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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What to Do with Linen Leftovers

These waffle-weave washcloths are made out of my linen leftovers. For years, I’ve been saving linen scraps: the small amount left on the tube, quills that weren’t used up, thrums that I couldn’t bear to discard, and skinny warp chains from the times I accidentally wound a few extra warp ends.

Using linen leftovers for a new warp.
To make this warp, I finished off about a dozen tubes that had small amounts of 16/2 linen.
Winding a linen warp.
Putting leftover threads together.

The warp is 16/2 linen. I alternated two colors at a time in the warp, so there are interesting color-and-weave effects that outline the “waffles” in the weave.

New linen warp.
Heddles are threaded in point twill for waffle weave, alternating two colors at a time.
Afternoon sun on a new warp.
Afternoon sun is a pleasant sight on a new warp.

The linen for the weft is everything from fine 16/1 line linen to coarse 8/1 tow linen. I am purposely leaving weft tails exposed. I expect significant shrinkage, so I will trim the tails shorter after wet finishing.

How to use linen leftovers.
Linen “weft-overs” include thrums, end of tubes, and accidental warp chains.

Ideas for this project originated with Clean with Linen, by Sanna Ignell in Väv 2016 No.2, p.6, and Handtowels made of linen, by Elisabet Jansson in Happy Weaving from Vävmagasinet, p.31.

Linen waffle weave.
Linen waffle weave.

Do you have precious leftovers you’ve saved from your journey through life? Memories we don’t want to lose. And memories we wish we could forget. All these leftover threads serve as reminders that we are meant for more than what we can produce on our own. Here’s the good news. Love invites us to hand over our collection of scraps. Listen to Love. His name is Jesus. He takes our linen discards, and, with nothing wasted, weaves his beautiful story of redemption in us.

May your leftovers be given new life.

Love,
Karen

14 Comments

  • Joyce Lowder says:

    Beautifully said, Karen! And great idea! 🙂

  • Robin says:

    Fantastic idea!
    Would love to see pix of the finished wash cloth. Perhaps a future post?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Robin, Thanks for giving your thoughts! I will be happy to show pictures of the wash cloths when they are finished! I’ll be as surprised as you at the results. I expect to get 10 wash cloths from this warp, so hang on, it may take a while.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    An album quilt I made for my daughter’s wedding was cobbled together of the obvious dress fabric from her childhood, but also needle work from her ancestors. Textiles too fragile to use as originally designed, but reinforced and added to the beauty of the quilt designed for the next generations to come.

    One block included a piece of weaving done on a home made loom by my husband’s grandmother.

    Leftovers from earlier generations kept to build something useful and beautiful.

    Nothing goes to waste in God’s world.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, Your quilt sounds fantastic. What a wonderful gift, full of meaning.

      “Nothing goes to waste in God’s world.” Amen!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Linda Cornell says:

    Beautifully said!

  • Laurie says:

    Is that a plainweave hem? Does it contract the same as the waffleweave?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Laurie, Yes, I am doing a plain weave hem. I am sure it will not contract the same as the waffle weave. I expect the hem to look a bit wavy. Since this is my first time to do waffle weave, I’m waiting to see what it does for sure. 🙂

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Charlotte says:

    I cannot believe, yet I must! The timing of your post – waffleweave wash cloths to my drawdown for the next project – waffleweave wash cloths! Isn’t this fun?!?!?!
    Mine will be 12/6 seine twine. The warp on the drawloom is nearly tweaked for a new run of Casita bath towels – Cottolin. The wash cloth warp will go on Julia once my Marines have come and gone. Also, for the Casita.

    The Inkle loom is warped for the hang loops…it’ll go to the mountains with us.

    Oh how I love the direction of our path and sharing it, such a sweet gift!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Charlotte, How fun! And believe it or not, yesterday I finished the drawdown for my next project on the Standard – Cottolin bath towels! Wow, you and I are really in sync.

      Love,
      Karen

  • Betty Morrissey says:

    HI!
    Can’t’ wait to see them. Love how everything finds its purpose.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betty, With purpose there’s hope. And we all need hope. I’ll keep you posted on the progress and finishing of these washcloths. Stay tuned…

      All the best,
      Karen

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Process Review: Dressing the Drawloom the Second Time

Dressing the drawloom the second time is easier than the first time. No slip ups or confusion. Just smoothly moving from one step to the next. (Read to the end to see what to expect for July.)

Winding skeins of wool yarn into balls.
Winding skeins of wool yarn into balls.

With my first drawloom warp the most challenging part was distributing the pattern shafts. (See Q and A with Joanne Hall and Drawloom Dressing.) This time something clicked and the light bulb turned on. Instead of blindly following steps, I now understand what I am doing, and why. And I am having fun in the process!

Winding warp on the warping reel.
Winding the warp on the warping reel, making two bouts.
Big fat wool warp chains.
Warp chains of 6/2 Tuna wool, ready to dress the loom.
Ready to thread pattern heddles.
After beaming the warp, the loom bench is moved to the back of the loom for threading heddles. Pattern heddles first, and then, ground heddles.
Sleying the reed on the drawloom.
With the reed sleyed, it’s time to return the ground shafts to the front of the loom and put the reed in the beater.
Leveling string is doing its job!
Warp is tied on, and the leveling string is doing its job.
Distributing pattern shafts on the drawloom.
Inkle band serves to separate pattern heddles as I distribute the pattern shafts.
Adding pattern shafts to the drawloom.
Pattern shafts are resting nicely on the pattern shaft holders. Their little hooks grab the Texsolv that connects them to the draw cords and handles.
Dressing the drawloom!
Pointed threading can be seen in the arrangement of the heddles on the pattern shafts.
Dressing the drawloom!
Drawloom setup is complete except for tying up the treadles. Treadle tie-ups on a drawloom are refreshingly simple.
Testing pattern sheds on the drawloom.
Testing pattern sheds by pulling some of the draw handles. After a few small adjustments, she’s ready to weave!
Wool on the drawloom.
First sample. 6/2 Tuna wool warp and weft, 4-shaft broken twill on the ground shafts, sett is 5.5 ends per cm, 16 pattern shafts with 1 extra shaft for the edges.

Friends, It’s that time again, when Warped for Good is put on pause for the month of July.

Thank you for sharing in this journey with me!

What’s on my looms: I am near the end of the blue double weave blanket on the Standard, and I am planning a new pictorial tapestry for that loom. The drawloom is dressed and in motion. And the Ideal loom is still sitting ready for rosepath rag rugs. Also, Steve and I have a Casita trip planned that will include some leisurely backstrap band weaving.

What’s on your loom right now? Share with us in the comments.

See you the first Tuesday of August! (In the meantime catch me over on Instagram @celloweaver.)

May your second times be better than your first times.

Keep on Weaving,
Karen

13 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Love the drawloom project! I’m getting ready to dress my loom for retro-inspired kitchen towels. Enjoy July!

  • Nannette says:

    Enjoy your July.

    I will be picking currants and black raspberries out of my backyard to sell at the farmer’s market.

    The weaving on the drawloom looks so warm. Ready for the autumn.

    Blessings

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, I have fond childhood memories of picking black raspberries in our backyard, and eating them! Yum!

      If all goes as planned, I will finish the drawloom weaving in time to make a simple vest that I can wear this autumn. …we’ll see.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Charlotte says:

    Good morning, my sweet! Weaving has been suddenly interrupted. Father’s Day – 15 minutes before the close of service – my heart began racing. No pain. It being Father’s Day, I thought I needed food. While at the restaurant, pulse 158. Wayne wanted to head to the ER…light ache in jaw. They stopped my heart and thankfully, it started on its own. 3 drugs later, I was finally in my sinus rhythm. Orders to lay low. Sleep studies. Waiting. Terrible drug reaction. Waiting. Today…sleep study in near future. Home sleep study last Thursday. Waiting. Love you and thankful I remain on this side of heaven. HE has given me a new ministry with Semper Fi Fund. We should talk! I love you!!!!!

    • Karen says:

      Oh Charlotte, You’ve been through a lot! Hopefully, weaving will be back in rhythm for you. I’m thankful you’ve been given a way to bless others in the Semper Fi project.

      I don’t want you to rush off to heaven when you still have a mission here!

      Love,
      Karen

  • Geri Rickard says:

    Hi Karen! My loom projects are a runner on the drawloom in 35/2 linen for warp snd 16/1 for weft. It’s on a 21 shaft setup. On the other standard loom I’m just starting an easy batch of M&O towels in 16/2 cotton. I’m enjoying seeing your drawloom progress! Enjoy your July!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Geri, Thanks for sharing! It’s great to hear what you have on your looms. I’m looking forward to putting linen on my drawloom–it may be the next warp! And more and more shafts each time. And M&O’s is one of my favorites, so pretty.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Geri Rickard says:

    P.S. Just wanted to say my drawloom is set up on the Glimakra I bought from your former weaving teacher. The one you learned on! I forgot her name but at the time I bought it she was in the Denver area and downsizing.

    • Karen says:

      Geri, how cool! You are weaving on the loom I learned on from Leigh? That’s a beautiful loom and such sweet memories for me. Oh, that was a special time with Leigh.

      Thanks for letting me know!
      Karen

  • Maggie Ackerman says:

    Hi Karen, we moved last month and after painting every room in our downsized house, I’m still at blacking boxes and trying to do something with the smaller yard. My loom room is a nice room in the basement and unpacking will be a winter thing. However, still on my baby wolf loom is a scarf from NZ possum merino that I kept on my much pared down look room to sell the previous house. Must’ve worked cuz it sold in 5 days! Somehow I’m looking forward to winter!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Maggie, I know how big a job moving is. You’ve got some restful times to look forward to after you get fully settled in. You will have so much fun setting up your new weaving space! No doubt that loom with lovely weaving was what sold the house! Congrats on your quick sell.

      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

  • Karen Reff says:

    What a great idea, to use woven bands for loom tools! I’m not a fan of weaving just to weave. There has to be a plan! Now, spinning…that’s different.
    Your drawloom weaving is going to be lovely. Enjoy!

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Weaving Some Simple Borders

I need to free up this little loom in order to put on a different warp that has a deadline. So, now that I have returned from my travels, my attention is going to these towels. My friend is letting me weave this lovely cottolin warp that she got at Vavstuga.

Simple border stripe in first towel of the Vavstuga towel kit.
Simple border stripe in first towel. Straight twill.
Cottolin warp and 8/1 tow linen weft.
Cottolin warp and 8/1 tow linen weft.
Point twill on four shafts.
Point twill on four shafts. Three horizontal stripes made with half-bleached tow linen weft.

Straight twill, point twill, broken twill, and now “rick-rack.” And after that, a couple towels in plain weave. Everyone who weaves this Vavstuga towel kit and follows the instructions will end up with the same six towels. True? Not necessarily. I like to step off the expected path. That is why I vary the weft and include some type of simple border design on each towel.

Loom with a view. Texas Hill Country.
Three colors of 8/1 tow linen sit on the little blue table as choices for weft. Half-bleached, Unbleached, and Bronze.
Broken twill for a cottolin towel.
Changed the tie-up to broken twill, which allows me to keep a simple straight treadling pattern. Dashed weft pattern for the border stripe is produced by alternating the bronze linen weft with the half-bleached linen weft.
Color-blocked towel uses three neutral weft colors.
Long wavy vertical lines give the appearance of rick-rack. Again, I changed the tie-up to keep the simple straight treadling pattern. I use all three weft colors in this color-blocked towel.
Cottolin towels with 8/1 tow linen weft.
Plain weave, with four shafts and two treadles. The main body of the towel uses the unbleached linen weft. Two picks of half-bleached linen are sandwiched between several rows of bronze linen weft.

There is a wide path that is crowded with many people. It’s the common and expected way of life. It’s where you stay if you want to fit in with everyone else. But if you search for it, you’ll find an uncommon path. It’s narrow; and few find it. It’s the path of life that is found in Jesus Christ. Stand in the narrow path. That is where your unique features will show up as border designs that set you apart as a cherished child of God.

May you be set apart.

Happy weaving,
Karen

9 Comments

  • Joanna says:

    What a timely post this is! I have a long striped towel warp on that I was getting seriously bored with after only two towels. Right now it’s 4S/2T in a straight draw, but I was mulling over putting more treadles on and fiddling with the tie-up. Thanks for helping me decide (I’m prone to dithering). Bless you, Karen.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, I tend to thrive on variety. Maybe you’re like me in that regard? I have changed the tie-up three times on this warp so far. With only four shafts, it’s an easy way to change things up. The instructions that came with the Vavstuga towel kit gave different tie-up options, so I thought – why not do them all? 🙂

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kristin Martzall says:

    Your posts are so inspiring! How do you use the grosgrain ribbon? as a measuring device? Like a cash register tape bit not as bulky and fragile.?
    Thanks ,in advance ,for your help in explaining that process!

    Kris

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kristin, Welcome!
      The marked grosgrain ribbon came with the Vavstuga towel kit. I normally use twill tape for the same purpose – to pre-measure the desired length of what I am weaving. Here’s a blog post I wrote about it: Tools Day: Measured Weaving

      Happy weaving!
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    Welcome home, Karen! I am sure that you missed your looms! Were you able to finish the tapestry from Big Bend?
    I also like to try different tie ups or striping when I make towels. I like the combination of striping and pattern you have with those colors.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, I made some good progress on my Big Bend tapestry while away. But my floor looms have a louder voice in calling me than the portable frame loom does. I guess I better set aside some quiet evening time to finish the tapestry.

      Thanks!
      Karen

  • Linda Cornell says:

    Five sentences, so precious, choose the narrow path!

    Thank you and Blessings.

    Linda

  • Pam Cauchon says:

    Thank you, Karen, for such wise words. I had been questioning my decision to simplify my life. While simplification is good for contemplation it can be a bit lonely. Weaving provides those moments for contemplation and it is encouraging to hear from someone who is like-minded. To know Christ’s narrow path is well worth it. Then I realize I’m not so lonely after all. Indeed, thank you for the encouraging words.

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Handwoven Treasured Leftovers

In my bin of handwoven fabric, most of the pieces are leftovers, like a short section from the end of a towel warp, or a colorful sampling of weft from the beginning of a warp. But a few of these woven treasures are good-sized pieces that can be used to make something. So, since I want to make a bag for my large Freja tapestry frame, I look through my selection of handwoven fabric pieces.

Piecing handwoven fabric to make a large bag.
Piecing handwoven fabric to get the large side panels needed for the bag.
Making bag from handwoven fabric.
Lightweight fusible interfacing is applied to the back of the fabric. I adapted and enlarged McCall’s pattern 3894, and used the pattern instructions for the sequence of steps to make the bag.
Patterned band woven on the band loom.
Patterned band woven on the band loom, used for straps on the bag.
Sewing a bag from handwoven fabric.
Topstitching with red thread.

I find just what I need! Coming across these two significant lengths of fabric is like getting reacquainted with old friends. The meter of red and black cotton eight-shaft twill is something I wove in a Vavstuga class. And the blue cotton warp-printed yardage is fabric I wove to make a tiered skirt, a favorite garment that hangs in my closet. (See Quiet Friday: Handwoven Skirt.)

Bag with Freja loom is ready for a travel excursion in the Casita.
Bag with Freja loom is ready for a travel excursion in the Casita.
In the Casita - handwoven articles.
In the Casita.
Bag from handwoven fabric for Freja tapestry loom.
Casita tapestry to work on in the Casita.
Casita tapestry for quiet evenings in Big Bend state park in Texas. I may be able to finish it on this trip.
Bag for tapestry frame - made from handwoven cloth.
Blue cotton warp-printed fabric, red eight-shaft twill, and patterned band from the band loom. Treasures from the past, assembled together for a joyful today.

Treasures from the past come into today to bring value and meaning. Put treasures in your today that will add value to tomorrow. Everything can change in a day, so we can’t put our confidence in tomorrow. But every new day is from the Lord, who holds the future in his hands. Today is a gift. Live it fully. Who knows? Your joy today may be tomorrow’s treasure.

Casita, ready to roll!
Ready to roll!

May you find treasures from the past.

Love,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Beth says:

    Great idea! Have a wonderful time!

  • Anonymous says:

    Very nice and inspiring!

  • Nannette says:

    No moss is growing under your feet. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy the memories. All are a gift from God.

    Nannette

    PS.. The snow is leaving us and the leaves of the spring flowers are pushing through, and the squirrels ate the kale seeds I planted.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, It is always interesting to observe the changing of seasons. Here, where we are this week, we see cactus in bloom, desert bluebonnets (they will die off as soon as the temps reach 95 degrees), and red-tipped ocotillo everywhere. Dots of brilliant color on a backdrop of desert brown. The rugged and massive mountains declare the glory of God!

      Love,
      Karen

  • Linda says:

    I have so many scraps of my handwoven fabrics that I try to find uses for. In the process of moving now, I find there are far too many and I’ve bagged many to throw away. Sad! Enjoy Big Bend. It’s one of my favorite places.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Linda, It is sad to say goodbye to scraps of handwoven fabric. But the good thing is, you still get to enjoy the memories of all that time at the loom.

      Big Bend is such a unique and remote place. At times, the terrain is such that it seems like it could be another planet. There is beauty all around, but it’s different. I’m glad to know you enjoy this place, too.

      All the best,
      Karen

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