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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Process Review: From Drawloom to Garment

I warped the drawloom with gray 6/2 Tuna wool several months ago with the goal to make fabric for a reversible vest. The beautiful drawloom fabric turned into dreamy garment-worthy fabric after washing! (See Process Review: Drawloom Jewels)

Weaving garment fabric on the drawloom.

And then I hit two huge hurdles.

Hurdle 1. Fit.

In order to cut into handwoven drawloom fabric, I need assurance that the end result will fit me. My sewing assistant helped me refine a commercial pattern.

My sewing assistant, Miss Fit.
Meet my sewing assistant, Miss Fit.

After umpteen muslins and two or three mock-ups, I finally got the fit I was after. Confidence to cut!

Hurdle 2. Garment Construction Uncertainties.

Do some detail studies, my dear friend Elisabeth said to me. Her advice got me over the insecurity hurdle. A detail study is making a small sample to test a hypothesis or answer a question. I made a list of everything I wanted to know about constructing a vest from this type of handwoven wool fabric. And then, using some of the extra fabric from the sampling at the beginning of the warp, I did a detail study for each point on the list. Twelve detail studies in all.

(If you are interested in seeing my complete list of 12 detail studies for this project, click HERE to send me an email and ask for my “Detail studies”.)

Here are a few examples of my findings:

  1. Zigzag before or after cutting? // Zigzag before cutting, stitch width 3, stitch length 2 1/2
  2. Lapped seams? 3/8”, 1/2”, 5/8”? // Yes, lapped seams, overlap 1/2”, stitch basted line to guide placement
  3. Neck and armhole curves – staystitch with hand running stitches or machine stitching? 1 row or 2? // Hand running stitches, 2 rows
Detail studies for handwoven garment construction.
Detail study testing lapped seams.

From the results of the detail studies I was able to compile a step-by-step garment construction plan. Confidence to sew!

Follow my process pictures of the garment construction to see the results:

Cutting lines marked with basting stitches.
Cutting lines marked with basting stitches.
Cutting lines marked with basting stitches.
Tracing paper is used for the pattern, which allows me to clearly see the placement of the pattern on the fabric.
How to stitch basted cutting lines.
Making an X with the basting thread at the corners. This helps clarify exactly where to stitch and cut. (One of Elisabeth’s helpful tips.)
Preparing handwoven cloth for garment sewing.
Buttonhole twist thread is used for the basted lines. It makes an easy guide for the sewing machine needle to follow. The zigzag stitches are just inside the line.
Sewing a handwoven garment.
Basting stitch on the front side piece is a guide for positioning the lapped seam.
Sewing a vest from handwoven drawloom fabric.
Handwoven vest. Ready for handwork details.
Ready for hand work.
Hand-stitching work by the fireplace.
Two rows of running stitches around the armholes and neck opening.
Blanket stitch on handwoven garment.
Blanket stitch is used to embellish and strengthen the armholes, neck, front edges, and lower edge of the vest.
Blanket Stitch
Completed vest from drawloom fabric.
Completed vest from drawloom fabric.
Reversible handwoven vest.
Reverse side.
Handwoven reversible vest. Drawloom Woven.

May you find ways to leap over your hurdles.

Love,
Karen

35 Comments

  • Geri Rickard says:

    Oh My! It turned out so well, though there was never any doubt in my mind! You must be so proud! I love how it looks on you. You are so inspiring!

  • Tena says:

    This is so stunning! As a beginner weaver, I hope to aspire to constructing woven garments someday!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tena, Constructing woven garments is something I have wanted to do for a long time. I’m glad to see you’re on the same quest!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Marianne says:

    I’ve been peeking at your website for years and have always found it so inspiring! Your creativity seems to be boundless! Your vest turned out beautifully! Thanks for so generously sharing your process in making your projects. I have found so many tips and helpful instruction from you about weaving and also life!

    • Karen says:

      Marianne, Thank you for your heart-warming comment. It is my delight that someone like you comes along on this journey with me!

      Thank you, thank you,
      Karen

  • Bev Romans says:

    An absolutely beautiful result, Karen! And you have taken such care in each step along the way.

    Blessings to you!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Bev! It’s taking time to mind the details that brings about good results, as you know very well in your beautiful quilting projects.

      Blessings to you, too!
      Karen

  • Betsy says:

    It’s gorgeous, Karen! I am in awe of your patience, as well as your weaving and sewing skills.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, It’s this gorgeous loom of yours that made it possible. I have the pleasure of sitting at the drawloom and making things from it. Yes, it did take an extra degree of patience to push this project to completion.

      Thank you, friend,
      Karen

  • Joanne Hall says:

    I really need to get my Tuna yarn drawloom fabric made into a vest. Thanks for showing us yours. I started to think that I needed to make it a pullover to avoid all the hand stitching in the front. Hmmm. I am still thinking.
    Joanne

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanne, I’m eager to see what you do with your beautiful Tuna yarn drawloom fabric! The hand stitching was very pleasant to do. I enjoyed it. I’d sure like to see a picture of your vest when you complete it.

      Happy thinking,
      Karen

  • LJ Arndt says:

    Awesome. Love the pattern and colors.
    Question. Was the back done in 1 piece or 2, if 2 could it have been one piece or to fit properly did it have to have a center seam?

    • Karen says:

      Hi LJ, Thank you!

      Great question. I intended the back to be one piece, and the sides to each be a single piece. But I was able to get a better fit by putting in a back seam, and making a seam down the sides. This was part of my fit dilemma. I wove the fabric with those single pieces in mind, but the outcome of the mock-ups was just too boxy for my petite frame. Someone with more fitting experience may be able to make the single back piece work.

      Thanks for asking,
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    I can’t decide which side I like best! Both look great on you, Karen.

    I am going to download your steps because I hope to get the courage to try sewing with my handwoven fabric someday soon. As I am just a beginning level sewer, I was surprised at all the consideration needed; such as the width of seams, length of stitches, etc.. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    Oh, and I recently purchased the book you recommended to me, Karen. The Big Book of Weaving by Laila Lundell. My plan is to do as you recommended and follow through from the beginning.

    Looking forward to your future posts.

  • Shari says:

    You are truly amazing and so capable! How timely to talk about embracing your hurdles! Can’t imagine KI would have hurdles! You and your vest look lovely! There is a woman sheep farmer, weaver environmentalist in CA who has raised the sheep and wove the fiber into yardage and sold the yardage on a limited basis. I bought a small amount and have been thinking about what to make with it. It’s a beautiful white, unused fabric! Your experience and blog posting here will be immensely useful for my sewing project. Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Shari, Me and hurdles? oh yes, more than you’ll ever know!

      Your undyed wool yardage sounds lovely! I know you’ll make it into something memorable. I’d love to see pictures when you’re done.

      Thanks for all your kind words,
      Karen

  • Shari says:

    The above posting has a typo. The yardage is natural, undyed yardage. I think the weave structure is twill.

  • D'Anne says:

    Beautiful work, Karen! I wish you were here to model it for us at WOW. We miss you!

  • Mary Still says:

    Wow! Beautiful!

  • Allison Grove says:

    Gorgeous fabric! Thanks for sharing your process and how you worked through it.

  • Nancy Martin says:

    Dear Karen, what a find to have found you in cyber space! So enjoy your website and your talents and your sharing and blogs etc. Wow, your work is an inspiration and the vest is beautiful. What a wonderful experience it must be to have totally created this wearable garment from simple thread to weaving to designing and cutting and sewing. Amazing!! God bless you and so glad I “tuned” in. Best regards, Nancy

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nancy, You have touched my heart. You so perfectly captured my sentiments! – It is extremely satisfying to start with thread and design actual fabric, and end up with a wearable garment. It feels like a dream come true.

      God bless you,
      Karen

  • Kristin Girod says:

    Your vest is beautiful and looks so lovely on you! Thank you for your generosity in sharing your project experience with us. Your blog is a treasure!

  • Lovely work, it’s nice to see someone doing woven garments rather than tea towels or scarves; much as I love those things I started weaving in order to make my own fabric for sewing.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rachelle, How fascinating that you started weaving so you could make garment fabric. It’s something I’ve been interested in for quite a while, too. It’s tricky to get all those skills to work together, but it’s fun to keep learning.

      Thanks for chiming in!
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Karen,
    You are such a detail person.
    BEAUTIFUL vest!!!!
    Perfect to go over a sequined gown or jeans.
    I hope you wear it often.

    Nanette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, You’re right, I do enjoy paying attention to detail.

      I don’t have a sequined gown, so mostly it will go with jeans or a simple skirt.

      Thank you so much!
      Karen

  • Ladella Williams says:

    Very interesting to see this view. I recognize many of the responders names. In awe as I only weave on an 8 shaft Bergman. I have woven on others drawlooms though! So am familiar with the process. At least four projects or more. I can enumerate many including one that is in one magazine.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ladella, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Drawlooms are very interesting looms to weave on. There are projects in some Väv Magazine issues that I would like to try.

      All the best,
      Karen

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Wary Weaving

Sugar Pie has been waiting in the wings. Now, his nose wriggles up to the fell line. The day that Ari and Lucia went with me to visit my neighbor, their attention went to the cute furry thing in the rabbit hutch. At first, the bunny was wary, but before long, Sugar Pie was nibbling carrot slivers from Lucia’s hand.

Beginning the bunny in the large pictorial tapestry.
First pick of brown for the bunny’s nose.

Now, I’m the wary one. The rabbit will make or break this tapestry. I made notes when I wove the rabbit on a narrow sample warp several weeks ago. With careful review of my notes, I am inching forward, giving attention to value contrasts that shape and define the animal. The good news is that when I reach the end of Sugar Pie’s soft, furry back, I will be at the tapestry’s finish line.

Color changes are outlined on the tapestry cartoon.
Color changes are outlined on the cartoon with colored pencil.
Pictorial tapestry in progress. "Siblings"
Ari and Lucia, two of my grandchildren, in a moment of childhood wonder. This tapestry tries to capture that wonder.

In trying times, our senses are heightened. Will we flourish, or merely squeak by? In all the confusion, where is clarity? In the chaos, where do we find calm? The Lord extends an open hand. The open hand is an invitation. Come and taste. Trust. Find deep satisfaction that reaches the soul. Courageously inch up to the greatest challenge of your life.

May you step into a worthwhile challenge.

With you,
Karen

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Process Review: Drawloom Jewels

It is exciting when Maverick walks by. Although he never comes in my drawloom studio, he does stop for a moment to look my way. You’ll see him in the slideshow video below. But what happens inside the studio is even more exciting, especially when it’s time for cutting off!

Drawloom with 16 pattern shafts.
Drawloom, set up with sixteen pattern shafts. I graph out the designs in Excel on my computer. Then, I print out the gridded pattern to use at the loom. I keep my place in the pattern with a magnet and magnet board made for cross-stitch embroidery.

This is Tuna wool, so I expect some shrinkage, but how much? I take careful measurements before and after wet finishing. Besides the main piece of fabric that I’m using for a garment, I have two sample pieces. I can experiment with the samples before wet finishing my garment fabric.

Here are my findings:
Sample 1. Hand wash and air dry.

10% shrinkage in width; 13% shrinkage in length.

Sample 2. Machine wash (3 minutes agitation on a gentle cycle, with a short spin) and machine dry (low setting) till damp, finish with air drying.

13% shrinkage in width; 14% shrinkage in length.

~How to do the shrinkage calculations~
First measurement (on the loom) minus the second measurement (after washing and drying) equals the difference. The difference divided by the first measurement equals the percentage difference.
For example, 50 cm – 43.5 cm = 6.5; 6.5 / 50 = 0.13; 13% shrinkage.

The first sample fabric is softer than the unwashed fabric, but not as soft as I’d like. The second sample fabric is beautifully soft, like a nice warm sweater. So, with confidence, I wet finish the garment fabric—with great results. It’s perfect for the fall/winter vest that I’ll soon be wearing, made from this fabric!

Wool garment fabric from a drawloom.
Like a sweater, this soft fabric will be comfortable to wear.
Making a pattern for handwoven garment fabric.
Muslin pattern for a simple vest. First, I’ll make a vest out of a wool throw, woven on my rigid heddle loom ages ago. Then, I will cut into the new drawloom fabric, with confidence about the fit.

Enjoy this photo show of the drawloom process.

May you enjoy the process you’re in.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

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Weaving a Personal Logo

This logo goes back to at least 1982. It is on the underside of a bowl I made that year in my one-and-only pottery class. kmi for Karen Marie Isenhower. This personal logo will be woven into my upcoming pictorial tapestry. I know how I want the image to look, but it’s not easy to weave it successfully. I am practicing on a sample warp.

Woven logo in a tapestry.
Lizard tapestry, woven from the side. This was my first attempt to weave my personal logo into a tapestry.

I am starting with the little cartoon that I used when I wove the Lizard tapestry last year (see Quiet Friday: Lizard Tapestry), thinking I can improve in the weaving of it.

Sample warp.

Nope. It’s not any better. I am redrawing the cartoon to spread the letters out further.

Practicing weaving my personal logo.

Nope. Now, the letters are too spread out.

Finally, I reach a happy medium.

Woven personal logo.
kmi

Yes. This attempt is successful. Now I am ready to weave my personal stamp into the new tapestry project.

Warp is almost ready for the next tapestry.
Linen warp is beamed for the next tapestry.
Ready to weave!
Ready to start the new tapestry!
Final cartoon.
Cartoon of the logo is traced onto the big cartoon that will be used for the pictorial tapestry.

You were made on purpose for a purpose. When the Grand Weaver created you He started a masterpiece with your initials on it. He develops the cartoon and lays out the colorful butterflies of yarn, with your personal logo in mind. Finish what He started. It takes a lifetime. In the end, my personal logo, never quite perfect, will diminish. And His royal insignia, embroidered in threads of gold, becomes the label on my life’s tapestry.

May you see your great value.

With you,
Karen

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