Baptism Napkins

Handwoven Magazine Ask Madelyn

Dear Madelyn,

Can you explain the difference between half-bleached and bleached linen. Is it the color or something else? I am a new weaver and want to make some fine woven baptism napkins. Is there a way I can weave a small cross in the fabric on a 4-shaft loom?




Hi Jan!


Bleached linen is usually stark white or close to it. Half-bleached is not as dark tan as the original flax, but somewhere in between white and the original color (which would be called unbleached). All of them are beautiful in that they have the same glossy sheen (if they are line linens). I like to mix unbleached and half-bleached either in both warp and weft or use one in warp and the other in weft for a slightly more textured look. The sheen, though, is probably highest using all bleached, as with fancy white linen damask tablecloths.


The idea of baptism napkins is very wonderful, and bleached linen would be the best choice. I can't think of a way to weave a small cross without doing pick-up or inlay. To do pick-up so that the napkin had no additional weft or color, you'd have to do the pick-up in a lace weave or turned twill, and the cross wouldn't show all that much anyway. What about napkins of spot Bronson (for a draft see "A Lacy Linen Curtain in Spot Bronson Blocks" by Tom Knisely, Handwoven November/December 2009, pp. 44-47) or use an allover Spot Bronson draft from Marguerite Davison's A Handweaver's Pattern Book). I like the idea of allover spots, and then maybe embroidering a small cross in a corner using a suitable color for the baby. The floats in the spot Bronson will gleam in bleached linen.



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