make Lucia’s shoulder appear closer than the hutch leg.

The yarn is my paint. I make decisions and adjustments as I see how the colors interact. Under the warp, of course, is my cartoon with all the details—outline, hues, value changes. That cartoon is constant, unchanging, and reassuring. It’s the key to this whole process.

Under the warp is the detailed cartoon.
Right under the warp is the detailed cartoon. Hues are lightly colored in with color pencil, and value distinctions are penciled in.
Siblings tapestry in progress. Glimakra Standard loom.
Right at halfway on the Siblings tapestry.

In the joys and challenges we face, we make decisions based on what we see. Take a look below the surface. Look through the warp to see the cartoon. True love is in the details. Jesus instructs and guides through his love. Constant, unchanging, and reassuring. It makes perfect sense to follow the Maker’s cartoon.

Cartoon under the tapestry.
Cartoon held in place with a suspended warping slat and some plastic quilter’s clips.

May you grow in love.

With joy,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Beth says:

    I admire your patience…and very much so, your talent.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, Thank you so much for your thoughtful insights. You’re making me reflect on patience and talent. Patience doesn’t seem hard for me most of the time—at the loom, at least. I like the whole slow process, so I’m not in a hurry about it. Talent, on the other hand, seems elusive. I think patience and talent may be related. The more patient I am to practice what I know, the more talented I get. 🙂

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Good morning Karen,
    You are an artist nose to toes. To do the weaving that you do requires a working skill of the craft. No matter how much I tried, the skill to make music from the viola was not possible because the craft was beyond my physical ability. As much as the mind desires, without the craftsmanship foundation to describe creativity, nothing happens. Mathematics, so necessary with science and engineering and business. Color theory with the visual. Mechanical understanding of the instrument, viola or loom or CNC or human body.
    You are constantly sharing as you explore the craft of weaving. Your craftsmanship is honed to the best it can be. With that, the blessing of being an artist occurred. It is like running barefoot in a field as a child with no cares… Just the freedom of no boundaries.
    God has blessed you with being a textile artist and you have extended that to the world with your blog.
    Praise God. Thank you Karen.
    Nannette

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Put the Linen Back to Use

Almost in tears, I chained off the remaining linen warp, a handful of ends at a time. I had come to the end of the Lizard tapestry. There was still enough warp to weave another small tapestry, but because of our move, there wasn’t enough time. Oh, beautiful linen, what am I going to do with you? Too precious to hide or throw away. See Quiet Friday: Lizard Tapestry.

Linen Leftovers
Small linen warp chains are given new purpose as weft in these waffle weave washcloths made entirely of linen leftovers.

Linen washcloths, made completely from linen leftovers. Now, almost a year later, this is the answer for my precious linen warp—now weft. A single thread, or two or three bundled together. What a glorious way to put the beautiful linen back to work. See how these colors—blue, turquoise, and brown—influence the warp colors (also all leftovers)? It’s delightful.

Three threads are grouped together, and lengths are connected with square knots, and wound onto a quill for the boat shuttle. When I come to a knot while weaving, I untie the knot, overlap the threads in the shed, and leave weft tails exposed. I plan to clip the weft tails shorter, later, after wet finishing.

Where have your dreams and hopes been cut short? We all have times when disappointments make us wonder about our purpose. The Lord isn’t finished with you. As the Grand Weaver, he knows how to put leftovers to use. The Lord weaves us into connections with people. Influence a few for good. Your kind touch makes a difference in those lives with whom you personally intersect. The outcome is delightful.

May your connections be worthwhile.

Love,
Karen

12 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    What a great way to turn lemons into lemonade! The towels will be beautiful!

  • Joyce Lowder says:

    Karen, your message is well taken.. I hope you will be taking your own words to heart…as they so reflect who you are! You do, indeed, influence others, in your witnessing!
    I am totally amazed at your Beautiful Lizard; (he does deserve a name!) But even more, I am amazed at how you put the remaining warp to use, and at the same time, use left over threads, connected all along, for your weft.

    May God continue to bless you..and your husband, as he transitions into retirement and as you make adjustments, so both of you may enjoy time together.!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joyce, Your thoughtfulness shines through in all your words! Thank you. I do aspire to be a positive influence when possible, so thank you for that affirmation.

      A name for the Lizard? Haha. I think I named him once, but I can’t remember what the name is. To me, I think he will always be Lizard, with a capital L.

      Steve’s retirement has been a blessing to both of us so far. We thoroughly enjoy the time we have together.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Tena Bell says:

    I am a brand new weaver and my instructor recommended your blog. Thank you for weaving life’s lessons into all that you do. God bless you!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tena, I’m so thankful you decided to check out Warped for Good! (And please tell your weaving instructor I said thanks to her.)

      Feel free to ask questions as you wander into this weaving arena. You’re in for some great experiences at the loom!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Beautiful solution Barb… very impressed that the small chains are being used and the towels are really special!
    bethany in Kingston ON

    • Karen says:

      Hi Bethany, I couldn’t throw them away. And I didn’t want to let those linen chains stay in the box too long. So I’m glad to have found a solution!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Karen, my waste not want not German grandma would be proud of you. Not only useful. Beautiful.
    Nannette

  • Lyna says:

    Waffle weave washcloths are a wonderful way to use those leftovers and bits! How big do you think they will be after wet finishing?
    Your reflections on the ‘Grand Weaver’ are part of why I follow your blog, thank you! One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 31:13, “She seeks out wool and flax and works with willing hands [to develop it].” (Amplified Version) It is deeply satisfying to make-with our own hands-things that are not only beautiful but useful and necessary to our homes. Plus weaving lends itself to so many metaphors!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lyna, I have never done waffle weave before, so I made my calculations based on an article in Väv Magazine for linen waffle weave. It said to expect 20% shrinkage. I have it at 44 cm on the loom, so hopefully, they will end up about 35.2 cm / 13-14″ wide. We’ll see… 🙂

      Yes, the verse in Proverbs 31 means a lot to me, as well! It’s sweet to make a connection with you in this way. Thanks so much for sharing your heart.

      In Him,
      Karen

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