In My Rigid Heddle Days

My grandmother made a sweet little pinafore that my sisters and I wore when we were babies–each in our own time. Several years ago I came across that simple little “apron,” and made a pattern from it. My first granddaughter received the little pinafore from me almost six years ago, made from fabric I wove on my rigid heddle loom. Now, this little pink and green pinafore is being handed down to my expectant daughter, for her little baby girl, due this summer. And her baby will have the prettiest handwoven burping towel (or light little blanket) any baby has ever had. Nothing is too good for a grandbaby, right?

Baby girl pinafore made from handwoven fabric. Rigid heddle loom.

Fabric woven on a rigid heddle loom is used to make a baby girl’s pinafore. The pinafore pattern came from my grandmother’s handiwork. The background quilt shows more of my grandmother’s skill with fabric, needle, and thread.

Baby towel and baby pinafore. Handwoven.

Handwoven towel and pinafore. Fit for a little princess.

I want to give something more important than things to my grandchildren. I want to give them the stories of the wonders God has performed in my lifetime. The stories that connect one generation to another. The stories that are woven from ancient stories. Pass down the ancient stories. Weave the threads that the child can wear for life.

May your children’s children remember your stories.

Blessings,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Laurie Mrvos says:

    Karen –
    The pinafore is adorable. Great colors! That burping towel is beautiful. I love everything about it. Can you tell me more about it?

    These will are wonderful heirlooms for your grandbabies.

    Laurie

    • Karen says:

      Laurie, the burping towel is from my recent warp of thick and thin. With this piece, I tried to make it as colorful as possible. It is 100% cotton and will get softer and softer with each washing. I’m glad you like it!
      Thanks for the encouraging words!

      Karen

  • Pattty says:

    Very cute, that would make a great adult apron!

  • linda says:

    Karen: I hope your family has a sense of the worth of a hand made item. My children and grand children have no idea how much goes into making a hand woven, knitted, quilted, ,or a tailor made piece. I give it to them, it’s a “ya thanks” and the next thing I know the 7 year old has it in the dogs bed. These are children who have seen me at work making these items, and seen my husband making furniture and bowls. I’ve explained to parents and grandchildren these items are one of a kind and cannot be reproduced quickly or possibly at all. I’ve asked them to consider them a hug from grand ma and grand pa, and to love them. They are Christian children who experience God each day. I hope whoever gets your works of art keep them as well as your mother and you did the pinafore, respects the hours of work, and the love that goes into each piece. LP&J linda

    • Karen says:

      Linda, I hear what you are saying. A gift made by your hands is a gift from the heart. It carries with it hours of time, countless amounts of effort, and personal attention. From the giver’s perspective, all these are symbols of love. I like how you put it – consider these things as a hug from grand ma and grand pa.

      Your children and grandchildren are very blessed to have you!

      Karen

  • Anonymous says:

    I’m about to attempt a grown up version of something similar soon – as a crossover apron. I have been pondering the design for a while now, have my fabrics selected but need to get on and get drafting. Thanks for the inspiration.

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Designing at the Loom

For the most part, I am designing this monksbelt at the loom. Even so, I have guidelines regarding color order, sequence of tabby and pattern colors, and treadling order. Each time I remove the temple, I make mental notes for the upcoming segment. When I advance the warp, I step back to get a better idea of where I’ve been, and where I want to go.

Monksbelt with Faro wool pattern weft.

Two tabby picks of blue 16/2 cotton are between each Fårö wool pattern pick. Purple wool weft is carried up the selvedge a short distance under the blue wool weft .

The challenging part is the weft rep tabby. I make a high arch with the tabby weft, and change sheds before beating the weft in. Inconsistency shows up as streaks, especially with darker weft, like the blue tabby I’m on now. When it seems like too much effort to get it right, I have to remember that I am not just making yardage; I am developing skills and habits for successful weaving.

Saturated colors bring high contrast to the monksbelt pattern.

The intensity of saturated colors provide high contrast. Lavendar wool appears gray when deep purple and dark blue are introduced.

It takes planning and caring to build a home. It takes wisdom. Homes are built with wisdom. It’s like designing at the loom. We can’t see into the future, but we can set guidelines that help us make a good design. There is always a challenging part, in every stage. All the more reason for consistency in our convictions. Home is not just a place. Home is where we learn to love.

May your home be your family’s favorite place.

Designing,
Karen

2 Comments

  • Debbie Moyes says:

    Your selvedges look wonderful! I have a temple and I will have to try using it on my next project. What is your plan for the yardage? It’s going to be luscious.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Debbie, Thank you! Selvedges always have a weaver’s attention, don’t they? It’s the paradox of trying to improve selvedges, while resisting fiddling with them.

      Using a temple is standard weaving procedure for me. I feel lost without one.

      This time, I have no immediate plan for the fabric. I wanted the freedom to weave and let the design take me where it will. After it comes off the loom I will decide what it’s good for. Or, I’ll put it away, and find it later when I need some fabric, and this happens to be perfect! That sounds like fun to me.

      Karen

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Quiet Friday: Band Loom Warping and Weaving

My two-treadle Glimåkra band loom is called into action. I don’t have to add hanging tabs for the towels that I am weaving on the Ideal loom. But I want to. A little band weaving here and there, and I will have this special detail ready for the towels when they come off the loom. (Watch me weave on the band loom in the video below.)

Glimakra two-treadle band loom. How to warp and weave.

How I Warp the Band Loom:

Band loom warp.

  • Put the end loop of the warp on the warp beam tie-on bar. Insert lease sticks in the cross. Tie the sticks together; or tape them together with masking tape.

Warping the band loom tutorial.

  • Remove tie around lease cross. Hold the warp taut with the left hand while winding on with the right hand. Insert warping slats around the beam the first time around, and then every other time around after that.

Band loom warping tutorial.

  • Wind on until the beginning of the warp is a few inches in front of the heddles.

Warping the Glimakra band loom.

  • Tie or tape the lease sticks to the back beam. Cut the loops at the front end of the warp.

Warping the band loom.

  • Thread the heddles, alternating between the heddles on the right and on the left.

How to thread a band loom.

Threading the Glimakra band loom.

Glimakra band loom, threaded. Steps and pics.

  • Hold the warp taut and depress each treadle to check for any crossed threads.

Warping the band loom.

  • Tie the warp onto the front tie-on bar.

Band loom ready for weaving.

  • Tighten the tension; wind your shuttle; and weave to your heart’s content! (A short cardboard quill can be used as a shuttle.)

Glimakra band loom weaving. Karen Isenhower

May you go the extra mile to add special little details.

Happy band weaving,
Karen

18 Comments

  • Alaa says:

    Thanks for posting this, Karen. It was really interesting and informative. I like the added little touches like a woven tab for hanging too.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Alaa, It makes me happy to know this was interesting and informative to you. Adding special touches is one of the great advantages of making things by hand!

      Karen

  • Geri Rickard says:

    Hi Karen! Your post and video came at the perfect time as we just finished Vavstuga Basics today. I have a band loom at home that I haven’t used yet, and 2 students purchased theirs today before leaving Vavstuga. Your wonderful blog was discussed several times around the dorm table this past week. Even Bettie said how timely today’s blog posting was! Thank you for sharing with us!!

    • Karen says:

      Wow, Geri, Are you serious?! What a wonderful co-incidence! I am delighted beyond measure that I could have some small part in bringing a helpful tidbit to Vavstuga Basics.

      Thank you for letting me know.You and your Vavstuga Basics friends have totally made me smile.

      Happy, Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Weaver Grace says:

    What a great loom! I can imagine advantages over the more traditional designs: standing, treadles, cloth and warp beams. How interesting that you weave on it what I would consider sideways.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Weaver Grace, Good observations. (I do weave on the band loom sitting down. You probably can’t tell that from the video.) The two primary reasons I prefer this band loom over my inkle loom is 1) I can weave much faster and 2) I can put on a longer warp (I’ve done up to 10 meters).

      Weaving sideways is quite awkward at first; but, with practice, your hands become fluent.

      Karen

  • Annie Galloway says:

    I always enjoy your blog posts. You are inspirational both in weaving and spirituality.

    I’m trying to convince myself that I do not need a band loom 🙂 If you have time, would you tell me some advantages over the inkle loom (which I have). It just looks so much cleaner on the band loom. I know you can weave longer warps on it. It looks faster than weaving on an inkle…

    Thank you so much for your posts.
    Annie

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie,

      I have a feeling we just cross posted. See my reply to Weaver Grace about weaving speed and length of warps. 🙂
      Far be it from me to convince you that you *need* something you want. I have a hunch you will be able to convince yourself.

      The advantage of an inkle loom is that you can travel with it, which I do. So, one for travel, and a stationary one for home. More weaving over all. That can’t be a bad thing!

      Thanks for your incredibly kind words. That really touches me!
      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Hugh S. Myers says:

    I see you have one of the “new” band looms Glimåkra has changed the band loom slightly since I purchased mine…nothing of consequence excepting the heddles—mine are string not Texsolv. My question is where did you get the delightful shuttle?

    • Karen says:

      I bought my band loom second hand. I’m not sure what year it was made, but I know the newer Glimåkra band looms have ratchets that are a little different than mine. String heddles? That’s interesting.

      My husband carved the shuttle for me. It’s modeled after an old Swedish band loom shuttle that we had seen.

      Karen

      • Anonymous says:

        Mine uses string because it predates Texsolv!! As do I 🙂 I also carve so I guess I guess I will go the same route. I really like the idea of one handed operation so that the ‘dance’ involves all four limbs.

        • Karen says:

          Hugh, it is a great “dance” for the hands and feet.

          I will send you an email with specs for the shuttle in case you decide to carve one for yourself.

          Karen

  • Kerry says:

    Like Geri, who commented earlier, I was at Vavstuga last week! I bought a band loom like yours and then, the next morning, we saw this post about how to use it! Such serendipity! Thanks for the clear instructions!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kerry, I couldn’t be more pleased that my instructions came at such an opportune time! You are going to enjoy that new band loom!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Debbie Moyes says:

    Wow – very fun! I haven’t seen a band loom used before. I guess it’s what the Shakers use/d to weave the bands for their chairs. That is a very lovely detail…

    • Karen says:

      Hi Debbie, if I remember correctly, the Shaker tape looms were a different design, but similar function. And they certainly produced miles and miles of bands!

      Karen

  • Anne Littlebird says:

    Thank you Karen! I want to use my band loom more but it was a little daunting. This post really helped. I think the only thing I need to work with is how tight to have the warp. I think I have it too tight. I will put on a warp this week and just sit and practice!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Anne, I am so happy that this post was helpful to you! You are right–practice is the best way to learn this. It takes a while before it’s comfortable. But once it takes off for you, it’s a lot of fun.

      Happy practice,
      Karen

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Between the Lavender Picks

I almost kept going. But something was off. Maybe the tabby hadn’t been beaten in as tight between the lavender pattern picks. In that case, a few more rows would obscure the slight difference. I did not want to undo; and wishful thinking tempted me to avoid taking a closer look. Sensibility won, though. I did stop to examine the cloth.

Weft threads are carefully snipped back to point of error.

Weft threads are carefully snipped back to the point of error. I did this very slowly, with a bright light shining on the area being snipped.

Even under close inspection, my eyes could not identify the error. I struggled to see the fine details. Magnifying glass to the rescue! Magnification revealed two extra tabby picks. Aha! Two fine threads out of place are enough to throw off the pattern. If not corrected, this errant line across the finished cloth would draw the attention of every eye. Knowing precisely where the error is gives me courage to face the necessary operation. Snip, snip, snip. Undo. Fresh start.

Magnifier reveals 2 extra tabby picks to be removed.

Magnifier reveals two extra tabby picks (16/2 cotton) that must be removed.

Error removed.

Weft threads are pulled out one by one, and then discarded.

An honest report tells it like it is. When we are trusting the Lord, we have courage to stop and examine errors, bypassing wishful thinking. Faith is like a magnifying glass that enables us to see clearly. Courage comes alive through the eyes of faith. The difficult and painful process of undoing errors and making corrections is worth it when you consider the high value of the finished fabric.

Monksbelt on the loom. Karen Isenhower

Monksbelt weaving continues. All is well.

May you catch your errors while they can be undone.

Honestly,
Karen

12 Comments

  • linda says:

    Karen: why didn’t you just unweave it? no loss of thread that way. just wondering? snipping like that leaves one open to acidently snipping a warp thread. May all your errors be noticable before it’s too late to correct them. The piece is beautiful, I’m looking forward to the finished piece. LP&J, linda

    • Karen says:

      Linda, That’s a great question. Snipping the weft does carry risk; and I did cut a warp end once doing this. The reason I do it is that removing wefts this way is less abrasive on the warp ends (arguably), especially ends at the selvedges. With this 16/2 cotton warp, I want to minimize abrasion which can lead to broken warp ends. On warps with coarser threads, I do often un-weave unless it’s very far back, in which case, clipping and pulling out wefts is faster.

      Thank you!
      Karen

      • Elisabeth Munkvold says:

        I don’t know if this is what you already used, but would using a seam ripper reduce the risk of cutting warp threads in this process? In sewing I feel I can better control which threads are being cut when I use a seam ripper.

        • Karen says:

          Elisabeth, I haven’t tried a seam ripper. I loosen the warp tension before I do the snipping, so I’m not sure if a seam ripper would do the job. I’ll try it, though. I have tried several tools–my Gingher snips, a small scissors that has a little hooked tip, and a small embroidery scissors. I like the small embroidery scissors the best, because it is very sharp and has nice pointed tips that are easy to control.

          Karen

          • Elisabeth Munkvold says:

            What I like about the seam ripper is that I can so easilyi identify and separate the threads with the tip of the seam ripper before pushing the seam ripper throug in order to cut.

          • Karen says:

            I am certainly going to try this the next time I make a mistake and have to undo! Not that I’m wishing for a mistake to happen… 🙂

  • Ann says:

    I do not know anything about weaving, but I do know sewing. If you unweave instead if snip you may loosen or ruin the already perfect weave. Beautiful Karen!

  • Charlotte Lindsay Allison says:

    I do love your green/lilac yarns in your cloth. Stunning. Just ever so stunning. I am having fun weaving the same on a little Structo loom. It would be great fun to rub elbows, again. Much love, Charlotte

    • Karen says:

      Dear Charlotte, what a joy to hear from you! I can imagine what fun you are having with that Structo. Yes, it would be great fun to rub elbows again.

      Love to you,
      Karen

  • Judy says:

    Lovely weaving and you have a trained eye to catch the mistake! It’s always nice when you catch it earlier, rather than later, and that seems to be easier the more you weave. Lovely pattern!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Judy, I appreciate your thoughtful words! Good point about the value of experience in being able to catch mistakes early!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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This Time in Color

Thick and thin in color. The appeal for me is that something so simple can look so complex. How can plain weave do this? By having thick and thin threads that alternate in a certain way. Add color, and the options multiply!

Thick and thin on the loom, using double bobbin shuttle.

Double bobbin shuttle carries the thick weft. 30/2 cotton for the thin weft adds texture and complexity to the plain weave.

For the thin thread, I use 30/2 cotton. This very thin thread has a big impact on the fabric design. Strategically placed in the warp, it helps define the two blocks. Repeating the thin thread in a weft sequence is what produces a block change while weaving. The thin threads are integral to the design, yet they will barely be noticed after the fabric is wet-finished.

It is fascinating how much impact little things have. Character is revealed in the very little things. It’s the special touch you add, the extra time you give, the kind thoughts you think. It’s how you are at home, doing ordinary things for your family. It’s who you are, what you are thinking, and what you are doing. …when no one is noticing. These are the little things that tell who we are at the core. Faithful in little; faithful in much.

May all your little threads fall into place.

With you,
Karen

17 Comments

  • Kris says:

    Your piece is beautiful! Thank you for your commitment to this blog and it’s readers. We learn so much from you on so many levels. God bless you!

  • Suzie C. says:

    I LOVE these colors–beautiful, as usual!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Suzie,
      I’m glad you love the colors. It’s always a bit of a surprise to see how the colors mix as they are woven together.

      Karen

  • Debbie Moyes says:

    30/2 – that’s tiny! What size is the fatter fiber? The colors are spectacular!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Debbie, Yes, 30/2 is very fine! You don’t have to go that tiny, this works with 16/2 as well. I like the look of it with 30/2. The thick thread is doubled 8/2 cotton. 22/2 cottolin, doubled, works just as well.

      I’m glad you enjoy these colors!

      Karen

  • Peg Cherre says:

    Gorgeous! Did you just thread the warp 1thick, 1thin, in a straight draw? Are you willing to share your draft? Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Peg, Thanks for the compliment!

      It is threaded as a straight draw, but the second block is formed by reversing the thick/thin order. I’m going to keep my draft under wraps for now, but The Best of Weaver’s Thick’n Thin, edited by Madelyn van der Hoogt, is a great resource as a starting point. The book has a draft for weaving towels similar to this on just two shafts!

      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

  • Linda Landry says:

    I love the blue green combination! Someone once told me that blue and green are God’s colours. I can’t confirm this with Him personally, but I can see the grass, the trees and all the greenery, then there’s the immense sky and all the lakes, rivers and oceans, so there’s at least a possibility that there could be some truth in that saying!

  • Beachweaver says:

    Karen,

    Your towels are amazingly beautiful. Even more incredible that the black and white ones you made not long ago. I have two questions I’m hoping you can answer:

    1. Is there a reason you use 8/2 cotton doubled rather than 8/4 cotton, which would eliminate the need for a double bobbin shuttle, etc.?
    2. Your color choices are amazing! Do you use only one thin color in the warp and weft or are you varying the color of the thin yarn to match the thick? I can’t quite tell from the photo.

    Love your thoughtful and well written blog. I’m just a hobby weaver (just weave things for myself and as gifts) but your website is so inspirational.

    BTW, have you ever thought about using your same thick and thin technique to weave a soft cotton baby blanket?

    Thanks again for sharing your expertise!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beachweaver,
      Great questions!
      1. The Swedish yarns that I use come in 8/2 and not in 8/4. I don’t know for a fact because I haven’t tried to compare it, but I believe that 2 threads side-by-side will produce a more supple cloth. Without a double bobbin shuttle, you can throw the shuttle across and back, catching the selvedge thread at the turn. I did this the first time I wove thick and thin a few years ago. I definitely prefer the double bobbin shuttle – for time’s sake, and for avoiding excessive wear on selvedge threads. Some weavers would use a floating selvedge to do this. I’m not one of them. I have heard that you can put two short bobbins in a large shuttle, with a bead in between, to use as a double bobbin shuttle, but I haven’t tried that.
      2. I have only one color of the thin yarn (green) that I use in both warp and weft. I purposely chose a dark color that would blend with the other colors. I was hoping that a dark color would help to outline the blocks, which I think it did. The thin thread is 30/2 cotton. The only place I could find it in colors is Vavstuga.com, with their Borgs cotton.

      Have I thought of thick and thin for a baby blanket? Have I ever! My daughter is expecting her first baby this summer, so, yes, I have thinking about how sweet this would be for a baby blanket. I have a colorful sample piece from the end of the warp that I’m going to use to make something for the baby.

      Thanks for stepping in to ask questions. Let me know if you have any more!
      Karen

      • Beachweaver says:

        Karen,

        Thanks for the prompt and really interesting responses. I’m going to think about this question of 8/2 x 2 versus 8/4. Clearly the two 8/2 threads can lie next to each other which would be different from 8/4. I may have to so some sampling one of these days.

        I can’t wait to see what you come up with in the baby blanket department. Go Grandma!

        Thanks again!!

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