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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cotton Towels. Can't You Get Those at Wal-Mart?

For as long as I can remember I have knitted Christmas gifts for everyone in the family.  This year, I'm weaving.  Here are some of my projects and what I've learned from them.

Cotton Dish Towels.  When I first joined our local Fiber Arts Guild, before I learned to weave, I was struck by how many weavers made towels.  Towels?  I had that "can't you buy those at Wal-Mart?" moment, but once I started weaving I was intrigued.  For one thing, though I knit a lot, I rarely use cotton.  Using a new fiber sounded like an interesting adventure.  Second, I got a really good deal on some monster cones of cotton.

The towel on the far left was made with leftovers from a color gamp kit.  I had rainbow cones with a lot of thread left, and nothing to do with them!  I designed this simple twill towel.  It is 10/2 perle cotton set at 30 e.p.i.  When I took it off the loom I was in love.  After I washed and dried it, it became my new favorite.  Here's a close up of the twill.

The next three towels are in a pattern draft called M's and O's from The Handweaver's Pattern Dictionary, p. 129.  I used one threading for all three towels and had planned to use three different treadling sequences, but I liked #2 so well that I never got to #3.  The warp is 8/2 cotton set at 20 epi.  The weft is cotton flake.

What I learned.

1. I had to use a stretcher/temple for these projects in order to keep my fell line straight.  Unlike wool, cotton has very little give.
2. Cotton shrinks.  A lot. Really a lot.  Each towel shrunk at least 4 inches in length and 3+ inches in width.   Shrinking is a bonus too - any loose weave places close up.  What looks like funky bad weaving disappears.
3. All Flake Cotton Is Not Equal.  I got the cones of flake cotton as a bargain basement item from a weaving store.  After washing it was obvious that at least one of the colors was not going to stand up to  years and years of washing and drying.
4. Weaving cotton is noisier.  My big loom is upstairs and the noise I made beating the cotton weft into place (two beats, one on the closed shed, one on the next open shed) drove my poor husband nuts.  I had to weave cotton when he was at work.  Another reason to have two looms - one with a quiet project, the other with cotton.
5. Finally, I LOVED MAKING TOWELS.  While I was doing this project I "won" an Ebay sale - 20 new cones of linen weaving thread for next to nothing.
I hope my relatives and friends like handwoven towels.  I can see a future in this.