Ideas for Quick Dish Towels

Handwoven MagazineAsk Madelyn

Hi Madelyn!


I know it's late, but I have a few days in which to weave some dish towels as presents (both for hostess gifts and for Christmas gifts). I should have a specific project in mind, but could you make some suggestions about what materials and structures are (quickest) and most appropriate for dish towels?





Hi Jeanne!


Your question is pretty open-ended, but not too difficult to answer. First of all, there are two great eBooks you can consult for perfect dishtowel projects (Winning Towels fromHandwoven's 21st Century Towel Contest and Best of Handwoven's Top Ten Dishtowels on Four Shafts). You'll find, if you glance through the projects, that the most common materials to use are 8/2 unmercerized cotton, 10/2 pearl cotton (only because 10/2 unmercerized cotton is not available), and 22/2 cottolin. In general, setts are either 20 or 24 ends per inch (so not all that time-consuming to thread and weave).


If your recipients actually use the towels (sometimes they are inclined to think handwoven towels are too good to use), towels in 8/2 unmercerized cotton are probably the most absorbent, next would be cottolin, and last would be pearl cotton. For absorbency, too, a weave structure with texture, usually produced by floats of some kind, works best (waffle-weave, huck or huck lace or other spot weave, or twills).


Luckily, the yarns above all come in a wide range of colors, so you can design towels to match specific decor. For a variety of colorways, you can weave a set of towels on one warp, wind a new warp in different colors, and tie the new warp onto the old one for a different set of towels. I usually allow 1 to 2 weaving hours per towel. I don't know of many items that are more pleasurable to weave than dish towels. And beyond weaving, all they need is hemming or hemstitching and a quick wash and press, and they're ready to go.



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