The Great 2016-2017 Handwoven Towel Challenge Study Group

RFG Study group for 2016-2017
The Great Handwoven Towel Challenge

In November, we didn't do much in the way of towel planning, so there isn't anything new to report.  However, I found this lovely blog post about handwoven towels and the joy they bring to the user.  I thought I would share here and hope that it inspires all of you to weave some!

We had a preliminary planning session on October 8 at Sage Weavers.  Several weavers now have a plan about what they want to weave, so here are notes that may help them design their warps.
Log Cabin 
This weave is complex looking, but can be done on as few as 2 shafts.  With a regular loom, you can use as many shafts as you like as long as you remember to alternate your colors in both warp and weft, and when you want to change the block or stripe appearance, repeat the last color used, then continue with alternating colors.  Here is a link to a draft. has some variations on the traditional log cabin; both plain weave and twill. The draft numbers are 1720, 1694, 1693,1841 (click on each individual number to go to the draft).

Turned Taqueté
In recent years, lots of weavers have started using turned taqueté for towels, scarves, etc.  It can be used in two ways - as a regular balanced weave structure or as a warp faced structure.  If you choose the warp face method, your colors will be very clear and almost look like double weave.  Whichever version to choose, it isn't difficult to design using a profile draft.  There have been some good blog posts about the whole process, so here are some links.

Waffle Weave
I have practically no experience with waffle weave, but it does make a pretty cool towel and one that can be very efficient for absorbing water.  This weave is done on a point and if you put darker colored threads on shaft one, you will get a nice effect of deeper waffles.

The guild owns a copy of  Sharon Alderman's Mastering Weave Structures which has a whole chapter about waffle weave.
Here is a four shaft version - check in the comment section about shrinkage. drafts 8776, 62836
Adding borders to waffle weave
Rigid Heddle pattern (which can also be used for shaft looms)
Brighton Honeycomb vs Waffle Weave
Interweave Press has a good e-book on Waffle Weave.

There are a couple of good articles about waffle weave in back issues of Handwoven magazine.  May/June 2010 pages 50-53 and Mar/April 2002 pages 40-42.  I suspect there are lot more sources in the older magazines and some of those are PDF files, available for download.  If you find a good source, make a note in the comments.

Other Weave Structures
If you are a member of the towel study group and want to find more information on another weave structure, contact me (Beryl) and I'll do some research.


The first hurdle participants in this challenge will have is to narrow down all the mind boggling choices in deciding what to weave. I scribbled out my thoughts in a notebook the other day and now I’m putting them into some sort of order as a starting point for all of us.

1. Block weaves. Several years ago the guild did a year long study of block weaves and since that time, some of our weavers have gone to Madelyn van der Hoogt’s school on Whidbey Island where they practiced weaving a variety of block weaves. The advantages to block weaves is that you can start with a profile draft to see your overall design and then convert it to a thread by thread draft after you are satisfied with how your pattern will look. There are more choices in weave structures than appear here, but these are good ones for a beginning.
      Summer and Winter 4 to 8 + shafts
    Twill Blocks 6 to 8+ shafts
Bronson Lace 4 to 8+ shafts
Huck Lace 4 to 8 + shafts
Swedish Lace 4 to 8 + shafts
Turned Taqueté 4 to 8 + shafts
  Crackle 4 to 8 + shafts
Shadow Weave 4 to 8 + shafts This is a very versatile weave and you can easily change the design with a different treadling pattern.  

Take a look at drafts from our year long study. Our library and online sources will give you a lot more information if any of these structures interests you.
2. Interesting threadings, tie ups and treadlings. These designs are based mostly on twills. A very versatile warp can be designed with a more complicated threading, a simple point treadling and by changing the tie up each time you are done weaving a towel. This will easily change the look of each towel you weave on one warp. (Excellent for those of us who can’t stand to weave the same cloth over and over). If you add color variations, the mix gets even more extensive.

3. Simple weave structures with color as the feature. Could be plain weave, 2/2 twill or even a broken twill (Dee Jones called the broken version, Idiot's Delight). 
Stripes - sequences in two or more colors. There are articles that do nothing other than talk about stripe sequences and how to plan them.  Here's an online stripe generator that is good and fun to use.

Painted Warps  Some say that a simple weave structure works best with a painted warp. You won’t hear me say that, because I think complex weave structures are delightful with painted warps. But if you are looking to keep things simple, a painted warp will give you lots of bang for your buck.

Use a variegated warp and weft (same yarn) and you will be surprised with a complex plaid.  Magic. To make things just a bit more interesting, use a weave structure other than plain weave.

Plaids  These are often fussy to weave because you are constantly changing colors, but the finished piece can be visually stunning.
4. Weave a copy of a project from a magazine or book. See if you can change something in the project to make it uniquely your own. Different colors, different tie up, different treadling. There are many ways to alter a draft. 

5. Start with an overshot threading which will give you plain weave.  Then, weave overshot borders and a plain weave body for the rest of the towel.  Very classy.  You can also dress up your towel with interesting hemstitch variations.

This group will be able to provide you with a mentor or design/weave buddy.  If you would like to work this way, bring it up at a meeting or through e-mail and a mentor/buddy will materialize!  Likewise, if you would like to be a mentor or buddy, let us know.
Weaving software can become your best friend and you can learn  how to input and manipulate a draft without too much of a mind stretch.  Download freeware, which will allow you to do the basics, or download trial versions of the full programs. Spend 15 or 20 minutes a day playing with the program for several weeks to get the hang of how to input a draft, change colors, etc. For those that want to learn more about this subject, we can get together at the library prior to regular meetings  (5:30 PM) or arrange to have a Sage Weavers meeting there so that we can play with various programs. The library’s AV equipment makes it easy to attach a laptop to the big screen so that everyone can see what is happening.
I encourage everyone to dig into resources through the guild library and from FaceBook. RFG has an absolute treasury of weaving periodicals. There are older issues of Handwoven  and also VAV; both of which are chock full of ideas. Look at drafts in these magazines with an eye to making them work in a towel warp. As long as the floats aren’t too long, the drafts in the scarf, shawl and blanket projects often work beautifully as a towel design. Look at the projects which give you suggestions on width in reed, suitable fiber and grist of yarns to use and suggested sett.  Many of the planning details that puzzle you as a beginner, are to be found in these invaluable magazines.  Just ask our librarian, Gayle, for a selection and she can bring some to a meeting; check out those that interest you.
Speaking of resources, let’s not forget the You can sort the drafts by the number of shafts you have on your loom. Go to the website and click Drafts, then Find Drafts Now and then Search by Keyword or ID.  Enter the number of shafts you have on your loom and number of treadles. It will sort all the drafts that fall into that category.  For example I entered 4 shafts minimum, 4 shafts maximum and 6 threadles and came up with 5107 drafts. I changed the parameters to 4 shafts minimum, 8 shafts maximum with 12 treadles; 18,945 drafts. Yes, there are duplicates, but the choices are still so numerous that you can browse the possibilities for hours. Click on the thumbnail to get a larger picture of the draft. If you have weaving software on your computer, you can download the wif file. (Weaving software programs have their own designated file names, but wif files are the universal, common language between us and allow sharing without worrying about having the same software.) When reading FaceBook weaving group posts, you will often find references to a draft number on the and each draft has its own unique number.  This feature makes finding the draft again a snap (as long as you have noted it in your records).
There are actually so many links to online weaving sources, that it would be hard to work your way through all of them. I put a link list on my personal blog in case you find yourself with time on your hands and internet access (think flight delays).  You will also find good links on Not 2 Square Weavers blog.
Let the towel games begin! Bring your ideas, yarns, drafts, books and magazines. Questions are always welcome.   Next meeting will be October 8 at 11AM. Sky Peaks Retirement Community Room.                         
 Introductory Post
The Great 2016 - 2017 Handwoven Towel Challenge This will be a year long study group which (keeping fingers crossed) may morph and grow into a perpetual weaving study group. I like structure in weaving , but not in my study groups and I prefer it when they take on a life of their own. But in order to get started, it seemed a good idea to have a theme. Handwoven towels are a staple for many weavers. We weave them, sell them, give them away, use them to sample weave structures and mop up our kitchen messes. The guild needs a small stash of gratitude gifts and some of us thought a nice "thank you" towel might be just the ticket. The guild could ask for donations and we would get them because you are all generous folks. But wouldn’t it be more fun to learn to design your own towels, pick up weaving software skills, learn how to exchange wif files, discuss what makes a great towel, and go back to your loom(s) with more ideas than time to weave your dreams? Once we have some towel warps under our belts, we will ask that you donate one of your creations to the guild.

Here’s the plan Anyone who wants to join us can meet at Sky Peaks before Sage Weavers meetings at 11AM. Each month we will meet for one hour and then go into Sage Weavers mode at noon. There are no sign up sheets, no directives, no skill level limits. You are your own decision maker on what you weave. The study group will be there to share knowledge, expand horizons and support endeavors.

A note to new weavers This group welcomes you, no matter how long you have been weaving. You may hear unfamiliar terminology and some of what we talk about may go over your head in the beginning. Don’t worry, we have all been beginners and the lovely thing about weaving is that it can absorb your attention for a lifetime. This group will be a safe place to hang out!

Let’s start on Sept. 10 Bring a couple of your favorite or least favorite towels; they can be handwoven or not. If you like, bring a wine glass or difficult item like a champagne flute to dry. We will look at how well the various towels soak up water, whether or not they leave a residue on the glass and/or how easily they fit in tight places. Towels can have many uses and we will think about what differences there might be between a towel to dry dishes or glassware, one to mop up messes, one to dry your salad greens or one that hangs in the bathroom for hand drying.

Beryl Moody

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