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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tea towels, 201


Several blogging friends have referred to my common dish towels as tea towels, which means the same thing and is much more alliterative, so it is the title.

Dish towels are made from linen or cotton fabric. The former do not dry well, but also do not scratch, and make silver and glass sparkle. Cotton towels are far less expensive than linen, but sadly carry the reputation of drying poorly.

I wonder if this has been a common complaint the last seventy or eighty years, since non shrinking cotton fabrics were invented. Fabrics processed commercially not to shrink, and fabric softeners, which coat fibers chemically, have been the demise of the common dish towel.

The majority of the threads we bought to weave were siphoned from the great manufacturing process before any or many chemical alterations had occurred. We purchased from brokers, who bought of lots of unsold thread, and supplied it to third world economies. This was back in the day there still were spinning factories in this country. I just realize how little I know of current cotton thread manufacture. Probably the same as when the mills were in our south; now they are in India, Pakistan, Korea.

For various reasons the threads had not gone on to additional processing, such as mercerizing, a sodium hydroxide treatment that makes thread stronger and shiny. Of course I nosed into back stories with my brokers, knew which manufacturers had rejected a lot, or didn’t get it for want of paying a bill. So many stories. We bought great thread for weaving fabric on our hand looms. Buy low, sell high, as they say.

Highly processed pearl cotton. Lovely, doesn't absorb moisture.
Donated it to the Art Academy

Because the thread came from the front end of the manufacturing process, we could treat it however we wished, which was minimaly. We weren't out to own a weaving factory, just to make pretty fabrics for great clothing. We turned the web, the woven stuff off the loom, into fabric by fulling, a wetting and pounding operation as old as weaving. We used the washer and the dryer.

The cotton fabrics were back to basics; cool in the summer because they breathed, warm in the winter as an insulating layer. And because there were few or no added chemicals, the stuff absorbed water.

My youngest daughter downsized her storage unit bill and I was the recipient of a dozen cartons of thread she kept, to weave with some day. And the shelving they were on in storage. Bonanza. Emily, Laura and I sorted it out today. Lots of natural for the next towel warp; some variety of colors for more colored towels, and an entire shelf that looks like a fabric warp to me. There may be cotton jackets in my future.

A jumble out of the boxes

Which annoyed the two budding artists so much they had it unscrambled in short order.

This week's red towels, leaving two by two in tomorrow's post.
I do hope we will see pictures of where they live.

Next week's natural towels.

The warp is almost gone!

The director of the Art Academy asked me if I'd consider a workshop in sectional warping. I will. Another opportunity to ask the universe for a 36" LeClerc counterbalance, four harness, six treadle, please.

32 comments:

  1. You've got yourself a good little organizer there.

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  2. Beautiful. How much does it cost for linen and cotton tea towels?

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  3. It is kind of sad the mills are out of the country and not in ours; another job lost to offshore (as in my profession, medical transcription). I do like the towels, whatever they might be called :) A cotton jacket would be nice to see!

    betty

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  4. And now I know that what I think of as cotton could be a completely different animal than I was expecting.

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  5. I've always said dish towel. I don't think I'm fancy enough to own a tea towel. Your red towels are beautiful.

    Love,
    Janie

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  6. We have always called them tea towels here. Dish towels? Cleaners rather than dryers I think. And yours are beautiful, whatever the name. Love those threads too. So much promise.

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  7. I am so enjoying this, I would love to buy these towels.

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  8. I have always referred to them as dish towels. I don't usually dry my dishes with them, preferring to air dry them, so I usually use these towels to dry my hands after washing them when I am preparing foods. Great post, Joanne, thank you so much for sharing.

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  9. Hari Om
    Lovin' the red; but look at all that thread. All that activity is another way to stay warm in the impending winter!!! Covers for warm bread; pot lid dampers; tray liners; I have been known to use some of the better quality ones as seat-back covers... the ideas are endless. Well. Many anyway... YAM xx

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  10. Exciting to have new fiber to work with! I think linen is among the coolest things. I tried spinning it once; it was fun but challenging. Good luck!

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  12. The red towels look almost Christmassy. Nice to have the artistic girls sort the reels for you. I hope you find the 36" LeClerc soon. I've always called them tea towels.
    I have a dozen that I bought when our supermarket was selling pairs of jumbo size towels, they are cotton and dry beautifully. Then they were unavailable for a while. When they came back instore, the price was the same, but they were cheaper quality, with the weave more open, didn't dry as well and the edges went ruffly in the wash. Like this ~~~~~~, so now they don't fold right and don't lie flat.

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  13. This is very interesting. I didn't realize what the difference was. I do know we have various towels in our drawer and some are much more absorbent that others.

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  14. Phew. That is a LOT of thread. You are going to be busy.

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  15. How I envy you this incredible talent Joanne - lost here in the UK for the most part I think. I assume it has survived and even grown in the US and Canada because in the early days folk had to weave and these skills have been passed down. I must say I don't know a single person who does anything at all like this.

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  16. Please do seriously consider the workshop...skills like yours should be passed on.The world has been flooded with cheap ......(can't say the word here) material and resulting products. Bring back quality!
    Jane x

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  17. I am amazed you can do this sort of thing. It is hard work, but how rewarding!

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  18. Joan, you say that linen towels do not dry as well as cotton ones. I agree with you, when they are new. I find that with linen towels, after a few years of use the fabric changes and they start drying beautifully. Do you agree?

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    1. Yes, because the chemicals to control shrinkage are washing and wearing away, the fiber is softening and opening and is able to absorb more moisture.
      Cotton and linen, thought, are such inherently different fibers we cannot expect the same thing from them. Cotton is a short fiber and there are bizillions of the little devils in every inch of thread. Linen is a bast fiber, stripped from flax or hemp or yucca and other bast plants. The fibers are very long, a foot or more, make a very dense thread that takes a long time to break down and absorb moisture.
      Treasure your old linen towels. Too bad they don't come that way--old.

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    2. Thanks for the explanation. I understand what happens now. There are two kinds of linen towels hin this household. Nice ones which are used as small tablecloths or on trays, especially when there are visitors, and old ones that are used to dry dished. Many of these old ones come from charity shops (you know the tea towels that were sold to tourists as souvenirs - I doubt they are still sold anymore, but there are still some of them around).
      Thanks again for the explanation.

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  19. I adore mine especially the yellow ones xxxx

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  20. You have provided us with some very good information about threads. I do remember my mothers tea towels as she called them when they were, I,m sure just pain ole cotton towels. thanks --- barbara

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  21. I 've never had linen ones if I can find some I will give them a go.
    Merle..........

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  22. Just popping by from Delores's Blog where your masterpieces attracted my attention they are gorgeous. Loved this post explaining the differences in materials. Nice work you are very talented. Thank you . B

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  23. Love your weaving! the red towels are beautiful.

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  24. A good dish towel earns its keep a hundred times over, like all good tools. And these are beautiful, as well. I love your weaving posts! May you find your loom, somehow, soon. The more people you have looking out, the more chance there is.

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  25. I found your blog when I admired the photo of your towels that Delores displayed on her blog. Now I see how you made them! What a lovely talent to have!

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  26. IT seems to me that the Universe is taking a long time to align the stars and planets.

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  27. Well, now that I've read this, I'm HUGELY excited, even moreso than before.

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  28. I hate napkins and towels that don't absorb. I mean, what's the freakin' point! Anyway, my sone and daughter-in-law have acquired a small loom or maybe they are building one. he has me on the lookout for shuttles at the antique stores.

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