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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Imagine Rag Rugs on the Drawloom

Rag rug weaving on the drawloom! I can only imagine the delight. In the meantime, the drawloom is getting dressed. It takes time to group the pattern heddles into units, add lingos, thread pattern shafts, thread eight ground shafts, sley the reed, move the ground shafts and pattern shafts to their positions, and tie on. After I finish all that I can think about adding all the single-unit draw cords and finish tying up. Whew!

Winding a warp for the next drawloom project.
Warping reel is in a corner of the drawloom studio. When not in use, the reel is folded up and pushed against the wall.
Warp chains of 12/6 cotton rug warp. Drawloom rag rugs!
Warp chains of 12/6 cotton rug warp.
Drawloom - rug warp is ready for threading.
Warp is beamed and ready for threading.

I became acquainted with the single-unit drawloom at Joanne Hall’s studio (see Drawlooms in Montana), but this is my first go at it on the drawloom in my studio. Because of the reward that awaits, I will gladly tackle all the tasks of dressing this loom. Weaving rag rugs on a drawloom will be phenomenal!

Pattern heddles and weights for prepping the drawloom.
Pattern heddles are hanging on the breast beam for grouping into pattern units. A lingo is hung on each unit.
Threading the drawloom.
Pattern heddles have been threaded. You can see the lingos hanging below. Ground heddles are now being threaded. Straight draw threading on eight ground shafts.

Joy sees hidden treasure. We go to great lengths to unearth high-value treasure. Jesus did this, seeing us as the reward. That’s what Christmas celebrates. Jesus left his splendor in heaven to come to earth as a baby. He entered this world and endured the worst because of the joy set before him. He did it all for the joy of having us in fellowship with God. We come to him and find that we are the Grand Weaver’s reward.

May your joy be full.

Joy to you,
Karen

16 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    I must admit that I find this mind-boggling and will be sitting back, admiring your work on this one. 😉 Amazing!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, It’s all part of the process, so it just means taking a step at a time. I enjoy the steps to get there, but I sure am looking forward to weaving this.

      Thanks,
      Karen

  • Geri Rickard says:

    Ooohhh, I can’t wait to see this!

  • Janet giardina says:

    Good morning Karen,
    I’m just coming to the end of my first draw warp, 16/2, and I’m very curious to see the end result of using the drawloom to weave rag rugs and the 12/6 warp. Look forward to the process and end result.
    Janet

    • Karen says:

      Hi Janet, Congratulations on completing your first drawloom warp! I have wondered about weaving rag rugs on the drawloom ever since I began to understand what can be done with a drawloom. I’m eager to jump in!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Betsy says:

    Ooooh, I can’t wait to see how this looks!!

  • Joanne Hall says:

    Bravo, yes, joy indeed. I have loved this type of project, but I have not put it on my loom. I look forward to seeing your photos as you progress through this warp and weave the rug.
    Joanne

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanne, Your encouragement means a lot to me. It’s comforting to know that you are looking over my shoulder. We’re going to have fun with this!

      Joy indeed,
      Karen

  • Lyna says:

    Looks fascinating! How long is your warp? As complicated as dressing the drawloom looks, I’d be inclined to put on a looooog warp!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lyna, Yes, a long warp would make perfect sense. I’m still in the learning stages, though, so I want a lot of practice in dressing the drawloom. This warp is long enough to weave two large rugs.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Carol Berry says:

    Hi Karen,
    I am eager to see the rag rugs you weave on your drawloom. What is the sett, using the 12/6 rug warp? and why have you chosen an 8-shaft ground weave? Your blog posts are a joy!
    All the Best, Carol Berry

    • Karen says:

      Hi Carol, I’m using a 35/10 metric reed and the sett is 7 ends per cm. The ends are doubled. That’s close to 18 doubled ends per inch.
      I’m using a draft by Kerstin Ålsling-Sundberg from “Damast,” edited by Lillemor Johansson. Her draft calls for the eight-shaft ground weave. When I have more experience I’ll be able to tell you why.

      Thanks for joining in!
      Karen

  • Sue MacLeod says:

    I really enjoy reading your blog. It is so inspirational to see all that you do. I am looking forward to see the progression of this project.

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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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Beaming Double Weave

This is double weave on twelve shafts. One layer is the gorgeous lapis lazuli blue. The other layer is neutral almond for contrast. I am spreading and beaming this 6/2 Tuna wool warp with two sets of lease sticks—one set for each layer/color.

Big fat warp chains. Tuna wool for double weave.
Big fat warp chains. Double weave on twelve shafts, with 6/2 Tuna wool for warp and weft.

When you have two sets of lease sticks, though, it is a serious challenge to get the two colors to alternate correctly as you move the end loops to a separate stick. The ends on the stick are then transferred to the back tie-on bar. I did breathe a sigh of relief when everything was finally lined up and in order.

Double weave. Ready to beam the wool warp.
Two sets of lease sticks carries the challenge of having clear visibility of the lease cross in both warp layers. After one or two do-overs, all the yarn is successfully moved to the back tie-on bar. Moving from right to left, I separate and straighten each warp end on the tie-on bar. Only a few more left to straighten.
Ready to beam this wool double weave warp.
Back tie-on bar all in order. Now ready to move the pre-sley reed to the beater and begin beaming the warp.

And I’m reminded again how beautiful a beamed warp is. It’s worth the challenges.

Tuna wool warp on Glimakra Standard.
Warp beam and back beam show the beamed warp.
Wool warp separated into threading groups.
Separated into threading groups for the next phase of dressing the loom.

That beautifully ordered wool on the back tie-on bar, now hidden from view, is an essential element for quality handwoven cloth. Kindness is that way. It’s a core trait deep in one’s character that is revealed in interactions with others. Kindness makes you beautiful. It’s not something you try to be. It’s something we wear. It’s our inner being dressed in the character of Christ.

May you be dressed in kindness.

Affectionately yours,
Karen

4 Comments

  • So much more to learn.
    Thank you for showing the way.
    Nannette

    Off topic… My goal today is to post photos of the Wasaukee February 15, 2019 snow fall that the fuel truck had to deliver to. And my Yooper husband played in. Thank you for the the intense color of your post. White on white is nice in small doses.

  • Elaine says:

    Beautiful! What are you making? And, what is on the back beam? It looks white and the beam looks wider. Your posts are inspiring in so many way. Thank you

    • Karen says:

      H Elaine, Thank you!

      You may be referring to the aluminum beam cover I have on the back beam (I have one on the breast beam, too). It protects the wood from getting grooves in it from the beam cords that run over it while beaming the warp. It’s a normal-size back beam, but I can see how the aluminum cover makes it look wider.

      I’m making a small wool blanket.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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Getting Dressed to Weave

I want to wrap up in this cozy throw already. But I need to weave it first. This is an undulating twill throw that I am making for sweet Lindsay, one of my daughters-in-law. Of course, I am including enough warp to make a small throw of my own.

Getting ready to beam the warp. Back to front warping.

Four chained bouts. The 8/2 cotton warp is pre-sleyed, and the back tie-on bar has been placed through the loops at the end of the warp.

Every step of dressing the loom is fascinating. I easily get immersed in the enjoyment of the process. All the while, I’m dreaming of the finished work.

Read to beam the warp, using warping trapeze.

Warping trapeze is in place at the front of the loom. Ready to beam these soothing colors onto the warp beam.

Warp is beamed. Ready for threading.

Warp is beamed. Warp ends are counted into groups of 32 ends each, for efficiency and accuracy in threading. This will be threaded for undulating twill on eight shafts.

Dressing the loom leads to the making of cloth. Dressing our lives leads to the making of good character. Prayer is of utmost importance in dressing our lives. Prayer is not a single step in the process, but a posture of faith throughout the process. Earnest prayer reaches God. The power of prayer is not in our words, in the threads we express, but in the Grand Weaver. He receives our humble threads and weaves them into his will to bring about his beautiful cloth. Fascinating, isn’t it?

May you dream as you dress the loom.

Prayerfully,
Karen

10 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    There is something soothing about dressing a loom. I can’t wait to see the weaving begin.

  • I agree- I enjoy the entire process. I think you have to or you wouldn’t continue to weave year after year!! “ you must be warped to weave” .

    • Karen says:

      Hi Maria, Yes, maybe that’s the appeal for those of us who are drawn to handweaving – the enjoyment of process, of being part of making something from beginning to end. Your weaving is so beautiful. It’s good to know you enjoy the whole process, too.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Emonieiesha says:

    Good Morning Karen,
    I just came across your blog and what a joy. I am a beginner with a RHL and a 4 Shaft Table loom! There is nothing like creating while keeping our hearts and minds on the Creator. Happy Weaving with the one who created it all.

  • Susan Hommel says:

    Hi Karen, I love reading you warm and knowledgeable advice and have followed your weaving adventure these last few years. You even inspired my first rug attempt when you submitted your lovely rosepath pattern to Handwoven. Now I’m at a crossroad. I’ve been using my Schact standard but the draw to a Swedish loom has bitten me…. I await delivery of my Glimakra Julia countermarch next week. Here’s my question. Is there value in passing up the Glimakra set up direction in favor of Vavstugas Dress your loom the Vävstuga Way ? Thanks for any advice you can offer! Best regards, Sue

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sue, I’m excited for you! You will really enjoy your new Julia.

      The Glimakra set up and Vavstuga’s guide are completely compatible, as far as I know. I use Joanne Hall’s books and Vavstuga’s and get a great compilation of instructions. You can’t go wrong either way, or both! Don’t forget “The Big Book of Weaving.” It also has great set up (and weaving) instructions. The more, the merrier. 🙂

      Very happy weaving,
      Karen

  • How pretty the colors are.
    My skills are not there yet. Dressing the loom requires a lot of detail that my creative brain wants to ignore.

    Warping All By Yourself was my guide for dressing a loom. Front to back. I am glad you provided visual details. I will reference the next time I dress a loom and see if it speeds things up.

    About a month ago I went to the high school craft fair in Crivitz, Wi. There a woman selling the most beautifully crafted rag rugs I’ve ever seen. Nothing fancy, but even edges and beautifully chosen colors.

    She lives back in the woods in the home she shared with her late husband, south east of Green Bay and weaves. No business cards.

    I mentioned your website. She is the last hold out not on line. Her world is edged by north eastern Wisconsin. Next year I will look for her again at the Crivitz high school autumn craft fair. But earlier. The bake sale was sold out.

    I will miss your twice weekly posting. Enjoy the ride.

    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, I understand what you mean about your creative brain. My brain has trouble holding details, too.
      Having a system with specific steps helps me. I don’t try to remember the steps. I have written down the steps and keep that step-by-step list in front of me every time I warp the loom.

      Those old time rag rugs are wonderful. I have two that a friend of my grandmother made in a small country town in Missouri back in the ‘50’s.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
      Karen

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