Before my weaving days, my exposure to cotton was limited to one color: white. White t-shirts, white sheets, white hotel towels. What color there was came from dyes. And many times, that color was fugitive—over time, red turned to pink, navy turned to powder blue, and yellow faded to cream.
Then I learned to weave and of course, needed yarn. I love shopping for yarn! There are so many different fibers, different spins, and hues to choose from. And that’s when I discovered that cotton is also available in colors that come from nature!
Cotton has always grown in a variety of browns, tans, greens, and even reds, and many peoples over time have spun and woven beautiful naturally colored textiles. It has a shorter staple(fiber) length than white cotton and produces a softer cloth than white cotton. And the amazing thing to me is that the color deepens with washing. I wove a series of hand towels several years ago and had a small piece left over which I kept and use as a basket liner. This little towel is still the same soft green and brown as when I wove it.
The white cotton we are familiar with today was bred in response to the Industrial Revolution. The development of inexpensive dyes and improvements in spinning and weaving manufacturing led growers to breed just that one variety. Colored cotton became a novelty until the early 1980’s when a small number of cotton breeders began developing the line again.
Remembering the towels I wove earlier, I decided to weave another run in naturally colored cotton. Cotton is a great fiber for towels, very absorbent, durable and easy to care for. And twill is my go-to weave structure for just about everything. The towels are off the loom now and I’m almost finished hemming. I’m happy with the feel of the towels and the warm colors of the cotton. And I know they won’t fade!