Weaving Paper! It’s fun!

Did you see Tom Knisely’s article about weaving with paper in the March/April 2021 issue of Handwoven? It certainly caught my attention, as I mentioned in the last post.

Yesterday I finished weaving my own version of paper towels, and I’m very happy with the outcome. In fact, I am smitten with the lovely paper yarn “Shosenshi” from Habu Textiles.

Here it is underway back in May or early June.

Here is the fabric coming off the loom, quite stiff. I love the crispness of the fabric.

The hems are woven in a fine white linen to minimize bulk in this area. I tried plain weave at the beginning of the warp for the first hem, and did not care for it, so I continued weaving the twill for the rest of the hems. You can see my cutting lines for separating the towels in this photo.

It took a leap of faith for me to weave a first attempt at paper yarn in a twill pattern when Tom had wisely tried plain weave for his towels. The 8S goose eye twill I chose has mostly 4-thread skips in the design with a couple of places that have 5-thread skips, and one place in the pattern where the skip is 7 threads. I just held my breath about that. The warp is cottolin from Camilla Valley, and I set it at 24 ends per inch. Those 7-thread skips are between 1/3″ and 1/4″ long. Once I was weaving I began to think that this would not be a problem. Whew!

I have had some distractions this summer (frankly, for years!) that keep me from the loom. Over time I’ve developed the habit of getting projects prepared to go so I can walk away from them for any amount of time. It seems to me that getting a project ready to go, whether weaving or any of the other textile projects I enjoy, is the more challenging part of ‘making a thing.’ If the project is ready to go, I can return to it when I have time and just knuckle down to the process of making.

But back to my paper towel project. I had to set it aside for about a month as I spent time editing the text of a book which will finally get published, and captioning over 300 images. There will be more info on that shortly. I had all of last week to get back to weaving for myself, and I was thrilled! Right as I turned on my ancient (10 years old!) laptop to sync with the combby on my Baby Wolf, I discovered a horrific situation. My computer was bulging like a balloon. Have you ever seen this? Now I wish I had thought to photograph it. The metal case of the laptop was completely distorted. It turns out that Apple used some batteries from 2008 to 2011 that begin to swell with gas over time. Since I had not used the loom in over a month, it had begun to swell quite dramatically, while I never even looked at it since I was busy with other things. The track pad was unusable since it was recessed by the swelling computer case. Apple said they could not fix this problem and offered to dispose of the laptop for me. I refrained from that because I thought I’d better wipe the computer before turning it over to anyone. Then my husband thought we should check with the local computer shop he uses for his PCs. And voila, only four days later, I have a new battery in my laptop, and the swelling is gone. I can’t believe that the computer case ‘deflated’ back to normal! And it synced with the combby the moment I reattached it. I often wonder about my decision to put this combby attachment on the Baby Wolf, but that’s a subject for another time.

I finished weaving the paper towels last night. It was late, but I had to serge the ends and get the fabric in the washing machine. And then, of course I had to wait up and put the fabric in the dryer. After a month’s hiatus from weaving, I didn’t want to wait even one more night to see the outcome of this project. It was 11pm when I took the fabric out of the dryer, and I was so happy with it. Tom Knisely says he washed his paper towels in hot water and then dried them in the dryer, so I did the same. He said the towels softened up dramatically, but somehow I thought he meant after many washings. So I was shocked and pleased to see how soft my fabric became after only the initial wash. Amazing.

I wish this photo conveyed the softness better. I wish you could touch them. All I can say is try it yourself. None of these photos quite shows the lovely spring green of the paper yarn.

I was so pleased with this fabric even as I was weaving, that I ordered another kind of paper yarn from Habu to make some new placemats. I am going to try a somewhat different paper yarn, n-73 indigo linen paper, in a lovely blue called kamenozoki, which should coordinate with my much older linen placemats for those times when I need to seat a small crowd. Remember those times? In the meantime I’ll have a new set to use for our daily meals.

Here is a recap of the paper towel project:

Warp: Camilla Valley cottolin in natural. Warp sett is 24 epi and 20″ wide= 480 warp ends x 4 yd length for two kitchen towels and some practice warp. The Goose Eye twill requires 46 ends per repeat , so I had 10 repeats with an extra 20 threads. I used the extra 10 threads at each end to have one floating selvedge thread, and 9 threads that I threaded in a straight twill.

Pattern: 8S Goose Eye twill:

Weft: Two hanks of “Shosenshi” linen paper yarn from Habu Textiles (item a-60 on the website) in color “Tea Green.”
Fine white linen singles from my stash for the hems.
I woven two inches of hem for each towel with the fine linen singles, and 27″ of twill with the paper weft for the body of the towels. On the loom my towels are 19″ wide by 27″ long, with additional 2″ of hem at each end.
The finished size after washing is 18″ wide by 24.5″ long. The shrinkage in length was more than I expected.

Give it a try in your own combination of yarns. The cottolin and fine linen singles were from my stash. See what you have on hand that will work for you. You will have fun, and you’ll have some luscious paper towels!

I rushed to publish this earlier today, and now I have hemmed the towels. Here they are–finished!

The color is not quite true on this close up image.

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1 Response to Weaving Paper! It’s fun!

  1. Karyn Bovino says:

    These are beautiful! I look forward to seeing and feeling them one day!!

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