How I Got Started in Handweaving

In the early 1980’s Steve and I signed up for a pottery class at Johnson Atelier in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We still have the hand-built pitcher Steve made. The big thing that happened for me, though, besides figuring out that I am not a potter, was the rigid heddle weaving class across the hall. I signed up for that class, and lo and behold, I discovered I was a handweaver at heart! I found myself in an exhilarating new story; and I acquired my first loom–a 32″ Beka rigid heddle. Weaving became my means of creative expression. Now, several chapters (and a few more looms) later, I am still a happy handweaver. It’s part of who I am.

Small tapestry, mounted on linen, with frame made to fit. Karen Isenhower

Practice tapestry piece is mounted on linen. Steve made the frame to fit. The frame is leaning on the crackled raku pitcher Steve made in our pottery class so many years ago.

That is how I want my story to be written on the inside, too. Through a discovery that redirects my whole attention. Let a new story be written! A new creation starts on the inside and makes you a new person. The writer of this terrific new story is God, Himself, who makes everything new.

May you find yourself in a true story.

Happily Weaving,

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Graphed Design Directs Weaving

Like sorting laundry, I separated the fabric into darks and lights for this design. I am hopeful that with the simple distinction of dark and light, the overall symmetrical design will be evident. We will not be able to judge the success of this idea until it comes off the loom.

Double binding rag rug on the loom.

Cloth tape has units of inches marked on it for measuring the rug on the loom. Tape is moved and pinned for each woven section of the design.

Sometimes I question the plan, even though it is drawn out on graph paper. I wonder how the finished rug will look. But then I remind myself that I see the cloth from the breast beam to the fell line, which is a very small segment of the whole design. I have to trust that the graphed design is the way to go, and I make up my mind to stick with it.

God loves all of us. It takes courage to love Him back. We love God by walking in His ways. That is not always easy. It means learning His plan with a humble heart, and making adjustments to our thoughts and actions. It is also recognizing that we see a very small segment of the overall picture. To go my own way instead would be short-sighted. The designer knew what He was doing in the beginning. Surely, He will carry His good plan through to the end.

May your designs come to life.


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Quiet Friday: Weaving Linen Air

Linen lace weaving. It’s like weaving air. 16/1 linen warp and weft, with uneven sleying and careful weaving. Beating is not the right word this time; let’s call it “placing the weft.” Gentle, gentle, gentle, easy does it. No temple needed. Indeed, what would you hook the temple into? There is almost nothing there.

Linen on the warping reel.

Winding the 16/1 linen warp on the warping reel.

Linen warp chain, ready to dress the loom.

Wound warp is chained and placed over the breast beam and through the beater in preparation for dressing the loom.

Dressing the loom with linen singles.

Ends are counted and grouped before threading.

Uneven sleying of the reed with linen singles.

Reed is sleyed unevenly, sometimes called “crammed and spaced.”

I did weave a sample, trying out different colors and sizes of weft. The weave is so airy; honestly, I was not sure if the fabric would hold its shape off the loom. To wet finish, I first soaked the sample for 20 minutes in hot water with mild soap. Then, I washed it by hand, lifting and lowering the net-like cloth repeatedly in the water. I rolled it in a towel and gently squeezed to remove moisture. Lastly, I laid it out flat to dry.

Half bow keeps linen from slipping, while allowing adjustments.

Half bow-tie makes sure the linen will not slip. Adjustments are easy, if necessary, after weaving a few inches.

Tying up treadles in the "playhouse" under the warp.

Treadle tie-up happens in the “playhouse” under the warp in the back. Sunlight through the linen reveals “invisible” hairy fibers.

Linen sample, not yet wet finished.

Sample, not yet wet finished.

Linen sample in black and white.

Black and white view shows cloth structure.

Result? It came through beautifully, with the lace weave intact. Linen, there is something about you that is exquisite and delightful, yet a bit mischievous and sly. I like you.

Linen sample after wet finishing. Karen Isenhower

After wet finishing and drying, the linen sample shows a glimpse of scarves to come.

Weaving linen air. Karen Isenhower

Weaving linen air.

May all your concerns be as light as air.

Happy Linen Weaving,


  • Charlene says:

    Your linen is beautiful. What weight is the linen? Now that it is summer it has great appeal.

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Charlene,
      I agree, the airy linen practically feels like summer. I am using Bockens 16/1 line linen. Bockens has glorious colors in their line linen.


  • Diane says:

    Wow, I just picked up some estate sale linen – I don’t think I’ll make mine *quite* that airy, but yours is lovely! I’m thinking summer scarves, too.

    • Karen says:


      Lucky you for finding some estate sale linen!

      Yay! for summer scarves. Here in Houston, scarves in the summer need to be practically invisible. :)

      Happy weaving,

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Dressed with Colors in Linen

Are you wondering which color arrangement I chose for the linen lace scarves? It wasn’t an easy decision. After weighing all the opinions and advice, color-wrapped card #7 won. I added a neutral stripe on both sides to frame the color sequence, and I varied the width of the stripes, thanks to Fibonacci. The result is that you can hardly distinguish where each stripe begins and ends. The stripes blend into each other, with the magenta stripes grabbing the most attention. (Visit Tools Day: Color Wrapping and Color Wrapping Take Two to follow the discussion about choosing the color arrangement for this warp.)

Dressing the loom with linen.

Linen on the warp beam. The colors blend from one end to the other, framed by bands of unbleached and golden bleached threads on each side. Lease sticks, tied to the back beam, maintain the order of the threads.

It makes sense to think things through before committing a linen warp to the loom. My excitement builds as the loom is dressed. We will soon see the woven results when I experiment with weft options. I am secretly hoping for iridescence. I can imagine it, but I won’t see it until the weaving happens, and the light catches the airy interlaced threads.

Threading the loom with linen.

Each thread is inserted through the eye of a heddle.

Color choices are inconsequential compared to other choices we make, but commitment is something many decisions have in common. We are invited into a personal walk with Jesus Christ. It is no small thing to consider an agreement with the Master. Like dressing a loom, it is a commitment. The excitement comes when you realize that iridescence and other mysteries may come true before your very eyes.

May you have a life filled with the glow of iridescence.

For good,

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Every Tapestry Has a Story to Tell

I am getting a late start on this month’s tapestry diary, so I am selecting a smaller palette of colors and a narrower warp. This is doodling with yarn, using a few simple shapes and a handful of colors.

Tapestry frame with small monthly tapestry diary.

Tapestry frame hangs where we see it daily. Art in progress.

Here I go blending colors and making color gradations again–in miniature. Three strands of red, and then one of the reds is replaced with orange; next, another red is replaced, making it two oranges and one red; and finally, the last red says goodbye and now the three strands are all orange. And why not insert two rows of yellow blends between each two rows of the red-to-orange gradation? The whole thing is a wordless color story. It requires several colors to do this, each one having its part to play. Some colors work better together than others, but every color has a place. Each color strand is essential to the story.

Two picks of weft create a wavy line.

Two picks of a weft color (or blend) create a wavy line. A single pick of a color creates a dotted line.

You and I are not here to please and satisfy ourselves. We are here to tell a bigger story. We worship God by using our individual gifts to serve and to function in harmony with others. The resulting woven tapestry, when finished, will reveal the skill of our Grand Weaver.

May you blend well in your relationships, using your gifts.

Better together,


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