Thursday, January 8, 2009


Towel woven of 2/16 cotton for warp and a cotton slub for weft.

In August of 2007, I finally did something I'd been wanting to do for a long time - a test of absorbency of different textiles.

The following is a report I shared with members of a study group.

"I've just finished a rather rudimentary absorbency test on the towels
submitted for the Challenge, plus some samples of my own.

I weighed the dry sample, floated it on some warm water to which
detergent had been added for the surfactant effect (breaking down the
surface tension of the water) for a count of 10, removed the sample from
the water letting the water drain until the stream of water was just a
drip, and weighed the sample again. Then calculated the % of increase
in weight for each.

Towel #1 10/2 organic cotton warp and weft 28% increase

Towel #2 16/2 rayon warp, cotton novelty weft 16%

Towel #3 8/2 cotton (US standard, not warp twist) plus a slub -
probably rayon 28%

Towel #4 10/2 merc cotton warp, 16/2 unmerc. cotton and cotton flake
weft 18%

Towel #5 8/2 cotton (US standard), cotton flake, weft of cottolin 32%

Towel #6 10/2 unmerc cotton warp, 16/2 cotton and cotton flake weft 30%

Towel #7 10/2 Perle cotton warp, 8/2 Tencel and 5/2 Perle cotton weft 38%

2/16 cotton warp and weft 40%

2/8 (warp twist) cotton and singles linen 38%

2/16 cotton warp, cottolin weft 50%

2/20 cotton (merc but not Perle) 25%

2/16 cotton warp, single linen (tow) 20%

Strictly speaking, the absolute absorbency numbers still don't tell the
whole story. There is also the fact that some fabrics, while being
thirsty, also feel wet very quickly.

There are also some fabrics that, once wet, are slow to give up their
moisture. They take a long time to dry, and if you live in a humid
climate, they can take a *very* long time to dry.

Last, but not least, there is the issue of texture. I have some towels
made of 2/16 cotton and 2/10 Tencel. I don't like how they feel on my
hands - they feel very slick and even a bit "cold".

After all this, perhaps it becomes a lot more understandable that when
people ask me questions about what is "best", my first response is
inevitably "it depends". :)

The people involved in the towel exchange will receive these numbers as
part of their evaluation package, plus they will receive samples of my
textiles tested above (where available) for them to study.



trish said...

Excellent review...thanks for sharing.

Dorothy said...

This is fascinating, I never thought of testing for absorbency like this. I'm intrigued by the variation between cotton yarns. My little text book on fibre characteristics would suggest that cotton is cotton, so to speak, and therefore all about the same. Thanks for sharing the facts and figures.