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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One Treadle Short

I faced a dead end with this six-shaft weave. The draft requires seven treadles in order to include true plain weave. And I do want plain weave for the hems. That is a problem. This loom has only six treadles. So these double binding twill rag rugs were put on hold while I thought about it.

And then I had an idea. What if… I tie the sixth treadle as if it were the seventh treadle, enabling me to weave the plain weave hem. And then, undo the treadle and re-tie it as the sixth treadle for weaving the body of the rug? It works! Essentially, I created seven treadles out of six. What seemed like a dead end became the point of discovering something new.

Changing treadle tie-up to make six treadles into seven.

With this tie-up, the fifth and sixth treadles (counting right to left) are able to weave an even plain weave. The sixth treadle is actually tied up as the seventh treadle, which is only needed for the plain weave hems at the beginning and end of the rug, paired with treadle five. To change the treadle tie-up, the upper and lower lamms for the first and second shafts (counting back to front) need to be switched. That’s all.

Changing treadle tie-up to make six treadles into seven.

Treadle tie-up now follows the draft as written for the first six treadles to produce the twill weave for the body of the rug.

Underneath view of Vavstuga treadle tie-up system. Makes changing tie-ups a breeze.

Under-the-treadle view of the Vävstuga treadle tie-up system. This tie-up system with beads and pointed dowels (or knitting needles) makes changing the tie-up a breeze.

Can you imagine the dead end the friends and family of Jesus felt when they saw his body go limp on the cross? ……………………………………………………………………………………

Easter is about the excitement of knowing Someone who died and came back to life. In the Easter story, the angel tells the women who arrive at the tomb, “I know you seek Jesus, the Crucified. He is now Jesus, the Risen.” For these women, this moment changed everything. What had seemed like a dreadful dead end became the point of discovering new life. Indeed, even now, a dead end is often the starting point of finding new life in the Risen one.

May you discover something new.

Blessings,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Liberty says:

    Sometimes we just have to stop and think about something for a bit to find a different way!!
    Happy Easter!

  • linda says:

    Karen: I’ve had the same “not enough tredles problem” I had my husband make more tredles for the 8 harness Maycomber. I now have 14 tredles. He drilled more holes in the lambs for tie ups and away i go. I don’t use all of them all the time, but when I need them they’re there. They were added on the right and left so I could stay centered on the bench and the edges would behave.

    Hint: if you do not use a stretcherlike Karen and one edge is looking sloppy slide your butt just a smidge toward that side and the problem will correct itself. Weave on, linda

    • Karen says:

      Hi Linda,
      Steve may add treadles to this loom some day. So far, I rarely need more than six. I agree, it is nice to have them when you need them, though!

      Karen

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