It Begins with a Warp Chain

I have new warp excitement! Having a new warp chain ready for the loom is much like coming into a season of gift giving. Every step of dressing the loom is like meticulously wrapping the gift, with some things completely hidden away. When the weaving begins, the gift is opened, little by little. The final unwrapping happens when the warp is cut from the loom, and all the delights are fully revealed.

Cottolin warp chain.

Cottolin warp chain ready for dressing the loom.

Spreading the warp, pre-sleying the reed.

Spreading the warp by pre-sleying the reed.

Beaming on a new cottolin warp.

Spread warp is ready to be beamed on.

Peace, grace, hope, and love. These are the gifts I wish for you, friend. These gifts are ready to be unwrapped! Watch the fabric develop before your eyes as you weave, and enjoy the wonder of opening the gifts.

May you receive gifts that are better than you expected.



  • Katherine Marie Cranston says:

    Thats exactly how I feel about weaving! Thanks.

  • Deb says:

    Thanks for the great picture, I have never pre-sleyed the reed as I have always warped back to front. This shows exactly how to do that part of warping and I always love a new technique! We can never quit learning…

    • Karen says:


      I agree about learning! That’s one of the things I love about weaving. There’s always new things to learn.

      I call this back to front warping, too. How do you spread the warp?


  • Isabel says:

    Hi Karen,

    That’s a nice-looking sleying hook. Is the handle comfortable? Where did you get it?

    I love your blog! Thank you for writing it.


    • Karen says:

      Hi Isabel,

      The handle of the sley hook fits nicely in my hand. It has a very nice weight balance, which makes it comfortable to use. I purchased it from

      I’m glad to hear you enjoy the blog. I write it for friends like you.

      Happy weaving,

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Can I Cut it Off Now?

Four rugs woven, with hardly enough warp left to weave anything worthwhile. I am eager to cut off the planned and finished rugs, and move on to the next thing. There is only a short span of warp left, so why waste time weaving a runt-sized rug? It won’t hurt to cut it off now. I am not losing that much of the warp.

Coming to the end of the warp.

When the back tie-on bar comes up over the back beam, you know you are at the end of the warp. I have heard that there is a saying in Sweden that when the end of the warp comes over the back beam you must complete the remainder of the weaving in one sitting.

All I have left are scraps–fabric strips that were cut for previous rug designs. …Wait a minute… Could this be an opportunity in disguise? A chance try out another design idea, using fabric strips that are already cut? If I think of this as a welcome challenge, instead of a waste of time, I start seeing everything differently.

Little square rug on the loom. Karen Isenhower

Design limitations help expand creative ideas. This piece uses only fabric leftovers from previous rugs, and is limited to about 26 inches / 66 cm of warp.

The natural progression of a negative thought goes from bad to worse. Unless something intervenes to stop the progression, it can end in results far worse than cutting off a rug warp too soon. Giving thanks to God breaks the negative progression, and opens us up to an unseen world. A world of beauty and purpose. A place where scraps are used to make new and beautiful things. And where using the rest of the warp is never seen as wasted time.

May your Thanks-giving celebration begin early and continue far beyond the norm.

With gratitude,


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This Takes Effort

The cloth beam is filling up with rugs. The fuller the cloth beam gets, the more muscle it takes for me to crank up the warp tension. I put all my weight into it. Literally. First, I agressively turn the wheel at the back beam to tighten the ratchet. Then, I grab two spokes of the breast beam‘s wheel, put a knee or foot on another spoke, and pull back with all my might, adding an appropriate grunt!

Simple block design for patterned rag rug. Karen Isenhower

Because of tight warp tension, it is possible to firmly pull the weft around the selvedge ends, creating snug edges on the sides of the rug.

Why keep the tension so extremely tight? Because of the outcome–good rugs. Rugs that are sturdy, have snug selvedges, and lay completely flat. Hopefully, my effort will outlast me, as the rugs continue to serve people long after I’m gone.

It takes tremendous effort to hold on to courage when hope is slipping. After cranking up the tension for so long, the thought of keeping it up becomes overwhelming. One word of en-courage-ment from a friend breaks through hopelessness: God will see you through. Hope is restored, not based on feelings or positive thoughts, but based on believing God.

Keep up your courage. Only a few more turns and you’ll be there. The rugs will be finished; and you will know you did what you were called to do. Keep up your courage, friend.

May your good efforts outlast you.

Pulling for you,


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Tools Day: Handwoven Photography Simplified

If you take pictures, does that make you a photographer? I enjoy taking pictures at the loom. Besides the creative challenge of finding a good shot, I like the aspect of letting a picture tell a story. The Warped for Good Etsy shop is another avenue to expand my photo skills. My goal is to take photos that showcase finished handwoven articles, while keeping the process as simple as possible. Typically, I take fifteen to twenty pictures of an item, and then choose the best five shots to upload on Etsy. When I have new items to add to Etsy, I do a photo marathon on a good sunshiny day.

Tips for taking photos of handwovens.

Single towel photo from photo marathon.


iPhone 5
– I take all my photos with my phone. I know that is crazy! I never use my husband’s fancy digital SLR camera. My phone is always in my pocket, and there is nothing for me to figure out.

– I do not actually attach the camera (iPhone) to the tripod. By leaning my hand on the tripod, I can get a steady shot; and I change the angle or height simply by moving my hand.

Natural light
– Colors are not true if I use any artificial lighting. Colors will vary on computer monitors and mobile screens, but natural light gives the best chance of capturing the colors as I see them.

Sunshine, not cloudy
– With the iPhone camera, I find it impossible to get true colors if the sky is overcast. Sometimes an overcast sky in the afternoon still seems bright, not dark. Even so, I find the colors are distorted. If the conditions are not favorable, it is worth waiting.

Long roll of white paper
– A white background appeals to me. I think it conveys simplicity and elegance.

Four walking weights
– There is no end to the usefulness of two-pound walking weights. These soft weights are perfect for holding the roll of paper out to size, without creasing. (You’ll find me using walking weights for just about everything …except walking.)

White poster board
– Sometimes a white poster board or two is needed to provide background for a shot from a lower angle.

Tips for simplified photo shoot for handwovens.

Simple set up for photo shoot. Testing lighting with first shot.

Tips for setting up simple textile photo shoot.

First few practice shots show me what adjustments to make with lighting, focus, and white paper and poster board background arrangement.

Three of a kind. Simple photo tips.

Three of a kind. I like to photograph complimentary pieces together.

May your photos show your best moments.

Say cheese,


  • Carol Bogue says:

    Thanks for the great tips. I did wonder how you took such good pictures for your site. I’m sure my own will improve now.

  • Vladka says:

    Thank you very much for sharing your experience. It is very helpful for me. I have often bad results. Some colors of the picture disappears.

    • Karen says:

      I am happy this is helpful for you. I have bad results, too, sometimes. It is frustrating when some of the colors disappear or fade. Yesterday, it was cloudy all day and it did not work to take pictures. I am hoping for sunshine today.

      Happy weaving,

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The Weft Question

I keep wondering about the weft that I forgot to purchase for this blanket. The heddles are threaded and the reed is sleyed; everything is ready…except the weft. As it turns out, I am glad I Forgot the Weft, because now I can try different options on the actual warp before committing to one single color.

Threading heddles for double weave wool blanket.

Ends are grouped into bundles of 32 threads each at the back beam. Pre-counting into groups helps prevent threading errors. Each heddle holds two threads. As a group of ends are threaded, I re-check the threading, and then tie the bundle into a slip knot.

Two set of lease sticks for double weave blanket.

Two sets of lease sticks, secured at the back beam, keep the two double weave layers separate and in order. The reed is cradled in place horizontally in front of the shafts for easy sleying, four ends per dent.

I am testing eight of the eleven warp colors, plus one more that I had in my stash. Nine colors. Think of it as nine questions. This one? This one? This one?… I am looking for weft that compliments the warp all the way across, showing off the warp gradation that spans both layers of the double weave. When the weft is woven in, rather than just held up for comparison, I find the answer unfolding before my eyes.

Double weave, finding the right weft.

Barely an inch of each color, but it is enough for a favorite to stand out for me.

Questions are good. Be ready to ask genuine questions about life. Genuine, like weaving the threads, rather than simply laying threads on the surface for consideration. The Lord specifically answers a seeking heart. In this journey of discovery, the answers unfold. Those looking for truth will find it.

Which weft color would you choose (last picture, options 1 – 9, left to right)? The weft is doubled, so you can choose one color, or two colors combined. (I will reveal my choice later. The yarn arrived today!)
Leave your answer in the comments.

May you be asked good questions.



  • Sandy says:

    I would choose 8. Can’t wait to see it unfold.

  • Marie says:

    You have 8 choices of a doubled weft. But, really you have many more.
    You have 8 single colors to be combined with the other 8 single colors
    This is just the tip of the ice. You have magic at your finger tips.
    The fact that you have color rotation in the warp just adds to the adventure.
    I know that you are excited about weaving these blankets. I think you
    need to do a finish sample as you weft may be a packed a little to tight for
    the wool to bloom.
    Just a thought.

    Can’t wait to see the final results.

    • Karen says:

      Marie, you are right about it being magic. Yes, combining colors gives many more options!

      Thank you for suggesting that I do a finish sample. I have been debating about doing that. I hesitated because I know my warp length is barely long enough for two blankets and I didn’t want to lose any more length. I measured my picks per inch, and you are right, it’s packed in too tightly. The other thing is, I want to see what happens to the fold – I don’t know if I am leaving enough (or too much) weft at the fold selvedge for it to lay open nicely. You have talked me into it. I will do a finish sample. THANK YOU!!
      Maybe I can make the fringes just a little bit shorter to make up for it.


  • Sanni says:

    Choosing is agony. For a “soothing and warm” colored blanket I’d go with a color harmony rather than contrast. So, for me, the salmon (3), gold (4) or red (9) look best, given the complexity of the warp.

    Having said that, I see another blanket crying out to be made using your cerulean (1) and lapis (8) blues, on a gold or neutral warp, with yellow accents for “spice”.

    Show us pictures soon!

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Sanni,

      I appreciate your intelligent answer! Part of the challenge is that the other layer of the double weave has more of the cool colors – blues, teal, burgundy. It is fun to think of all the possibilities!

      I hope you have patience. I have decided to cut off the sample, to see how it behaves with wet finishing, before I proceed with the blanket. AND, there are some other projects I must attend to before going forward with this one. Don’t worry, though, I will show pics as this blanket project progresses.

      Thinking of the tortoise and the hare – “I may be slow, but I’m sure.”

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