Check on Stripes
I’ve had these yarns for probably twenty years. I must have woven up all the pretty colors, and somehow all I have left are cottons and linens in the basic primary colors – perfect for dish towels. I like to use stripes and checks to bring a unified look to odds and ends of yarn, and I also wanted to try a threading I hadn’t done before.
In looking through my “Someday” notebooks, I found this sample from a 1994 newsletter, from Contemporary Handweavers of Texas. (They are still going strong, but I couldn’t find a newsletter archive online.) Deborah Tedder wrote a long and lovely article about the structure’s source and possibilities, and four other members helped her weave samples to send to everyone.
This sample has such beautiful drape and sheen – I couldn’t believe something so beautiful could be made from plain old unmercerized cotton! I also liked the possibilities of color interaction. And since there are two wefts, pattern and plain weave, I thought it would help me use up yarn more quickly.
I didn’t have enough unmercerized cotton, so I used mercerized 10/2 for the warp, in stripes of cream and black, to give a variety of looks with the different colors of wefts.
Once I had the warp on the loom, I tried out different wefts. I soon realized that I was not getting the lovely close wefts of the CHT sample, where the pattern yarn floated over groups of four warps and completely covered them. I hoped that machine washing afterward would cause the yarns to shrink and bloom, and emphasize the contrast between blocks.
I also realized that weaving with two shuttles was slowing me down quite a bit, so I tried using just one weft for both the pattern and tabby shots, and I liked that variation too.
I have always had trouble sticking to a weaving plan for more than a few inches – on this project, I made myself stick to one type of weft yarn per towel (although in blocks of three different colors) for three towels. On the remaining yardage, I just played with all kinds of combinations – cottolin, 5/2 mercerized cotton, sewing thread – whatever looked interesting, even though I knew it would give me all kinds of take-up problems and uneven selvages. I put on the radio, and every time the song changed, I changed a color, a texture, or the pattern block, for a random effect.
After machine washing and drying, I don’t really like the cotton flake I used in two towels – it looks like it has snagged and pilled. But it will be absorbent and that’s what I like about handwoven dish towels – they seem so much more absorbent than anything I can buy at the store.
My favorite weft turned out to be 10/2 mercerized cotton – it doesn’t look as smooth as the CHT sample with unmercerized cotton, but it does have a crisp look. They all feel really good – more flexible and drape-y than many of my handwovens.
When I was planning this project, I thought I would use up all this yarn! I don’t know what has happened to my estimation skills, because I barely made a dent in the supply. I look forward to turning more odds and ends into useful items!