Thursday, 1 October 2020

Weaving Tea Towels

I love weaving tea towels.  It is relaxing and they make great presents. I made these towels just before lock down and took photographs to explain how I weave. I have the time now to weave the hanging tags. 

I thought that on this blog I would show some different aspects of setting up and weaving on my Megado loom.

Materials: Warp: Cottolin in white, pale orange, deep orange, red and beige. 
                   Weft: cottolin in the same colours. 

Sett: 18 epi

Reed: 9 dent reed two ends per dent.

Warp colour order

                                                                                    Centre: reverse threading to complete
White                  26        24       24        24         24
Red                           24                                                24
Orange                                 24             
Dark orange                                    24
Pale orange                                                  24

Total number of ends : 256  This incudes 2 threads on each side for the plain weave selvedge. 


Here is the drawdown for these tea towels.  It gives a texture surface to the woven cloth. 

The pattern is on eight shafts.  I use two additional shafts for the plain weave border. If you only have eight shafts use a floating selvedge at each side. 

Making the warp - using the warping frame.

I have a useful warping frame which I hang on one of my bookshelves in my weaving room. (Sorry about the mess - I do try to tidy the shelves but .....)

After I have made a warp, I can unscrew all of the warp pegs so that the frame can be left in place until I require it again. 

For this towel I made the warp in three sections. Each section is made half inches which are divided using a thick thread. I tie a singles cross at one end. The warp is made in half inch sections. The three sections are put onto a sturdy stick. 
The three sections of warp. 

Here are the three sections of warp.  

These are transferred to the back beam by tying on the stick to the back beam.  Once in place I thread the cross sticks through the singles cross. 

The cross sticks have been placed through the singles cross. 

The stick needs to be firmly attached to the back beam so I tie it on with strong linen in at least 9 places. 
The warp is then taken through to the front of the loom and threaded through the raddle.  The sections of the raddle take half inch bouts of warp ends. 

The half inch sections of warp have been placed in the raddle. 

The three sections were tied in half inch sections during warping so the half inch sections are easy to find.  

Once all the sections are threaded through the raddle, the warp ties can be undone. 

Now the warp is ready to be wound onto the back beam.  I need my trusty assistant.

Winding the warp on the back beam

My trusty warping assistant. 

This can take some time and is a skilled job.  The cross sticks need to be pushed forward before each winding. The warp is separated on the back beam by sticks and then wide paper. 

Threading the heddles. 

The warp is wound onto the back beam. With the cross sticks in place I can start threading the heddles.  I usually start in the centre and work outwards. 

Threading the heddles. 

All the heddles are threaded. 

Tying onto the front beam

Once the heddles are threaded, the cross sticks at the back are removed. Each half inch bout is tied separately. It is very important to get the tension even across the width of the warp. I run my fingers over the warp to sense which warp ends are not at the same tension. 

I have woven a set of tea towels in this colour selection before and I liked the colours so much I though that I would weave some more. 

Starting to weave. 

Once the tension is even I can then start to weave.  In a wide warp I place a narrow stick in the first shed. Then I use some waste yarn to weave a few picks in plain weave so that the warp becomes evenly spread. 

Here is a closeup. 

Using a stretcher

Once I have woven a couple of inches, I use a stretcher (or temple). This helps to keep the weaving an even width.  

 The Weft.

It is important to put the weft across at the correct angle for the thread and pattern that is used.  Here is the weft at an angle of about 45degrees. I try to ensure that this is the same for each pick. The picture shows the orange weft going from right to left across the warp. 

For the final towel I used a beige weft.

Orange weft in the shed

Even tension a tip for the Megado loom

I am very fortunate as I have a 24 shaft Megado loom.  Winding the woven material onto the front beam is easy.  I can undo the ratchet on the back beam with my foot.  I then wind the woven part of the warp onto the front beam.  It is very important the the warp is stretched to the same tension every time it is wound on.  With the Megado loom this is easy.  The lever which winds the woven material hangs down on the right side of the loom.  I pasted a short length of tape measure onto the loom.  I know how far the lever should go each time so that the tension is the same.

Here is the lever with no tension.

Here is the lever with the correct tension for this particular warp.  I can ensure that it is in the same position after I have wound on the woven cloth onto the front beam. 

The finished tea towels.

Here are two of the finished towels. The hanging towel uses the same colours as the warp for a check.  

One towel has a single beige weft colour. This produces a check pattern but without having to change the weft colour. 

The hanging tags.

I love designing tags to match my tea towels. Here is my design.  There are 39 warp ends using the same colours of cottolin. You can just about see it on the towel on the right. 

Red             4                            3
White             2     2      2     2      
Orange               2                     
Dark orange              2                   
Pale orange                       2                     

I am also weaving a second tag for the tea towel with the beige weft.  Here it is still on my band loom. I designed a different pattern using the beige cottolin in the warp and as the weft. 

I hope that you are all enjoying weaving and keeping safe and healthy.

with very best wishes

Susan J Foulkes    October 2020

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Coal canals and cotton

Inspiration for a woven scarf for the National Exhibition

The 2020 National Exhibition was due to be  held from 5th – 20th September 2020 at Leigh Spinners Mill in Lancashire.  This exhibition has had to be cancelled due to the corona virus. Here is one item earlier in the year which designed and wove. I hoped would be accepted for the exhibition.

“Coal, Cotton, Canals”

The theme, Coal, Cotton, Canals, is the inspiration for exhibits for this exhibition.  I decided that I would like to design material which  echoes the different textures and colour of coal. 

The black is not uniform but alters with the play of light and moisture and shape of the pieces of coal.


I wondered how I could use bumpy texture in my material.

I had woven many samples of collapse weave some years ago.  I was fortunate enough to meet Anne Field who came over the the UK and put on a workshop for the Durham Guild of Spinners Weavers and Dyers. She was writing her book about collapse weave at the time and we had many long conversations about twist and collapse. I was honoured that she chose a couple of my own pieces of weaving to use in the book. 
Her book is wonderful.

ISBN: 978-1-877427-17-6  Published in 2008 by Willsonscott Publishing New Zealand.

I decided to weave a scarf. I set myself a personal goal of only using yarns from my stash. 

First I looked at all the cones of yarn that I had that were black or dark grey.  I wanted to use cotton as far as possible.

  • Silk adds a sheen which might be useful and I had some black and dark grey 60/2 silk. 
  • I had an enormous cone of 20/2 black cotton (why did I buy this?)  
  • I found a 72 Tex cotton/cashmere yarn that I had never used - it looked interesting in the yarn sale some years ago so I bought it! 
  • I found a black cotton? yarn which is spun with a  metallic thread in with my wool yarns. 
  • I also had some cotton/elastic yarn in black and two cones of white cotton/lycra of different thicknesses.  
  • When I was exploring collapse weave, I bought a number of overtwisted yarns from Anne Field and I still had a large cone of 52/2 overtwist merino.

So armed with this abundance, I checked Anne Fields book on collapse weave and my own notes and records of previous explorations of the effects of collapse weave.

I decide to try 3/1 and 1/3 twill as a  base structure. I made a warp of different yarns in stripes.

Sample Warp

One stripe each of 16 ends in the following yarns:
2/20 cotton, 2 ends of grey 2/60 silk, overtwisted merino,
1 end of grey 2/60 silk, metallic black cotton, overtwisted merino, metallic black cotton,
black 20/2 cotton, overtwist merino and finally black 20/2 cotton

There are ten stripes in all.

Weave Samples

I woven three samples on this warp trying different wefts.

Sample one

Weft;  overtwisted merino wool, cashmere/cotton/ elastic cotton yarn in dark green

Sample two

Weft: overtwisted merino, cashmere cotton, 2/20 cotton

Sample three

thick white cotton/lycracashmere cotton, grey elastic cotton, thin cotton lycra

Sampling is essential to see the effects of different types of yarn.

The different effects of the warp and weft were fascinating and formed the basis of my decisions about warp and weft for the final piece.  There was no collapse lengthwise. 
The white cotton lycra yarn gave a strong width wise collapse. Here is decided that this yarn should be used with no more than four picks. I did not want the white to dominate but merely indicate shine. 
I varied the number of weft picks in the main blocks to add variety and unevenness. 
I also tried using the twill only in one direction rather than changing it for the shorter blocks. Each smaple was examined to see the different effects and what would be suitable to use for the final scarf. 


Warp: black 2/20 cotton used double, black and grey silk 2/60 two ends used, metal effect yarn
400 warp ends in all. 


Cotton 16           24          16          16
Silk         16           24          24           16
Metal           16           16          24             centre: 20 then reverse sequence.

Total number of warp ends: 412

sett 20 epi  2 per dent in a 10 reed.

Weave structure 

3/1 and 1/3 twill in blocks.  The warp is threaded with different number of threads according to the type of thread used. 

Here is a picture of the final scarf. The width varies from 13 cm at the ends to 15 cm in the centre.  When stretched it measures 38 cm. Ideally, I think that it would have been better with a wider warp but the scarf is quite warm because there is a lot of bulk when it is wrapped around my neck.

And here is a close up with a small piece of coal.

Happy Weaving everyone

Susan J Foulkes

September 2020

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Hooked on Huck

I seem to be hooked on huck at the moment.

I wove a silk scarf for a friend using the same pattern as my gold silk scarf which I described in my blog for October 2017 about the online Guild Challenge. 

I thought that it might be useful to describe some of my working practices when weaving. So here are a few tips for setting up the loom.

Winding on the warp.

I always use sticks for the first turn of the back beam and then change to thick paper. My husband is very adept at being the warp winder on!

Threading the warp

I tie the warp  into bouts which correspond to the pattern threading.  In this case each loosely tied bout is one half inch.

When threading the pattern, I always choose the correct number of heddles in a group. Then I thread the group - in this pattern it is 25 warp ends. This means that if I have an empty heddle  or an additional warp thread at the end of each group, I have made a mistake.

Threading the reed

Why is it that any mistake at this stage always happens in the middle of the warp and never at either side?
 I had woven a few picks when I realised that there was a reed threading mistake. I had crossed two groups of yarn in the reed. 

Tips for weaving.

Weaving a sample.

I weave a short sample and cut it off the loom.  This means that I can have a final check for any errors.

Winding the bobbin.

Wonderful cone holders
The scarf is made of 2/60 silk used double.  This means that I have to wind the bobbin with two ends of the silk yarn.  I bought a set of these very useful yarn holders at the last Weave Fair in  Vaxjo, Sweden in 2017.

 Ideal for larger cones of yarn.

Wind carefully near to the bobbin

Winding two ends of yarn together can be tricky especially with silk which creates a lot of static electricity. Here is my bobbin wider.  I hold two ends of yarn firmly between a scarp of folded paper. I hold the warp close to the bobbin and gently feed the yarn going back and forth over a short distance.  Gradually the yarn fills the bobbin. Do not overfill.

Unwanted loop of one of the strands of yarn

This is the problem I am trying to overcome when winding the thread onto the bobbin.  After a while the two ends of yarn do not come off the bobbin evenly and a loop forms. if this happens, I cut the yarn and then rejoin it to the weaving taking up the loop.

Weaving the scarf

I use a Schacht shuttle which is excellent. I also use a stretcher to help keep the edges straight.

Checking the woven length.

Before the woven cloth winds around the cloth beam, I slip a length of coloured yarn into a pick at one side.  I measure how much I have woven and make a note.

Every time the coloured thread nears the cloth beam I add another thread at the side and again make a note of how much I have woven.

Then I know how long the scarf will be at the end.

Ending the weaving

I use a thicker coloured yarn to weave a few picks in plain weave.  The weaving can be cut off the loom leaving a sufficient amount of unwoven warp ends for the fringe.

Finishing the scarf.

I make the twisted fringe before washing the scarf.  The hair braider make this process easier but it is still time consuming.

I measure each fringe and then knot it. 

Once the fringe is finished, the scarf is washed. 

Natural silk is washable, but most soaps are harmful to silk. Use a small amount of delicate wash liquid.  This silk is dyed and dye will come out in the wash. 

Washing instructions.

1. Use lukewarm water. Use a very small amount of liquid soap and dissolve thoroughly before adding the scarf. Do not rub the silk fabric, but gently agitate it in the water.
2. Put a very little amount of distilled white vinegar into the last but one rinse (no more than one teaspoonful in a bowl of water). This helps to neutralise alkaline in soap. The final rinse should always be in pure water. 
3. Once the scarf has been washed, hang up to dry.  It can be ironed on silk setting. If you store the scarf rolled up, there will be no creases.  

Once the scarf has been washed, I check the fringe length.  Any part of the fringe that is not even, I retie. I iron it and press the knots on the fringe firmly. The fringe is now trimmed.

At last, the finished scarf.

All this weaving made me want to design another scarf.

A new design.

I have two large cones of 2/60 silk in a deep pink. I wanted to design a different pattern so I came up with this smaller pattern repeat.

My new huck lace design on 10 shafts.

Scarf on the loom

Here is the scarf being woven.

I always weave a sample to check that the pattern is correct
and the sett is right for the handle of the material.

The sample has been washed and you can see that the pattern has a texture.

I was pleased with the result.

The Finished Scarf.

The finished scarf

Here is a close up of the weave pattern. 

Susan J Foulkes  July  2020

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Tea Towels

Here is a salutary lesson.  As I had some free time a few months ago, I made a number of warps for upcoming projects.  When I came to use one of them, I realised that I had forgotten to indicate precisely which pattern I was going to weave.

This was annoying. I had used beige and white cottolin but the vertical stripes in the warp were 11 threads - there must have been a specific pattern that I had intended to use.  I searched through my folders and magazines but could not discover what it was.  Oh well, plain weave it had to be.

To vary the weaving, I made four variations to the weft colour.

The first and second  was using a white weft throughout and then the unbleached.
The third and fourth variation followed the stripe warp but the beginning and end of each towel was woven with either white or unbleached.

Ironing the hem

As usual, when I had finished weaving, I cut each towel and then ironed the hem into place.  The hem was then sewn.

I designed a hanging tag for the towels.

Hanging tags

Warp ends: 43

When I put the tag on top of the towel I decided that the white border was not suitable.  I took out the four ends of white at each side and continued weaving.  The tag has 35 warp ends.

Beige edge to hanging tag 

I think that this gives a crisper edge to the hanging tag.

I cut four short pieces. I ironed the tag so that it was folded into the correct shape for sewing to the top of the tea towels.

Folded tags - ironed and ready to sew onto the tea towel.

Here are the two towels and the sewn on hanging tags.

Dimensions after hemming.

Towel 1 white weft.
                                                     width                                  length

before washing                         51.5 cm                                62.5 cm

after washing                             48 cm                                   60.5 cm

Towel 2 beige weft
                                                   width                                  length

 before washing                         51.5 cm                                76 cm

after washing                             47.5 cm                               73.5 cm

The narrow band for the tags was woven with a white weft and then a a beige weft. I preferred the look of the tags with the beige border as it makes them stand out against the towel pattern.

Completed towels with remains of the woven band for the tags. 

I wove two towels with a checked pattern following the warp order of the stripes.  One towel was woven with the white weft and one with the beige weft.

Here are the dimensions for the checked pattern. I wove the horizontal stripes for 12 picks.

Dimensions after hemming.

Towel 1 white weft.
                                                     width                                  length

before washing                         51.5 cm                                75 cm

after washing                             48 cm                                   70.5 cm

Towel 2 beige weft
                                                   width                                  length

 before washing                         51.5 cm                                74 cm

after washing                             48 cm                                  70 cm

I prefer the check design.

Susan J Foulkes  July 2020