asymmetrical tea towels (Pt II): weaving, finishing and pressing

This project was supposed to be a multi-part chronicle but in the end, I just didn’t have it in me to blog a ton about the ins and outs of this project. Emotionally, I didn’t have it in me with the events happening in our family and then voila! They were done. In some ways, this project went very quickly and in others, it was on the loom for a while. Tea towels, woven at 20EPI and 18PPI are not particularly fast on a table loom but since that is what I have to work with, and I am so thankful to my friend Ginette for lending me her loom, I’m embracing it! I started these in mid-April and finished weaving this week (mid-August) but we were away for a month. In terms of actual weaving time, each towel took about 1.5-2 hours to complete.


There were a few hiccups with this project that I outlined in the first part of this post, so please have a look here at that post for the background. Once everything was on the loom and beamed, I was a bit surprised at how smoothly it unfolded from there. I was worried about my tension the entire time and worried that the fabric would go ‘wavy’ once off the loom … not nope. It was perfect. Granted there are many mistakes in the cloth from skips to uneven selvages but overall, they’re pretty good! I’m quite impressed with myself!


The warp is from the Jane Stafford Online Guild, Season 2 on Division of Space, namely the Asymmetry at the Loom. I changed the sett and measurements slightly to make my stripes a bit wider and the towels larger. Although these aren’t exactly the same size, each towel is about 30″ x 35″. I wanted larger towels to start with for my kitchen since I have been needing larger towels recently during canning season. The next set that I just put on the loom are slightly smaller at 20″ x 28″. I’ll see how they compare because these ones are closer to commercial sizes. In the end, I used 5 colours of 2/8 cotton for the warp and introduced a 6th colour in the weft for a couple of the towels. For a photo of the colours I used, please have a look at Part I.


As Jane mentions in the Online Guild episode, I played with the various weft colours throughout the weave. I started with plain white (top) and linen (bottom), which was the colour I used in the warp so the contrast of the bleached white was really interesting. I have to admit, while I prefer linen to pretty much every other colour, in these towels, I actually preferred the clean, bleached white weft. If I were to make these again, I think I’d use the bleached white for the warp.


I noticed as I wove on these that my selvages and skips steadily improved. At the beginning, there were copious mistakes and skips. The shuttle was constantly falling through the bottom and then, slowly, that started to improve. By the final two towels, I was throwing the shuttle as if I’d always thrown a shuttle, which was really cool! And my edges steadily improved.


For the remainder of the towels, I mixed up the colours. I used pink as the weft, navy blue and grey, and introduced a sixth colour using a light sky blue. It was fascinating to see how the colours played in the weft against the warp.


The above towel was a grey weft with white stripes added. and below was a pink weft with all the stripes of the warp added but white switched out for where the pink would have been in the sequence. In all honesty, this is probably my favourite towel of the bunch.


I even played with the gold as a weft and added in some navy and grey striping just to see how that would work out.


This towel was asymmetrical in the placement of the middle large striping sequence so when the towel is folded, that colour block is visible on the one side but not the other.


Besides the pink weft towel, my next favourite was this one below. It was a very light sky blue that I introduced that wasn’t in the warp at all. And I added the grey striping with a single pink stripe.


Lastly, I made an all navy towel that ended up being much more interesting than I thought it would be due to the play of dark and light. I ended up quite liking it!


This last one was when my selvages were becoming much more even which was good because you can really see the edges against the white warp! The less I played with the edges, the better they became.


To hem these bad boys, I had kept track of how long they were (albeit roughly) and had placed a strand of 4/8 cotton between the towels as I wove. I’m not sure I would do this again because in some ways, I could have just woven on and on for 7 towels worth of warp and cut them to size afterwards but I didn’t so …


This created a drawstring of sorts so when I was ready to cut them apart, I just pulled on it (or actually, in all truth, the kids did) and this created my cut line for each towel.


It created the perfect place to cut:



After cutting them apart, I used the single weft thread I’d woven to press the hem into place. Here, the single thread was white but sometimes it was much higher contrast. It made hemming go very fast and even though I’ve done tons of hemming over the years (jeans!) and have a hemming ruler, this was really nice to just get to pressing and ironing.


I know many hand-hem their towels but I’m planning on using these a lot and machine washing them. I will probably hand-hem many towels in the future that will be for special occasions like Christmas and Lent but these were hemmed in the most straightforward way I knew how: My sewing machine!


They turned out beautifully and while machine stitching isn’t my favourite with handwoven tea towels because let’s face it, hand-stitching is always beautiful, it was the right thing for this project! They are done and hanging in my kitchen as I type this out. Well, two are anyhow! The rest are waiting for their turn and two are going home with my in-laws.


Overall, I couldn’t be happier with this project. Yes, it took longer than I thought it would. It was a lot of work on the table loom and my hands were a bit sore from too much weaving time due to the hand-pedals. But in the end? They are wonderful. They are my first and I love them for that!! The coolest thing about them is that while they are all different, they go together as a set and I love that.

What about you? What project have you made recently that was new or a first for you? Any major takeaways?!

Join the Conversation

  1. I love them, a vey nice result. Well done!

    1. rachel Author says:

      Thank you Judith!

  2. I found this soooo interesting as I’ve recently been doing some tea towel tests but I have a rigid heddle loom that is only small (10”) so seems ideal for small projects like tea towels. The colours and effects you’ve achieved are all lovely. What a satisfying project. I’m going to warp my loom today with my 3rd test since you’ve inspired me.

    1. rachel Author says:

      I’m so glad this inspired you!!! Good luck with your project – I hope you enjoy it. Really, any weaving is enjoyable though huh?! 😊

  3. Beautiful work, Rachel, and although they are all beautiful, I think the pink is my favourite.

    1. rachel Author says:

      Haha me too! I love how that one came out. Thanks Barbara.

  4. They look fabulous.

    1. rachel Author says:

      Thank you Jamie

  5. What lovely towels! I think handwoven towels are so nice to have in your kitchen, and they make awesome gifts.

    1. rachel Author says:

      Thank you! Yes, I totally agree!

  6. Christine says:

    Your towels have come out so well and the play of colours together is interesting to see. I’ve got several tea towels I’ve made on my rigid heddle and like that I can make them a size I like to use. I’ve recently woven and fulled some fabric from handspun yarn, which was interesting (to say the least) which I’ll post about on the Ravelry group once I’ve taken photos.

  7. Beautiful work, as always, Rachel!

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