Friday, 1 September 2017

Traditional handtowels Cat Track and Snail Trail

The first book that I bought when I started to learn to weave was A Handweavers Pattern Book by Marguerite P Davison.  It was first published in 1944.  It is a treasure - lovely to browse and full of traditional patterns with wonderful names such as Gothic Cross, Queen's Delight, Batchelor's Fancy, Wall of Troy, and Saterglantan.  The last name felt very exotic and it was many years before I discovered that Saterglantan is a weaving college in Sweden.

I decided to weave one of the patterns - Cat track and Snail trail which I saw in an Interweave Press booklet.  In Marguerite Davison's book it is known as Wandering Vine.

 This is a design that can be played with and new combinations discovered.

Another variation for cat track and snail trail.

Here is another version. The cat track is more distinct and the snail trail is narrower. Remember that there needs to be a plain weave tabby in between the pattern weft.

A variation of the pattern

I decided to adapt the pattern to make four shorter cat tracks surrounded by the 'snail trail'. Perhaps it should be christened kitten track and snail trail

weave chart for cat track and snail trail

The hand towel warp is 16/2 cotton and the weft is 16/2 cotton and the pattern weft is 16/2 linen doubled.
The sett is 24 epi for the 16/2 cotton stripes.
The ppi is approx. 40 because of the tabby overshot.

The warp is in stripes 40 ends in white and 40 ends in colour. I used five stripes of white alternating with six stripes of green.

Here is the weave chart with the tabby weft included. It does seem a little more complex but it is easy to weave.

Weave draft with tabby weft highlighted in blue.
The draft may seem a bit confusing but it is easy to get into the swing of using two shuttles. One shuttle has the plain weave weft of 16/2 cotton.  The other shuttle has a doubled 16/2 linen yarn.

Adapted cat track and snail trail.
The handtowel is very sturdy and absorbent. On the loom, the cloth will seem very stiff and rather hard.  Do not worry. Once it is washed it becomes soft.  This cloth is very absorbent.

I decided weave another version using blue and white stripes.

Weaving on the loom
Of course, the design can be varied by using a blue or white tabby yarn and a blue or white linen pattern yarn. Once threaded the pattern can be woven with either two small footprints or four smaller ones.

I  made a long warp for four towels. This warp had been lying around for some time so I used it for the online workshop with the Online Guild for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers for January 2017.  the first workshop of the year is always UFO  (Unfinished Objects)  This is a chance to look through your projects half finished or as in my case not even started and make a good effort to complete them.
I really like this workshop and each year I have managed to find the extra effort to complete long abandoned projects.  It is such a good way to start the year.  Even owning up to what you would like to do is an added incentive to really achieve your goal.  I am so pleased that I finished this before the end of January.  i really found it difficult to get up the enthusiasm needed but once started and with encouragement form other Guild members, I was away.

In between each towel I used a few picks of yellow cottolin. This is where I cut the long fabric after weaving. At the beginning and end of each towel, I wove 10 - 12 picks using 16/2 cotton in plain weave.  This is to make the hem less bulky.  The white cotton is folded underneath and will not show when the handtowel is hemmed.

Here you can see the difference when using a blue linen pattern yarn with either a white tabby weft of a blue tabby weft.

For the pattern yarn of a doubled 16/2 linen I use my large shuttle which can take two spools of yarn.

A two spool boat shuttle. 
Whenever I need to use a double yarn, I always use this shuttle.  I have tried winding two threads together but I find that there is always some slack in one yarn.

Once the fabric is off the loom, cut it into the towel lengths.  I iron the top and bottom of each towel to press the material for the hem.  I tack the hems and add the hanging tags and press again.  Then I sew the hems using a zig zag stitch.  The towels are washed in a normal machine wash.

Hanging tag.

I wove a hanging tag for the towels.  There are 35 warp ends in two colours.  i used 16/2 cotton doubled for the warp ends.  The weft is blue cottolin.

I like the effect of the dotted pattern and the horizontal stripe in the centre.

Here are two finished towels.

Two handtowels one with a two footprint cat track and the other with a smaller four footprint track.
Measurements of the two towels before and after washing.

Two track pattern

Width before washing: 45 cm                    After washing:  41.5 cm
Length before washing: 64 cm                   After washing: 61.5

Four track pattern

Width before washing:    45 cm                After washing:  41.5 cm
Length before washing:  64.5 cm              After washing:  62 cm

The towels look really lovely and are very absorbent.

Happy weaving

Susan J Foulkes May 2017


  1. These are so beautiful! I've been toying with the idea of weaving this very pattern for a while now and your towels including the kitten tracks version just might have encouraged me to finally do it! Very beautiful.

    1. Thank you Julie. I am sure you will be very pleased with the results


  2. I'm wondering why you used linen for the pattern weft and why doubled? Doubling with 16/2 linen doesn't make it too bulky? I have been taught that I can use cotton and linen together but one must be the warp and the other the weft, not to mix them because of different shrinkage rates. Thanks for your help.


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