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Magic-Step Towels

Main Image

This design was a "Eureka!" moment for me. For years, I have explored two- and three-shaft weaving structures. By combining color-and-weave with thick-and-thin yarns you can get complicated-looking fabric from even the simplest looms. The pronounced diagonal in this design, however, the "magic-steps," didn't show up until I started weaving. It's an exciting design that I'll be exploring in future projects.

These guest towels can be woven on any loom with two or more shafts. You could even weave this on a rigid-heddle loom with a 10-dent heddle.

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Project Notes

“Magic Steps” guest towels in a shaded log cabin/basket weave derivative.

Note: The directions below assume you are warping back-to-front, and include several tips that will speed up your threading and sleying if you are warping in that direction.


  • Loom with two or more shafts
  • Two shuttles: one for the dark weft, one for the light weft
  • 10-dent reed
  • Reed hook, scissors, warping board, etc.


Either Bockens 22/2 Cottolin or 8/2 cotton, in two contrasting colors.


20 epi

Note: Because the warp is threaded in groups of doubled and tripled ends you will use a 10-dent reed or heddle for this project.

Winding the Warp

Wind a warp approximately 4.6 yards long. (This will make six towels, for additional towels, add 20 inches to the warp lengthper towel.)

There will be a total of 301 ends, with the colors distributed as shown below.

winding plan

Because this project is an irregular basketweave (meaning that you may weave the same set of shafts one, two, or three times in a row) you must use floating selvedges. These two additonal threads—one for each side of the warp—are wound on with the rest of the warp, sleyed in the reed, but not threaded through the heddles. This means that they never raise or lower, but instead always "float" at the side of the shed. During weaving, you will take the shuttle around the floating selvedges (how doesn't matter as much as being consistent.) This will prevent your weft from "unweaving" on those occasions when you are weaving more than once in the same shed.


Threading the Heddles

The towels have twenty-end borders on either side before the central patterning begins. These twenty ends (consisting of ten dark ends and ten light ends) should be threaded at two ends per heddle.



Ends that are threaded adjacently on the same shaft can be threaded through one heddle. So there may be one, two or three warp ends through a heddle.

I recommend that you leave the lease sticks holding the one-by-one threading cross in the warp during weaving, to prevent the basket weave structure from being distorted by this threading.

Note: You will reverse the threading in adjacent blocks. Each block has thirty-seven ends, starting and ending with dark.

Weave Structure

Graduated basketweave with color-and-weave effects.

Note: The drawdown image below shows only part of the threading and treadling. For the complete drawdown, please download the WIF file.

Download the weave draft in WIF format   magic-step drawdown

If you have a loom with three or more shafts, you can also weave this project with supplementary warp floats (shown as red and orange stripes in the picture at the top of this article.) 

If you have a loom with three or more shafts, you can also weave this project with supplementary warp floats (shown in red below) on shaft three. The supplementary warp ends are sleyed in the same dent as the adjacent ground warp end (or bundle). The supplementary warp ends float over and under two warp ends or bundles.

Note: The drawdown image below shows only part of the threading and treadling. For the complete drawdown, please download the WIF file.

Download the draft in WIF format
supplementary warp draft


Sleying the Reed

Sley one heddle per dent. There may be one, two or three ends per dent. Because the number of warp ends in each pair of adjacent heddles is always four, the warp ends will be evenly spread.


Weave a hem one-and-a-half inches long in plain weave using the dark weft. (You will do this again at the end of the towel.)


Weave the pattern as drawn in, until the towel is square.

Beacuse this is an irregular basketweave, you will be weaving either one, two, or three picks in the same shed. This is why you need a floating selvedge. Taking the shuttle around the floating selvedge thread each time prevents you from "unweaving" when you are throwing multiple picks in the same shed.


Take fabric off the loom, and either serge or zig-zag stitch between the towels and cut them apart. Fold the hems (woven with a single dark weft) over twice and stitch down. After hemming, the towels can be machine washed and dried.

inkle-woven tags

For a polished look, you can sew a loop into the hem to make it easy to hang the towel for drying. The band above was woven on an inkle loom using the same yarn as the towel.


Erica de RuiterErica de Ruiter graduated at the School for Industrial Design in The Netherlands, and worked as an industrial designer for many years. For the last twenty-five years she has taught weaving in The Netherlands and abroad. She has published Weaving on Three Shafts and Tejido Huave and Beyond, as well as numerous articles in weaving publications. She specializes in two- and three-shaft weaving techniques.