I love weaving linen face cloths. I love linen – to wear, to sleep on, to curl up under, to wash my face with and to weave. Linen is soft and hard, weak and strong, cool and warm. What more could you ask?
Linen face cloths are small in the weaving universe. I just finished apron fabric that was 38” wide and have woven about 30 yards of curtain fabric at that same width. Compared to that face cloth fabric is pretty puny. I’ve made face cloths as small as 9” square and as large as 16” square. Nine inches is way too small although the cull that I use in the shower is even smaller than that – it’s a cull because when I cut all the face cloths apart this one wasn’t really large enough to sell. I think it’s about 9” by 6”. I really like the finished size to be 14” to 15” square so I opt for 16” in the reed. There is take up and draw-in and some shrinkage so I end up with the correct size if I start with 16”.
Face cloths should be tough so they wear well but also a bit scratchy on your face. Not scratchy, really, but exfoliating. Yes! That’s the word. They should be exfoliating. There should be some texture there. Linen already has more texture than cotton but to encourage the texture I use several different sizes of linen in the warp from 12/1 to 12/2 to lace weight knitting yarn to fingering weight. I just mix them up. And I use a weaving structure that also adds texture – waffle weave.
Waffle weave is a fun ride. The structure has intermittent long floats in both the warp and weft directions so that when you wash the fabric it puckers similar to the pattern you get from a waffle iron. Right off the loom the cloth is flat but it comes out of the dryer all puckered up. Pretty cool! In order for the waffle pattern to really waffle, the yarn needs to shrink up some. It works great on cottolin or cotton for kitchen towels and dish cloths but linen doesn’t shrink up enough to really waffle. It does add some texture, however, which is what I’m after.
I usually put a 12-yard warp on my loom but this time I put on 15 yards. That’s about 30 face cloths once you factor in loom waste and take-up. I certainly don’t want them all the same. How boring. So I use all sorts of colors in the warp. That way there is a range of color in each cloth no matter which yarn I use as the weft. Some will be dark blues, greens or black. Some will be bold reds and oranges. Some will be soft pastels. I get bored easily so changing up the color for each cloth keeps me interested and because they aren’t very large I get to use up some great yarn that wouldn’t be enough for a larger project.
If we have them, we always try to pair our linen face cloths with bars of goat’s milk soap. I think it makes a great gift and I love the soap. Our friend Lori Talbot makes our soap. I’ve already talked to her and she is gearing up to make us 30-40 bars of soap over the summer.
Watch for our linen face cloth with goat’s milk soap! We should have cloth and soap by the early fall. I may have the face cloths done before then but you never can tell how this will all go.
By the way, I did learn my lesson (actually lessons) from the serious errors I made on the apron fabric project. This time I counted my heddles to make sure I had the required 40 per harness. This wasn't an issue since linen face cloths are fairly small. I wound the warp in order and in its entirety with no odd stripes to wind separately. And finally, I threaded the heddles in order with no gaps! Yes! Well done me.