As summer draws to a close, you can start to feel the holidays rapidly coming toward us, although at least right now, they are still far enough away that you can make plans. With that in mind, I came up with a list of seven towel projects that I feel would make great gifts for those occasions when you want to make a friendly gesture that doesn’t put a huge dent in your pocketbook or your weaving time. These are towels that I think most people would like to receive, and knowing that you handwove them will make them even more special.
A single handwoven towel is the perfect gift. It is useful, beautiful, and doesn’t force the recipient to put it on display every time you visit. Towels require more weaving than, let’s say coasters, but by planning ahead and putting on extra warp yardage, you can weave several of them as gifts. I rarely put on a warp for only two towels. Three is my minimum, and five is my go-to number, although I’ve been known to put on warps long enough to weave eight.
From the left: Cynthia Newman’s Turning Autumn Towels, Patricia Crane’s Broken Stripe Towel, and Sarah Jackson’s Peaceful Rhythm Towels. Photos on the left and center by Matt Graves, photo on the right by Joe Coca
To pick a gift-towel pattern, I have six main criteria:
- Treadling can be done in various ways and/or with different weft colors. This may not be shown in the magazine and may require some experimentation.
- It is a primarily one-shuttle weave.
- The warp color order and threading are not overly complex.
- Wet-finishing (and future laundering) can be done by machine.
- The hems are machine-sewn.
- It is a 4-shaft pattern.
Here are seven patterns from recent Handwoven issues that meet most, if not all, of my criteria. The WIFs for these towels are in the Handwoven Library, and the issues in which they were originally published are also in the Library.
- Texas Bluebonnet Towels by Cheryl Leib from March/April 2019
- Rosebud Trellis Fingertip Towels by Malynda Allen from March/April 2023
- Sweet Simplicity Towels by Susan E. Horton from March/April 2019
- Peaceful Rhythm Towels by Sarah Jackson from May/June 2014
- Turning Autumn Towels by Cynthia Newman from September/October 2020
- Broken Stripe Towel by Patricia Crane from May/June 2022
- Circles and Checks Towels in Turned Taqueté by Susan Poague from May/June 2019
Towels #7 (shown in the photo at the top) don’t fit all six of my criteria as easily as the other towels, but it has become such a popular pattern and is so colorful and fun, I have to include it. It is an 8-shaft pattern. It has a more complex warp color order and threading, but it is a one-shuttle weave with three treadling variations, and I think the extra work is worth it.
From the left, Malynda Allen’s Rosebud Trellis Towels, Susan E. Horton’s Sweet Simplicity Towels, and Cheryl Leib’s Texas Bluebonnet Towels. Photo on the left by Matt Graves, center photo and photo on the right by George Boe
If you want to make more towels than the number specified in the pattern, you simply need to add enough warp length for each extra towel plus about 10 percent for take up. For example, for a towel that is 32" on the loom, there will be about 3" of take up. The length on the loom plus take up equals 35" which is very close to one yard, so in that case, you should add one yard of warp length for every additional towel you want to weave.
To calculate the weft yardage needed, divide the total number of yards of weft listed in the pattern by the number of towels. That tells you how many yards of weft you need for one towel. Multiply that number by the number of towels you want to weave.
A word to the wise: Even when I weave five towels at a time, I find they disappear faster than I expect. They make such perfect thank-you, hostess, birthday, holiday gifts that they are hard to keep around!