One of my college classes introduced fellow students and me to the terms “least optimal” and “most optimal” with regard to outcomes and choices. They seemed made up. Why not just say “worst” and “best”? Optimality became a bit of a joke among my friends—as in “These pants may be clean, but they are least optimal” or “I had a most optimal day yesterday.” It was silly word play, but it stuck with me so that even today when I’m putting on a piece of clothing that isn’t a favorite, I think, well yeah, least optimal.
A few years ago, I wove what I would consider the least-optimal towels of my weavng career. I had some pretty colors of 16/2 linen that I put on my loom with an Ms and Os threading. I hadn’t sampled, which turned out to be a big mistake. After weaving two towels, I could see things weren’t working out, so I cut off, hemmed, and wet-finished. Nothing about those towels pleased me. They were both sleazy and heavy at the same time, and because my sett was wrong for the structure, the pinks and reds seemed to bleed into the gold stripes as if the dye had let go, although it hadn’t.
I wish you could feel the hand of these napkins. That’s what makes them my most-optimal napkins.
Discouraged, I went back to my loom to figure out what to do with the rest of the warp. Pretty quickly I found that using 16/2 cotton, a thread much thinner than the 16/2 linen, seemed to work in plain weave. I wove off the warp with napkins in mind. And, here’s where most-optimal comes in: Those spur-of-the-moment or what-have-you plain-weave napkins are my favorites. I will push others aside to use them. They are soft and light and the warp-dominant stripes are clear and clean. They wash and dry easily and don’t require a lot of pressing.
I’m starting to see good things happening in this sample of 16/2 linen with different sizes of cotton.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what type of towels I would like to make for wedding gifts this summer. We are going to a few weddings, and there are a couple more I’d like to acknowledge. Those most-optimal napkins popped right into my head as a starting place, although this time I’m being smarter and sampling before I begin. I’ve already tried my chosen twill at two setts, and I may try another. I’m going for most optimal on my first go this time. Optimality is a serious subject ... and surprisingly, a real word.