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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Rosepath Unlimited

This seems unreal, like pulling an item right out of my imagination and touching it with my hands. It is exhilarating to watch a concept sketch develop into a tangible rag rug on the loom. Even though I enjoy designing at the loom, I relish the challenge of preparing a design in advance. In order to make a workable sketch I must study, think, and explore. It’s in this process that I realize the design options are limitless for rosepath rag rugs. This compels me to keep pressing in to learn and explore even more.

Beginning a new rag rug.
Hem, woven with narrow strips, follows the gold warp thread header. First wide border of the rug uses an assortment of green fabric strips.

The concept sketch is a scaled-down map of the rosepath rag rug. Each square on the gridded paper represents 6 centimeters. The sketch shows me which fabrics to use where, and specifies the placement of each design element—borders, plain weave, rosepath diamonds, dashes and dots of specific colors, etc. I add notes to the page as I weave, like specific treadling sequences and measurements, so that I can mirror them on the second half of the rug.

Concept sketch by the loom is my roadmap for weaving the details.
Concept sketch sits at the windowsill by my loom. I use it as a roadmap for weaving the details.
Weaving rag rugs with a temple. Always!!
Stretched-out temple is a necessity when I weave rag rugs. The wooden Glimåkra temple is my favorite because I can place it near the fell without risk of damaging the beater. This makes it possible to move the temple frequently, adding to weaving consistency.
Designing a rosepath rag rug.
Deep purple “dots” at the center of the rosepath diamonds serve as accents among these colors for a Texas hill country home.

Nothing can measure the greatness of the Lord. His greatness is truly limitless. Greatness is compelling. We step closer to search the unsearchable, and know the unknowable. God reveals himself, sketch after sketch, until we finally realize that we need all eternity to fully know him.

Rosepath rag rug - My favorite thing to weave!
Satisfaction of watching a concept sketch become a tangible rag rug.

May your concepts become tangible.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

12 Comments

  • Charlotte says:

    Ooooooooh honey girl! I do adore your newest creation!!!! The red certainly “pops”!

  • Rachel Lohman says:

    Beautiful! Out of curiosity, how wide is your Glimakra? And how wide will your rug be when finished? And do you have two rugs on the loom and do you separate them with wooden slats? Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rachel, Thank you!

      This loom is a 100cm (39″) Glimakra Ideal. The width of the warp in the reed is 90.3cm (35.5″). I expect to lose around 12% in width from take-up, so I’m planning for a finished width of about 79cm (31″). Yes, I do have two rugs on the loom right now, and will have at least one more before cutting off. And yes, I do separate them with warping slats. I put a minimum of 8″ between rugs so that I will have enough length to tie the ends into knots for finishing. Great questions!!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Yeah!! Ditto what Charlotte and Rachel said!!!

    You took the warp in a direction I did not realize. So much to learn.

    Thank you.
    Nannette

  • Linda Adamson says:

    Lovely rugs. What are the Blake bands keeping the cover on the loom bench in Place? More fabric strips or large elastic bands?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Linda, The black bands are bungee cords, to my embarrassment. I put them on as a temporary “make-do” solution to see how I would like having this rug piece on my bench. And so they stay. I like the rug cover for my bench, but haven’t taken the time to make it more permanent.

      Thanks,
      Karen

  • Robin Chandler says:

    Do you have a weighted beater?
    I didn’t like the recommendation to drill holes and add weighted bars, so I put ankle weights on both ends of my beater for rugs, seems to help.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Robin, I do not have a weighted beater. I tried adding some walking weights on both ends a few years ago, but I couldn’t tell that it made a difference for me. The overslung beater is such an advantage on these looms. I can lean back (like Jason Collingwood teaches) and let the momentum of the beater do a pretty good job. People in my house think I get a pretty powerful beat on my looms. 🙂

      Happy Rug Weaving,
      Karen

  • Karen says:

    It’s going to be AMAZING!

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Tried and True: Five Reasons Sampling Makes Sense

Why sample? It means using more warp and weft. And it means waiting longer to start to the “real” project. What do I gain from it, anyway? Is it a waste of resources and time?

I can’t imagine putting on a warp that didn’t have room up front for sampling. There’s more than one reason to put on sufficient warp to weave a sample. It makes perfect sense, especially if there is anything new or unfamiliar about your planned project.

Five Reasons to Add Extra Warp for Sampling

Drawloom
Sampling to test patterns, weft colors, and beat consistency, before starting on fabric for a garment.


1 Space to play. I want plenty of room to play, and to practice techniques that are new to me.
2 Room to try out designs. By weaving a portion of my designs, I am able to determine what works, and what adjustments need to be made.
3 Warp for testing weft colors. Only when woven can I see the full effect of each potential weft color.
4 Time to gain a consistent beat. When I start the main project, I want to have woven enough to be able to “feel” how firmly or softly I need to move the beater.
5 The best reason of all! It’s always good to have enough warp on the loom that you can invite friends and family to enjoy some weaving time. …Before your main project is in progress.

Drawloom
My weaving friend Betsy came over to see what it is like to weave on a drawloom.
Drawloom
My daughter Melody came for a visit and wanted to see what it was like to weave on a drawloom.
Drawloom, making garment fabric.
Garment fabric. This is to be used for two side panels of a vest I plan to make for myself.
Drawloom, making garment fabric.
This is to be the back panel of the vest.
Drawloom, making garment fabric.
This is the beginning of the front panels for the vest.

May you give yourself room to play.

Yours truly,
Karen

12 Comments

  • Joyce Lowder says:

    Lovely, Karen! Your advice is well taken! Also love seeing your friends checking out the draw loom. 🙂

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Sample, sample, sample. I love to sample. When I need a break from big projects I’ll dress the loom with a narrow warps and play with new-to-me drafts. Great advice!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, It’s rewarding to try out new things on samples. That’s where we get some of our best ideas for future projects.

      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

  • Charlotte says:

    It is lovely, visiting your Blog, today. There is a Casita gathering Feb. 12th on Lake Belton. If you and Steve could sign up, I think you would thoroughly enjoy it. We play games, at night. Have music (mostly guitars, ukuleles), enjoy potlucks. I usually spend a few minutes with Sarah in her Saori studio and then…we piddle. I can send you more information, if you think you might be free.

  • Nannette says:

    Good morning Karen,
    I’ve done samples in others textiles, but never considered samples in weaving. Must do. It would have been one less garage rug when weaving overshot.

    Thank you for your wisdom.

    Nannette

  • Vivian says:

    Ha ha ha! What a novel idea. What a delight that you invite friends and fa,ily to try your loom.

  • Gail Pietrzyk says:

    A sample also gives you an opportunity to test finishing methods–especially if you are using some unlabeled mystery yarns.

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Tried and True: Designing with Fibonacci

Before starting, I sketched out several versions of the finished blanket, showing different sizes and arrangements of the rectangle blocks. My favorite version is one with a random look. This twelve-shaft double weave has three blocks. Block 1 is a solid color across the warp. Block 2 has a narrow, vertical contrasting rectangle. Block 3 has a wide, horizontal contrasting rectangle. The warp threading determines the width of the rectangles. But the height of the rectangles is determined by the treadling pattern. I decided to use a Fibonacci sequence of numbers in random order to guide my treadling options as I weave.

Double weave blanket.
Rectangles vary in size.

Low-Tech Random Fibonacci Sequence

1 Determine the desired range of the Fibonacci sequence. 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13

2 Determine the number of repeat options for each block (one repeat is 4 picks per double-weave layer).

  • Block 1, solid color – 2 repeats every time
  • Block 2, narrow rectangle – 2, 3, 5, 8, or 13 repeats
  • Block 3, wide rectangle – 1, 2, 3, or 5 repeats

3 Write each number of the sequence on individual squares of paper. Make three sets of these numbers. 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13

4 Fold each paper square in half and place in a container at the loom. Mix thoroughly.

Designing with random Fibonacci numbers. Low tech!
Fibonacci numbers are ready for eyes-closed random selection.

5 Randomly select a paper square to reveal the number of repeats for the next narrow or wide rectangle block.

Fibonacci numbers as design tool.
Assignment for the next rectangle block – three repeats. The lines indicate that this number can be used for Block 2 (narrow, vertical) or Block 3 (wide, horizontal).

For this blanket I have a woven hem and border, and then two repeats of Block 1 (solid color) between alternating Block 2 (narrow) and Block 3 (wide) rectangles of varying heights.

Double weave wool blanket.
Back side has reverse colors.
Double weave Tuna wool blanket.
Block 1 (solid blue across) stays a consistent size between the white rectangles.

Surprise is built in which makes it hard to leave the loom. “Just one more block,” I tell myself…

Double weave blanket. Fibonacci for design.
View of the cloth beam reveals the variety of sizes of rectangles. Eager to see it off the loom!

May you be greeted by random (happy) surprises.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

18 Comments

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