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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Double Weave Throw – Take Two

Nothing about the original draft is incorrect, but when I wrote it in pencil on my planning sheet, I transposed one. little. thing. The threading key. “X = plum; black square = other colors.” Exact opposite of what is written in the draft from The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell. (See When You Misread the Threading Draft, where I discover my dilemma.)

One little mistake. Big consequences.

Blind to my own mistake, even as I double check my handwritten draft.

Thanks to Fiberworks weaving software I am working out a solution. I adjusted the tie-up, so the treadle tie-ups on the first, third, fifth, and seventh shafts trade places with the tie-ups on the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth shafts. It works. And now, the one little threading error that is clearly visible seems like a breeze to correct!

Ready to weave a cotton double weave throw.

Tie-up adjustments bring the correct warp ends to the surface. Solid stripes of color are set to produce the desired design when woven.

One threading error. No big deal at this point.

One blue warp end stands out like a sore thumb. I’m glad to find this one threading error at this stage in the process.

There are times when my whole perspective needs an adjustment. It’s time for love. Love adjusts our view. At the heart level, love brings about changes in us. It re-sets our attention and motivations. Because God loved us, we can love, too. We don’t see, understand, or know everything now, which shows how incomplete we humans are. But the love that heaven knows is something we get to participate in here and now. Our cloth is far from perfected, but our love adjustments give us a glimpse of cloth from another realm.

May you make necessary adjustments.

Love,
Karen

10 Comments

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Eight Bouts Is Enough

A zillion threads—2,064 ends, to be exact. I wound the warp in four bouts. And then, …a sinking feeling! I had wound each bout with exactly half the ends needed. This double weave throw, almost the full weaving width of the loom, needs 1,032 more ends.

Winding a colorful warp.

Winding one bout of the warp.

One warp bout of several.

One bout.

Warp bouts.

Two bouts.

Warp bouts for double weave throw.

Three bouts.

Four warp bouts for double weave throw.

Four bouts. Not enough.

I had counted ends as if there were only one layer. I did all four bouts that way. Yikes! Now I am winding four more identical bouts. I will put the lease sticks through all eight bouts. Somehow. Thoughtful study of the details on my planning sheet would have prevented this major error. But I knew what I was doing, and could remember the important things. Or, so I thought. And I was eager to get started…

Winding a cotton warp.

Winding more warp bouts.

Double weave warp with 2,064 threads!

Eight warp bouts. Ready to begin dressing the loom.

Walk. How we walk through life matters. To walk in a manner pleasing to God we need to know what he wants, and give that our full attention. If I run ahead, eager for the next experience, and neglect to consult the Grand Weaver’s project notes, I’m asking for trouble. The vibrant-colored warp will still get on the loom, but this is called learning the hard way.

May you learn most things the easy way.

Learning,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Annie says:

    Oh, Karen! That is the hard way! Your perseverance is so admirable!

    I can definitely relate to this lesson in life and in weaving. It seems I frequently don’t pay enough attention to the Holy Spirit ‘s direction or pattern directions. One benefit of learning the hard way, though, is same mistakes are rarely made.

    I love all the colors I see. I am looking forward to seeing the work in progress.

    Have a blessed day, Karen.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, Sometimes I wish I could go back a little in time and do it correctly from the start. With weaving, fortunately, if something can’t be undone it usually can be fixed. I don’t want all those threads to fail. I have too much invested in it—time and $.

      I think I can safely say I will never make this mistake again!

      Listening to the Holy Spirit’s directions is one of the most important lessons in life.

      Thanks so much for your input!
      Karen

  • Barb says:

    Your post is so timely! Something was wrong with my scarf project, it just didn’t look right. Eager to get going, I started weaving. It soon became apparent that the sett was wrong. Off it came & I re-sleyed. I read your post and thought I should read the draft & instructions again before I started weaving. It was an ‘aha’ moment, I was not treadling correctly either.

    Thank you for sharing your insights!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barb, These mistakes can happen so easily when we are eager to get started. They are just as easily avoided if we slow down enough to review our own information. Hopefully, we are learning to not make the same mistake again! We can be an encouragement to each other!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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Quiet Friday: Cartoon House Cartoon

The fascinating thing about weaving a transparency is that it feels like color-by-number with yarn. There are similarities to tapestry weaving, for sure. But this seems ten times faster. I found it to be engaging and fun! I echo what my transparency-weaving friend says when it’s time to stop and do something else, “Just one more row…”

Linen warp chain awaits beaming.

Warp chain of 16/2 golden bleached linen, before beaming the warp.

Threading heddles in the Glimakra Standard. Coffee and notes at hand.

Threading heddles in my little playhouse, with project notes by my side, and a cup of coffee on the side cart.

Adding the leveling string to a linen warp.

Leveling string is added with extra care so that abrasion of the linen warp is kept to a minimum.

Butterflies are made from the hefty cotton chenille yarn.

Butterflies are made from the hefty cotton chenille yarn.

Weaving a transparency. Glimakra Standard loom.

Weaving without a cartoon. I am counting warp ends to keep the pattern angle consistent.

Transparency weaving on the loom, with buckram cartoon.

Cartoon has been added. The pattern weft follows the lines drawn on the buckram cartoon, which is pinned in place.

Cartoon removed at the end of the transparency weaving.

Cartoon is removed.

Ending a woven transparency.

Now, for the end of the warp…

New transparency, ready for hanging!

After the main transparency with the zigzags, I had room to play on the remaining warp. I made another cartoon–a “cartoon” house. This gave me a chance to use a few more yarn butterflies, without it being overwhelming. Home. Sweet. Home.

Cartoon for playtime at the end of the warp. Transparency weaving.

“Cartoon” house cartoon. Ready for playtime at the end of the warp.

Weaving a small transparency. Cartoon House.

With several butterflies going at once, the transparency weaving gets even more interesting!

Transparency weaving. Linen warp and weft. Cotton chenille pattern weft.

Now, the actual end of the warp is here.

Cartoon house just off the loom!

Cartoon house just off the loom.

Welcome home! Transparency weaving. Karen Isenhower

Welcome home! Home. Sweet. Home.

May you enjoy the fascination of learning something new.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

6 Comments

  • Beth says:

    I love these, Karen! You are truly one of the most inspiring weavers out there!

    • Karen says:

      Dear Beth, It fills me with joy to be able to share what I love to do with friends like you. I’m grateful that something I do can inspire others. Your work has certainly inspired me, as well!

      Best to you,
      Karen

  • Sandy says:

    Thank you for sharing your new thing. My guild friends & I will be attending the Mid Atlantic Fiber Arts (MAFA) conference this summer, my friends are taking the workshop “Weaving aTransparency” with Bobbie Irwin. I’m so excited for them! I never heard of weaving transparencies before, you’ve given us a cool demonstration to build our anticipation of the MAFA workshops.
    Looking forward to learning something new in July at MAFA 2017

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sandy, How exciting! I just looked at the MAFA workshop choices. Wow, you have some terrific options! It would be hard to choose. Bobbie Irwin’s class looks great. I think you and your friends are going to have a fabulous time!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Cindie says:

    I haven’t done a transparency in years – these are wonderful. I’ve so enjoyed seeing your work in progress. You’re making me want to think about a transparency in the not too distant future.

    And for Sandy who commented above, many years ago my guild brought Bobbie Irwin to teach the transparency workshop – it was the most fun. I went home and tried it using fishing line – a challenge but neat end result.

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Cindie, I know I’ll be doing this again in the near future. I hope you do, too. We can compare notes!
      Fishing line!? Now, that’s very interesting! I’d like to see that.

      Karen

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Tools Day: Loom Lighting

Let there be light! I now have exceptional lighting at my weaving looms. Steve installed a snake arm lamp on both of my Glimåkra looms. This wonderful illumination gives me greatly improved visibility, especially when working with fine threads. These lamps meet my lighting needs much better than the floor lamps I had been using. Good riddance, floor lamps!

Supplies

  • Snake arm shop light with clamp (mine are Rockler 24″ Snake Arm Shop Lights)
  • Light bulb, preferably close to natural light
  • Wood block, sized to fit on loom (mine is installed on the countermarch frame; 8 1/2″ x 2 3/4″ x 3/4″ for the Glimåkra Standard 8-shaft loom; 6 1/2″ x 2 3/4″ x 3/4″ for the Glimåkra Ideal 6-shaft loom)
  • Electric drill and pilot bit
  • 2 drywall screws
  • Short three-prong extension cord

Steps

  • Prepare wood block by drilling screw holes (screw threads slip through the holes without biting)
  • Position prepared wood block on loom, mark loom for screw placement
  • Drill pilot holes
  • Screw wood block in place

Mounting on Glimakra Ideal loom for a loom lamp.

Block of wood is screwed into place on the Glimåkra Ideal loom countermarch frame for mounting the loom lamp.

 

  • Position lamp and clamp into place

Mounting a loom lamp on the Glimakra Standard loom.

Lamp is positioned on the mounting that is attached to the Glimåkra Standard countermarch frame.

Snake arm loom light gives flexibility in directing light where it's needed.

Snake arm gives flexibility for directing the light onto the weaving surface, or over the area of work; e.g., threading, sleying the reed, etc.

Loom lamp is clamped onto a mounting on the countermarch frame.

Lamp is clamped onto the mounting. Project notes hang for easy referral while weaving. The back of the sheet shows yarn snippets used in the project.

 

  • Plug lamp cord into extension cord; plug extension cord into outlet

Loom light shines on monksbelt weaving.

Simple on/off switch controls the lamp. Monksbelt picks are easier to count with the new loom light turned on.

 

  • Illuminate!

Monksbelt on the Glimakra Standard loom. Well lit.

Lamp cord runs along the frame of the loom and down to the floor, where an extension cord continues to a wall outlet.

 

May the work of your hands be illuminated.

Wishing you the best,
Karen

6 Comments

  • Geri Rickard says:

    GREAT LOOM LIGHTING!! Looks like a winning situation there!

  • linda says:

    If your loom is light weight this will not work. The loom shaking each time you beat causes the filaments to break easily. I’m afraid us small loom weavers have to put up with floor lamps, but we (my husband the woodworker and myself) have been using a headlamp. a light that straps on your head and directs light where your working. Fondly called a “DORK LIGHT” Maybe that will work for some .LP&J, linda

  • Gillian says:

    Karen, you do such lovely work and are so generous to share it and all of your wonderful techniques.thank you! Also, that monk’s belt piece is beautiful. I am not generally a fan, but at the smaller proportions, it appears intricate and lovely.

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