Woven Transparency Cactus Revealed!

It started with a prickly pear cactus in the front yard of our Texas hill country place, and then a photograph. Now, I have a woven representation of this interesting specimen of our Texas landscape! I am hoping that Steve will whittle a rustic rod from which this cactus banner will hang in our home.

Finishing woven transparency of a cactus.

Weaving the casing for the top of the transparency. Linen warp and weft make an appealing mesh that holds and surrounds the pictorial weaving.

Woven transparency of a prickly pear cactus. Just off the loom!

After cutting off, the complete front side of the transparency is seen for the first time.

Eager to hang this transparency, I didn’t want to waste any time. I finished the ends of the piece with a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine. And I sewed casings at the top and bottom. Now, in full view, a little back lighting reveals the complete picture of the woven threads.

Woven transparency. Prickly Pear Cactus. Karen Isenhower

Cactus spines in the woven image seem to reach outward and almost appear three-dimensional.

Detail view of woven transparency cactus.

Detail view of some of the shading in the cactus.

We weave thoughts and ideas in our heart. And when we speak, we bring those thoughts out into the open. Words reveal the treasures of the heart. When we speak words of value, we bring our choicest treasures out in the open. And what a welcome picture that is.

May your words be received as treasures.

Love,
Karen

16 Comments

  • Barbara Crockett says:

    Wow! Looking back at your June 30 post of the photo and how you started this project is fun. The details in the shading create an amazing effect. Great job!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barbara, I’m thinking about framing the cactus photograph to hang near the transparency. The light plays off the yarn and gives it a feel of realism that surprises even me.

      Thanks!
      Karen

  • Deborah Pudliner says:

    Thank you Karen! I am not a weaver, but my daughter is. Each time I read your blog I have been blessed not only in seeing what you are weaving/teaching/learning, but the words you use to share bring it all to life and encourage not only the weavers but those who are blessed in seeing the work of the weaver unfold. May He bless you, encourage you and fill you with wisdom and much joy to continue the work He has to do in you and through you.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Deborah, Thank you for sharing the treasures of your heart with me! Your words have ministered to me today more than you know.

      Blessings,
      Karen

  • Betsy G says:

    Karen
    Well done! The cactus is so realistic with your use of shading. I want to keep clear of those prickers.

  • Maria says:

    Karen- it is absolutely fantastic. I have never done a transparency but I now would love to try . What an inspiration! The stickers on the cactus are so realistic.
    Just fabulous!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Maria, I hope you do try it! This project has been great fun. Transparency weaving is quickly becoming one of my very favorite things to do. It makes me happy that you like the finished piece. That means a lot!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Cindie says:

    Your piece turned out incredible.

  • Beautiful! Weaving transparencies is rather fun! Did you use something other than wool for the spines? Just curious, because sometimes when I weave white wool into a transparency it doesn’t show up very well. One other question – what brand and type of wool did you use for the greens?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lynette, I have to agree – weaving transparencies is fun indeed!

      I did use wool for the cactus spines. All of the wool in this piece is 20/2 Mora. I used 4 strands of yarn in each bundle, which gave me a lot of opportunity to blend colors. Most of the white is white and off-white blended together. By blending 4 strands together, it greatly multiplied my palette of greens. As much as possible, I tried to combine colors that are close in value, so they would really blend together well.

      Thanks for sharing your transparencies with me. Your work has been a huge inspiration!
      Karen

  • D'Anne says:

    The spines definitely look 3D! Great job!! Hope you will bring it to WOW sometime so we can see it in person.

  • Cindy Bills says:

    Thank you for showing us the finished piece. It is lovely! I find your whole process of transparency weaving to be fascinating.

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Cactus Transparency Preview

Here is a glimpse of the front-side of the transparency weaving. The cactus is beginning to come around the breast beam. I can’t see the cactus clearly yet, but so far, it looks good! I only have a couple inches of cactus left to weave. Soon, the whole picture will be visible!

Beginning of woven transparency around the front beam.

Smooth surface of the woven pattern area is in contrast to the textured density that is seen on the back.

The back of the weaving that faces me as I weave, with all its weft turns, weft splices, and woven-in tails, is an accurate picture of what I am weaving. But it is incomplete. It doesn’t tell the whole story. I get used to this bumpy side sometimes and forget that there is something better on the other side.

Transparency weaving from the back. Prickly pear cactus.

Transparency woven from the back means that all the weft turns are seen on the back. The front side of the weaving will have an appearance that is truer to the clean lines of the picture drawn on the cartoon.

Almost finished woven transparency of prickly pear cactus!

With the end in sight, anticipation of seeing the whole picture from the front grows!

Getting a glimpse of the true cactus picture made me want to see more. Looking for, and eagerly waiting to see the finished front-side of the transparency is like seeking truth. The lines in the design are obscured from the back, so we are compelled to keep going, keep advancing the warp, and actively look for the truth to appear. Love truth. The beginning of the cactus coming into view is a welcome sight that reminds me why I’m at the loom.

May you love what is true.

Welcoming a new grandson into the world!

We welcomed a new grandson into the world a few days ago!

Big brother loving his new baby brother. Awww... so sweet.

Big brother loving his new baby brother. Truth matters because of these precious little guys.

Yours truly,
Karen

18 Comments

  • Joanna says:

    Many congratulations! May he live a long, safe, and faithful life. Babies are miracles made visible, entrusted to our care, and I know this little one will be cherished.

  • Deb says:

    Prayers for your new grandson and his family.de

  • Beth says:

    Congratulations on your new grandson! The cactus is looking amazing!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, New grandchildren are always fun to meet! I’m glad you like the cactus. I am so eager to turn the whole thing over! It won’t be long…

      Karen

  • Bev Romans says:

    Congrats on this precious and beautiful new grandchild, Karen! What a blessing to your whole family!

  • Maria says:

    Congratulations! Grand children are the best!! Can’t wait to see the finished work – your transparency that is!

  • Martha says:

    Lovely new baby and wonderful big brother – Grands are just the best. Enjoy every minute you get to spend with them. Looking forward to seeing the finish transparency

  • D'Anne Craft says:

    Congratulations on the sweet new grand baby, Karen! He’s precious!
    I look forward to seeing your finished cactus soon.

    • Karen says:

      D’Anne, Thank you! There’s nothing like holding a newborn. It’s always surprising how short that newborn stage is. This cactus is just about ready to be cut off!

      Karen

  • Congratulations on he the grandson! Interesting journey with your cactus. What size Glimakra are you weaving on and why?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Linda, Thanks so much!

      This is a 47″ (120cm) Glimakra Standard. I love your question! This is the size Glimakra I like best. I like that it is large enough to get “in” the loom for threading and tying up. This also provides a very comfortable weaving experience for my 5’2″ frame. I sit high on the bench and everything fits me. My 39″ (100cm) Ideal isn’t as easy to dress, and is a little more awkward to find a comfortable position for weaving. The times I have woven on a wider loom I found that my arms just don’t have the “wingspan” to make it a comfortable weaving experience with throwing and catching the shuttle. But overall, I enjoy weaving on any Glimakra.

      I guess I could call this my Goldilocks loom – not too big, not too small, but juuuuust right!

      Karen

  • Emily Lefler :) says:

    Congrats on your new sweet grandbaby!!

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Rya for the Rest

This loom doesn’t get first priority. This sweet little loom is at our Texas hill country getaway. Usually there are several fixer-upper projects to be done around the place. But I’m glad the loom is there. It calls to me to come and sit down, to get absorbed in linen threads and colors. The loom is a resting place for me. A place where ideas take shape and new dreams begin.

Sweet little hand-made loom.

Sweet little loom sits in a corner of the living room beckoning me to come and rest for a while.

Rya knots and inlay. All linen.

Green weft butterfly weaves the background. A yellow bundle, not seen, hangs under the warp and is added here and there for the “dots” in the green. Rya butterflies are in assorted combinations of colors. All linen.

I’m at the rya section of this tapestry and inlay sampler. It is a fun exercise in creativity. The rya knots are tied using a continuous weft bundle. After a few rows are woven I clip the loops that are formed, and trim them down a little to shape the pile.

Linen rya knots!

Explosion of linen threads. Several sizes and types of linen are combined in the rya butterflies that are used to make the rya knots.

Weaving linen rya knots. Weaving from the front.

Weaving from the front means that all the loose inlay weft tails, and spliced wefts, are hanging down on the back.

Make time for rest. We need periods of rest built into the rhythm of our lives. Intentional rest acknowledges our human limitations and inadequacy, which leads us to put our trust in the Lord. And that is where the best hopes and dreams get their start.

May you enjoy sweet rest.

With you,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Cindy Bills says:

    Thank you for reminding us about our need to rest in the Lord. I needed to hear that today. 🙂 I, too, find rest at my loom. It is a place of creativity and prayer as I look out my window onto the pond and wildlife in my front yard. Our place requires a lot of upkeep, especially in the summer. It’s nice to have a chance to sit for a while and like you said, create and dream.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindy, It sounds like you have a beautiful setting for creativity at your loom. I’m happy you found a nugget of encouragement today.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Linda Cornell says:

    Thank you for that good reminder; to rest in the Lord.

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Tools Day: Narrow Hems

Hems shouldn’t be noticed. At least, not at first glance. I don’t want the stitching of the hem to detract from the overall handwoven quality. Decorative items, like this table runner, deserve a hand-stitched hem. But for functional pieces, like these tea towels, I stitch the hems on my trusty old Bernina sewing machine. This ensures the durability I want for something that will be thrown in the washer and dryer again and again.

Long M's and O's table runner is hemmed by hand.

Long M’s and O’s table runner is hemmed by hand using an invisible hem stitch.

Last year I purchased a Bernina walking foot through my local Bernina repairman. It was one of the best sewing investments I have made. (Don’t be fooled by off-brand “Bernina compatible” products.) The advantage of a walking foot is that it evenly feeds layers of fabric, which is especially useful for sewing handwoven fabric. And for the towel hem, it means the top of the hem won’t become skewed and slanted as you sew, like it might with a regular sewing machine foot.

Bernina Walking Foot - good investment!

Bernina Three Sole Walking Foot with Seam Guide. The walking foot stays on my Bernina sewing machine almost all the time.

One of the three sole plates that comes with the Bernina walking foot is a sole for edge stitching. This works beautifully for stitching a narrow hem on lighter-weight fabric, like these airy cotton and linen towels.

My process for a machine-stitched narrow hem

  • Turn and press the 1/4″ hem twice. Hold the folded edge in place with small fabric clips.
Sewing narrow hems on handwoven towels.

Small fabric clips hold the folded and pressed towel hem in place, in preparation for stitching the hem.

  • At the sewing machine, attach the edge-stitching sole plate to the walking foot. Align the fold of the hem with the edge-stitching guide.
Bernina walking foot with stitch guide.

Sole with stitch guide. The metal plate that extends below the foot is a steady guide that works for sewing a narrow hem, as well as for top-stitching, or “stitch-in-the-ditch” techniques.

  • Adjust the sewing machine needle to the right, so that it catches the fabric just inside the edge of the fold.
Sewing hems on handwoven towels.

Sewing the narrow hem. Needle is positioned so that it is to the right of the hem fold.

Slowly sew a narrow hem, keeping the folded edge next to the walking foot’s edge-stitching guide. Remove fabric clips before they come to the needle.

Hemming handwoven towels.

Front and back of the hem have consistent, straight stitching. The narrow hem (not yet pressed) will be barely visible.

May your hems be a suitable frame for your handiwork.

Finishing,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Cate says:

    I’m going to have to visit a Bernina dealer soon and get one of these for my machine. I really love that little stitch guide! Brilliant!

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Really pretty project! I inherited a Bernina last Summer but I have yet to play. My Elna sits in a cabinet making the sewing surface larger and at a much better level. I need a cabinet (and more floor space) for the Bernina. Sewing with my arms raised above cabinet height causes me too much shoulder/neck pain. Any suggestions would be welcome, Karen. The walking foot lives on the Elna most of the time.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, It’s not worth it to get shoulder/neck pain! I have never had a sewing machine cabinet, but my Bernina sits on a small lower-height table that Steve made for me eons ago. Table and chair height make a huge difference. Maybe you can find a lower table or an adjustable chair that you can raise to sit a little higher. I use an adjustable swivel desk chair at mine.

      I’ve always heard that an Elna is a great machine. So maybe just stick with that. 🙂 (but I do love my trusty old Bernina…ha)

      Happy pain-free sewing,
      Karen

  • D'Anne Craft says:

    The M’s and O’s fabric turned out beautifully, just like all your weaving. I’m a Bernina gal, too.

    • Karen says:

      Hi D’Anne, I’m very happy with the way the M’s and O’s turned out! I got started with Bernina many years ago. It’s the only sewing machine I’ve owned. I don’t think it will ever wear out.

      Karen

  • Mary says:

    I too recently invested in a walking foot and what a difference it makes in my hems.j I no longer dread this part of finishing. Do you like those hem clips better than straight pinning.? Where do you find the clips?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mary, I do prefer the fabric clips over pins for simple stitching like this. It’s quick and easy, and there is no distortion of the fabric. Also, there is no threat of snagging the fabric with a rough pin. Of course, I do use straight pins for sewing that requires more detail.

      I got my clips at Hobby Lobby, but I think you can find them at most places that have quilting supplies.

      Karen

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All Those Weft Tails

This prickly pear cactus transparency is inching along. I wait for the day when we will get to see this from the front side! Weaving from the back has its advantages, though. I am able to deal with all the weft tails as I go.

Cactus transparency weaving in progress.

In some rows there are as many as twelve or thirteen different weft bundles. Every weft bundle has tails that are either tucked under adjacent warp ends, if possible, or woven in later with a needle.

After every inch of weaving, I stop and trim weft tails. I use a blunt needle to weave loose tails in first before trimming them. This part of the process is time consuming. But I do it happily, thankful that I won’t have hours of tedious work at the end of the project.

Transparency weaving in progress. Cactus.

Each pattern row is woven straight across, from left to right, with weft bundles following the lines of the cartoon underneath. The linen tabby weft lies between each pattern row.

Trimming weft tails on the woven transparency.

An inch-worth of weaving, with weft tails to weave in and to trim. Wefts that were spliced while weaving can be trimmed close to the fabric. Tails of weft bundles must be woven in with a needle, and then trimmed.

Weaving hack using dental floss threader!

Sometimes it works best to put the needle through warp ends first and then use a dental floss threader to help thread the weft tail bundle through the eye of the needle.

Woven transparency of a prickly pear cactus.

Cactus keeps growing, inch by inch!

Give thanks. It is right and it is satisfying to give thanks to the Lord. The little things that we get to take care of now, daily inching along, are reminders of the big work in progress that we are in. Eventually, we will see the front side. And what a joy that will be!

May all your loose ends be secured.

Happy weaving,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    The back side looks amazing! I can’t wait to see the front. I love this!

  • Do you try and tuck most of your ends under the warp that shows on the back? It will be interesting to see the clear picture when it is done.

    My sister-in-law and I were talking about tragedies and how God can make all things good. As in your transparency, we only see the backside of our immediate life picture, but how glorious it is as life goes on. We can only hope the messy parts of our lives will make an incredible impact in someone else’s life, to the glory of our Creator and Savior.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jenny, Yes, I tuck most of the ends under the warp the shows on the back. Hopefully, all those little ends won’t be seen from the front. Also, all the weft turns are on the back. When we see the front, the turns won’t be visible and all the edges of the design will be much more distinct.

      Thanks for sharing a beautiful word picture of what God can do with the messy parts of our lives. We look forward to the day when we will truly see it from His view.

      Karen

  • Looking at your transparency progress brings back so many happy memories of weaving these through the years, and encourages me to get another one started. Even though it is slow weaving, I’d always say “just one more row, and then I’ll stop”, it was so satisfying. I love how the cactus spines stand out! Can’t wait to see it hanging in a window with light shining through!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lynette, I agree, this is so satisfying to weave. Oh, light shining through will be the icing on the cake!

      I love hearing your thoughts about weaving transparencies!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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