tenugui 01

Hand-woven linen towel, tenugui style

tenugui are long and narrow Japanese cotton towels with unfinished hems. They are traditionally used as scarves, headbands, kerchiefs, gift wrappings, and hand towels. Many tenugui are beautifully dyed or printed and are used for decoration.

When I learned about tenugui and their relevance in Japanese culture, I was fascinated. I especially like the idea to use the same item in multiple ways, and to keep the cloth very light and the hem unfinished so that it dries really fast.

I attempted to make my own version of a tenugui-style towel in linen. I chose a much thinner yarn than I usually work with to achieve a lighter fabric and also kept the hems unfinished. The new yarn turned out very difficult for me to weave. Through the help of other weavers I learned that a single-ply linen yarn always needs sizing, that means treatment with a flax seed or starch solution to prevent the single threads from tangling. Even with sizing, I am still struggling to achieve the consistent open shed needed for weaving. While the resulting towel is exactly how I imagined it, the weaving process was very frustrating and prone to errors.

warp: 20/1 Växbo linen, unbleached
weft: 20/1 Växbo linen, half-bleached
sett: 40 epi
warp ends: 600
threading: plain weave variation
(1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1-6)
reed: 16 dents (2-3)
weaving size: 15″ x 40″
finished size: 14″ x 38″