During lockdown I have been mostly weaving on my 24” Ashford 8 shaft table loom – and I love to weave tea towels! I am also a member of the Jane Stafford On-Line Weaving Guild and this summer Jane posted live videos of herself weaving a series of plain weave and twill tea towels. The video's have been posted on her facebook group (link below) and the draft is available as a a “pay what you want” fund-raiser on her web site.
Jane suggests a huge 13 yard warp for 12 towels! My large Ashford Warping frame can manage 11 yards so I figured I'd be able to do all but the last two towels. I actually quite like standing at my warping frame with yarn in hand winding back and forth – Jane suggests you warp for the stripes holding two threads at a time but I stuck to tieing each colour change one by one. I used four colours of Venne 8/2 organic cotton in the warp – a purple and a blue for the stripes, a charcoal for the frame and a bright green for the centre.
Once wound and chained, I beamed the warp on single handedly and was surprised how well behaved it was for such a long warp. I used some heavy books to help with the tension!
The threading is a straight draw (I only used 4 shafts) and the first 4 plain weave tea towels are sett at 18epi (1-2 in a 12dpi reed) and woven at 18 picks per inch. Jane's videos show how she divides sections of the towel using a variety of techniques and she encourages you to explore your own design ideas.
After the first four towels are woven, (you just weave a couple of picks of a heavier yarn between each towel as a divider) she cuts them off and re-sleys 2 ends in each dent of a 10dpi reed for a sett of 20 ends per inch and weaves the next six towels in 2/2 twill at 20 picks per inch. She includes a section of basket weave in one of the twill towels and I really like this structure. Rigid Heddle Loom weavers can achieve a similar effect, a sort of faux basketweave, by using two strands of the 8/2 cotton in every hole and every slot of a 10dpi reed and weaving plain weave.
I ended up with 8 towels (I think perhaps my warp wasn't actually as long as I thought it was!) and after hemming, washing and pressing, they lined up for their glamour shots! I really enjoyed weaving these towels and as a fairly novice weaver, I also learnt a lot. I am already thinking of all the other possible colour schemes.
It seems that I am not the only one to weave these towels – Sarah, a customer of ours from Cornwall wove these beauties and has another set on her loom already!
Jane Stafford Weaving Guild
Janes video facebook page