My Biggest Weaving Mistake

Christina recounts her biggest weaving mistake—one that was published in Handwoven magazine.

Christina Garton Nov 21, 2023 - 4 min read

My Biggest Weaving Mistake Primary Image

Christina’s Blue Norwegian towel from Handwoven September/October 2019. Notice that you can only see a corner of the bottom towel. Photo credit: George Boe

Once upon a time, back when I primarily worked for Handwoven, I volunteered to weave a set of towels. These towels were for an anniversary issue and woven in honor of former editor, Anita Osterhaug. A proud Norwegian-American, I researched antique Norwegian towels, ways to modify weaving techniques to fit my skill set and loom, and carefully designed a set of towels that I hoped would make her proud. What I didn’t do, however, was measure my warp properly.

In this installment of “the biggest weaving mistake I’ve ever made,” I’d like to expose a deep, dark secret that I’ve been hiding with the help of the Handwoven team. For my project, I wove two towels . . . sort of. Something happened either during my initial warp-length calculations or while winding on the warping board, and I ended up with enough warp to weave roughly 1.33 towels.

If you’re familiar with Handwoven, you might be saying, “Wait, Christina, that’s not true—I’ve got the issue, and I see two towels!” Though the picture appears to show two full towels, one is positioned under the other, so you see only a corner. That corner is enough to give you the gist of the towel—the primary patterning and all that—but I regret to say it is indeed unfinished. Were you to remove the top towel, underneath you would see about 10” of weaving and some knotted fringe.

Why am I sharing my shame? To show you that we all make mistakes in weaving at some point or another. In some cases, these mistakes could have been prevented by slowing down and paying closer attention—like double-checking to ensure you have enough warp on the loom to make two towels. In other cases, we make mistakes because there’s something we don’t know yet. Maybe it’s trying to weave with linen on a pin loom without understanding the required tension, or not knowing that yarn skeins need to be wound into balls and winding up with a knotty mess, or using an old yarn for warp and realizing too late that time and sun exposure have made it brittle. (Why yes, I have done all three of these things, unwittingly.)

The first time Christina miscalculated her warp length for towels she had to use a pick-up stick to keep the shed open. She wove until the apron rod was very nearly right behind the heddle. She does not recommend this technique. Photo credit: Christina Garton

As weavers, sharing our successes as well as our mistakes is very important. As with most parts of life, making mistakes in weaving is just one way to learn something new. My lesson? Calculate your warp length at least twice and then calculate it again, and if it’s a project for a magazine, maybe add on an extra yard or so “just in case.” While my mismeasurement wasn’t my best work in regard to planning, I still love that piece of cloth and keep it on display (shame-side hidden) in my dining room. (Of course, I’d also be remiss if I didn’t admit this wasn’t my first measuring snafu. In the photo above you can see an instance where I had to use my pick-up stick to keep my shed wide enough to weave one last towel. Oops.)

I’ve made other mistakes in my weaving (so many mistakes), but this is the one that I think of regularly. I hope my telling the story helps prevent even one of you from repeating it!

Happy Weaving,