I just downloaded the towel eBook,Top Ten Dish Towels on Four Shafts, _and have a question about yarns. It looks like several of the projects use 10/2 pearl cotton while others use 8/2 unmercerized cotton. I have a lot of 10/2 pearl cotton on hand and wonder if I can use it instead of 8/2 cotton in some of the projects. Would I need to change the sett? Also, I've heard that pearl (i.e., mercerized) cotton is not as absorbent as unmercerized cotton. Is that true and would that make pearl cottons not work well for towels?
Your question is an especially good one. Since the projects in the eBooks contain articles published throughout Handwoven's history, many of them were woven in yarns that are no longer available. In those cases, we update projects in the eBooks to recommend yarns that are currently available and usually point out that these are substitutions for the originals. One yarn that has been lost over the years (sadly) is 10/2 unmercerized cotton in colors. For projects that used this yarn, we usually recommend 10/2 pearl cotton. Unfortunately, it is true that unmercerized cottons are more absorbent than pearl cottons. (Industrial texts claim the opposite, but my guess is that pearl cottons absorb dyes better than unmercerized cottons and that is the reason the absorbency claim is made.) I have found, though, that over time, repeated washings improve the absorbency of pearl cottons.
However, if your biggest goal is absorbency (if you are actually going to USE your towels instead of display them), you can easily substitute 8/2 unmercerized cotton or 22/2 cottolin for any project calling for 10/2 cotton, whether unmercerized or pearl.