Below the Warp

Important things are happening below the warp on my eight-shaft countermarch loom. Eight upper lamms, eight lower lamms, and eight treadles beneath the lamms are at work. Shaft cords connect shafts to lamms. Treadle cords connect lamms to treadles. When the loom is all tied up, stepping on a treadle raises some shafts and lowers others, making it possible to send the weft across in a shuttle. And weaving happens.

Countermarch loom tie-up.

Heddles line up like soldiers, holding each warp end in place. Shaft cords reach down from the lower shaft bars and are attached to the upper lamms with little Texsolv anchor pins.

Tying up Glimakra Standard countermarch loom.

Treadle cords hang loose from the upper and lower lamms, each cord in its proper position.

Everything below the surface matters. When you start weaving, it won’t take long to see if all the connections work. When everything behind the reed and underneath the warp is set up properly, you can expect a pleasant weaving experience.

Tying up countermarch treadles.

Treadle cords reach down to the treadles to finish the line of connections. Cords are threaded onto a sharpened dowel beneath the treadle to hold the cords in place.

Joy is evidence of what is happening below the surface. You can see joy on the face of someone who looks to the Lord and trusts in Him. Joy is more than a smile. It’s a radiance that starts on the inside. Trusting in the Lord produces positive connections below the surface. That deep trust is formed through life’s most difficult moments– joy that is cultivated there endures. Like weaving on a countermarch loom, joy depends on true connections.

May you have reasons to smile.

Joyful Weaving,

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Those Little Heddle Eyes

Threading heddles on eight shafts requires a different approach than my usual four-shaft routine ( You Can Prevent Threading Errors). With four shafts, the heddles fit nicely between my five fingers. I would need nine fingers on my hand to thread eight shafts in the same manner. The important thing is that every warp end gets inserted through the correct heddle. I have to position my loom bench and adjust the height of the shafts. I need to be able to see and feel the heddle eyes …all the way to the back shafts. I take the warp ends in strict order, as they lay in the lease sticks, and insert each one through the correct heddle.
Threading eight shafts. Glimakra Standard loom.

Warp ends, threaded in pairs, go through heddle eyes in a specific order.

Threading an eight-shaft block twill.

Threading is complete for this eight-shaft block twill.

It can be a struggle to find that little heddle eye on the first shaft, way at the back, but you keep at it until you find it. Temptation is a trap, and we all get caught. There is a way out. All the warp ends have a way out…through the heddles. Look for the exit that God provides. And then run through it. You’ll find yourself in the right place at the right time. And the need for explanations and excuses is gone. With the warp threading completed, we know our Grand Weaver is ready to weave something marvelous.
May your threading errors be few.


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Not Afraid of Eight Shafts

The big loom is getting dressed. Block twill on eight shafts. New yarn for a new project brings excitement. And intimidation. With 12/6 cotton rug warp and string yarn weft, this is going to be a bath mat. Hopefully.

String yarn in terra cotta for woven mats with Texas style.

String yarn in this midi size comes in many colors. I chose terra cotta to give the planned mats a Texas flavor.

Rug warp ready for dressing the loom.

Three bouts of 12/6 cotton rug warp are ready for dressing the loom.

It’s been a couple years since I’ve done an eight-shaft block twill, and this one has some interesting twists. I’m not afraid to try it, though, because I am following a draft from The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell. I may make mistakes in the process, but my fears about trying this project evaporate as I refer to Laila’s instructions.

Eight shafts in "resting" position while beaming the warp.

Lower shaft bars are lifted up and placed on the upper shaft bars to move them out of the way for beaming the warp. The large safety pins prevent shaft bars from slipping out of place.

Threading heddles on eight shafts.

Threading heddles on eight shafts, one threading bundle of 48 ends at a time. There are two warp ends per heddle.

There are bigger fears than weaving woes. We face them every day in our families and in our communities, and in our private musings. Fear is a tyrant that holds us with threats and demands. Fear is the language of the pessimist within. Prayer opens us up to freedom from fear. We need clear instructions that give us confidence to face whatever comes. When we pray to the Lord regarding the things we are fearful about, he hears and answers. And he frees us from our fears.

May you rise above your fears.

Happy loom dressing,


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Quality Rag Rugs

Does this color enhance or detract? Is there enough contrast between background and pattern? Is five centimeters of plain weave between pattern sections too long, or too short? I ask myself questions as I weave a new design. I consider all the technical aspects, as well. Warp tension, treadling finesse, and shuttle shuffling. Attention to detail matters.

Rosepath rag rug on the loom. Karen Isenhower

Design elements are planned before weaving, and then adjusted as weaving progresses on the loom.

Details begin in the planning stage with design, choice of materials, and colors. While weaving rosepath rag rugs, consistency counts. I aim for a consistently firm beat and good, tight selvedges. All of these elements contribute to quality. And as I grow in my weaving skills, overall quality improves.

Rosepath rag rugs require extra attention at the selvedges.

Rosepath rag rugs require extra attention at the selvedges.

Rosepath rag rug on the loom.

Yellow dash is made with a single weft pick. The single fabric strip is cut long enough to securely tuck the ends back into the shed.

A person’s character is defined by their motivations. It’s not what you do, but why you do it. It is not enough to look good. I can buy a cheap rug that looks good. But if I could examine how it was made, I might find the shortcuts that diminished its quality. Our inward motivations are revealed in our outward behaviors. The cheap rug fades and comes apart all too quickly. By examining our own motives we build quality of character. The result is not only lovely, but durable, too.

May your quality control efforts succeed.

With you,


  • i just love reading your blog posts and following what you are up to! You inspire me to weave more my friend! Have a most beautiful day! I love your quote about a person’s character being defined by their motivations. I know I weave because it completes me, I love it and I see you do too!

  • linda says:

    Often a project changes when seen on the loom. Spacing of pattern and negative morphs into, for that project, a perfectness that was not planned. When I weave, Quilt, knit, or sew hand woven I stand back and revise. Very much like life. What we start out planning to do at 20 years old morphs into what we’ve done by 60. ENJOY the journey; we only have one. LP&J, linda

    • Karen says:

      Linda, So true! You give a great description of how we make revisions through life’s turns and tangles. And to enjoy the journey is a great way to live!


  • Just wondering if you use a floating selvage on your rose path rugs. I’ve seen that recommended in some books. Thanks.

    • Karen says:

      I do not use floating selvedges for rosepath rag rugs. I prefer to take the weft on the ski shuttle over or under the outer ends as needed. The important thing is to catch every outer warp end – with floating selvedges, or by manipulating the outer warp end as needed. I explained the way I do it in point 1. in Rag Rug Selvedges Made Easy.

      Happy Weaving,

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Tools Day: Warping Slat Spacers

Rag rugs are not finished when you cut them from the loom. In fact, they can fall apart if you are not careful. A rag rug is not secure until warp ends are tied into knots. You need to leave space on the warp between rag rugs to make room for the eventual knots.

One way to leave space on the warp is by using warping slats as spacers. Simply weave about two inches of scrap header after the end of a rug. Then, insert warping slats in alternating plain weave sheds. And then, weave another scrap header. Now, you’re ready to start the next rug.

Warping slats as spacers between rag rugs.

Weaving is finished. It is time to cut these rugs from the loom. Four warping slats are seen between two rag rugs as the rugs are being pulled off the loom.

I leave about eight inches (20 cm) of warp between rugs. This gives me enough length for tying the needed square knots. If you are leaving fringe, add enough to include the desired fringe length. When you insert the warping slats, keep them centered so that they can go around the breast beam and cloth beam without catching on the sides of the loom.

Warping slats are used as spacers between rag rugs.

Full-width warping slats are placed carefully so that they do not extend beyond the weaving width on the right or on the left. This view is looking down on the end of the breast beam.

It is easy to separate the rugs after they are off the loom. Cut between slats using a rotary cutter, with a cutting mat underneath.

Warping slats are used as spacers between two rag rugs on the loom.

Double binding rag rugs are ready to be removed from the loom. The two rugs will be cut apart by slicing the warp between the middle two warping slats.

May you make the best use of your time and tools.

All the best,


  • n says:

    Why do you tie square knots if you are going to hem the rug? N.

    • Karen says:

      N., The knots stabilize the weaving. Without something to hold the weft in, even turning the edge to make a hem would loosen the weaving. And, if the hem comes undone in the life of the rug, the knots will still be there holding the rug together.

      Thanks for asking!

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