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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Tried and True: Center the Reed

Eleven hours and thirty-six minutes into this project, the starting line for weaving is just around the corner. Wind the warp, and beam it. Thread the heddles. Sley the reed. Unlock the back beam ratchet. Move the countermarch to the front of the loom. … Pause when you think about moving the twelve shafts and the reed forward with the countermarch. Reach. Wiggle. Pull. Wiggle. Pull some more. Got it. Now, put the reed in the beater. Relax? Almost, but not yet.

Time to move the whole shebang forward.
Reed is sleyed, so reed support cords have been removed. Time to move the whole shebang forward.
Ready to insert the reed into the beater.
Plastic-coated wire is threaded through the ends of the shaft bars because I don’t have shaft pins long enough for twelve shafts. After coaxing and wiggling the mass of shafts forward, with the countermarch above them, I am ready to insert the reed into the beater.
Basics: How to center the reed.
As I put the reed in the beater I make sure all of the ends are free, and not trapped in the beater’s grip.

We must not forget to center the reed. I center the reed just as soon as the reed is in the beater.

How to Center the Reed

(We are actually centering the warp that is in the reed.)

Supplies needed: Tape measure (or string)

1. Using the tape measure, measure from the right edge of the warp in the reed to the outer edge of the beater on the right-hand side. Hold the tape measure with your fingers marking the measurement.

Center the reed.


2. Holding that measurement, place the tape measure at the left edge of the warp in the reed stretching out toward the outer edge of the beater on the left-hand side.

How to center the reed.


3. Note the difference in measurement between the right side and left side. Move the reed in the beater to center.


4. Repeat the first two steps until the measurements are the same on both sides.

Centering the reed.
Tips for centering the reed in the beater.
Tips for centering the reed in the beater.
Reed is centered.

Now you can relax. Enjoy the moment, because you are that much closer to seeing fabric take shape!

May you enjoy the process you’re in.

Patiently,
Karen

10 Comments

  • Trina says:

    Only a weaver would appreciate the amount of concentration that has gone into getting to this point! Well done!

  • Beth says:

    Gosh! So much involved with setting up a countermarch. I’ve only dealt with easy-peasy jack-types. I agree with Trina’s sentiment.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, The countermarch seems straightforward to me. It’s all I know. Having 12 shafts does add some complexity though, I admit.

      It’s what we get from the loom that counts, and I always admire the cloth you weave!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    I do not yet enjoy setting up the loom. It is so hard to wait to throw the first shuttle. But, like all things worth doing, the solid foundation makes the end result beautiful.

    Praise God .

    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, I find the setting up process calming (most of the time), but I understand that each of us approaches the loom differently. Point well taken that a solid foundation makes the end result beautiful.

      Thanks,
      Karen

  • Cindy Bills says:

    Thank you for always showing us your process! It is fascinating. I had to chuckle at the “eleven hours and thirty -six minutes…” I recently spent hours working on a cramming and denting project only to find as I began to weave that I’d missed a dent in the sleying. Then missed catching it when I tied on. And when I first started to weave! Oh boy, patience is required then, for sure. It is important to love the process and the blessing of it all. 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindy, I think denting errors are the worst of all. After I finished sleying this one I realized that I had missed the step of checking the number of dents in each grouping. I’m hoping, hoping that I won’t have to regret that later. But even re-sleying becomes part of the whole process, doesn’t it?

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Vivian says:

    What a beautiful warp. It is inspiring.

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Hemstitching Thread

Hemstitching gives a secure and pretty edge for the fringe on this cotton throw. At the beginning of the throw, I measure out a length of the weft thread for the stitching. And now, at the end, I roll off enough thread from the shuttle’s quill to use for the final hemstitching.

Finishing the cotton throw.
Wanting to finish, I weave the final few centimeters of the throw after dark.

Mark on tape shows I've woven to the end.
Mark on the measure tape shows I have woven to the end of the throw.

I’m always afraid of cutting the length of thread too short. So, I measure off four times the width of the warp, with a pinch extra just in case. That’s too long, and I know it. But I do it anyway. And then, I have a very long thread to pull through every stitch, with the tangles and knots that go with it.

Hemstitching is underway.
Hemstitching is underway.
Hemstitching a cotton throw.
Hemstitching thread is longer than needed. Three times the width of the warp should be plenty.

In trying to be perfect, I miss perfection by a long shot. If I measure out more than enough of my own goodness, surely I’ll have plenty to enter heaven, right? But the perfection of heaven requires perfection. It’s impossible for me to be good enough, smart enough, or successful enough to reach perfection. Heaven is for the imperfect. We, the imperfect, enter heaven’s perfection by trusting in the only perfect one, Jesus Christ. His goodness, measured out for us, is precisely enough.

May you know when enough is enough.

Happy weaving,
Karen

6 Comments

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Final Batch of Butterflies

That last little bit of lizard toe? It’s long gone. This week I am making significant progress on the tapestry. My pace is picking up and the end is in view. What a joy ride this has been!

Last tip of a green lizard toe at the breast beam.

Last tip of a green lizard toe makes its way around the breast beam.

Coming to the end of this lizard tapestry!

End of the measure tape is in view.

I am closing in on the final ten centimeters. That means it’s time to evaluate the ten centimeters just passed. And to make a few more butterflies, enough to take me all the way to the end.

Four-shaft tapestry. Butterflies are prepared for each new section.

Butterflies are prepared in advance for each ten centimeters of weaving.

Forgiven people forgive. Think of forgiveness as the lavish supply of yarn that’s been given us through the name of Jesus. There is no shortage. And we make our butterflies from that supply. People fail us, disappoint, and even do damage. Being ready to forgive is like making butterflies in advance. Thankfully, our small wool butterflies are close at hand for us to weave grace in the moment it is needed.

May you have a lavish supply.

Love,
Karen

9 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    I cannot wait to see this off the loom!

  • Marjorie Clay says:

    How many hours a week do you spend weaving, on average? I’m trying to weave more and think/read about weaving less! I need a role model!!

    Marjorie

    I’m really excited to see this piece off the loom. Though I’ve followed all of your posts, the image I have of the entire piece is very vague!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Marjorie, I probably average about 1-2 hours at the loom a day. I always wish I had more hours to spend weaving. I try to do all my chores and other responsibilities first in the day, because once I sit down at the loom I don’t want to leave. And, any day without weaving feels incomplete.
      I do track my weaving time on an app–it says I spent right about 14 hours weaving this past week.

      I have the printed image by my loom as I weave, and I still have a hard time reconciling what I see on the loom to that complete image. I’m super eager to see it rolled out!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • D’Anne says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing the finished tapestry. It will be wonderful, i’ Sure!

  • It is exciting anticipating the completion.

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Tapestry at Full Snail Speed

I am determined to have this off the loom before it’s time to move again. I know exactly how many “weaving days” I have left in this apartment. Steve’s retirement is just around the corner. His last day at work will be our last day here. And I know exactly how many centimeters I have left to weave on this piece. We already moved the loom once in the middle of this tapestry. Once is enough! I intend to make significant weaving progress every single day.

Measure tape shows progress on the tapestry weaving.

My measure tape shows that I have woven 80 centimeters. I will cross the finish line when I reach 125 centimeters.

Now that the image of the lizard is finished all the way to his toes, no more pretty green, blue, or red butterflies. I am removing anything that clutters my focus. Full (snail) speed ahead!

Weaving a lizard in four-shaft tapestry.

Lizard’s foot tries to grip the breast beam. There is no longer a need for butterflies in the lizard’s colors. Only the background log remains.

Weaving four-shaft tapestry on a Glimakra Ideal loom.

All the green, blue, and red butterflies have been removed. A simple color palette remains–white, yellow, tan, gray, brown, and black.

Faith is that kind of determination. Faith is more than thinking you believe something or someone. It’s pouring yourself into pure-hearted focus to trust fully in God. Faith is being so convinced that Jesus is the answer that you will stop at nothing to reach him. Where there’s that kind of will, there’s a way.

May you reach your most-pressing goal.

Your speedy snail,
Karen

6 Comments

  • Joyce Lowder says:

    Beautiful description of faith! Our strength comes from God and He helps us to persevere as we move toward the goal. TRUST is the fuel that keeps us forging ahead. God bless you as you reach this goal…and others, ahead for you. 🙂

  • Good morning Karen,
    ~ 2/3rds of the way complete with most of the kinks worked out. Nice place to be in. A firm foundation established. Everything in place to complete your tapestry.

    Kind regards,

    Nannette

  • Annie says:

    I hope the determination to reach your goal will not rob you of the joys of weaving, Karen. I can’t believe how the time is flying and how fast the move is coming. I know you looking forward to it, though.

    Thank you for sharing your rag rug process at the WOW meeting. I learned a great deal. I have your handout with my notes to reference when make my next one.

    I have no doubt that you will reach your goal.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, It will take a lot to make me lose my joy in weaving. This tapestry weaving is a true pleasure, and when I’m at the loom I lose track of time and everything else. Unless something totally unexpected happens, I’m sure to meet my goal.

      I’m happy to hear you benefitted from the rag rug demo. I hope I get to see your next rag rug!

      Thanks friend,
      Karen

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