Tried and True: How Far Will Your Quill Go?

Do not overfill your quills. It may seem efficient to load the quill as much as possible so you can weave as far as possible. Like me, you may have to learn this the hard way. A too-chubby quill that has to be coaxed through the shed takes more time and effort than winding a few extra quills. So much for efficiency.

Cottolin bath towels on the Glimåkra Standard.
Cottolin bath towels on the Glimåkra Standard, in twill, broken twill, and reverse twill.

It helps to have an idea of how far the thread on a quill will go. With this information, you can wind a few in advance without ending up with an excess of wound quills at the end of your project. I like to have the next quill ready to go when I am weaving so that I can put the new quill in my shuttle and keep weaving with very little interruption. This is especially helpful when the treadling sequence is tricky, like with the reverse twill in every other large color block on these cottolin bath towels. 3-2-1-6-5-4

How to Estimate Weaving Distance for Filled Quills

1 Start a new quill, leaving a 4 – 5 cm tail on the surface of the cloth. Or, start a new quill at the beginning of a color change.

How to measure how far a quill will weave.
End of one thread. Ready for a new quill.
How to know how far a quill will weave. Tutorial.
With the threads overlapping in the shed, the tail of the thread on the new quill lies on the surface.

2 Weave until the quill has emptied. Leave a 4-5 cm tail on the surface of the cloth.

How to know how far a full quill will weave.
Quill has emptied. Tail is brought out to the surface of the cloth.

3 Replace the empty quill in the shuttle with a new quill and continue weaving 1 – 2 cm further.

4 Measure the distance from the first weft tail, or line of color change, to the second weft tail. Place a straight pin, in line with the first weft tail, directly under the second weft tail. Measure from the pin to the second weft tail. This is the approximate weaving distance you can expect to cover with a new quill. Notate the quill’s estimated weaving distance on your project notes for future reference.

Tutorial on how to know how many quills you need to wind.
Measure the woven distance.

5 Trim the weft tails close to the surface.

6 Increase accuracy by repeating the process three times, and then use the average as your quill’s estimated weaving distance.

The large color blocks on this bath towel are 14 cm long. A single full quill will weave 5 1/2 – 6 cm; therefore, I make sure I have 2 full quills, plus at least another half-filled quill before I start a new color block section. It’s nice to be able to leave my foot on the treadle while I change out quills, so I don’t lose my place.

Cottolin bath towels.

May your efforts prove to be efficient.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

12 Comments

  • Beth says:

    Oooo! I love these colors!

  • Nannette says:

    Good morning Karen,

    I just noticed you work in metric measurements. I hadn’t before. Hmmm. Is that the side effect of transposing 2.54 cm per inch so many years? Metric does make the math easier.

    Moving/estate sale in 5 weeks. The epiphany is textile projects will have to wait until the basement in Wausaukee is set up. The last visit I made up north the home made floor loom was to the point of hooking up the castle. I stopped after I put it on backwards.

    Thank you for your reality touchpoints.

    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, I started using metric measurements for weaving after going to Vavstuga Basics. It makes sense to me.

      Blessings on all your transition events.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Joanna says:

    You always give us such great tips! Thanks, Karen. And thanks for using metric measurements, I wish everyone did.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, I’m happy if a tip is helpful to you. As I mentioned to Nannette, metric measurements make sense to me for weaving. I am not a math whiz, so I like the simplicity of metric math.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Linda Adamson says:

    I really like your colors as well. Did you set the cottolin at 24 epi? If so is it thick enough this way?
    Linda

    • Karen says:

      Hi Linda, These really are comfort colors for me. I’m using a metric 50/10 reed, so my sett is 10 ends per cm, equivalent to 25.4 epi. So, 24 epi would also be a good sett for this twill. I wouldn’t call these towels thick, but they will be soft and absorbent. My experience with Bockens 22/2 Cottolin is that the cotton/linen blend makes great towels. They seem to get softer and more absorbent the more they are used and washed and dried.

      I haven’t made cottolin bath towels before, so hopefully I can give you a good report when we start using them!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Maureen says:

    Hi Karen,
    May I ask, what are you using for a bobbin? It doesn’t seem to be the rolled piece of paper that is usually used for a quill. Where did you get them, is it from purchased yarn? I’ve found that some of the empty yarn spools don’t fit in my Glimakra quill shuttle.
    Your weaving is always so inspiring, you have a wonderful colour sense and technique.
    Maureen

    • Karen says:

      Hi Maureen, The quills that I use are narrow cardboard tubes made for this purpose. These cardboard quills function like the rolled piece of paper that you describe, and come in different sizes to fit the Glimakra quill shuttles. I purchase the cardboard quills from weaving suppliers in the USA, like GlimakraUSA.com or Vavstuga.com. If I need extra quills, I make them from rolled paper, too.

      Your kind and encouraging words mean a lot to me.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kristin Girod says:

    That’s a wonderful tip, Karen! I’m definitely going to try that with my next project. And I’ve always trimmed my tails after washing. Do you trim to the fabric while on the loom no matter the size or type of yarn?

    • Karen says:

      Kristin,

      Good, I’m glad you found this tip helpful!

      I trim weft tails as I go–regardless of size or type of yarn. I like to trim as much as possible while it’s on the loom because I don’t want to have to go back and do it later. 🙂

      I try to make sure to have my weft threads overlap enough in the shed to take into account shrinkage that will happen with washing and drying. If you trim before it’s washed, the added benefit is whatever bit of thread that is left on the surface will nicely disappear as it shrinks into the cloth.

      Happy weaving!
      Karen

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Handwoven Detail Notes

It is the smallest of details that set handwoven towels apart from ordinary towels. With that in mind, I am writing some detail notes in the margin of my project notes. Borders: Towel 1 – sea blue, apple green – contrast thread – ultramarine; Towel 2 – ultramarine, sea blue – contrast thread – maize; Towel 3 – apple green, ultramarine – contrast thread – sea blue; Towel 4 – dusty, sea blue – contrast thread – apple green.

Cottolin bath towels coming up!
Beaming the cottolin warp for bath towels.
Warp is tied on and leveling string is attached.
Warp is tied on and leveling string is attached.
Preparing to weave 7-color bath towels.
Seven different colors of wound quills. All seven colors are in each towel, warp and weft. The weft sequence varies with each towel.
Boat shuttles vie for the starting line, like in a regatta.
One boat shuttle for each color. This reminds me of sailing with my dad and my sisters. Boat captains would vie for the regatta starting line, shouting, “Starboard!”

There are seven colors of cottolin in the warp, and the same seven colors in the weft, just like the accompanying hand towels I completed in April. (See Process Review: Jubilation Hand Towels.) Narrow warp-wise and weft-wise stripes of broken twill produce interesting patterns in the cloth. The deep borders I am planning on the bath towels give me a chance to add simple details that only a handweaver can do.

White ribbon shows where to place details on the handwoven bath towel.
After weaving a short section to test the threading, I start the first towel. A red line, as always, denotes the cutting/starting line. I placed marks on the white ribbon at the left that show me where to place details along the length of the towel.
Simple handwoven details make all the difference.
Single ultramarine thread is laid in with the sea blue to outline a change of treadling. A simple handwoven detail.

Have you ever identified a master craftsman by the specific details that show up in the hand-crafted article? In the same way, we can recognize our Maker’s hand through the magnificence of the details we see in each other. You are his masterpiece. Hand-written instructions guide the details. When we come to the Lord as our Maker and Redeemer, we find his hand-written details woven into our hearts, something only the Grand Weaver can do.

May you attend to the details.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

14 Comments

  • Joyce Lowder says:

    These towels are so beautiful…and as always, your words of faith, reminding us of the blessings we have been given by God. Thank you for your inspiration! I know you give the credit for all you do to our Lord. God Bless you! 🙂

  • Beth says:

    Beautiful color choices and details!

  • So pretty. I hope one day to be able to make towels like this. Thank you for your help to the weaving world.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Brigitte, One step at a time, and before you know it, you’re weaving the very things you were hoping to do. This has been my story, and I’m sure it will be yours, too!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    It is the details between common chocolate cookies and Boston cream pie.

    May we all enjoy Boston cream pie from a master craftsman.

  • Joanna says:

    Isn’t broken twill a blast to thread? I just love it. Your towels will be lovely.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, Yes, I do enjoy a threading pattern that requires thinking. The treadling is that way, too, with these towels. This is the kind of project that is very satisfying to do.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Anonymous says:

    Always love your posts! I love the way you incorporate a story into each post. I hope to weave this well one day! I’m a super beginner.

    • Karen says:

      Hi super beginner, You have a kind way of expressing yourself. Thank you for the encouraging words! I have no doubt by you will reach excellence in weaving. All it takes is time, practice, and patience. Enjoy the journey!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kristin G says:

    I look forward to seeing the finished towels. I’m sure they will be gorgeous! And I particularly enjoyed hearing about the memory of sailing with your family. Those must be precious memories!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kristin, Those sailing memories are memories I cherish! I’m looking forward to putting these towels to use as soon as they’re finished.

      Thanks so much!
      Karen

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Tried and True: Use a Boat Shuttle for Rag Weaving

Wind very narrow fabric strips on quills and put them in a boat shuttle. It’s efficient. It’s faster to wind a quill than to load fabric on a ski shuttle. Plus, I like the advantage of sending a boat shuttle across rather than a ski shuttle. This rag rug on the drawloom has fabric strips that are only one centimeter (~3/8”) wide, instead of the usual two-centimeter-wide (~3/4”) strips for an ordinary rag rug. Grab your boat shuttle and pay attention to a few simple tips. Your very narrow fabric strips will be woven up in no time.

Tips for Using a Boat Shuttle to Weave Very Narrow Fabric Strips

  • Use fabric that has minimal fraying at the edges. Trim off any long threads. Loose dangling threads that are long enough to wind themselves on the quill will make you wish you had used a ski shuttle.
  • Wind the fabric with the right side down. Then, when the quill unrolls, the right side will be facing up.
Winding quills with narrow fabric strips. Rag rug on the drawloom.
Swedish bobbin winder is clamped to the side of the loom. A five-yard fabric strip is wound onto a quill. The right side of the fabric is against the quill.
  • Handle the wound quill as little as possible to prevent fraying the fabric edges. Simply wrap the tail end of the fabric strip around the filled quill. Do not wrap the end into a slip knot around the quill because the fabric will fray as you release the knot.
Winding narrow fabric strips on quills for drawloom rag rug.
One long fabric strip per quill. Fabric is cut 1 cm (3/8″) wide.
Fabric-wound quills ready for weaving drawloom rag rug.
One fabric-filled quill covers a little more than one unit of weaving (4 picks). I keep a dozen filled quills in the basket on my loom bench so I can keep weaving as long as possible.
  • Unwind enough weft for the pick before you throw the shuttle. Pull the weft out straight from the quill. When a quill unwinds in the shed, the weft comes off at an angle. And as such, if there are any loose threads at the edges of the fabric strips, the threads will wind themselves on the quill and bind it up. And you will wish you had used a ski shuttle.
Folke Samuelson Damask Shuttle - drawloom rag rug!
Folke Samuelson Damask Shuttle has a low profile, well-suited for the smaller sheds of the drawloom. Fabric is unrolled from the shuttle prior to the next pick.
Design is "Trasmatta Snöfall" ("Snowfall Rag Rug") by Kerstin Åsling-Sundberg, from Damast, Horlags AB Vavhasten
Drawloom rag rug is well underway. Single unit drawcords are pulled and held in place on the pegs above the beater. Design is Trasmatta Snöfall (Snowfall Rag Rug) by Kerstin Åsling-Sundberg, from Damast, edited by Lillemor Johansson.

May your hands enjoy their work.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

10 Comments

  • Geri Rickard says:

    Oh thus is so lovely! I cant wait to see it! Thanks for all the tips! Its wuite an impressive piece!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Geri, This design is good for a single-unit beginner like me. Very simple. But I think the outcome will be quite impressive, as you say.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • ellen b santana says:

    beautiful. does the weft not shed threads as it is walked on? happy new year.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ellen, As with any rag rug, yes, the weft will shed threads as it is walked on. My main concern about keeping the fabric edges from fraying is so the fabric strips will roll off the quill unhampered.

      Happy New Year,
      Karen

  • Betsy says:

    Beautiful! Love that blue.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, The color is very pleasant, with subtle variations. I am also going to introduce some more shades along the length of the rug.

      Thanks!
      Karen

  • Ladella says:

    Very interesting even for a long time weaver. Excellent way! Kudos to you for sharing this information.

  • Nannette says:

    Good morning Karen,
    Beautiful.
    About 5 years ago I bought a tabby woven rag rug with the warp deliberately saw cut at a craft show. The result was/is a shaggy rug. the first few washings freed the loose ends. Now it has settled.

    Your post is on the other end of the spectrum of rag rug weaving. I love it.

    Thank you.

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Process Review: Leftover Linen Waffle Weave Washcloths

This is the kind of weaving results that makes me giggle like a child. Waffle weave is one of those things I have been intrigued about for some time, and have wanted to give it a try. Will it really buckle up into waffled wrinkles? Will linen do that? Will it be even better than I expect? Yes, yes, and YES. Talk about transformation!

Using linen thrums for weft.
Taken from thrums, each length of thread is added with a square knot, which makes for slow quill winding. And slow weaving, as I untie each knot that comes along, and overlap weft tails in the shed.
Made with linen leftovers. Weft tails cover the surface.
Shaggy thick blue linen weft tails cover the surface.

Everything in these waffle weave washcloths is linen that has been leftover from previous projects. The tail end of linen tubes, quills that didn’t quite get used up, thrums, and threading missteps that gave me skinny warp chains of several meters. The warp is 16/2 linen, but the weft is everything from fine linen threads, to bundles of threads, to coarse linen rug warp. I discovered, as you will see, that the thicker the weft, the more pronounced the wrinkles. The thickest wefts have given me delightful accordion pleats.

Waffle weave washcloths made entirely of leftover linen.
Wet-finished linen waffle weave has a surprisingly soft hand. After hemming, I am trimming the weft tails to 1/4″, leaving a hint that this is made of leftovers.

Please enjoy this process video of the making of leftover linen waffle weave washcloths! Watch to the end to see the squishiness of this unusual cloth.

Don’t think that this is the end of waffle weave. I am already thinking of all the interesting possibilities…

May your best wrinkles make you giggle.

Happy Happy Weaving,
Karen

18 Comments

  • Geri Rickard says:

    I have been waiting to see the final results and they are super! What a cool idea!
    Enjoy using them, I’m sure they will feel wonderful!

  • Elisabeth says:

    I love that you made these beautiful washcloths out of “useless” material! I consider leftovers a precious resource, and I find so much joy in finding a purpose for them whether it’s yarn, thread, fabric, or food 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Hi Elisabeth, It’s satisfying to put some scraps back to use. I’ll save all my linen thrums again, and in a few years I’ll have enough to use them up again.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Betsy says:

    Those are great! I’ll bet they’ll feel great on your skin as well.

    I made waffle weave towels several years ago and loved how they came out. Unfortunately I gave them all away, so if I want some for myself, I’ll have to weave more. Maybe washcloths would be better. Or both!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, I made enough that I can keep a couple of them and use the rest as gifts. I would enjoy having this linen waffle weave as towels, or even bath towels.

      Thanks,
      Karen

  • Joanne Hall says:

    I too have saved my 16/2 linen thrums from my tapestry warps. This would be a fun project for making a couple bath towels. Thanks for the film.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanne, I can’t get myself to throw linen thrums away, so I was glad to have a way to use them up. Bath towels would be wonderful! I’m glad you enjoyed the film.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Laurie says:

    Very creative! I like the end result. Did you weave the hems in plainweave, and then fold over, or just fold over the waffle ends? I also like that you left ends as a reminder…..

    • Karen says:

      Hi Laurie, I did weave the hens in plain weave and folded them under twice. It turned out to be a very narrow hem. The little weft tails add an interesting touch, and makes the washcloths look a little…rustic. 🙂

      Thanks,
      Karen

  • Linda Cornell says:

    I’ve used waffle weave for baby blankets out of cotton and it makes a cozy blanket!

  • An interesting use of thrums.

    I’m wondering why you didn’t use a simple slip knot to join the pieces? It would make it much faster than untying square knots. I use them all the time if I have a break in my thread when winding bobbins.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jenny, A slip would work great for this. I like the square knot because I can tie it with less thread, and it makes a small knot. Also, surprisingly, it’s one of the easiest knots to untie.

      I just pull one end straight, and the other end slips off. That’s not the best description, but it’s a snap to undo a square knot…most of the time.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Hi Karen,
    It was fun to watch the video. I wonder if a one of a kind scarf could be made with the hodge podge of thrums? Or, a gypsy skirt ala Stevie Nicks? LOL.
    Thank you.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, A hodge podge of thrums would make a terrific scarf. I’d like a linen waffle weave scarf, in fact. Maybe next time.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Emily Lefler says:

    Wow! These turned out so fun! And I love the ki mark on the shuttle!!
    Love, Emily

    • Karen says:

      Hi Emily, Thanks for dropping by! I am thrilled with the way these turned out.
      Steve woodburns my initials on my shuttles and tools for me.

      All the best,
      Karen

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Tried and True: Color Gradation

When I decided to use up some of the quills that have collected, I stumbled on one of my favorite techniques—color gradation. The weft colors change gradually instead of making distinct weft stripes. Remember the placemats on the little countermarch loom? I am weaving the last few.

Color gradation on plain weave with color and weave effects.

Using up thread left on quills for some color gradation play.

Doubled weft gives opportunity for easy color gradation.

Color and weave effects on plain weave. 8/2 cotton weft is doubled.

The quills on a double-bobbin shuttle don’t always empty at exactly the same time. The quill that has thread remaining on it goes in a box for later use. Those quills in the box are what I’m using here. For this placemat I’m letting gradient color changes happen in varying increments, according to the amount of thread left on the quill. I have five shades of 8/2 cotton, ranging from coral pink to pumpkin.

Colors for gradient weaving.

Color “sisters” play well together.

This is the perfect setup for some subtle color gradation: Five closely-related hues, a double-bobbin shuttle, and a supply of leftover quills. For best effect, I arrange the colors in order, from light to dark, or dark to light.

Color Gradation

  • Weave a section with two quills of color A (the lightest color)
  • Weave the next section with one quill of color A and one quill of color B (one shade darker than color A)
  • Weave the next section with two quills of color B
  • Weave the next section with one quill of color B and one quill of color C (one shade darker than color B)

And so on…

What could be simpler?

Color gradation.

Pumpkin color adds a pleasing subtle accent to the corals and reds in the cloth.

May you make something beautiful with the little bits that you have.

Happy weaving,
Karen

6 Comments

  • Ruth Terry says:

    Such a lovely way to play with color. I often transition from one color to another without a hard line by weaving 1 pick with new color, 4 picks with old color, 2 picks with new color, 3 picks with old color, 3 picks with new color, 2 picks with old color, 4 picks with new color, 1 pick with old color and transition complete. Will try your double bobbin change next time I am ready to play with colors. Blessings during this advent season, Ruth

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ruth, Thanks for sharing another way to transition the colors. That’s a great way to achieve a lovely gradient.

      It would be fun to do a sample piece with various ways to do color gradations. Or, that would be an interesting study group project.

      Advent blessings to you,
      Karen

  • Betsy says:

    We turned on the Spurs game the other night and I took one look at the other team’s uniform and said “gradient!” Not something you often see in a basketball uniform, lol.

    Love the placemat!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, That’s too funny! Who else is even going to notice such things? …unless we call it the popular name-“ombré,” meaning shaded in French.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Vivian says:

    I realized on a recent project the subtle transition between two light colours, in different tones added depth. I decided to shake up the mix and make the transitions much narrower in the next project and didn’t have as near an interesting effect. It needed large areas each for contrast.
    I love your pattern too

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