Tools Day: Needles

Even though there are dozens of needles in and around my weaving and sewing spaces, nine stand out from the rest. These go-to needles have earned special favor. As essential tools, these needles have specific holders and permanent homes.

The 9 needles I use most for handweaving.

  • Sharp needles: hand-hemming, hand-sewing, stitching on labels, and stitching a tapestry to a linen mat for mounting (curved needle)
    HOLDER: Pincushion I made in 1980
    HOME: Sewing supply closet, “Needles and Pins” drawer

Sharp needles for hand-hemming. 1980 pin cushion.

Stitching labels onto handwoven towels.

Hand hemming handwoven table runner.

  • Blunt tapestry needles, small and medium: hemstitching, stitching a thread mark to the right side of the fabric, sewing in tapestry weft tails, finishing work—needle-weaving for corrections and repairs
    HOLDER: Remnant of cotton handwoven plain weave fabric
    HOME: Loom-side cart, top drawer

Handy needles to keep by the loom.

Blunt needles by the loom.

Steve sanded and rounded the tips of the needles to make them blunt. A needle with a rounded tip won’t pierce and split the threads.

Hemstitching at the loom.

Sewing in weft tails in the back of a tapestry.

  • Blunt tapestry needles, large: hemstitching, hand-hemming rugs, weaving small tapestries
    HOLDER: Felted inkle-woven tape
    HOME: cutting/work table, Grandma’s old sewing tin

Felted inkle-woven needle holder.

Rag rug hemming by hand.

Hemming a handwoven rag rug.

  • Sacking needles: pulling rag rug warp ends out of scrap weft, threading warp ends back into a wool rug (I did this…once)
    HOLDER: straw-woven pouch from a trip to The Philippines
    HOME: weaving supply closet, top drawer on the left

Woven pouch from The Philippines.

Tying warp ends into knots. Rag rug finishing.

May you find the needle you need when you need a needle.

All the best,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Nanette says:

    Works for you, and a beautiful system! I have several “work stations” (sounds more organized than it is!) on two floors. So, my “system” is four (handwoven of course!) pin cushions, each with a variety of the needles, in various places. Not ideal, I suppose, because often the needles “migrate” and the right one is sometimes not in the right place! Do enjoy all your posts.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nanette, I like how you call them “work stations.” It does sound very orderly. I do understand how those needles can migrate! Mine do that sometimes, too. At least we have some sort of system…

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Elisabeth Munkvold says:

    I love how you store the different needles you use! It makes so much sense. In addition to being a beautiful way to preserve memories, I really like the make-do approach, too.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Elisabeth, I enjoy finding creative solutions to keeping things somewhat organized. I may have learned that from you. 🙂
      It is sweet to find ways to use special items, like my Grandma’s sewing tin.

      Merry Christmas,
      Karen

  • Beth says:

    You’re inspiring me to make something out of a handwoven scrap for needles and get them out of the little plastic box.

  • faun says:

    my great aunt did a similar checkerboard pattern
    “https://flic.kr/p/EnVPZE”

    my needles will migrate thanx to the intervention of critters.
    filling your pincushion with wool fleece with the natural lanolin
    will help prevent rusting- cotton will collect moisture and help them rust
    so wool cloth for your pin cushions is better in the long run too.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Faun, It looks like your great aunt’s rug uses thick and thin weft, like mine. Nice!

      Thanks for the tip about wool for pincushions. Good to know!

      All the best,
      Karen

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Counting at the Cross

I am winding a lovely all-blue warp on my warping reel. When I pause, as I do regularly to count the ends, it is easy to put the winding on hold. I tuck the pair of warp ends under a section of wound warp at one of the vertical posts of the reel. That holds it, and keeps threads under tension until I’m ready to continue where I left off.

Winding a warp on a warping reel.

Pair of warp ends are held secure while I stop to count another section of ends.

I stop after winding each section. I do the counting at the cross, always counting twice. A long twisted cord (one of my choke ties) marks my place, section by section. The count needs to be an exact match, of course, with the number of ends in the pattern draft.

Counting warp ends as I wind a warp on the warping reel.

Long twisted cord helps keep track of how many ends have been counted.

Cotton warp just beamed.

After the warp is beamed, each section is counted again to prepare for threading the loom.

The Christmas season reminds us that Jesus brought grace to earth. From manger to cross. The grace of the Lord Jesus is perfectly complete. Like a planned warp, there is nothing more to add. All the threads have been counted. And they match the divine plan. Any threads of my own effort would be threads that don’t belong. The grace of forgiveness comes purely as a gift.

May your counted ends match the pattern.

Christmas blessings,
Karen

7 Comments

  • Martha says:

    Beautiful blue warp! Love your warping reel, how many yards does it hold?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Martha, This is a Glimakra warping reel, 8′ in diameter. I’m not positive how many yards it will hold, but I’m guessing probably 14-15 yards. So far, my longest warps have been about 10-12 yards. The reel works great, and I really enjoy winding warps on it.

      Karen

  • D’Anne says:

    What a lovely warp! Can’t wait to see what you’ll do with it!

  • S says:

    I really enjoy reading your blog and appreciate the time you take to write it. I have a question, too: I’ve read where you mention “counting the sections” several times for threading. What do you mean by that? What sections are you counting? Are they sections of the threading draft, and if so, how do I know what a section is on the draft?

    • Karen says:

      Hi S, That is a good clarifying question. Thanks for asking!

      What I mean by “section” is a pre-determined number of warp ends. In the case of this warp, there are regular color changes with a certain number of threads in each color, so I am counting sections of color. Many projects have all one color warp, or colors distributed in various ways. In those cases, I decide how many threads to count at a time–maybe 40, or 50–and that number of warp ends will make a “section” for counting purposes. The number of threads in a “section” doesn’t necessarily relate to the threading draft, except, of course, that the total number of warp ends must match up.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • S says:

    Thank you! That makes sense and I’m going to incorporate that into my warping process. Cheers!

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Rag Rug Playground

This is a rag rug playground! I am weaving miniature rugs—rosepath rag rug hot pads. My small countermarch loom is perfect for this exploration. Without tabby or with tabby? Planned weft or hit and miss? Vibrant colors or soft neutrals? Weft inlay or plain and simple? So many possibilities! My “idea bank” is exploding.

Mini rag rugs for hot pads.

Reverse treadling adds a diamond design element at both ends of this mini rug.

Handwoven hot pads. Mini rosepath rag rugs.

Color choices are inspired by views outside this Texas hill country window.

My goal is to weave as many different versions as possible. No two alike! Sure, they all have the same 12/9 cotton warp and all-cotton-fabric-strips weft, but with all sorts of variations. Most will be gifts. Handwoven hot pads, making it to the kitchens of friends, to serve them well.

Rosepath detail in mini rag rugs. Making hot pads.

Rosepath detail.

Rosepath rag rug hot pads on the loom.

White fabric strips are used as tabby weft to highlight the blue rosepath pattern.

Rosepath inlay with mini rag rugs--hot pads.

Deep purple fabric strip is used for weft rosepath inlay over a plain weave background. Woven hot pads wind their way around the cloth beam, separated by scrap weft and warping slats.

There is no one like you, with your hopes, dreams, and pains. You touch others like no one else can. Your life makes a difference. Your life matters because it matters to God. Your Creator had good things in mind when he formed you. Lord, place us where we will best show your handiwork, where we can humbly serve those you’ve given us to love.

May you live on purpose.

Your friend,
Karen

13 Comments

  • Angela Roberts says:

    Great inspiration as always, creatively and spiritually xoxo
    Thanks

  • Annie says:

    It is good to be reminded that our Heavenly Father has made us all as uniquely diverse as your hot pads. Perhaps there is the bit of the weaver in him.

    And I can’t quite decide which hot pad I like best! But it seems fun experimenting!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, It’s fun to have a project on the loom that allows for experimentation.

      Yes, I’d say our Heavenly Father positively has a weaver side to him.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Gayle says:

    Love the variations, we want to see them laid out on the floor when you cut them off!!!

  • Janet says:

    Fantastic idea and I need some office gifts!! How do you finish your ends?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Janet, I plan to tie the ends into overhand knots and then trim them to about 1/4-3/8″ or so. I could have woven hems on them with thin fabric strips and then turn the hems under and stitch, but I haven’t done that this time. It’s possible to bind the edges (after tying knots) with fabric, but that doesn’t always stay looking great, especially if they are washed frequently.

      These weave up nice and fast! …Besides being so much fun to do. Great idea for office gifts!

      Happy weaving!
      Karen

      • Karen says:

        One more thing… If you plan to tie knots, it is helpful to have at least 4 inches of warp for tying. So I try to put about 8″ between mats, with scrap weft and slats. You can tie knots with less than 4″, but it can get a little tricky. I always regret it when I shorten the distance to try to save warp.

  • Kathryn says:

    Hello Karen,

    These are beautiful! What a wonderful way to play with new patterns and colors while using up fabric scraps. Plus, they’re very useful!

    Can you tell me, how long is your warp and how many potholders do you think you’ll end up with? I don’t have a lot of cotton fabrics laying around, but I’m sure wool scraps would work just as well, don’t you think? In fact, with wool being naturally fire retardant, they might be a good choice:)

    Thank you for sharing. I always look forward to your blog posts!!

    Kathryn

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kathryn, I wish I could tell you how long the warp is. This started as a tapestry/inlay project. After finishing the first of four panels, I decided I didn’t want to weave three more. The original warp was probably about 5 or 6 yards. Instead of cutting off the rest of the warp, I decided to do something fun and easy – hot pads! I have not been counting, so I can’t even tell you how many I have so far – maybe 6 or 8. And I’m guessing I’ll get 3 or 4 more.

      If I were planning this from the start, I would figure the length of the hot pad (mine are about 5-6″ long), plus 4″ on both ends for tying knots (or 2″ on each end for weaving hems, plus the 4″ for knots). Multiply by the number of hot pads you want. Add about 15% take-up and shrinkage. Add loom waste. (Hmm… maybe I should do a blog post about project calculations…)

      I think wool fabric would be a great choice for hot pads. I didn’t know about wool being naturally fire retardant. That’s good to know!

      Thanks for asking great questions!
      Karen

  • Limor Johnson says:

    Hi Karen,
    What is the sett on these beautiful rugs? What size reed are you using?

    Thanks for sharing, great work and pictures,
    Limor

    • Karen says:

      Hi Limor, The sett is approximately 6 epi. I’m using a metric 25/10 reed, the rough equivalent of which is a 6-dent reed. One end per heddle, and one end per dent.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      All the best,
      Karen

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Startling Surprise at the Loom

A startling surprise greeted me when I sat down at the loom yesterday afternoon! The sun was shining through the window and sparkles of light were dancing on the loom. The surprise happened when some of the light made its way under the woven warp and shined up through the cloth, revealing a hidden pattern. Whoa! I discovered a secret passageway in an old majestic house…accidentally! That’s what it felt like.

Afternoon light at the loom. Linen 5-shaft satin towels.

Linen towel in five-shaft satin dräll. Sunlight dances on the woven and not-yet-woven warp.

Linen towels in 5-shaft satin dräll.

Block pattern on the towel changes, and is emphasized with the change of weft.

Light through the fabric reveals a hidden structure!

Light comes up through the fabric on the left side of the loom, revealing a hidden structure in the cloth.

This is five-shaft satin, not goose-eye twill. How fascinating to get a glimpse of the inner structure of the cloth. I didn’t expect it, but it does make sense that the treadling pattern is woven into the fabric. But you won’t see it unless light shines through just so.

The Lord knows us intimately. He knows what we do and why we do it. Where we go and what our plans and intentions are. He not only knows what we say, he knows the thoughts behind our words. God is not surprised. He knows it all. His light reveals our inner structure. May it be pleasing to Him.

May you be pleasantly surprised.

With you,
Karen

14 Comments

  • Alison says:

    Beautiful Karen. What a blessing.

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Very cool! Now I’ll be shining light from the bottom of every weaving.

    Your work is so very beautiful, Karen.

    Lovely sentiment!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, I know, right? The light from below makes me wonder what I could see on other projects.

      Your kind words mean so much to me.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    That is amazing! A reminder that cloth is not always as one dimensional as it may appear upon first glance and neither are any of God’s creations.
    Your comments about God knowing our inner thoughts, omnipotence, was often a frightening concept to me as a child, but it certainly helped me behave better! Now as an adult, it is more of a comfort, to know someone understands you completely.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, So often there is more than meets the eye!

      I had similar misgivings as a child, thinking about God’s watchful eye. But now, it seems comforting and such an amazing thing to be known by the Creator of the universe.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
      Karen

  • Sara Jeanne says:

    Mother Nature is surely our inspiration!

  • Keleen says:

    Hi Karen! Remember when I had a senior moment on our walk this morning and forgot what I was about to say? Reading your thoughts, especially that his light reveals our inner structure, made me think of it. I was thinking of egg candling, when you hold an egg up to a light source to see what’s inside—hopefully a living and healthy embryo! That us another good analogy of how God’s light shows us our hearts. Sometimes we can see that an embryo has died there in the heart of the egg

    • Karen says:

      Hi Keleen, I am not very familiar with egg candling, but I have heard of it before. It’s interesting how a light source can show what’s inside! God’s light is certainly like that.

      Blessings,
      Karen

  • Teresa says:

    Wow, way cool! Thanks so much foe Sharing!

    T

    • Karen says:

      Hi Teresa, It was mesmerizing to see that pattern in the fabric. I wanted to share it so others could see it, too. I’m delighted that you think it’s way cool like I do!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Linda Cornell says:

    Such inspiring reflections both in nature and in your heart. Thank you!

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