One of the most functional techniques you’ll learn in Deb Essen’s new eBook, Easy Weaving with Supplemental Warps, is weaving terry-cloth, the material used for commercial bath towels and washcloths. But what is terry-cloth and how did it come to be?
Terry-cloth is a pile weave, which means that there are uncut loops woven into the fabric on one or both sides, which are raised above the groundcloth. Pile weaves can have cut or uncut loops, woven either weft-wise or warp-wise, but terry-cloth is always warp-wise, hence the need for supplemental warps!
The first terry-cloth towels were handwoven from silk, made in France in 1841. The name “terry” came from the French word “tirer,” which means “to pull out or through.” This clearly referred to the supplemental warps, which were “pulled out” to create the distinctive loops that make terry-cloth so absorbent and soft. Throughout the mid-1800s, several British and United States manufacturers began mass-producing woolen and then cotton terry-cloth.
Both industrially and in the home, terry-cloth is usually woven on a loom with two warp beams: one for the groundcloth warp threads, and one for the pile warp. Deb Essen’s supplemental warp technique is so revolutionary because it doesn’t require that second warp beam. As Deb points out, weavers have been weaving supplemental warps and even pile weaves for centuries without a supplemental back beam, but there wasn’t much documentation before Deb set out to share her technique with the world.
Terry-cloth has become so popular and widespread because of the heavy absorbency and satisfying weight of the pile weave. And you’ll love weaving your own! Check out Deb Essen’s new eBook, as well as her other supplemental warp resources, Weaving with Supplemental Warp and Pile Weaves with Supplemental Warps. Luxurious, customized terry-cloth towels are in your future—as well as other pile weaves like velvet!