Quiet Friday: Linen Upholstery Fabric

Do you dream of making upholstery fabric? I do. There are four chair seats at our Texas hill country home that I want to re-cover. Now I have custom upholstery fabric!

Linen on the cloth beam.

Linen upholstery fabric on the loom.

Cutting off never loses its excitement! I have one long piece of yardage, with no separations or divisions.

Cutting off! Linen upholstery fabric.

Cutting off! Linen.

New linen fabric.

Light through the linen fabric. Cutting off!

Tie-on bar as linen fabric is unrolled.

Just off the loom, the hefty linen fabric (8/2 linen, warp and weft) is stiff and unyielding. Will this window-screen material make suitable upholstery that’s soft enough to sit on? Yet, even in this state, the linen beckons and intrigues.

Unwashed new linen fabric.

First, the edges are serged. I check for weaving errors, finding none. There are spliced warp ends in five places, which are trimmed.

Unwashed new linen fabric.

I make a large tube by basting the two ends of the yardage together, to reduce twisting in the wash. The washing machine (top loader) works as a soaking tub first. The linen slowly soaks up water in the tub, relaxing there for an hour or two. Then it’s time to wash and dry. The first time, I omit the spin cycle and remove it from the dryer while still damp, to prevent permanent creasing.

New handwoven linen fabric just washed.

New handwoven linen fabric just washed.

And then, I wash and dry the yardage again.

New handwoven fabric after second wash.

Custom handwoven linen upholstery fabric!

Talk about softening up! Oh, I wish you could be here to handle it with me! This is dreamy linen fabric, perfect for sitting.

Just woven custom linen upholstery fabric.

May your fabric dreams come true.

Happy weaving,
Karen

24 Comments

  • Betsy says:

    What a great project! What sett did you use and how much shrinkage did you get with washing and drying. I have some dining room chairs that I want to recover. Your project may be the “kick” that I need to go from dreaming to doing.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, So I’m not the only one who thinks of weaving fabric to recover chairs…
      The sett is 15 epi. I haven’t done the final measuring yet. I’ll report back later today with the shrinkage after I’ve done that.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

    • Karen says:

      Betsy, I have the shrinkage figures for you.

      I had 12% shrinkage in width and about 15% shrinkage in length. The fabric was washed in warm water and dried on a medium setting.

      Karen

      • Betsy says:

        Karen
        Thank you for the info. That will help in my planning. I was just looking at a book by Ann Sutton called Color and Weave Design that has handreds of designs. They are all in black and white yarn and the book is arranged like pages of gamps.

        Betsy

        • Karen says:

          Betsy, Sounds like a fascinating book. I’ll have to look that up.

          Send me a picture (Karen @ warpedforgood . com) when you get something going. I’d enjoy seeing what you come up with.

          Karen

          • Betsy says:

            Karen
            My current project is to make a jacket to through on on summer evenings. I’ve just wound a warp with 3/2 cotton for sampling. I’ll move on to upholstery fabric after I finish the jacket.
            Betsy

  • Shari says:

    Absolutely lovely! It looks like two colors. What colors did you use. Looks like grey or brown. What’s the weave structure? 4 or 8? Absolutely lovely!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Shari, This is 8/2 line linen, unbleached and golden bleached. The look of natural linen is pleasing! Four shaft plain weave, with color and weave effect. Only two treadles! This was relatively fast and easy weaving.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Bev says:

    Love linen (having learned to spin on it decades ago) I really need to get my looms going. Thanks to your examples and encouragement.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Bev, I admire anyone who can spin, especially linen! I’m happy to hear that you’re feeling prompted to get weaving looms going. That makes me smile!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kathryn says:

    This is so beautiful Karen! I have a padded piano bench that was my mothers that I have been wanting to recover and this is the inspiration that I needed to get going.

    I’ll take any opportunity to work with linen and I just love the combination of unbleached and golden. I’m wondering if a shadow and weave pattern would also work with this color combination of linen. The pattern might be more subtle, but could be interesting!

    Kathryn

    • Karen says:

      Kathryn, How lovely to weave fabric for your piano bench! I think this weight linen will work well for seat and piano bench covers.
      The unbleached and golden linen give only a subtle pattern, so if you want the pattern to be more noticeable, you’d want higher contrast in the colors. I don’t have experience with shadow weave, so I’m probably not the best one to ask about that.

      I’d love to see what you come up with!

      And, yay!, another weaving upholstery dreamer…

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Janet H says:

    Karen,
    Your fabric came out beautifully (LOVE it)–I do so want to touch it! Do you have to do any special handling while weaving with linen (I have no experience with linen)? And how do you handle the fabric from the washer without using the spin cycle? Isn’t it heavy and dripping with water?

    • Karen says:

      Janet, Linen works best with a little extra care, but I find it a special pleasure to weave with linen. I have a sidebar with tips for linen in my Dice Weave Pillows project in Jan/Feb 2016 Handwoven.

      Generally, you want good, even tension across the warp as you beam the warp. Avoid abrasion as much as possible, for which a temple is helpful. And, sometimes a little moisture will help if you have warp ends breaking.

      Near the end of the rinse cycle I stand at the washing machine and listen for the water to drain out. When it sounds like the last little bit has drained and the spin has started, I stop the machine. If there is still too much water in the fabric at that point, I even out the yardage, untwisting and unfolding it as much as possible and then turn it on and let it just barely spin. That gets enough water out so it’s not dripping wet, and I can to move it to the dryer.

      For smaller pieces, like towels, I don’t mind if they are wet and dripping. I roll them in dry towels to remove moisture before putting them in the dryer, or laying them flat to dry.

      By the way, this piece of linen yardage is heavy even when dry. When I first pulled it out of the washer it was really heavy!

      Thanks for asking,
      Karen

  • Libby says:

    Hi Karen,
    This is just beautiful! What a good idea to cover your chairs, I’ve done that many times over the years, but yours will be so nice. I can’t wait to see them done!!
    Libby

  • Hi Karen,
    In 1991 my mother-in-law was going through her attic and handed me some yardage that her mother wove on a loom made by her father. It was of pearl cotton with one in a birds eye weave of red and cream. I put them away because the fabrics had no purpose in my house hold with young children

    When we put together a weekend home I used one of the pieces to cover second hand dining room chairs. The result proves the rule to use beautiful things.

    Your beautiful newly covered chairs will give you years of enjoyment.
    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, Oh how wonderful! Thanks for sharing your experience. That’s great that you were able to put that special fabric to good use.

      I look forward to putting these chair seats together and sharing my enjoyment of them with my family and friends. It’s a great way to be able to see and feel the handwoven fabric in daily living.

      Thanks for your sweet encouragement,
      Karen

  • Doris says:

    Hi Karen
    You have woven a very wonderful fabric, that certainly gives great chairs
    Kind regards
    Doris

  • Elisabeth says:

    This fabric is gorgeous! Such a pleasant weight linen and the beautiful suble texture and pattern really adds to its beauty!
    I strongly believe that surrounding ourselves with things made with passion and love, and out of quality materials do something to us. I am convinced that the qualities put into it by the maker follow the item and is sensed by the user. It is so satisfying to touch, use, and take care of things like these. And they age so beautifully 🙂
    Thank you for so generously sharing your passion!

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Karen says:

      Hi Elisabeth, You have a way with words. I enjoy hearing your thoughts—so rich and insightful. I agree, it is immensely satisfying to surround ourselves with beautiful things that are made by hand, with love mixed in.

      Happy weaving, friend,
      Karen

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Quiet Friday: Square Dots

It was six weeks ago that I began winding the warp for these towels. The thread for my next Glimåkra Standard project is due to arrive tomorrow. Just like I like it—revolving door weaving. I have no doubt that this set of towels will become family favorites. They are a feast for the eyes, and a tactile delight for the hands. Seeing the color on the reverse side takes my breath away. This whole experience has been the weaving satisfaction that I’ve come to cherish!

"Square Dot" towels. Satin dräll. Karen Isenhower

Square Dot towels. Ten shafts, ten treadles. Two block five-shaft satin dräll. 8/2 cotton warp. Weft is 8/2 cotton and 22/2 cottolin, and 16/2 linen for the white stripes on the red towel.

I did face difficulties near the end of the warp. The shed started deteriorating with some of the shafts, but I was determined to finish off the last towel to its full length. That meant coaxing the low profile shuttle through for a few inches. Consequently, I did have more errant floats to repair than usual. But, isn’t it wonderful that we can fix just about anything in this weaving adventure?

Fixing floats on a towel that was at the end of the warp.

End of warp. What I didn’t see at the loom is that one shaft in particular was not behaving. There were at least eight floats along that one warp end. After repairs and washing and pressing, the errors are barely noticeable.

I made a warp from thread on leftover quills to weave up some hanging tabs on my band loom for three of the towels. And I found a linen piece in my “band stash” that is perfect for the red and white towel.

Enjoy the slideshow that I made for you with details of the process.

May you weave some family favorites.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

16 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Oh, these are lovely! Both sides!

  • Karen, these are beautiful! Your color choices are wonderful.

    Does your pattern have a balanced tie-up? I’m ready to try a ten shaft pattern on my ten shaft counterbalance loom, but it would have to be a balanced tie-up in order for me to use the dräll pulleys. Is the pattern readily available? Where would I look?

    I enjoy reading your blog posts.
    Jenny B

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jenny, Thank you! Managing color choices is one of the things I enjoy most in my weaving space, so I really appreciate your compliment.

      You can find this draft in The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell, p.172 (mine is “Sample 8”).

      Joanne Hall tells me that it is possible to tie up the two block satin with a counterbalance tie-up. The tie-up on countermarch is a little easier than a counterbalance tie-up, but she has seen weavers able to weave this very fast on a counterbalance loom.

      I’ll be interested in hearing if you try it.
      Happy weaving,
      Karen

      • I have the book. I’m excited to give this pattern a try. It has so many possibilities. My loom has been empty for over a month due to lack of inspiration and other life problems getting in the way. Hopefully I can get something on Julie in a few days.

        Hopefully you won’t mind if some of mine end up similar to yours. I think it was the colors that attracted me to the weave first, and then seeing the reverse side made me love them even more.

        Thanks for steering me to the pattern.

        Jenny B

        • Karen says:

          Hi Jenny, I would be thrilled to pieces and honored if you chose to weave something similar to mine! Oh I do hope your inspiration at the loom returns quickly, and that some of the weight you carry is lifted.

          The reverse side is amazing!

          In case it helps, here are the colors I used: (All Bockens)

          Warp – 8/2 cotton #471 lt red (it’s coral to me)
          Weft –
          1. 8/2 cotton #557 slate with band of 22/2 cottolin #2003 silver
          2. 8/2 cotton #470 beige with band of 22/2 cottolin #2004 gray
          3. cottolin #2080 red with band of 16/2 linen #0005 golden bleached
          4. cottolin #2017 rust with band of 8/2 cotton #470 beige (This one has the least contrast, and it is also my favorite.)

          Very happy weaving to you,
          Karen

  • Kay Larson says:

    They are just lovely! I look forward to seeing your next project.
    Kay

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kay, It won’t be long before you see my next project! I’m pretty excited about it…as always. 🙂
      Thanks so much for your kind words!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Joanne Hall says:

    That was a great slide show. And yes, the two block satin is such a beautiful weave. And your colors are so nice. Thanks for taking the time to share what you are weaving.
    Joanne

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanne, I appreciate your thoughtful words. That means so much to me! I’m accumulating a long list of things that I want to do more of, and this two block satin weave is one of them.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Liberty says:

    Oh Karen, I love these, my favorite color! Thanks for the slide show, it’s fun to see your whole process!!

  • Ruth says:

    Such beautiful work AGAIN! You are an inspiration and offer such an open and positive approach to fixing weaving issues. I recently finished an M’s and O’s table cloth with many floats over the last couple of inches of weaving due to a decreasing shed. Like you I was determined to have the whole length of that cloth. I thought I’d fixed all the floats but keep finding them as I use the cloth. Enjoy your new favorites.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ruth, Oh I have floats in cloth that I use, too. They do like to hide when we have that needle out. Haha! But really, it’s a mark of distinction because it proves our fabric is handmade.

      Your kind words are a sweet encouragement to me. Thank you so much!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Angela W says:

    I’m new to weaving and discovered your blog. It has been very helpful. Thank you for all the good information especially your glossary. But what I have found most wonderful are the words of hope and encouragement to trust in our Lord. I really needed that right now. Blessings to you, Karen.

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Quiet Friday: Linen Satin Dräll

This is one of those weaving projects that puts you on top of the world. Everything about it. Linen, ten shafts, five-shaft satin weave, ten treadles, gorgeous Moberg damask shuttle, single-shuttle rhythm, full-body weaving, magical fabric. I did have more than my share of knots in the warp, and a few skipped threads and selvedge loops. But you will see no evidence of those glitches now. All you will see is the natural beauty of linen, with its characteristic unevenness. And the reflective satin dräll weave, with its light-catching trickery.

The warp is Bockens unbleached 16/2 line linen. Two of the towels use 16/1 golden bleached linen for the weft. At my husband’s request, the remaining three towels have 16/2 linen weft, in ecru. The thicker weft helps make these into robust absorbent handtowels. A table square finishes off the set.

Enjoy the process with me as I reminisce over the start-to-finish pleasure of weaving these towels.

Winding a linen warp.

Linen warp chains.

Tying on the linen warp.

Tying up 10 treadles on a countermarch!

Sampling weft colors on a linen warp.

Sunlit linen damask weaving.

Hidden patterns in the 5-shaft satin.

Linen 5-shaft satin dräll!

Beautiful Moberg damask shuttle.

Spliced warp ends.

Linen satin dräll on the loom.

End of the warp is near. So many warp end repairs!

Cutting off! Linen 5-shaft satin dräll.

Just off the loom--linen 5-shaft satin.

Glimakra band loom. Hanging tabs for towels.

Ready to sew handwoven hanging tabs on new linen towels.

Just off the loom--linen 5-shaft satin handtowels.

Handwoven linen towel with handwoven hanging tab.

Handwoven set of linen satin dräll towels. Karen Isenhower

May you find pleasure in what you do.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

18 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Exquisite, Karen!

  • JAN says:

    Nice finishing touch with hand woven hanging tab. Had you ever though of putting another one in the middle of the long edge so the towel can be hung on a hook above the sink?

    • Karen says:

      Hi JAN, I haven’t done that, but it’s a great idea. I would need to figure out how to attach it, since there is not a hem on the side. These tabs would be a little too thick to fold the ends under, but could certainly do that with tabs made with thinner threads. Have you done it?

      Thanks,
      Karen

  • Janet says:

    Beautiful towels and beautifully woven!

  • Betsy says:

    Wonderful towels! And I’m so impressed that your husband knows enough about yarn to recommend 16/2 over 16/1.

    Your little bowl of pegs next to the treadles reminds me of my last project, huck placemats. I could remember the treadling, but not the 18 repeats. So I had a bowl like yours with 18 pegs, and after every repeat I moved one peg to another bowl. And every once in a while I’d crawl around the Julia counting the repeats in case I made a mistake, lol.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, Haha, I may have given the wrong impression about my husband. He specified thicker, less dainty towels, and I chose the appropriate size of linen.

      What a great way to keep track of repeats. I’m going to remember that!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nancy Nordquist says:

    These are absolutely beautiful! Than you for sharing so many photos and details of the process.

  • Joanne Hall says:

    Yes, this weave is magical and so fun to weave. And thank you for the beauticul photos. Did you use your phone to take these photos?
    Joanne

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanne, I feel so “at home” weaving something like this. It is satisfying and rewarding.

      I use my iPhone 7 for all my photos. Steve has a very nice digital SLR camera, but I do best with the simple little iPhone. And it’s always in my pocket or on the table beside me. I take way too many pictures, and then I whittle them down to my very favorites to share here.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Barb says:

    Beautiful design, beautifully woven. The joy & pleasure you have in weaving shows in every finished project. Each time you use these towels, you will be reminded of your enjoyment of the process of weaving. Thank you for sharing your talents and inspiring other weavers to find that joy!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barb, Your thoughtful comments mean so much! If I can inspire another weaver to find a little more joy in this wonderful weaving process, that would be fantastic!
      Part of the pleasure of having towels like this in my home is getting to see others enjoy the results, too.

      Thanks so much,
      Karen

  • Angela says:

    Beautiful and inspirational!

  • Gretchen says:

    Love these Karen!! So simple and classic… and perfect! Beautiful.

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Quiet Friday: Attractive New Rag Rugs

Don’t be surprised to find one, or even two, of these attractive rugs gracing my home. Five new rugs are now finished and ready to be enjoyed! I designed one of these spaced rep rugs specifically for our Texas hill country home. One was woven by my young apprentice, Juliana. Her rug is already on the floor in her room. And at least two of the rugs are destined for my Etsy Shop. Soon, my looms will be active with new things. There is always something just finished to look back on with fondness, and something ahead to look forward to. Weaving is like that.

Spaced rep rag rugs.

Spaced rep rag rug. Karen Isenhower

Spaced rep rag rug

Spaced rep rag rug

Wool rag rug

Spaced rep rag rug

Spaced rep rag rugs! Karen Isenhower

May your Christmas be calm and bright.

Good Christmas to you and yours, my friends,
Karen

14 Comments

  • Ann says:

    Thank you for taking the time to share your weaving activities with us – I look forward every week to see what you are doing as I am in France, and there are not so many weavers around here, so I depend on the worldwide web for inspiration and encouragement.
    Happy Christmas to you and your family!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ann, It’s a pleasure to meet you! It’s a blessing for me to get to share what’s on my looms with like-minded people like you.

      Happy Christmas to you and yours!
      Karen

  • Cindy Bills says:

    Merry Christmas, Karen!
    I found your blog earlier this year and I just want to thank you for all your postings and inspirational messages. Thank you for sharing your weaving life with us!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindy, It makes me happy to know you are joining me in this weaving adventure! It means a lot to have friends with common interests and values.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours,
      Karen

  • D’Anne says:

    The rugs are beautiful, Karen, as is everything you weave. Are they for the hill country house? Wherever they live, they will add so much warmth to the room. Can’t wait to see what you create next!

    • Karen says:

      Hi D’Anne, At least one of the rugs will stay at the hill country house. The rest will go on Etsy. Your encouraging words go a long way with me. You always brighten my day.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours,
      Karen

  • Liberty says:

    Hi Karen,
    Thank you for all you do for us. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!!

  • JANET PELL says:

    Thank you for spending time sharing with us, your tips, help and your beautiful work. I so look forward to it every week.
    Happy Christmas to you and your family from Italy

    • Karen says:

      Hi Janet, Isn’t it wonderful that we can meet here, as if there’s no distance between us? Thank you for your encouraging words! That means so much to me.

      Happy Christmas to you and yours,
      Karen

  • Maggie Ackerman says:

    I never knew there was an actual name for rep weave that was not so tightly sleighed. I just thought it was me being lazy with the loom warping, but I love how the weft pattern shows and adds to the design. I’ve done a number of these and love them.

    Merry Christmas to you and thanks for your blog.

    Maggie

    • Karen says:

      Hi Maggie, I agree, the beauty of spacing the warps further apart is that the weft pattern shows and adds to the design. Maybe we should call it “Enhanced Rep Weave.”

      Happy weaving! And Merry Christmas to you,
      Karen

  • Ruth says:

    It is so grand to see your work and know the joy you find in weaving. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and creativity.
    Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas and God’s richest blessings in 2018.

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Quiet Friday: My Young Apprentice

Any handweaver who finds willing and able help is indeed fortunate. If you find an apprentice you love to have at your side, that’s even better. I consider myself especially blessed to have such an apprentice—a young lady who frequents my weaving studio and shares my delight in the wonder of turning threads into cloth.

Young apprentice. First time at the loom.

First time at the big loom.

Cotton and linen tubes of thread sorted and arranged by color.

Cotton and linen tubes of thread are all sorted by type and arranged by color. Thanks to my young apprentice.

Juliana assisted on this spaced rep rag rug project from start to finish. She helped me beam the warp and thread the heddles. I wove four of the rugs, and she wove one complete rug herself. It is only fitting for her to help with the cutting off! And, oh, what a joy it is to see freshly woven rugs roll off the cloth beam!

Finishing the rugs is still ahead. When we have them hemmed, I will bring you an update with pictures of our completed treasures.

Five rag rugs rolled up, ready for finishing.

Five rag rugs rolled up. Next step is to tie warp ends and hand-stitch hems.

Enjoy the slideshow video below that shows our process. And enjoy our cutting off celebration as shown in the following detail shots. (Photo credit: Christie Lacy)

Cutting off!

Cutting off!

Cutting off!

Cutting off - A few ends at a time.

Rag rug cutting off!

Untying the warp. Rag rugs just off the loom.

Releasing new rag rugs from the loom.

Taking new rag rugs off the loom.

May you keep your youthful delight.

Thankful,
Karen

12 Comments

  • Julia says:

    What a joy and delight for you BOTH! Juliana is beautiful and a wise one indeed to choose a true master at the loom for her mentor. It is always best, when possible, to learn from the most skilled, talented, and wise teachers.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Julia, It’s when we teach others that we learn the most. I’m still learning, so it’s great to have someone to share in the process!

      Thanks for your kind and generous thoughts!
      Karen

  • Beth says:

    Juliana is as fortunate to have you as a teacher as you are to have her as an apprentice. She seems very captivated by the process. Looking forward to seeing your next joint effort.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, It is invigorating for me to witness this sweet young lady’s fascination with weaving. Her expressions of delight so often match how I feel about the process.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Marjorie says:

    If I move to Texas, could I be your *old* apprentice??

  • D’Anne says:

    Lucky Juliana to have you for. a teacher!

  • Jane Milner says:

    I am a returning weaver (had a 4 shaft table loom in the ’70’s…and now have a Glimakra Ideal. I’m wondering about storing my cones and tubes of fiber…how do you deal with dust and fading if they are stored on open shelves?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jane, Welcome back to the world of weaving! I’m sure you’ll enjoy getting back in the swing of things.

      My wool and other yarns are stored in a closed closet. The tubes of cotton and linen are on the open shelves, partly because I derive such pleasure having them in full view in my weaving studio, and partly because I like to see at a glance what I have available. The shelves are not in direct sunlight, so I’m not too concerned about fading, at least I haven’t seen that to be a problem. As far as dust goes, I don’t think too much dust settles on them because I’m moving them pretty often. I try not to keep a huge stash. I like to use as much of what I have on the shelves, and then add to that as needed for specific projects. I may not be the best one to ask about dust. It’s something I only see in other people’s houses. 😉

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • What a wonderful opportunity for you both! She can learn the joy of learning and of weaving at the hand of a mentor and you can share your love and knowledge with her thus learning more as well! I agree that teaching others is always the best way to learn more ourselves and the gift of sharing that knowledge is priceless! Bless you both!
    Charlynn

    • Karen says:

      Hi Charlynn, I couldn’t agree more. It’s a wonderful opportunity for both of us. This is a win – win arrangement!

      I appreciate your thoughtful words!
      Karen

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