The Impetuous Weaver Weaves a Gift
I do believe this is the first project I have woven with a specific gift recipient in mind- two recipients, in fact: my lovely niece and her new husband. As a wedding gift, I wanted this to be something special and personal, and also useful. Since I had Such Fun with the warping paddle last time, I wanted to make this a mixed-warp project, too.
Kitchen towels certainly fit the bill for utility, but to make them special, I consulted the couple's registry to see what colors and styles they were using in their kitchen. Their clean, modern kitchenware featured mostly white, with bold pieces in clear turquoise and rich cobalt, and hints of medium slate grey. Great! These would make a beautiful set of towels.
Step one involved some stash-diving, and I gathered an assortment of yarns in the chosen color scheme, including Cottolin in Marine and Natural, Hemp Cotton, Carpet Warp in Light Jade and Dark Grey, and a cone of Queen Anne's Lace. Aside from the cone, these were all smallish, leftover amounts of yarn, so I added a couple more yarns just to make sure it would be enough. A cone of Lin N Cot and a tube of Cotton Bouclé in Jeans rounded out the group, giving me 8 different yarns to include in the warp.
I now had a nice variety of colors, textures, and thicknesses of yarn, mostly cotton with some linen and a bit of hemp, and decided to set them at 12 epi, knowing that everyone would shift and shuffle to fill in their space in the finished fabric. I decided their order in the warp somewhat arbitrarily, but with the goal of interspersing the different textures and thicknesses as evenly as possible.
Using a warping paddle with one thread each of all 8 yarns, I wound a warp 6.5 yards long, to make 6 towels about 24" long, with 1" hems. This meant 224 ends, to fill the full 18.5" width of the Wolf Pup reed, with floating selvedges (using the carpet warp) occupying the same dent as the outermost threads. None of the yarns ran out during warping, which was a nice surprise! Next time I make a warp this wide, I will definitely consider making several narrower warp chains rather than fitting all 224 ends onto the warping frame at once.
It was not as bad as it looked, and eventually, became this:
I threaded a straight draw, which ended up being very nice, having eight shafts and threading eight different yarns in the same sequence throughout. It was very easy to tell if threads were crossed, or if I got off track in any way. Then I tied up the outer treadles for tabby (for the hems), and the center four treadles for a 2x2 twill. This could have been done with a four-harness loom; I just tied up harnesses 5-8 the same as harnesses 1-4, so each treadle is lifting four harnesses each. (see pattern drafts below)
With so much going on in the warp, I decided to keep the weft simpler: each towel would be woven in mostly one yarn, with contrasting bands of color close to each end. Since I had the most of Queen Anne's Lace and Lin N Cot, I would use these for the main wefts, add bands of color with the carpet warps and bouclé, and use the thinner cottolin and hemp cotton for the hems.
To keep all the towels as close to the same size as possible, I measured a length of waste yarn, tying knots to indicate: the hem, the first band of main yarn, the band of contrast yarn, the main body, the other band of contrast yarn, the last band of main yarn, and the other hem. I pinned this to the side of the warp, at the beginning of the towel, so I could pull it up alongside the warp every now and then to measure (then back out of the way while weaving). After finishing one towel and adding a spacer of mop cord, I could just un-pin the length of waste yarn and re-attach it at the beginning of the next towel. One could accomplish this by counting picks, of course, if one had more uniformly-sized yarns and consistent beating and few interruptions.
Once all 6 towels were finished and off the loom, I stabilized both ends of each towel with a machine zigzag-stitch, machine washed the whole long piece, and then cut the towels apart between the spacers. After unsuccessfully machine stitching the folded hem of the first towel (it flared and didn't look pretty), I decided the turned hems needed to be hand-stitched. Totally worth it! The resulting hems were tidy and even, and appropriate for a special gift.
Before machine washing and hemming, each towel measured 17.25" x 27", but the amount of shrinkage was different for the different wefts. The Queen Anne's Lace towels shrunk to 13.5" x 23.5", and the Lin N Cot towels shrunk less, to 15" x 25". Since I made the towels as three pairs, I think this is okay, and also informative for future projects!
my pattern draft:
pattern draft for 4 harness loom:
- The varying thicknesses, textures, and fiber content of the yarns did not cause a problem- Yay! This is probably because they were interspersed evenly, and not in thick stripes.
- The warping paddle is fun and quick, and would probably be even more so with uniformly-sized yarn, and a cone stand.
- Though the Lin N Cot warp threads didn't ever break, the fluffy cotton became stripped from the linen core a couple of times, which was annoying but not catastrophic, and ultimately fixable.
- The Queen Anne's Lace shrunk a lot more as weft than the Lin N Cot. They both end up with a beautiful, absorbent texture for kitchen towels.
- Sometimes everything falls into place, and a project is meant to be. May this bode well for the newlyweds. <3