Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Swedish Weaving Vintage Towel Tutorial - Part One

In the introductory post I pointed to some background materials to help you learn more about Swedish weaving techniques before we get started, and told you what materials you will need to complete one kitchen or guest towel.

At this point your fabric or ready-made towel should be washed and dried.  On huck toweling fabric be sure to serge or zig zag around the edges to prevent fraying.  Let's get started!

Our Design / Pattern

This is a geometric repeat pattern of hexagons.  We are going to work this on just one side of the towel.

First Steps

Prepare your thread.  Start with the darker of the two hues (color #1) if you are using the same color, as I am above.  I recommend wrapping your skein of pearl cotton around something (such as an empty paper towel cardboard roll) to keep it tangle-free:

Boo-boo Kitty helps hold my thread

Fold your huck toweling lengthwise, selvage to selvage, to find the center:

Open it up, and place a safety pin through one float in the center crease about two inches above the bottom edge, or wherever you would like your design to start.  Be sure to leave at least an inch free so you can hem the bottom:

Measuring your thread

Most designs are worked right to left, beginning in the center, and then worked from the center toward the other end.  That's what we are going to do.  Recommendations as to how much thread to use will vary from pattern to pattern.  The most important issue is not to run out of thread  before you complete a row!  

The standard way to measure your thread is to use 2 1/2 times the width of the towel.  For this simple pattern, 2 1/2 times will leave too much extra thread at the ends.  We are going to measure 2 times the width of the towel, and that will still leave ample thread at the ends.  

Some of you will have a 15" wide fabric, some 16", and some may have a 17" wide fabric.  Measure a length of thread from selvage to selvage twice.  Your thread will be anywhere from 30 to 34 inches long.  

When you are more experienced you can experiment and figure out just how much thread you really need so you're not wasting too much on the ends.

Thread your needle with the darker of the two hues (color #1).  We're going to start stitching in the row just above the safety pin mark where I have inserted the needle below:

Next Steps:  Straight Stitching

I know that we are simply going to make a straight line on stitches across the bottom, but we're going to start in the middle to make sure we have enough thread for the entire row.  Starting in the exact middle also ensures that our design will be the same (mirror images) on both sides. 

Pass your needle through the float on the left directly above the safety pin.  Even up the two sides of your thread as shown below so that you have equal amounts of thread on either side of the float:

This is what you will do for each and every row.

We always work from right to left in every row, and in every row we will start in the middle of the fabric. Once you have more experience with this pattern you may be able to work it from right to left without starting in the middle, but begin in the middle for starters and save yourself some frustration, ok?

Now make your first stitch, moving from the middle crease to the left.  Pick up each and every float in the row.  This is called straight stitching:

Looks like a running stitch, doesn't it?

Be careful not to pull the thread too tight or you will end up with less thread on one side and your stitches won't look even. Try not to pull the floats out of shape.

Continue until you reach the end of the row.  To finish a row, there is the option of weaving your thread back through a few floats at the end and then cutting your thread close to your work.  I  prefer drawing my needle to the backside at the beginning of the selvage like this:

Your finished half row will look like this:

Don't worry if it's not perfectly lined up with the selvage edge every time you end a row.  If you're a few millimeters off it's no big deal.  No one will notice. 

I'll show you how to anchor your threads when we finish the towel.

Now turn your work so your safety pin is at the top of your towel, and your finished line of stitching is on the right.  

In Swedish weaving you'll often work the second half of the pattern upside down, so to speak.  This is not a big deal because in general the motifs (in this case, a hexagon) are simply repeated over and over again across the width or length of the fabric. 

Continue to straight stitch through every float on the left side.  Finish by pulling your thread to the back side and removing the needle.  Leave the extra thread right where it is.  Don't knot it or pull at it. 

Now thread your needle with your other color choice (color #2) and repeat the steps above in the next row above your first line of stitching.  When done, you will have two rows of straight stitches, one on top of the other:

Start of the Hexagons

From here on out I'm going to assume that you have prepared your thread as shown above.  Use the darker of two hues (color #1) for the bottom of the first hexagon.

In the following pictures I moved my safety pin down a few rows so don't be distracted by its position.

The bottom of the hexagon is formed by four straight stitches.  As we are starting in the exact middle of the design, pick up two floats on the left to begin the first hexagon. That ensures that we have a mirror image of the design on both sides.

Move up and skip one horizontal row of floats, and pick up one float to the left of your original stitches as shown below:

For the next stitch, move down and skip the same horizontal row of floats and pick up four floats to the left.  Keep repeating these stitches all the way across the left side of the fabric:
The little "hills" that you are making, where the thread is
closed at the top and open at the bottom are called "open loops"

At the end of the row, pick up the last float and draw your needle through to the back side as you did before.

Now turn your work (safety pin at the top), thread your needle again, and work from the middle to the left side in the same way.

For the next row, take a closer look at the design.  We're still going to use color #1 for the next three rows (for a total of four rows):

In the next row you will pick up three floats to form the bottom of the hexagon, and pick up two floats to form the top of the open loop:

Continue to the end of the left side and finish as usual.  Turn your work (safety pin on top), thread your needle with the rest of the thread and continue working from the middle to the left.  This is what working from the middle to the left looks like when you've turned your towel with the safety pin on top:

Everything is just upside down.  The hexagons are formed by a series of straight stitches and open loops.  

Easy, right?  Simply refer to the pattern picture above to continue with color #1 in the same manner until you have four rows of color #1 to form the base of your hexagons.  It will look like four wavy lines:

Ok, that's enough for today.  Feel free to ask questions by commenting below.  We'll continue in the next installment!


  1. That's beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing this in the One Pretty Thing Flickr pool, I'll be linking in Sunday's Weekend Roundup.

  2. What a lovely blog you have...and sew many creative project ideas!!! I'm hooked : ) Thank you so much for visiting me and leaving kind comments at : )

  3. So beautiful! Thank you for sharing the tutorial.

  4. Oh, this is phenomenal! I have got to try this!!

  5. Thank you so much for the easy to understand tutorial! i am just starting to swedish weave,a couple months ago..using yarn for a baby blanket.
    it is so relaxing and beautiful when finished!

  6. I am teaching some young ladies to learn to Swedish weave may I use your pattern it is for the Girls Inc. a non for profit org.
    I am making no money for the course please let me know thanks
    Catherine of Dale

  7. Thank You for this Tutorial. I learned to make Huck Towels 46 yrs ago when I was fifteen years old and have not made one since. Unfortunately, I forgot how to make them. I have often thought about the days when we used to make Huck Towels. It was so much fun and really kept me occupied.

    I am now sixty-one years old, and would like to learn again. I finally Googled How to make Huck Towels and to my surprise I was directed to this site. Thank you so much. I will be getting my supplies soon!!!!

  8. Can you or anyone please tell me where to find the huck toweling fabric or already made towels? Also what type of thread are you using. Is it floss what is the name or brand. Thank you.

    1. Hi Carlee! I think you may have missed the introductory post here where I discussed the materials needed to do this project:

      You can purchase the huck toweling online from several different companies either by-the-yard, by-the-bolt, or in ready-made towels. Here's a couple of options:

      Nordic Needle:
      Jo Ann Fabrics:

      You can also do a Google search for "huck toweling."

      As for thread, you'll need DMC or Anchor pearl cotton, size #5.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

    2. I am 75 and my grandma taught me this when I was 10. I still have the two I made. thanks off sharing this wonderful tutorial. I already. Have 4 done. Thanks again


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