I made another set of 100% cotton towels. This time I used something called 8/4 cotton weaving yarn, which is thinner than the Peaches & Creme yarn I used for my first set of woven towels. It has a higher number of yarns per inch (think sheet thread counts). There are other cotton yarns called 8/2, 6/2, 6/4, and more. The two numbers signify the thickness and number of plies.
The rigid heddle loom has a wood and plastic part called a “reed” (see photo below) with holes and slots that the warp yarn is threaded through. It is used to separate the warp (vertical) threads into alternating groups (the holes and the slots…haha sounds like names of gangs), so that while one group is up and the other group is down you can slide the weft (horizontal) yarn between them to weave a row (see photo below). In this type of loom, the reed is also used to push the weft yarn in place up against the completed weaving as you go.
My first set of towels used the “8 dent” (8 threads per inch) reed that came with the loom. The 8/4 cotton yarn required a “10 dent” reed (10 yarns per inch). The following photo shows the 8 dent reed and the 10 dent reed. You can see that there are more holes and slots in the 10 dent reed.
The photo below is from my first towel weaving project, showing how the reed separates the yarns in the slots from the yarns in the holes, so you can slide the weft yarn across between them.
The first part of the weaving project is measuring out the right length of warp yarn for the project, and threading it through the holes and slots in the reed. After all the warp yarns are threaded, the yarn is wound on to a beam at the back of the loom (the back beam), so it is not taking up your entire work space. As you weave, you unwind from the back beam, and wind on to the front beam. At that point, instead of needing my whole dining area, the work was contained on the loom itself, which is about 17″ square.
The next photo shows the weaving in progress, using some linen and cotton blend yarn for contrasting horizontal stripes.
The following photo was taken after weaving five towels back to back, and removing the fabric from the loom. There was supposed to be enough warp yarn for four towels, but after I finished four there was still quite a bit left. Rather than wasting the extra I kept on weaving a shorter fifth towel.
I had woven one row of yellow yarn between each towel. Washing the fabric after removing it from the loom causes the cotton yarn to shrink, so the towels become more dense. After washing, but before cutting the towels apart, I used my sewing machine to zig zap on each side of the yellow threads.
It was scary to actually cut in the middle of the weaving, but it worked out fine with the zig zag stitches to prevent raveling.
The towels got very wrinkly in the dryer. I could not iron them smooth even after multiple attempts with high heat and steam. Next time I will take them out of the dryer before they are completely dry. Two of the towels have hand finished hems, while the other three I folded over and zig zagged down with the sewing machine. The zig zag method worked fine and is not as bulky, but is not as neat as hand stitching. Following are three of the completed wrinkly towels. The two on the left with yellow stripes and blue stripes have the zig zagged hem. The towel on the right has the rolled and hand stitched hem. The red stripes were made with the thicker peaches & creme yarn, which makes it bow out on the sides.
Next is a close up photo of the two different styles of hem. Zig zagged on the left, rolled and hand stitched on the right. The towel with red stripes was given to my Wisconsin Badger alumnae son.
The following photos show the other two towels from the current project using the thinner 8/4 cotton yarn, next to one of the heavier Peaches & Creme towels from my first set.
The next photo is a close up showing a thinner towel with rolled and hand stitched hem, next to a thicker towel with hem stitch and fringe.
After completing the set of 8/4 cotton yarn towels and giving them all away for Christmas gifts, I made another set so I would have some for myself. The third set, using 8/4 cotton yarn, had some vertical stripes of blue in the warp. The towels with the thinner yarn look more professional, the thicker towels are very absorbent. I like them both!