Category Archives: towels

That In-Between Stage

It’s been a busy couple days here, between family and work, yet everything is in that in-between stage where you’re busy working and yet nothing seems to be finished.

Strips of sheet in a nice soft sage green, previously cut, are being sewn, cream with hunter green ticking stripes, solid hunter green, and a nice milk chocolate brown coming up next. Solids of teal, cream, and cranberry will be next. These are all for my first foray into rag rug weaving. Dozens and dozens more sheets are waiting to be prepped. So far I’ve been using a rotary cutter, but have an electric cutter on loan to me by rag rug weaver Joe (RUGSBYJOE) that I need to try out.

I’ve been cranking socks, with more to come yet today. These are berry, green, and jade, nice bright cheerful colors. I’ll be making a pair of these for myself! More toes are waiting to be closed, two pairs of socks were washed and hung to dry, others were “steamed” to finish them, and all still need to be tagged.

The last towel from the natural/unbleached warp was steamed and pressed, hung to dry and will be machine hemmed when I’m done here.

The push is really on now, both galleries needing weaving and socks, and with several deadlines coming up fast, I need to keep producing. I’ll spare you the photo of cones of 10/2 and 20/2 cotton waiting to be made into warps. Three looms are waiting to be warped, not counting one upstairs and an upright (floor) frame loom, for tapestry, downstairs.

I’m thinking a few short rewards will be in order, sitting on the neighbor’s pier with my feet in the lake would be one, IF there is enough of a breeze to keep the mosquitos off. He has a log anchored a short way from the pier that turtles like to sun themselves on.

Sunday I’ll be working at the new Artistree gallery, in Land O’Lakes, WI, and will have socks with me needing toes closed. It never ends! Don’tcha just LOVE it!

Rustic Twill Towel & More Socks

This is the latest towel, woven straight twill treadling 1-10, with a nubby linen/cotton blend weft which gave a very nice rustic, slightly tweedy look to this one. I’m nearing the end of my warp, enough left for one or two more towels or one runner, which is good because I am more than ready for a change.

Over the years I’ve purchased two or three antique towel drying racks, in anticipation of someday having open studio days and knowing I would need a way to display handwoven towels. This morning, we hung up one of the antique racks as I wanted to see the towels all hanging together.

The antique drying racks are also useful for displaying skeins of handspun yarns as well as various handwovens. I have another rack with longer “arms,” so am now looking around for a safe place to hang it where people won’t walk into it and poke themselves.

Last night after hemming and pressing the towel, I steamed six more pairs of CSM socks (they had already been handwashed and had dried on a wood rack near the woodstove) for The Studio Gallery, with many more to come. I believe these are new color combinations (I need to check my records), and will need to come up with new names for them.

I know the group at The Studio Gallery would like some new, colorful woven (batik fabric) table runners, like the one above, “Tigers in the Garden” (now in my mother’s home), so I will likely warp up the countermarche loom for those next, as I have a lot of fabric strips cut, sewn, pressed, ready to weave.

I’m overdue for getting back to work on the drawloom, but the push is on right now for getting more weaving and socks done for The Studio Gallery, for open studio days here, as well as for the new gallery opening in mid-June. Once I’m a bit more caught up,…

We had a few little snowshowers yesterday in the northwoods, and the woodrange in the kitchen was burning all day. We’re usually done with woodheat by the end of April so this is unusual even for here. We had some wood left as a start on the coming winter’s wood supply, and hope we won’t need to use too much more. I expect we’ll be firing up the woodstove again later this evening to warm the house up for overnight colder temps.

Wildlife sightings yesterday included an eagle, a couple deer, and late in the evening, a fox crossing the road. I’m not sure, but I believe the phoebe bird has once again built her nest on the topmost log on the east side of the house. Now, if we can just keep the squirrels out of it! The mob of chickadees, goldfinches, housefinches, nuthatches, and woodpeckers are eating us out of house and home. Two chipmunks (one of the large variety, one of the small), often work their way into the garage and consider the 50 lb. bag of sunflower seeds as their own private stash. Yesterday, we managed to thwart their way in. I really must get those seeds into a metal garbage can!

More Towels ~ Variations on a Theme

These are the latest two twill towels off the loom. The blue border towel turned out very nicely, I feel, with a much wider border and smaller solid twill center. I was getting low on that particular tube of natural cottolin (same as warp) and needed to stretch it so it wouldn’t run out before the towel was done. Now I’ll simply switch to natural in another brand of cottolin.

The red border towel is the one I wrote about the other day when red dye bled into the adjoining white/natural. After two washes in hot water and Retayne, then one wash in hot water and Synthrapol, you would have to look very closely to find any red except where it IS supposed to be. Nevertheless, I will be adding the dye magnet sheets, recommended by four weavers, to my laundry room supplies.

There appears to be enough warp left for another one or two towels so it’s time to seriously start deciding on the stripe layout for the next warp and do the math. I’ll be at the warping mill before too long.

This is one of the latest pairs of sock machine (CSM) socks made, and also turned out nicely. The violet color is one I didn’t have before, and combined it with eggshell and moss for a nice “Springy” pair of socks.

Love Blue, but I’m Seeing Red Where I Shouldn’t!

Tonight I’m working on another twill towel, and have gone back to a Swedish Berga cottolin in another shade of blue and treadling it differently as I have for each towel, so though they are all coming off the same warp, each towel is one-of-a-kind.

As I wrote awhile back, this is a 10 shaft twill. This time treadling is 1-5, 10-6, varying the repeats so I can change sides I begin and end colors on.

The other day I was working on another twill towel, this time with Borgs red cottolin for the accent/border color. However, when I washed the towel, the red had run, in spots, into the white along the edge of the border. It looked okay when it came out of the washer, but when removed from the dryer, there were definite pink spots. This red was definitely not colorfast.

Tonight, the red border towel became an experiment. It went into the washer with Retayne and hot water. When the cycle was done, I looked and though there was still a bit of pink it did look better. After a second wash with Retayne, it again looked a bit better. With the third wash I added Synthrapol, again with hot water. Soon I will check it again and hopefully toss it into the dryer. I’ll let you know how it comes out.

As the labels on the Synthrapol and Retayne bottles suggest possible cancer issues, I had not wanted to use it on a towel that might be used in a kitchen. When it became an experiment to see if the towel could be saved, I set those concerns aside. This particular towel will not be sold because of what was used on it. The Borgs red cottolin? It’s in the trash. I do have some Berga red cottolin and will try that on the next towel and will report on that, too.

Yesterday and today I was again working on the Complex Weavers Double Harness Study Group newsletter, and it is at last finished, though too late to be mailed out today. They will be at the post office in the morning, along with two pairs of socks.

The weaving on another towel was finished while pages were printing on the inkjet printer today. It was a good time for a bit of multi-tasking. The towel was washed, dried, pressed, and tonight was hemmed and photographed. There is still warp on the loom so I’ll go to sleep thinking about another variation to try.

The Lake Country Weavers met this past Monday at Manitowish River Studio (and home) of weaver Mary Burns. Mary weaves custom rugs on a 10′ Cranbrook set up for shaft switching, and on a 12′ AVL compu-dobby. A 7′ x 11′ rug had been started for a client, and when that one is nearly done she will be warping the larger loom for a 10′ x 12′ rug for the same client. All are her original designs, many inspired by the Arts and Crafts look.

Mary also has a TC-1 Jacquard loom, some of her woven pieces come from photos. Amazing! That loom is warped with 20/2 cotton, and each thread is individually controlled. Monday night we saw a slide show from a recent workshop she attended of jacquard weavers. She has an amazing studio, and is a wonderful, sharing weaver.

Playing at the Loom

Yesterday another towel was begun, this time adding some blue into the mix as I was really feeling the need for a bit of color. Red will likely come along next. Though this was threaded as a ten shaft twill, none of the towels have been planned out ahead of time. Each one is started with a different weft or an idea, then sit down and start to play. Other weaving I have done, and the socks in particular, are planned out to the row and stitch, so this has been a little much needed fun.

While I finish up this warp, I am now choosing colors for the next warp, probably along the lines of hunter green/cranberry (or wine)/copper/navy (or med.) blue/gold. The loom will likely be left set up for plain weave and ten shaft twill. Coordinating rug warp colors will also be pulled from my stash for a few rugs. While weaving towels and table runners, I’ll be cutting and sewing weft strips (hunter/cranberry/navy/gold) from sheets I’ve been collecting. It will be nice to work with color again.

This weekend there will be some shifting around done in the weaving studio. I’m looking forward to things finally being settled in a workable layout. It’s not a huge area, but is accessible, pleasant, has a fireplace, more windows/light, and in winter, close to the woodrange for adding wood to the fire. The only storage room is two large shelf units, but that helps keep me focused on present work. The laundry room is on the main floor and will become a sewing, cutting, pressing area before long, adding to convenience. This is working out well.

Towel Weft Variations

Today, while waiting for a winter snowstorm to arrive, I am weaving another plain weave towel, this time using an almost ivory color slub cotton yarn for weft. The weft color is somewhere between the bleached and natural cottolin colors of the warp. While weaving, I am planning the next towels, an all cottolin twill towel, and a twill cottolin towel with borders. I don’t have these all planned out, just thinking ahead a bit to what I would like, and trying out different wefts on hand and that will work with this warp. Hhmm,… what other possibilities are on my shelves.

I’m also waiting for Gowdey Reed Company to call as I am hoping they will be able to make a special size reed for the drawloom. Two colors of 12/6 cotton have been ordered for the drawcord warp, and I’m still considering cotton sizes for the weaving warp. I need to choose, then I’ll start playing with designs on graph paper.

Two pairs of socks were washed this AM so a photo should be on here in a day or so.

Coordinating Towels

At last, a twill towel, now part of a nicely coordinated set. A the moment, I am tieing the warp back on to begin another towel, and debating between plain weave with a border, twill, or a white cotton slub weft. All will be woven shortly, and today I’m feeling like I want this warp finished so I can move on to another.

In researching information for the drawloom, I’ve been paging through back issues of VAV and am drawn over and over to drall towels so starting now to make notes of sett, cotton and linen sizes, and thinking about colors.

Progress has temporarily slowed on the drawloom. I have ordered two colors of 12/6 cotton for the drawcord warp, and have reached a problem with the reeds, primarily the difference in size, width, and thickness of the new reeds compared to older ones. In particular the reed for that hangs over the pattern heddles needs to be narrower in width, and the outer long edges need to be flatter to fit into the reed holders. I will be talking to two reed companies in just a bit to see if what I need can be made.

Meanwhile, I have been researching drawloom weaving projects, looking primarily at size of thread (cotton) and sett, and that must be ordered now, too.

I am also working on the CW Double Harness Study Group newsletter and updated mailing list. Life has provided quite a number of interruptions the past few days, so completing items on my Task List has been a challenge. Some are now done, some (research) are hard to photograph, and thankfully, things are moving along again.

Twill Towel #1

After a couple days of making progress on drawloom setup, I’m back to weaving today, working on the first of three or four twill towels. Warp is unbleached cottolin at 24 epi, 2 threads per dent in a 12 dent reed, threaded as a straight draw on 10 shafts. I am using 10 shafts for the twill treadling, two shafts, on the right, are for the plain weave hem.

Today I am treadling 1 to 10 and back down to 1, then 10 to 1 to 10, and keep repeating, giving a zig-zag look. Because of frequent interruptions ~ woodburner needing more wood, dogs needing to go out, etc., I have a clipboard next to me so I can check off each repeat. I also have two pins at the right selvedge so I can see where each repeat begins/ends. I just keep moving the pin closest to me, and place the temple right over the pins. This towel will have a sewn hem; the weft is the linen/cotton slub thread, for both hem and body of towel.

I have noticed that despite a 3″ plain weave hem and a few inches of twill woven, there is no rippling on this towel as there was on my samples, where I had used cottolin for the hem. I’ll assume there is no rippling on the loom because the hem and body of the towel are woven with the same thread. It is the only difference between the current weaving and the samples that were made.

From Towel to Sample

Years ago, I wove a blue and white “plaid” twill towel, with 1/2″ or so of plain weave on each end, and hemstitched on the loom (above). I didn’t recall any issue between the plain weave hems and the twill body of the towel. Both warp and weft were Swedish cottolin.

I recently read somewhere about tabby and twill together causing twill to ripple. When I began the first twill towel on this striped unbleached/bleached cottolin warp, that is exactly what happened. Ripples, probably more noticeable because of using different wefts for hem and body of the towel, and using one of them doubled. I had begun with a cottolin plain weave hem (to turn up and sew later), then changed weft to the linen/cotton slub, using a shuttle that holds two bobbins. I thought a bit coarser, rustic look would give variety to this series of towels, but felt the double weft would not make a nice, sewn hem.

Not pleased with what was happening, I decided this morning the beginning of this first twill towel was now a sample (above), as I needed to discover what was going to work best for hem and twill. The cottolin hem was woven so I wove a couple inches of twill, then wove another hem using a single strand of the linen/cotton slub, woven in some string and removed it from the loom.

Since I still had the sample (above) from the very beginning of the warp, and both samples had ripples, both were tossed into the washer (regular cycle, warm water) and drier (normal cycle), removing them while still slightly damp. When they came out, the ripples were more pronounced. When pressed with an iron, the ripples pressed out. Selvedges were still a bit of an issue where plain weave and twill changed. Edges were rotary cut, and photos taken.

Tomorrow morning, I will begin again, using a single strand of the linen/cotton slub for both hem and twill, which should alleviate some of the problem. I expect if I weave 1/2″ or so hem and hemstitch on the loom, there would be little or no ripple effect. We’ll see, on this towel, or the next.