These Sensational Towels!

What can compare to the thrill of unrolling freshly-woven cloth? Pulling, and pulling, and pulling until you get to the very beginning of the warp. As every towel unwinds, I do a micro evaluation, knowing that complete scrutiny comes later. I could not be happier with these towels! They are every bit as sensational off the loom as they were to weave. What a joy to be a weaver!

Towels galore just coming off the loom!

Back to the beginning! Cottolin thick and thin handtowels are coming off the loom.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was winding lopsided quills, dropping the shuttle more than occasionally, and struggling to understand weaving drafts. Desire and a willingness to learn have pushed me through these and other barriers.

Handwoven towels ready to be hemmed.

Ready for hemming.

Black and white and a little red. Handwoven towels.

Black and white and a little red, ready for hemming.

Photo shoot for new handwoven towels. Karen Isenhower

Getting set up for a photo shoot. Photos are used in Etsy listings.

Willingness is more important than capability. Being willing sets the stage for learning. We all start incapable. God doesn’t expect us to be capable. He does expect us to be willing. God weaves His purposes on earth, not through the capable people, but through the willing. In weaving, and in life overall, I want to embrace and preserve the willingness factor that keeps me learning.

Thick and thin structure is a handweaver's playground. Karen Isenhower

Thick and thin structure is a playground for a handweaver to imagine and develop designs. Cottolin handtowels and table runner. Designer kitchen, anyone?

And as we yield our will to our Creator, what joy is ours as we learn how to truly live!

May you never stop learning.

(You can see a few of these items now in the Warped for Good Etsy Shop.)

Happy Weaving,
Karen

9 Comments

  • Marie Kulchinski says:

    Great job! Beautiful collection. Would make a wonderful weaving monograph on what you can do with one warp by being creative. Thank you for sharing.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you, Marie! I love your idea of a weaving monograph. I wouldn’t have thought of that! I need to do a little research on how to do something like that.

      Karen

  • Dianeore says:

    A beautiful set of towels, Karen! Reminds me of a draft I saw in an old Weavers – I may have to dig that one up now! Happy hemming!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you! The hemming wasn’t bad. I finished it in a couple days. I hemmed the table runner by hand; and I hemmed the towels on my sewing machine so they can stand up to years of washing and drying.

      All the best!
      Karen

  • Liberty says:

    Hi Karen,
    I love them, all that black and white with a wee bit of red! Beautiful!

  • Karen says:

    They really are sensational! Striking!

  • Karen says:

    Liberty and Karen,

    What a treat for me to get to enjoy this weaving journey with you!

    Thank you!
    Karen

  • Claudia says:

    Those towels and the table runner are so exciting!
    What keeps them from unraveling until you do the hemming?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Claudia,
      I’m thrilled by your enthusiasm!! The fabric is tightly woven, so it does not unravel easily. Even so, when I cut the towels apart, I stitch the cut ends with my serger (overlock) sewing machine. You could do the same thing with a zig-zag stitch on a sewing machine. Great question! Thanks for asking.

      Karen

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Almost Forgot the Hanging Tabs

My band loom has been sitting idle for months with a partially-woven warp. As soon as I cut the black and white towels from the loom it occurred to me that I had not yet woven their hanging tabs. I am eager to put on a new black and white band warp to weave these towel loops; but first, I must weave off the existing band. (You originally saw this band in Weave the Portable Way.)

Glimakra two-treadle band loom.

Two treadles are used for changing the shed on this Glimåkra Band Loom. It takes practice to coordinate the actions of both hands and feet. What was awkward to learn becomes second nature through repetition.

Glimakra band loom with completed band.

This band is complete. It will go in the box I call my “band stash.” When I need a strap, ribbon, or trim for anything, I look in my band stash box to see what I can find.

What had been sitting for months is finished in a day. And the black and white warp is on the loom before day’s end. What made the difference? Why is it suddenly easy to finish something that had been lagging for months? One word. Decision. (Some of the towels on which these hanging tabs will adorn are in Quiet Friday: Thick and Thin and in Even Better After.)

Starting black and white band on band loom.

Starting the black and white band.

Simple narrow band for hanging tabs on handwoven towels.

Simple narrow band is made to coordinate with black and white handwoven towels. As with the towels, this is cottolin warp and weft.

Woven band for hanging tabs on handwoven black and white towels. Karen Isenhower

With enough woven to make hanging tabs for ten handtowels, the warp is cut and secured. The remainder of the warp will be woven off and added to the “band stash” box.

All our important actions derive from purposeful decisions. And my best decisions shape the course of my life in a positive way. You can choose the direction you travel. When you choose to walk the path of virtue, the path before you becomes more and more clear. Finding the motivation to do the right thing often comes down to making a firm decision. As a result, we are able to remove the old, and move on to weaving today’s important task.

May you make great decisions.

Motivated,
Karen

2 Comments

  • linda says:

    Karen: Bands,! what a way to dress up a fleece vest, 1/2 zip, or jacket. especially since you have such a varied width and pattern stash. I really must get to work. LP&J linda

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Quiet Friday: Halvdräll

Halvdräll is one of those Swedish weaves that takes your breath away. How can I describe the exquisite simplicity and stunning splendor of this fascinating cloth? With halvdräll, every moment at the loom is pure joy. I keep thinking, I get to weave this! And every weaver knows no comparison to the delight of pulling beautiful just-woven fabric off the cloth beam.

Enjoy the journey with me now as I reflect on the halvdräll fabric from beginning to end.

Choke tie serves as a counting thread as the cottolin warp is wound.

Choke tie serves as a counting thread as the cottolin warp is wound.

Red linen to be used as pattern weft on white cottolin warp.

Red linen is anticipating a starring role as pattern weft.

Sampling various linen color options for halvdräll table squares.

Sampling various color options for the pattern weft. Red may be one star among several.

Halvdräll table squares on the loom. Karen Isenhower

Second table square has blue and green for block I and red for block II. The back of the first table square, with all red pattern weft, is seen between the breast beam and the knee beam.

Halvdräll table squares on the loom. Elegant neutral tones.

Neutral tones with subtle elegance.

Weaving in the afternoon sunlight.

Light play dances on the colorful woven fabric.

Halvdräll table squares, with linen pattern weft, just off the loom!

Celebration time! When the cloth is cut from the loom the weaver is able to see a complete view of the woven fabric for the first time. Woo hoo!

Folding edge under for hemming. Handwoven table squares.

Wet finished and pressed. Ready for hemming.

How to do a blind hem. Very simple for handwovens.

Blind hem, with sewing needle and thread. Needle goes under one warp end, and is inserted through folded edge of hem for 1/4 inch. Continued stitching across the hem is virtually invisible when complete.

Label added.

Label added.

Hemmed, pressed, and ready to make a statement!

Hemmed, pressed, and ready to dress up a table.

Handwoven halvdräll table square. Karen Isenhower

May you find delight in your journey.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

13 Comments

  • Betsy says:

    Karen
    Thanks for sharing the whole process. I can’t decide which one is my favorite!
    Betsy

    • Karen says:

      Betsy, It was hard for me to decide on a favorite, too! I am keeping one, and the other three are going as gifts and/or Etsy items. (I am keeping the one that goes the best with my china — The one with red and blue, and a little bit of green.)

      Karen

  • Suzie C. says:

    It’s interesting to me how we all have different tastes. As a beginner, I can appreciate your woven pieces because I’m not at that level.
    However, for me, the colors above just aren’t my taste, but MOST of your work I simply adore! I DO love red and white, or blue and white, but only on certain things. Now, I DO love the neutral tones above, but as I keep studying it, I think it’s the pattern that I’m not especially attracted to.
    Do you find that true among weavers, that everyone prefers certain patterns over others, and seem to be drawn to certain colors/color combos than others?
    When I look through weaving magazines, there are some things that I’m instantly drawn to because of the colors or patterns, even if it’s an item I wouldn’t want to weave. I worked as an artist/designer before my current profession, and as I traveled around the country working with other artists, I found it fascinating that we all had such a variety of tastes. But then again, it’s so important that we’re not all the same, or else we wouldn’t have the variety we do!
    Unrelated to that, where do you get your labels? I’d love to order some as I hope my next project will be good enough to give to some family members. It would be great to put that label on so they realize it truly was handmade!
    Oh, and also unrelated to the color/pattern comment, I find it fascinating how a project ‘changes’ after it’s wet-finished. I’ve only done a few projects, and they were so simple that I didn’t see too much of a transformation. I’m anxious to see how my current project will look when off the loom and wet finished, as it’s a little more complicated than what I’ve done so far!
    Thank you for your blog–you are inspiring with every post!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Suzie,

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! I love variety, so I think it would be a shame if everyone liked all the same things. 🙂 I do think that over time I grow to enjoy some things more, like a acquired taste in music, or culinary arts. The more I study something, the easier it is for me to know why I like one thing and not another. As a weaver, it’s an important part of the process because you learn what you want to spend your time on; and, conversely, where you’re happy for the experience, but don’t care to do more of it.

      I get my labels from Heirloom Woven Labels. Your family members will appreciate that label that shows them you really did weave it!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kris Stark says:

    Stunning! Thank you for showing the entire process in one blog! I so enjoy all your blogs. God Bless, Kris

  • linda says:

    Karen: color choice is in the mind of the weaver. The artist sees in their mind the finished product and where it will go in their life. My pallet is not as open and inventive as yours, but I’m not you. ALL your pieces have been perfect as to color, pattern, and usage. JUST RIGHT. Swedish weaving has strong colors, perhaps because the natural background is so white. Have you ever done a krogbrog rug ? now there’s a colorful piece of weaving on 3 shafts. So many ideas so little time. Karen I love your weaving. LP&J,linda

    ps going to vermont to work on a burnt orange runner in colonial overshot. weft is bouclet on 20/2 warp. It’s old ski patrol colors and will go on my dining table. it’s also the new color in my house at home. love ya!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Linda,

      The artist sees in their mind the finished product and where it will go in their life.

      What a wonderful way to express it! So true.

      I do have a wide range in my personal color palette, and I am constantly trying to push myself to incorporate colors that wouldn’t be my “first pick.” I like to see if I can make them work — I love that challenge. And sometimes they don’t work that well, but many times I am pleasantly surprised at the results. And, you really don’t know how well the colors will play with each other until all the final finishing is finished. 🙂

      I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your vote of confidence!

      I have not done a krogbrog rug… yet. I will do one at some point. Yes, they are beautifully laden with color.

      Your colonial overshot runner sounds wonderful! Send me a picture when you have it finished. I’d love to see it!

      Love,
      Karen

  • Janie Payne says:

    They are all so beautiful! I wouldn’t want to eat on them, spills, etc!!!!

    • Janie Payne says:

      Oh I forgot, where do you buy your red linen? I tried to read the label, but was unable to get a clear view. Thank you, Janie

    • Karen says:

      Janie, Thank you! I know the feeling about not wanting handwoven specialty items to get messed up! But I plan to use mine where I can see it and enjoy it. I can always wash it! 🙂

      The linen is 16/1 line linen by Bockens, color #517. I purchased mine from GlimakraUSA. Other suppliers that carry Bockens are Vavstuga and Lone Star Loom Room.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Gretchen says:

    So beautiful as always Karen… I would love to see your draft for these at our next WOW meeting! I have technical questions! Happy Weaving… See you soon.

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Even Better After

Many, many hours of work have gone into making these handwoven towels. Their stunning capacity as beautiful, absorbant, and useful things isn’t realized, however, until the cloth is subjected to the finishing process. Wet finishing never ceases to amaze me. These towels! They are transformed from special to spectacular!

Cottolin tea towels just off the loom. Ready for wet finishing!

Towels have been cut apart, ends secured with the serger, and weaving errors repaired. It is time to throw them into the washing machine. Towels with red weft threads go in a separate load — just in case…

Handwoven cottolin handtowels just washed. Ready for one-time pressing.

Towels are removed from the dryer while they are still slightly damp. Now they are ready for pressing. If only I could hand them to you to touch…

I may be intimidated at the thought of wet finishing other items (as I talked about in Weaving Experience), but not towels. Especially cottolin handtowels like these. They are made for a lifetime of everyday use. I do not hesitate to throw them in the washer and dryer, because I know the towels will improve with the washing. And after the washing and drying, they’ll be ready for pressing (the only pressing they will likely ever require).

Handwoven cottolin towel - wet finishing.

Out of the wash, the towels have a delightful texture that is slightly puckered. Pressing will flatten the towel, but subsequent washings will renew the desired textural element.

Wet finishing and pressing of new handwoven cottolin towels. Karen Isenhower

Normal people do not press their handtowels, right? This is a one-time occurrence. Pressing after the first washing helps set the threads into place (or so I’ve been told). Happily, there is no color bleeding of the black or red threads!

When I drop the towels into the wash, I am making an exchange. I give up the unwashed, rough cloth, and get a softened, fulled fabric in its place. I lay down a burden, and receive a blessing in return. Jesus takes our soul’s heavy burden, a lifetime of self-imposed work, and exchanges it for his light load. You can put your heavy load down. And receive in return a softened fabric, washed, pressed, and ready for daily use.

May your load become lighter.

Softly,
Karen

12 Comments

  • Debbie Davis says:

    Wonderful blog post, Karen!

  • Loyanne says:

    Beautiful message and beautiful towels. Look forward to seeing Warped for Good in my email.

  • Amaryllis says:

    Hello Debbie, that they were beautiful! look, just as a suggestion, why not open a space on your website and put the drawings (DRAFTING) so we can make them.

    Greetings from Brazil!

    • Karen says:

      Hello Amaryllis from Brazil,

      that is a wonderful suggestion! I will see if I can figure out how to set up a page that shows the weaving drafts.

      For these towels, I started with a draft I found for silk scarves, and I adjusted the sett for the threads I wanted to use, and I also changed the threading to make it more interesting. I write all my drafts on paper, so I would need to transfer them to weaving software, which I do have. So, it is possible, but it may take a little time to get it done.

      Thank you for asking! and Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Wendy says:

    Lovely towels and a powerful thought!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you, Wende! I’m often surprised to find bits of insight to think about as I go about my weaving. I’m glad the things I think about mean something to other people, too, like you.

      Love,
      Karen

  • Liberty says:

    Beautiful towels, I love them, and the message is so true thank you for the reminder!

    Weave away!,
    Liberty

  • Bruce Mullin says:

    Hi Karen, thanks for an inspirational woven towel and message! I too would love to see your drafts. Thanks for all that you do
    Bruce

    • Karen says:

      Hi Bruce, and I am thankful that you and others keep coming back. It’s great to have weaving friends across the miles.

      I will seriously aim toward putting my drafts up. I can’t promise how soon that will happen.

      All the best,
      Karen

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Diminishing Shed

This table runner is the last item on the zebra warp; and I am pausing before I tackle the ending. I like how the woven checkerboard underneath shows when you look through the warp! With the end of the warp just ahead I am wondering, “How many more centimeters can I weave?” (Read about the Zebra Warp.)

Checkerboard above and beneath. Cottolin table runner on the loom.

Checkerboard above and beneath.

Finishing up black and white cottolin table runner.

I decided to weave the last item as a table runner instead of a handtowel after conferring with Instagram friends. (Join me on Instagram! @celloweaver)

There is a potential hazard at the end of the warp. I want the final border of this table runner to match the border at the beginning. If I start the border too soon, good warp goes to waste, unwoven at the end. But if I start the border too late, I may have trouble finishing it. The shed height begins to diminish as the warp nears the end, until the shed finally becomes too short for a regular boat shuttle to pass through. (I have been known to gingerly “squeeze” and jiggle the shuttle through for the last few picks.)

Diminishing shed at the end of the warp. Cottolin table runner at the hem.

Starting the final hem. Barely enough height in the shed for the double-bobbin shuttle. The three centimeters I need for the hem seems like a long way to go at this point.

Ten towels and a table runner! Karen Isenhower

Woven all the way! Ten towels and a table runner!

Long before I start weaving the border, I am committed to finish, no matter how tight a shed I face at the end. I made that decision when I dressed the loom with this zebra warp way back when. Following Jesus is like that. It’s more than tagging along. It’s total commitment all the way to the end.

May you see where you’ve been as you look ahead.

Happy weaving,
Karen

2 Comments

  • linda says:

    Karen: A secret you probably know. when I’m that close and would like to squeak out just one more repeat, but am not sure; I unroll the warp on the back beam and measure it. Not quite enough. Presents…pillows, sachet bags filled with cedar or pine chips from the wood shop, napkins ( all different patterns, but same colors and sizes, or pin cushions filled with 00-000 zero steel wool. All my looms have these. Our friends go crazy over the sachets for inside golf shoes, ski boots and in mud rooms or lockers. Maybe a product for your shop?? LP&J, linda

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