Friday, March 6, 2015

On birds and tea towels

Hello, friends. I've been weaving a lot of kitchen towels lately. A few have been farmed out to League of NH Craftsmen shops, a few are listed in my online store, a couple have been purchased, and, (lucky me!) one ended up in our own kitchen (we get the "seconds" in our house).

Tea towels, while simple in appearance and materials, do not make for easy weaving. To craft a towel that is going to hold up to the rigors of serious household tasks, you need to have a relatively thirsty piece of cloth. The fabric should be dense, but not so dense that it feels coarse or lacks any kind of drape. I generally use 8/2 cotton yarn for my towels. 8/2 cotton yarn is thin, meaning that I generally sett the warp at 20-24 ends per inch, depending on the weaving structure. To make a towel that is at least 16-20" in width, you're looking at a lot of threads! Here's the latest tea towel in process on the loom today:

New Hampshire Tartan - tea towel

After the woven tea towel fabric is removed from the loom, I run the fabric through the washer and the dryer. The initial washing/drying action is important because the fabric undergoes shrinkage. After a trip in the dryer, it is time for hemming.

So. Why go through all of this kerfuffle just for a dishtowel?

The kitchen towel is probably the most undervalued textile in the home. Just think about it. Here are just a few ways that tea towels are used:

  • To dry dishes
  • To grab a hot tea kettle
  • To dry off freshly washed fruit/veggies
  • To cover bread dough during the proofing stages
  • To line a bread basket
  • To dry our hands after washing
  • To hold ice on an aching muscle or twisted ankle
I grow so attached to my towels that I have a hard time retiring them from daily use. There is one towel that I've used for the past 10-11 years, and the threads are getting a little bit thin. I think I'll hang onto it for a month or two longer. The orioles will be back soon, and they love threads for lining their nests. Really! Here is an oriole and an Eastern kingbird that visited the pea trellis in search of suitable nesting material: 

Oriole and Eastern kingbird getting nesting material (Yes! I took this picture in our backyard!)

So I'll know that my old tea towel still has some usefulness in someone's housekeeping endeavors. It is a very comforting thought.

Be well,


Thistle Rose Weaving said...

Kate, the tartan tea towel is lovely. Totally agree with your thoughts about the soon to be retired towel.

Cindie said...

I love the colors in that tartan!

Kate Kilgus said...

Thank you, Martha & Cindie! I really like this tartan. The colors are so symbolic (green = NH forests, white = snowy mountains, lilac = state flower, red = our fallen heroes). It is a bit fiddly as far as the thread counts but the result is worth it. Happy weaving, ladies! Be well, Kate ;)

Monty Bryant said...

I am loving the colors and inspired to weave a tartan for my next project.

For selvedges on your twill towels, do weave twill or plain ? They look great.