Project advice - placemats, dishtowels

I've got just a few more scarves to finish, then I move on to a couple sets of placemats. Are there any good "weaving placemats" resources you guys know of? Is it better to fringe or hem? How much does the "peaches and cream" cotton yarn shrink? Stuff like that. Basically all my projects to date have been wool or a wool blend.

After I finish all the (relatively) bulky yarn projects, I plan to try a set of dish towels to get some practice with much thinner yarns. I also need some resources for this. What kind of fiber should I be looking for...cotton? Cotton/linen blend? Something else? What size (thickness)? Are there any good "weaving dishtowels" resources you know of?

Thanks for your advice. :)

All of these projects will be on the rented Baby Wolf (4S/6T) so I won't be getting too fancy with the design, but might with the color choices. :)


Posted on Mon, 02/10/2014 - 04:58

Cotton is a versatile fibre for household textiles. My preference for place mats is hems, but it is really up to you. I hVe been making and selling placemats for nearly 40! Years and routinely have customers tell me their mats are 20 plus years old and still used regularly. ;)


Posted on Mon, 02/10/2014 - 10:05

Then the next thing to decide is what structure: rep, overshot, plain, twill, block damask.

I would hemm, now of course I'm not a 20 + year weaver, quite new. But you really don't want fringe on a placemat. The least amount dangling about, the better. Hemm it. ;D

I think if you did a search here, and Interweave and around the archive sites there should be lots of ideas. ;D

Posted on Mon, 02/10/2014 - 12:36

Handwoven magazine has in the Best Of series has at least two towels editions. You can buy them and download on Weaving Today. They are not expensive. They would list materials etc., still sample though:) great for ideas or to follow along.
I like to use Cottolin for dishtowels, as the name implies it's part cotton , part linen. I usually buy it from Camilla Valley. It's been my experience that it shrinks a lot, as I recall the last dish towels I made shrank 3 inches in width! Cottolin is easy to warp.Sometimes people use something finer with the Cottolin as weft and they like that really well.
Hope this helps
Have fun!
P.s. I would also hem, the cottons can fray. Dish towels get washed a lot, I want them to stand up.

Posted on Mon, 02/10/2014 - 16:42

Cottolin is cottonized linen - linen cut to the length of cotton fibers - the yarn shrinks as much as the cotton part which is usually 50% to 60%.

While this is a lovely yarn and has its own properties, they are far more like cotton than linen.

Posted on Mon, 02/10/2014 - 16:42

Cottolin is cottonized linen - linen cut to the length of cotton fibers - the yarn shrinks as much as the cotton part which is usually 50% to 60%.

While this is a lovely yarn and has its own properties, they are far more like cotton than linen.

Posted on Mon, 02/10/2014 - 16:47

I haven't done any rep, overshot, or damask yet. These are far more likely to be twills. :)

Thank for the advice so far, this is great! What kinds of numbers should I look for on the warp/weft?

Posted on Mon, 02/10/2014 - 17:44

As far as to towels, depends on your preference for thin towels or a little heavier. Many use 8/2 nonmerc cotton for a little heavier dish towel with a set of 24 epi in twill, but again if the weave is patterned a bit you may want to sample to get it to square up instead of having elongated in either direction. That may no bother some, but I'm fussy. :D Sample some 16/2 in 32-36 epi to see how you like the feel. I think it's a better towel myself because I like thin towels. But at the same time I have some 10/3 merc cotton towels that dry dishes here every night at home. Just because I wove them at a time when I was still wet behind the ears, they work, and I'm stubborn. However, they are not towels I would make for resale. But again, they work just fine, just a bit heavy and I think most would like non merc dish towels. Any dish towel around here bought over the years was cotton, so that says a little something about cotton even if we don't know anything. :D


Then there is something interesting like waffle weave, that would probably be best in the 8/2. Can be done on 4 shafts and 5 treadles. The 5 treadles square up the cells, if just 4 treadles, then it's not very pronounced and more rectangular. 8 shafts/treadles look even better. But hey, you use what you have. Hmm, I've heard that before some place. :D

Posted on Mon, 02/10/2014 - 18:47

You might like to check out my blog and the tag 'towels' and/or 'tea towels'.  I've woven lots in various combinations of 100% cotton, cotton and cottolin, cotton and linen.  Also yesterday and today I did some problom solving for an issue I was having.

Generally it will depend on the quality of cloth you want.  For a 'true' tea towel (for drying classes, fine china) I usually use either a 2/16 or a 2/20 cotton for warp with a fine singles for weft.  For a heavier towel which I call a kitchen utility towel, I use 2/8 cotton at 20 to 24 epi and either a cotton flake or cottolin for weft.  You might check the May/June issue of Handwoven from last year - Spring Bouquet Towels.



Posted on Mon, 02/10/2014 - 19:43

This is helpful!

As money is tight now that I'm unemployed, I'll look for sales on those types of fiber. I'll also look in the guild library to see if any of the resources mentioned are held there. :)

My initial efforts will be for my own use, but I might make some to sell after I get the kinks out. I'm pretty much stuck with only having 4 shafts/6 treadles for now. :) But it's good to know I might be able to do a waffle weave even so.

Thank you!

Posted on Mon, 02/10/2014 - 19:48

Many of my towels are woven on four - in fact the red towels currently on the loom are on my 4 shaft Leclerc Fanny.  You can do a lot with various twills - can even do waffle on four.  :)



Posted on Mon, 02/10/2014 - 20:01

Yes, I think loomilady has been doing waffle on her 4 shaft loom lately. I gave her the draft I have from a book. It's not a complicated threading or treadling, just a sawtooth fashion. Even simpler on 8 shafts, just a straight draw and treadling.

Posted on Mon, 02/10/2014 - 20:46

Waffle weave: commonly one finds waffle written for 5 shafts and 4 treadles. If you simply turn the draft and thread it on 4 shafts, you treadle it on 5 - you even have one left over, and the threading is easier that way.

Posted on Mon, 02/10/2014 - 23:03

Yes with 4 shafts there's no alternative.

But 5 shaft also has two other variations, one with 5 treadles, one with 6. 6 gives a better hole effect, with 5 treadles every 4th pic is entirely plain woven, but the hole is small.

Posted on Tue, 02/11/2014 - 12:30

Also, gamps make great learning opportunities then beautiful towels. Color, twill, color and weave just to name a few. All made on 4 shafts!

Posted on Wed, 02/12/2014 - 02:58

It's getting hard to find finer yarns in the US to make "wine-glass" worthy towels. I was at WEB's today, and they have a close out on select colors in 20/2 of unmercerized cotton. (The colors might not be for everyone. I bought one cone in nearly neon-orange and another in electric yellow.) Also, The Woolery (KY) has about 20 colors in 20/2 unmercerized cotton. Village Weaving and Spinning (CA) has mini-cones of the discontinued UKI colors.

As for 16/2, you can get that domestically at the Mannings (PA) in a limited palette of colors, and Camilla Valley sells about 2x the color selection. If you can put together a group order with your guild mates, you'll find ordering from Canada can be comparable to ordering domestically. I actually have a list of colors that I ordered from Camilla, and a second list from the Mannings.

I worked my way down in fiber size. Lots of folks start with 5/2, but quickly discover that is nice placemat quality, but not towel quality. FYI, good sources of 5/2 are UKI (Halcyon and many other vendors), Valley Yarns (Webs), and Silk City. Each supplier has a slightly different palette, so I have some from each supplier.

I did a lot of 8/2 and 10/2 before I moved down to 16/2. I really like this weight for drying a glass or pan, and if it turns into a weave-fail, you can always make the remaining fabric into eyeglass cases, tissue packs, or even hedgehog pin cushions! ;-) So you may be able to recoup your materials cost in any event.

Posted on Wed, 02/12/2014 - 09:58

I also picked up some 20/2 non merc cotton at both Webs and Lunatic Fringe. Lunatic Fringe has natural colors under the brand American Maid, apparently from the SW by a coop of growers. The colors are browns and greens, and not dyed. They had one lb 20/2 cones. Snagged 2 of those 10/2 - 4 lbers off Yarn Barn. Sorry if I got greedy, but that is just the yarn I'm spilling the beans on. They'l be calling me the towel guy soon. :D

Posted on Wed, 02/12/2014 - 11:31

A gamp, for a color gamp you would take all the colors from the color wheel and set up a warp with about 1-2 inch stripes all equal size of the colors, in order from the color wheel. Then start weaving with the color in one of far most corner of your warp.Continue making squares of each color as they appear in the warp. The point is a color study of all the different hues on the wheel crossing each other and how the color changes, I suggest doing this in plain weave.
A gamp twill, take maybe 5-7 twill patterns and thread them side by side on your loom. Separating each twill pattern by a simple twill threading ( 1234 ) of a different color be on you toes, you may have to adjust that simple twill a little bit to get a smooth transition. Then starting on one of the corners start treadling that pattern, weaving a square, weave that simple twill treadling in the matching color as the warp, then move on to the next threading and treadle it's pattern. Do this all the way across. The point is to see how other twill treadlings effect twill th readings. Then make up your own!
Many books have examples of gamps,
Hope this is clear. They are so fun to do!

Posted on Wed, 02/12/2014 - 11:51

Forgot something, with the color gamp you start with yellow the brightest hue, in one of the corners. I would suggest reading the color wheel clock wise.

Posted on Wed, 02/12/2014 - 15:08

I've had a box of 14/2 cotton that I bought five years ago, thinking I had time to weave.  Now I've learned to make the time, and I am a finally working with it.  Once I figured out how to minimize my threading errors (thanks to all for the back-to-front warping advice), I really love it.  I just pulled my second sample off the loom, and it has a wonderful hand.  I do like my older 8/2 cotton dish towels, but they are thick.  And when I returned to weaving, I needed to make a few things in the thicker yarn before I had the confidence for the 14/2.  I love working in cotton!

Posted on Wed, 02/12/2014 - 21:27


Pammersw will probably have found it hours ago - but I find it interesting that a British slang word for umbrella (and a *black* one, according to some sources) has given name to a colour sample... (or to a structure sample, for that matter - *all* umbrellas I have seen have been plain weave...)

But again - I come from a different culture... can explain a lot?

Posted on Thu, 02/13/2014 - 01:23

Other ideas for towels are lace weaves - Swedish lace, huck, and bronson. These can be done on four shafts. Towels that have floats with more yarn surface exposed are more absorbant than a flat weave - think terry cloth, so lace weaves would work well. If you have Davison's book, she has a nice selection of ideas.

As for place mats, I agree, hems look and function much nicer than fringe. The only advice for table mats & runners is not to use a novelty yarn that creates too uneven of a surface. You should be able to put a wine glass on one without having it tip over. 

Posted on Thu, 02/13/2014 - 02:33

Thanks,  everyone!  I think the placemats will be plain weave, and it's a very even yarn. I will get more creative with the dish towels, later. 

Posted on Fri, 02/14/2014 - 10:00

Someone suggested you search Interweave's web site as well as others. I would suggest you check out an offshoot of Interweave. Their "Free Resources" are really good. You do have to register to download the free ebooks but it is free and you can easily opt out of their emails.

For what you are interested in, I specifically recommend their free ebook subtitled "simple, elegant, and colorful handwoven placemats and handwoven towels"

It will give you a good starting point for yarns and patterns for placemats and towels. There is a set of "elegant" huck lace placemats in natural 3/2 cotton. I have done similar huck and huck lace placemats and runners with finer cottons and have really liked how they turned out.

Have fun.


PS: while you are there, make sure to download the "Master Yarn Chart". It is well worth the price of admission. :)

Posted on Sun, 02/16/2014 - 04:42

When I'm weaving placemats, I like to use a straight draw threading (1,2,3,4) and vary the treadling for each placemat.  Each placemat will look a little different because the light plays off the weave structure, but it's a fun way to learn new things and end up with a set of different yet same placemats.  Plus, I'm not bored after the first mat!