Cotton Dish Towels

In December I wove some 100% cotton dish towels on my 15″ loom. Everyone can use a new dish towel, so I thought they would make nice gifts. And I can always use more myself whether they turn out perfectly or not.

I started researching patterns and yarns, finding many options. I learned that cotton yarn can be “mercerized” or “unmercerized”. The mercerized cotton is treated so it is smoother and holds dye better, but unmercerized will absorb more moisture. For my first attempt I decided to use the same inexpensive Peaches & Creme unmercerized cotton yarn I have used to knit dish cloths. There is thinner, more expensive, cotton yarn with more threads per inch, but I wanted to try the concept first with the cheaper yarn.

I used a pattern called “Classic Woven Dishtowels” from Purl Soho. It was a basic design using one main color with some horizontal stripes in a contrast color.

Unmercerized yarn for dish towels

After deciding on white for the main color, with blue for accent stripes, I “warped” the loom with enough yarn for the towels plus waste at the beginning and end. I forgot to take a photo while the entire 155″ warp length was stretched out across the living room. The photo below was taken after tying the warp yarns to the “front beam” of the loom, and winding most of the 155″ on to the “back beam”.

Warped and ready to start weaving
Close up of the warp yarns

Once the loom was all warped, I was ready to begin weaving. The weaving process is repetitive but calming. I can listen to music or an audio book while working, or just enjoy the quiet.

Weaving in process

The pattern suggested cutting the warp yarn after each towel and retying the remaining warp threads to the front beam. It said that this was better for maintaining an even tension for the remaining towels. The other option is to keep weaving all four towels, cutting and separating the individual towels later.

Since I was just learning, I went ahead and cut the first towel off as the pattern suggested. Before cutting, in order to keep the ends from coming undone during washing, and for a finished edge, I attempted to make a “hem stitch” on each end.

Hem stitching the end before cutting off the warp yarns to make fringe

I had trouble with the hem stitch on both ends. It was too loose and had too many warp threads in each group. I took the stitches out and sewed the hem stitch over again, after I had already cut the fringe to 1″, so the threads were flopping all over.

When I got part way through the second towel I started to have a problem with the tension along one side. The last two warp threads on one side got too tight. Towards the end of the towel I was tugging, and ended up cutting those two warp yarns to release the pressure so I could continue working.

In between towel two and three, in order to fix the tension problem, I cut the warp threads and then unwound the warp yarn off the back beam. I took the two offending warp threads off entirely so the weaving was not so close to the edge of the loom, and re “warped” the rest.

Towel number three looked good on the edges, and the hem stitching was successful! Yay! There was supposed to be enough warp yarn for 4 towels, but there was only about ten inches left after the third towel…so it ended up as waste.

All the waste yarn cut off the beginning and end of the warp, and between towels

After washing and drying, the towels shrank some as expected, and they are soft and thirsty. The second towel with the tension problem looks OK for my personal use. They work well for drying wet hands when working in the kitchen, drying dishes that have been washed by hand, and mopping up those annoying pools of water that collect on items after the dishwasher has been run.

Following are photos of the three completed towels. I am pleased with the results, despite their imperfections.

All three towels after washing.

I don’t usually hang three towels on the oven door handle at the same time, but I like the Scandinavian look in the next photo, which matches the colors in my kitchen. The towel on the right is one of the towels I just wove, and the towel on the left was designed and sold by my friend Cindy Lindgren.

My Scandinavian theme kitchen towels, with one of my hand woven towels on the right

Cindy Lindgren is a graphic designer in Minneapolis, a close friend of my sister-in-law. She sells cards, puzzles, prints and posters, stickers, magnets, and textiles with her unique designs including themes of Twin Cities, Paul Bunyan, Texas, Scandinavian, Frank Lloyd Wright, Christmas and others. Cindy designed the St. Paul Winter Carnival button for 2019, and more importantly, my business card and blog logos. Check out her products on ETSY

Following is a photo of Cindy’s towel next to my own hand woven towel.

My Cindy Lindgren Scandinavian design towel on the left, next to my own

Published by Meg Hanson

Hello. I am a recently retired empty nester. My husband and I moved to Jewett Lake in Otter Tail County, Minnesota, after living most of our lives in the Minneapolis area. I have no trouble keeping busy with knitting and spinning of wool, selling yarn and handmade goods, reading, walking, watching movies, surfing on the internet, traveling, doing bookkeeping for our family cabin, and spending time with family.

10 thoughts on “Cotton Dish Towels

  1. It’s always interesting to learn what you’re working on. I went to Cindy Lindgren’s site. I love it all! Thank you for the recommendation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your towels are beautiful, and I admire your persistence while creating them. I do want my kitchen towels to be absorbent. Your friend’s ETSY shop has some really artistic items. I will keep both you and her ETSY shop in mind for future purchases. Many people I know would prefer a gift such as you and your friend offer in your shops.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It was great to see pictures of the whole process. Funny to think about the word “warped” which I associate with something that has become out of shape such a wood tray that got wet and did not dry properly. I wonder if it is the same original word as the weaving word. I enjoyed hearing about all the things that went wrong along the way, especially given that you prevailed on the final towel.
    What are you going to do with the waste yarn?? It looks like hair for a rag doll. Or a mini-mop. Or fire starters for the bon fire. Or wick for homemade candle. It is hard to contemplate throwing anything out.
    I look forward to hearing what you make next. Are you wanting to try something more complex already, or glad to crank out lots more dish towels, now that you know what you are doing??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have some more expensive cotton for weaving another set of dish towels. And I am going to weave a scarf using the blue silk/yak/wool I recently spun. Not sure after that. I will save the white cotton yarn waste…yes it should be useful for something!


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