Home Is Where the Weaving Is

I arranged, added, and swapped until I had eleven different colors to blend into a courageous wool warp. I had more fun pulling out skeins of yarn in Vävstuga’s shop than a kid in a candy store! The yarn is for a double weave blanket that has been on my mind for a few weeks. Yesterday, I finally had a chance to wind this wild warp! Dressing the loom is next!

Winding wool warp on warping reel.

Yellow will be the center color of the double weave wool blanket. The symmetrical way the warp is wound on this warping reel might fool you, though. These are only a few of the eleven colors that will be blended across the warp.

Winding Tuna wool for weaving a blanket.

Second bout wound on the reel. I check and double-check my written notes to make sure I get the correct color order and numbers of ends.

Away from home, I can only think about weaving on my looms. As much as I enjoyed the experiences of Vävstuga (Vävstuga Autum, Vävstuga Autumn II) and New Mexico (Pointers for Exploring New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails), I have been eager to put my hands to the tasks of weaving here in my own little studio. Winding the warp, feeling and smelling the soft Tuna wool, getting over-excited about the blending colors on the warping reel, handling the fat warp chains… Ah, I am where I’m supposed to be!

I love fat warp chains of wool!

One layer of colors for the double weave blanket.

Warp chains for wool blanket, and what's left of eleven skeins.

Basket holds what is left of the eleven skeins of Tuna wool. These two warp chains will be the other layer of the double weave blanket.

Come home. Do you ever hear that? …as if you have been away too long? The nudge is to return to your faith roots. Enjoy the refreshing that comes in the presence of the Lord. It’s good to be where you know you belong.

May you be where you flourish.

In living color,
Karen

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Pointers for Exploring New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails

Do you know that New Mexico has a guide to rural fiber arts destinations across the state? Last week, Steve and I dusted off the New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails, driving 1,100 miles through mountainous deserts and lush Rio Grande River valleys. We reveled in views of God’s creation, like cottonwood trees in brilliant yellow, and the Sandia mountains turning purple and watermelon pink in the setting sun. We visited interesting studios and shops all along the way, and encountered weavers who are true artisans.

Cottonwood trees in New Mexico at their golden peak.

Cottonwood trees at their golden peak along the Rio Grande River.

Four Pointers for Your New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails Adventure:

1. Call ahead. Some of the stops are one-person studios, attached to a residence. Some places have changed their hours or days of the week that they are open. We drove two hours one day to visit a special shop, only to find a note on the door that said they were closed that day of the week.
2. Ask good questions. I like to ask a weaver a question that only another weaver would ask. Instead of introducing myself as a fellow handweaver, I like to let them figure it out by the questions I ask.
3. Wear something handwoven. My handwoven cap opened the door to conversation with other weavers.
4. Resist adding to your stash. I knew that I would have the opportunity to purchase beautiful yarn, but I decided in advance not to add to my stash. I gathered information instead; and now I have more resources to choose from when it is time to order yarn.

My Favorite Stops:

Albuquerque
Sacramento Mountain Weavers (not listed on the Fiber Arts Trails), Kelly Stewart
Located in historic Old Town, this shop has a Glimåkra Standard loom (like mine). Among other things, Kelly has woven rag rugs from strips of soft leather.

Majestic mountains and colorful cottonwood trees in New Mexico.

Majestic mountains and colorful cottonwood trees set the scene for exploration along the New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails.

Edgewood
Robin Pascal Fiber Artist
Robin’s studio is nestled in a scenic hillside covered with trees and wildlife. Her handspun yarn proved irresistible to me. This is where I broke my own rule of not adding to my stash.

Handspun and hand painted yarn by Robin Pascal.

Too pretty to pass up, I came home with some of Robin Pascal’s beautiful handspun wool/silk, and a little skein of her hand painted cotton flake yarn.

Arroyo Seco (just north of Taos)
Weaving Southwest, Teresa Loveless
Amazing tapestry weavings on display! Teresa is the granddaughter of acclaimed tapestry weaver and author, Rachel Brown. Teresa carries her grandmother’s legacy by teaching tapestry techniques to interested students. There are Rio Grande walking looms in the teaching studio, where you do all the weaving standing up, not sitting. Who knows? You may see me taking a class from Teresa. Her passion for tapestry weaving is contagious.

Weaving Southwest in Arroyo Seco, NM. Beautiful tapestries, yarns, and looms inside!

Enjoying the cool air in Arroyo Seco, Steve and I stand outside one of our favorite stops on this adventure.

Ranchos de Taos
Old Martina’s Hall Restaurant, Tapestry Exhibit (not listed on the Fiber Arts Trails)
Art Through The Loom Weaving Guild Show, August 20th through February 28th, 2015
This outstanding tapestry exhibit is not to be missed if you are anywhere near the vicinity! Downstairs and upstairs, every room in this restored, old dance hall is adorned with exquisite pieces of traditional and contemporary woven tapestries by nineteen different artists.

San Francisco de Asis, serene historic chapel in Ranchos de Toas, New Mexico

Serene historic chapel, San Francisco de Asis, is across the street from the renovated old dance hall, Old Martina’s Hall. We enjoyed an impressive tapestry exhibit at Old Martina’s Hall.

Chimayó
Trujillo’s Weaving Shop (not listed on the Fiber Arts Trails), Carlos Trujillo
The first thing we saw when we entered the shop was a huge, rustic Rio Grande walking loom. Carlos was at the loom, weaving. He clearly loves designing at the loom, using unique color combinations in traditional designs. His grandfather built this impressive loom. Two women in an adjacent room filled with looms allowed me to watch over their shoulders as they wove traditional Chimayó patterns. One of the women showed me the small, narrow loom they now use for weaving coasters, and told me, “This was the loom Carlos learned to weave on when he was a little boy. As he grew, blocks were added to raise the loom to fit him.”

Chimayó weaving is a craft carefully handed down from one generation to the next.

Chimayó weaving, a skilled craft, is passed on from one generation to the next.

Chimayó
Centinela Traditional Arts, Irvin Trujillo
Irvin allowed me to watch and ask questions as he wove in the massive weaving room in the far end of the shop. It was inspiring to watch this master weaver at work. I found Irvin to be unpretentious, even though his expertise is astounding. You should see his intricate tapestries that hang in the showroom of the shop! Weaving is second nature to Irvin, who has been creating with wool on a loom since he was a young boy.

Rio Grande River in New Mexico.

Rio Grande River in New Mexico is the subject of many woven tapestries. Artisans often find creative ways to interpret this beauty.

Magdalena
Cat Brysch Creations Studio
Cat’s nine looms are clothed in colors that describe the terrain and sky of this beautiful mountainous desert. She took the time to explain each loom’s fabric to me, as I marveled at her skill of blending colors in the warp.

Weaving studio in little sleepy town in New Mexico.

Surrounded by mountains, the little sleepy town of Magdalena is home of an active weaving studio. The scenic views that Cat enjoys every day influence her selection of colors and textures in her weaving.

Pie Town
If you go as far as Magdalena, you might as well go another 56 miles to Pie-o-neer in Pie Town, New Mexico. The green chile stew is fantastic, but if I had known how good the hot-from-the-oven double cherry (tart and sweet) pie would be, I would have skipped the stew and ordered two slices of pie! Steve said the same about his slice of warmed peach pie. It was a great way to end our Fiber Arts Trails adventure.

Pie Town, New Mexico - best pie ever!

Nothing like a really good slice of homemade pie!

New Mexico scenery.

Scenic desert after dessert.

May you go on explorations and adventures.

Your traveling weaver,
Karen

7 Comments

  • Bev says:

    I love the picture of you and Steve in your hats outside the Weaving Southwest studio. You two seem to fit right in. What beautiful fall photos you took along the way! Blessings to you, Karen!

  • Helen Hart says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your trip and writings. I have been to a few of these places–I so appreciate your photos and want to go back. Helen in Cheyenne, WY

    • Karen says:

      Helen, it’s always fun to see how other weavers do things, isn’t it? I think it’s fascinating to visit other studios, and see a wide variety of weaving styles. I always learn something!

      Karen

  • Melanie Sharp says:

    Thanks for posting this. I was just in Taos earlier this month for the Wool Festival, and of course, had to make it to Weaving Southwest in Arroyo Seco as well. Fun little town, isn’t it? I hope you got to have icecream at the Taos Cow next door to Weaving Southwest!

    • Karen says:

      As a matter of fact, Melanie, I did! I had delicious veggie pot pie at the Taos Cow for lunch, and caramel pinon ice cream for dessert. Very tasty!
      One of these years, I would like to make it to the Taos Wool Festival…

      Karen

  • […] as I enjoyed the experiences of Vävstuga (Vävstuga Autum, Vävstuga Autumn II) and New Mexico (Pointers for Exploring New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails), I have been eager to put my hands to the tasks of weaving here in my own little studio. Winding […]

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Quiet Friday: Double-Binding Rag Rugs

Ordinary has never appealed to me. I remember some outfits I wore as a girl that were far from ordinary. For example, I had a corduroy cape with a Peter Pan collar, that had slits for the arms. I wore a corduroy brimmed cap to match, with a striped feather on the brim. Did I know any other ten-year-old girl wearing such a thing? No, not really. But I thought the outfit looked “cool” and stylish.

When I make a rag rug, I am not aiming for ordinary. I like the idea of making a rug that no one has imagined before.

Double-binding rag rug on loom.

Autumn Clouds rag rug on the loom. Karen Isenhower

Rag rugs on the loom.

Black and White and Red rag rug on the loom.

Simply red squares rag rug.

Double-binding rag rug on the loom.

Black and White.

Nearing the end of Black and White and Red rag rug.

Black and Red Squares rag rug on the loom. Karen Isenhower

May your ideas be far from ordinary.

Your friend,
Karen

10 Comments

  • Fran says:

    Very lovely rugs, Karen! I like the white background ones, myself. (from this distance.)

    • Karen says:

      Fran, Thank you for letting me know what you think!
      I’m glad to hear you like the white background ones since that is something new that I am trying. I’m eager to see what it looks like when it’s off the loom.

      Karen

  • Helen Hart says:

    Wonderful work. May I ask if there is a pattern in one of the rug books etc? Like yur weavings very much.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Helen,
      I’m very glad you like what you see here! I start with ideas from books, and then I adapt them to suit the designs that I have in mind.

      Here are some of the books I use as resources, that include double-binding (or double-faced) rugs:

      The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell, p.96, “Checked Fabric.” This is not a rug, but I have used this draft to weave rag rugs, using a sett of 8 epi.
      Swedish Rag Rugs 35 New Designs, from VävMagasinet, p.36 and following.
      Happy Weaving, from VävMagasinet, p.64-67.
      Rag Rug Handbook, by Janet Meany and Paula Pfaff, p.73-75

      I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.

      Karen

  • Angelique says:

    Beautiful rugs! I especially like that top one, what a great and unusual pattern. I haven’t done any rugs — I’m inspired to try now!

  • Lovely rugs Karen. Wish you lived closer. I’d love to take a workshop with you. You are truly gifted in your work.

    • Karen says:

      Cheryl, what a nice thing for you to say! I’m honored that you think highly of my work. I’m just here having fun.

      Let me know any time you are near Houston and I’ll have you come over and we can visit about weaving!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Penny says:

    I’m a beginner rug weaver! Is there a name for this type of weaving the color changes? Looks like 2 sided something. Do you have a good book or link for me to learn this?

    I’m teaching myself Norwegian Rolakan. Wondering at first if you were using this, but no, I see you weren’t.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Penny,

      Welcome to the joy of rug weaving! This weave structure is called “Double Binding,” or “Dubbelbindning” in Swedish. A few comments above this one I mentioned a few resources I have used for learning to weave rugs like this. Any of those could help you get started.
      Great questions! Let me know if you have any more questions along the way.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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Tools Day: Colored Pencils

Graph paper and 24 Prismacolor colored pencils. The first scribbles look silly to me, but if I keep going, design ideas keep coming and it turns into play. One idea morphs into another, and I soon have too many designs to use on this rug warp. I am weaving double-binding rag rugs right now. My favorite one is always the one I am working on. And then I start a new design… and that one becomes my favorite. Rag rugs are especially rewarding to weave because of the abundant design options. The saddest part for me is coming to the end of the warp. Maybe I need to put on longer warps…

Designing double-binding rag rug patterns.

Colored pencils and graph paper help get ideas flowing for double-binding rag rug designs.

May you come up with fascinating designs.

Happy Designing,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Sara Jeanne says:

    Hello Karen!
    The double binding rag rug technique is a wonderful way to experiment with color combinations, isn’t it? Have a wonderful colorful day!
    Your ‘Vavstuga’ pal,
    Sara Jeanne

    • Karen says:

      Hello Sara Jeanne, thank you so much for showing me what the possibilities are with double binding! Before that, I was already fascinated with double binding, but I only had a small idea bank.

      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

  • Helen Hart says:

    Hi, I enjoy your blog. This type of rug weaving sounds interesting. I have several rug weaving books. Can you tell me which book you got this pattern from? Thanks so much. Helen Hart

    • Karen says:

      Hi Helen,
      I have seen double-binding rag rugs in several books, especially in some of the Swedish weaving books. I’m not near my books right now, but I can send you the names of some of them at the end of the week.
      For my double-binding rugs, I have adapted what I’ve seen in books to suit my preferences, but the drafts are all similar.
      Karen

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Another Conversation with Becky Ashenden of Vävstuga, Part 2

Becky pulled out her fiddle and handed it to me, and she sat at her old upright piano, ready to play. Believe it or not, I played fiddle tunes (not bad for a ‘cellist) while her fingers danced the keys. And that is how Becky Ashenden and I finished up our recent conversation. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Vävstuga. More Swedish Classics gave me a chance to learn a few things I had been especially eager to try, like smålandsväv, jämtlandsdräll (you may know it as crackle), and pick-up band weaving with a backstrap and rigid heddle. It was wonderful to sit and have a chat with Becky at the end of the week to talk about various aspects of weaving.  Click HERE to read the first part of our conversation.

Handwoven curtains frame the view at Vavstuga student quarters.

Handwoven curtains on windows in the Vävstuga student quarters frame the New England autumn view.

And now, enjoy this second part of my conversation with Becky…

What part of the weaving process especially energizes you, Becky? Planning, measuring warps, dressing the loom, weaving, finishing?

It might be a surprising answer. I really like threading; and I actually really like sleying. (Laughter) It is sort of mindless and repetitive. If the threading is not too complicated, I love the idea of listening to a book. I used to listen to a lot of recorded books while I was doing production weaving.

I do enjoy the physical process of the weaving, too. I think my brain thrives on the repetitive process. If my hands are physically busy, it helps my brain focus.

In what way does it help you focus?

My mind loves to wander. I can conjure up new classes, or new ideas if I am busy with something repetitive like weaving. And with threading, it is a peaceful time, and I can think. If it is a complicated threading, I focus on the threading; but that is engaging in its own way.

Sign on door to Vavstuga weaving studio.

Cheerful greeting as you enter the Vävstuga weaving studio. Even if you do not know any Swedish, you can guess the meaning of this word.

Speaking of classes and ideas… When I took Vävstuga Basics, some people in the class had been weaving for years. Why do you think people who already know how to weave come to your Basics class?

They know how to weave one way, and they may have been taught by other people. But, they don’t know how to weave the way I teach to weave. The Basics class gives the opportunity to learn how I do it from start to finish.

In other words, you teach things that they will only learn here?

People tell me they want to know how I do things. They ask me, “How do you dress your loom? And how do you handle a shuttle, get good selvedges, fix broken threads, understand drafting, and keep good records?” Well, that is my Basics class, where I share a lifetime’s worth of knowledge. I was taught extremely well, the old-school way, in Sweden. I have also developed my own shortcuts that I share with students.

How does it work to have students with various levels of experience in the same class? Might a beginner feel out of place?

No matter who comes to my Basics class, I cater to who is there. For those who are advanced, I give them something beyond what they have experienced already. I always give as much of my knowledge and experience as students are interested in and can absorb.

I also make the class work for a beginner. So, a beginner should not be intimidated at all.

Even someone who has never put a warp on a loom, or someone who has not been successful doing it on their own?

One thing that helps the beginner is simply that the warps are put on by everybody together. No one person is going to be left behind or put on the spot. The warps will go on; and, they will go on smoothly, because I oversee it. Students can partake in whatever amount of the process they can absorb.

Vavstuga More Swedish Classics - finished projects!

Gorgeous results from More Swedish Classics. Becky enjoys the students’ accomplishments.

It must be interesting to see what a beginner can accomplish in just five days.

Some people who come to Basics, who have not woven before, take to it like a fish to water. It makes sense to them, and they whip through everything. I have seen absolute beginners weave beautiful things. And they’ve never touched a loom before!

It might be more challenging for people who are used to doing things a different way. But I say, “Try this.” “Try holding your shuttle this way,” or, “Try stepping on the treadle this way.” It might be a completely different loom for them.

Does it matter what type of loom someone has at home? Does it make sense to come to Basics if they don’t have a loom like one of yours?

A lot of people are used to jack looms. So, another reason to come to Basics is to experience the looms we have. Come and learn how to use them firsthand from someone who has had decades of experience using these looms.

We have Glimåkra looms, both counterbalance and countermarch. There is a tie-up system that I developed for the countermarch which is unique. This is something that I teach in Basics. This method makes the countermarch tie-up very easy for the body. You spend as little time as possible under the loom. The sheds are accurate the first time.

I can attest to that. Your tie-up system makes it a breeze for me to set up my countermarch loom at home.

That simple tie-up system makes a huge difference. It opens up the world of being able to do multi-shaft weaves.

These Scandinavian looms are old-style looms. Originally, this loom design came from China. It moved across Asia, and then through Europe over the centuries. Big old barn looms are basically the same thing. A big frame loom with a hanging beater.

Does the hanging beater make a difference? What advantages do your students have by being able to weave on Swedish looms here?

The hanging beater is something that makes the weaving happen, almost by itself. It takes the physical work load, the body wear and tear, off of the human being.

The difference between weaving on a jack loom and on one of these Swedish looms is huge. Many people come my Basics class worried and concerned, saying, “I’ve never been able to weave for more than twenty minutes at a time because my back can’t take it.” And then, at the end of the week, they say, “I can’t believe that I wove for three days straight, and I don’t hurt!”

So, if someone is curious about weaving in general, or Scandinavian looms in particular, this would be a good chance to try it out.

This is the opportunity to explore weaving, and discover the possibilities. They can try it out on our looms, without the commitment of changing looms at home.

And have fun while they’re doing it.

It is the fun, the meeting other people, and the camaraderie, that makes it special. It is a whole social experience that is an absolute blast. Eating good food together… The social part of eating meals together, having a good time, laughing together, adds so much to the experience.

Mealtime at Vavstuga, with handwoven tablecloths and napkins, of course.

Tablecloths and napkins this time. Handwoven, of course. Table runners, placemats, napkins… It is always interesting to see how the table is dressed.

I think the enjoyment around the table helps us relax, making our studying and weaving time that much more effective.

People are not having other things to worry about. Your brain can focus and absorb as much as possible.

What is your primary goal for Vävstuga Basics?

The goal of Basics is to cover everything someone needs to know to be able to weave on their own. I want to give everybody the tools to do that.

I love that I can take everything I learn here and do it all on my own at home. Or, I can just come here and have the pleasure of weaving in good company.

Some people come because they are interested in learning the techniques that I teach, or to see if are they interested in this type of loom. And other people come to see if they are interested in weaving at all. They may want to learn how to do this; and then, they can come here and weave. Maybe they don’t have the space, or the money to buy the equipment, or to have a stock of yarns. But they can come here and weave.

We welcome students who come for all these different reasons!

Vavstuga's More Swedish Classics

Class is over for “More Swedish Classics.” It is fun to see everyone’s woven efforts across the table.

Becky, thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is always interesting to hear what goes on behind the scenes at Vävstuga!

I enjoyed it, Karen. It’s been my pleasure!

~~~

(I noticed that there is space available in upcoming Basics classes. That is good news!) 

May your experiences make you smile.

Weaving instead of fiddling,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Eileen Crawford says:

    Thank you for this in depth interview with Becky, a truly unique individual who is a blessing for all who make the effort to go beyond their comfort in meeting their personal creativity goals. Your interviews truly reflect her focus on teaching, which is entirely different than some classes that are “taught” by an expert who is not a “teacher”.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for the feedback, Eileen. I’m pleased to hear that Becky’s valued teaching style comes through. That’s what I was hoping to portray.

  • Devorah says:

    Great interview and beautiful pictures!

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