durability of handwoven towels and wash cloths

My sister told me that she loves handwoven towels and dishcloths for her kitchen, and doesn't use anything else.  I like hearing this.  I'm going to follow suit.  I only have one at the moment, given to me by one of my guild members.

So, she tells me that her handwoven dishcloths don't last long before they begin getting holes in them.  I'd like to know what experience others have with these, and if there is something wrong with the construction of the cloths she has been purchasing.  It just seems to me that they should hold up at least as well as commercially produced cloth.

TIA for your experienced take on this issue.



Posted on Mon, 06/28/2010 - 14:57

 Hi Janet,

I, too, only use handwoven towels in the kitchen and have noticed holes in some. I use towels to experiment with weave structures, and I think the ones with holes have 3 thread floats in them. But not all the ones with 3 thread floats have developed holes, so no fast rule there. I think my favorite towel fabric for hand and durability is 2/2 twill or a derivative thereof. My go-to thread is 8/2 unmerc cotton. However,  I have made some using linen too. I just think for the price and absorbency that 8/2 cotton is hard to beat.

Aren't we glad the sun has returned!

Posted on Mon, 06/28/2010 - 21:28

Hi Janet,

I went to a guild meeting near Kalispell Montana in l973.  It was at the home of an elderly weaver named Ruth who passed away in the 90s.  She was born in Sweden and when she was 12 her mother taught her to spin linen and to weave towels.  It was still the custom to have your daughters weave things that she would not have time to weave after getting married. 

At that guild meeting she taught me to spin linen.  She had some of her woven linens in her home which she wove as a young girl.  One was a table cloth which was on the table where she served the coffee.  She had it there all the time, as I visited her a few times after that guild meeting and it was still on the table.  It was an overshot pattern.  She also showed me some towels that she had just washed.  They were blue and white and woven in an Ms and Os pattern.  Then she showed me some linen towels and they were the very ones she wove when she was 12.  And all these things were in constant use and they were woven in the 1920s.   

I think that if a towel gets worn too soon, it might be woven too loosely, maybe without using a temple and perhaps from much thicker threads.  I have a couple of these woven by guild members and I think that they would not last as long as Ruth's towels did.


Posted on Mon, 06/28/2010 - 21:51

Thanks Jennifer and Joanne,

I don't think I want to go the route of spinning my own linen yarns for towels.  I've spun some and will spin some again, just don't think I can keep up with the needs of my modern family.  Not enough weaving and spinning time.  I will take your advice, Joanne, giving my cloths a tight set and use the temples.

I will try weaving with some of the fine linen thread I have.  I think it will make very nice towels.  I also have plenty of 8/2 cotton.  So, when things slow down, and I finish those rugs presently patiently waiting for me to finish them, I'll put on a warp for towels and wash cloths.  I will get a lesson on warping a long warp with fine threads from my friend Tracy.  I will try to get one of the nuns from the monastery to take the lesson with me.  I still have the goal of helping the sisters learn to weave on their large loom.


Posted on Mon, 06/28/2010 - 22:10

Janet, we have been using some of Cheryl's 8/2 unmer cotton dish towels for well over 20 years. The set and weave structure makes all the differance in the world. Here is a picture of some of the towels in the kitchen. They are washed in hot water and put in the drier. Long warp, on the web site you can see a 17 yard dish towel warp that I put on the site. The towels are washed in hot water and put in the drier. Then they are cut apart and hemed. I just hung them for the picture. One last point never, never use fabric softener with your towels. It weakens the fibers and it keeps the towels from drying dishes. 

By the way we only get the rejects, a towel that for some reason is not up to the weavers standard. You can see more towels here. www.handweaver.us


Posted on Thu, 07/01/2010 - 14:24

Thanks, Michael.  Thanks to you all, my first towels are going to be awesome! 

I managed to unweave the three inches to get to my mistake, and then proceed to weave 12 new inches on my rug the past few days.  Slow and easy does it.  I have about 16" to go.  Looks like I might have extra warp, so I might have to weave one more,  a shorty.  I'll weave it one color, one shuttle.  After this 16 color weft, changing colors all over the place, I'm ready for some faster weaving. 

I bought two ski shuttles form the Glimakra USA booth at Black Sheep Gathering.  OOO do they fly smoothly!  I put my most used colors on those shuttles, and speeded up the process.  Good tools make for easier work!

Looking forward to making towels.


Posted on Tue, 07/27/2010 - 18:55

Most of my kitchen towels are my handwovens.  My favorite weave structure is a simple 4 shaft waffle weave.  The more they are washed the thicker and better they get.  I am least happy with a barleycorn overshot structure because the floats occasionally pull.

My biggest problem is stains.  My latest discovery is to never use a good towel to wipe up spilled Tumeric!

For the towel exchange I will probably use some form of a crepe weave.  I have good feedback on this structure but never kept any for myself.


Posted on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 14:18

Hi Erik,

  What set do you use for your waffle weave towels in 8/2 cotton?  I'm warping for waffle weave towels, now that my rugs are finished.


Posted on Thu, 07/29/2010 - 02:26

I have some 8/2 cotton dishtowels in our kitchen that have had 11 years of hard use.  They are plain weave with a balanced or slightly tight sett.  One set was done in log cabin squares alternating with solid color stripes in medium mint green, light mint green, and white slubby unmercerized cotton 6/2.  Those have held up so well and feel so good to use that I recently started a set of towels to take camping based on that dishtowel.

It's all in the sett and the yarn twist.  If the yarn is soft and slubby, it will still wear well, but you will need to have a tight sett and weave the weft in tightly. 

Posted on Fri, 07/30/2010 - 14:32

I have my 8/2 cotton chains made up, ready to dress the loom.  I'm going weave a basic four shaft waffle weave.  Michael advised me to make short warps, so I can really learn to warp.  He advized 3 yard warps, but I compromised and made this one 6 yards long.  It will proabably take me a week to warp, due to short bursts of time I am allowing myself at the loom.  Thanks for all the advise weaving buddies!

Aunt Janet

Posted on Thu, 03/01/2012 - 14:59

I was wondering what are your best sources for yarn for weaving.  I would love to find some nice linen on cones at a reasonable price and I am having a hard time finding any.  All that I see is out of my price range at $6 or $7 a small 100 yd ball.  I checked Ebay, but didn't see anything there, either.  I live in an area with no yarn stores (the horrors!) and so mail order seems to be my best avenue.  Any suggestion?  This request goes for any and all yarn on cones.  Thanks!  

Posted on Thu, 03/01/2012 - 16:52

in Patterson NJ sells (true) mill end cones in their warehouse, the third Saturday of the month, 10-1. So the amount and color per cone varies. But I believe you have to show up and see what they have in the boxes on a particular Saturday. It changes month to month, and is not really advertised. I posted a project here at Weavo of towels I wove with their linen, it was nice to work with. 

Posted on Thu, 03/01/2012 - 17:01

We used to have a lot of textile mills here in NC, but unfortunately they've all but dissappeared.  There was a time, I am told, where you could do the same, but, now they are few and far between.  Are there any mills that post sales on the internet for those who live out of state?  (I think that's where some of the Ebay sales come from.) I've made a few towels from 8/2 cotton, and like another comment, I agree that the 3 floats can cause some weakness issues.  The ones that were either plain weave or 2/2 twill seem, for me, to hold up the best to regular use.  I would love to tackle a linen hand towel project, but, again, the cost seems to stop me, as of yet.