Weaving through The Big Book

It took me seven years of study, practice, and mistakes to complete this rigorous Swedish weaving curriculum! You have been with me through much of it right here. I’m talking about The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell. I made it through the book, sequentially, page by page, warp by warp. 43 warps in all! Remember the blue 12-shaft double-weave blanket I had on the loom in June? That is the final project in the book.

Handwoven double weave blanket. 12 shafts.
Double-weave wool fabric is ready for wet finishing, where it will be transformed into a soft, cozy blanket.

In the short video below, each completed project is presented in order in our Texas hill country home. Watch to the end to see the blue blanket in all its finished glory.

For nitty-gritty details, check out The Big Book of Weaving tab at the top of the page.

I. Secrets to success:

  • mindset of a student
  • determination
  • eyes on the goal
  • no option other than completion

One loom dedicated to the book.


II. Lessons learned:

  • technique
  • processes
  • planning
  • drafting
  • Swedish practices

Any mistake can be remedied.


III. Treasures gained:

  • patience
  • humility
  • endurance
  • focused attention
  • problem solving
  • creative freedom

Confidence.


IV. Prized perspectives:

  • new experiences
  • delight of dressing the loom
  • wonder of cloth-making
  • fresh ideas
  • joy of discovery
  • knowledge and understanding of the loom

Getting lost and absorbed in the whole process of weaving.

V. Favorite project: Old-Fashioned Weaving / Monksbelt (at 4:46 in the video)

Are we determined students of heavenly things? Oh, to know God’s will! Study what’s written, don’t lose heart, eyes on the prize, no option besides completion through Jesus Christ. One life dedicated to know him. Day by day, warp by warp, the Grand Weaver teaches us. We can know God’s will.

May you be a lifelong learner.

Happy Weaving to you,
Karen

38 Comments

  • Susie Redman says:

    Well done. It’s such a great book. I’m picking and choosing from the book – its a great way to learn.

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Your work is so inspiring, Karen. I recall many of these projects, here and in Handwoven. Do you have a personal favorite? One that you’ll perhaps explore even further? Kudos!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, Thank you so much! My personal favorite is the monksbelt piece—the large multicolor runner on the dining room table. And yes, I have monksbelt ideas that I would like to explore. Another one I’d like to play around with and learn more about is the turned rosepath—the long narrow red band. There are so many possibilities!

      Thanks for asking,
      Karen

  • Geri Rickard says:

    What a splendid presentation, Karen! You have accomplished so much, and each one is beautiful! Thanks for sharing, it was fun!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Geri, I’m glad you enjoyed the presentation. It was a lot of fun for me to put together, going back in time remembering all the projects.

      Thank you!
      Karen

  • Betsy says:

    Such a feast for the eyes!

  • Cindy Bills says:

    Wow and Wow! Such an accomplishment! And your lovely home showcases all those projects beautifully. Thanks for making this video and thanks for your encouragement. I’m currently doing the Jane Stafford online guild lessons with a new video lesson and project every five weeks. Sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming but I’m determined to try each one. I’ve already learned so much!
    Thanks again for your encouragement and dedication, both to your weaving and for sharing your weaving and faith with others. It DOES make a big difference to many.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindy, I know how you feel. Many times I was overwhelmed and even discouraged about completing this mammoth dream. Keep pressing on with your lessons, it WILL be worth it–I promise! And between the hard parts, I really had a lot of fun! So enjoy it, too.

      I really appreciate your encouragement to me. It means more than you know.

      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    Hi, Karen! I remember that you recommended this book to me last July was exploring what loom to purchase for my first multi shaft loom. I ended up purchasing a small table loom, a Louet Erica Loom so decided not to purchase the book since I would not have the capacity to work many of the projects.

    However, I recently purchased a larger loom and now, I believe that I will purchase this book. Thank you for sharing this and tweaking my memory of your recommendation.

    Everything you make is so beautiful! You are a wonderful inspiration to a beginning weaver.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, The Big Book of Weaving has been my tutor. I started with it as a complete beginner. It was written as a curriculum, so it has everything I needed to gain skill and confidence. I hope you find it a great resource for learning.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Karen Simpson says:

    That video is amazing. As I hadn’t found you then, I didn’t know that you were following this book and studying your way through it. What a lovely compilation of work and color. Thank you

    • Karen says:

      Hi Karen, Only a handful of people knew I was working my way through the book. I have mentioned The Big Book of Weaving here many times, but this is my first time to mention here on the blog that I was going through the book, step by step. I didn’t want too many people to “guess” what project I would do next… 🙂

      Thank you!
      Karen

  • D’Anne says:

    Congratulations, Karen! I remember when you started working through The Big Book of Weaving, but I didn’t remember it had been 7 years. What a great learning experience! Did you use all the same yarns as the projects called for?

    • Karen says:

      Hi D’Anne, It’s hard to believe it’s been 7 years, isn’t it? For most of the projects I used the yarns that were called for, but in colors of my choosing. I did change a few, though. For instance, two projects call for paper yarn. I didn’t know a good resource for that, so I substituted 8/2 cotton for one, and 16/1 linen for the other. So, for those I have beautiful scarves instead of room screens, which suits me better anyway.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Joanna says:

    Karen, I’m speechless. There are no words for my admiration of not only your artistic vision, but also the incredible amount of work clearly visible in the lovely video. Thank you for all the encouragement and advice you’ve given us you worked through the Big Book. MORE happy weaving to you. Joanna

    (My v. Favorite piece of your is also that fantastic monks belt. I think you captured all the lovely colors of the Texas Hill Country. It couldn’t be more perfect.)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, I’m fortunate to have a place where I can talk about things that I learn! Thanks for joining in!
      Every time I look at that monks belt piece, I get warm and fuzzy feelings. It’s so cheerful! I’m happy you like it, too!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • kerimae says:

    You inspire me! As you know! 🙂

  • Carolyn Penny says:

    Truly inspirational. Thank you for your diligence and following the goal.
    What a lesson in perseverance. Warm glow…… -Carolyn Penny

  • Vida Clyne says:

    Congratulations on completing such an amazing and inspirational project. I love all the patterns and the lovely colours. I have not got the book but your lovely video makes me think I will buy it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Vida, I am very happy to hear your thoughts about my adventure! This is one weaving book I wouldn’t do without. 🙂

      Thank you very much!
      Karen

  • Gail Goodrick says:

    What an inspiration this is! Your work is wonderful. I love your color choices. Love, love love…

  • Sue Blanding-Wilson says:

    So inspiring! I will look at my book with new eyes!

  • Maria Hanson says:

    Wow! I so enjoy following your work, but seeing everything in one video is just amazing! Congratulations on such a major accomplishment!

  • Penelope kept the suitors at bay for 10 years weaving one tapestry. What a remarkable legacy of a textile artist in 7 years!
    AND.. the hand wovens are not kept in a chest to pull out and admire. Basis the hems on the towels, they are being used. Beautiful!!
    Thank you for sharing. PS welcome back from your sabbatical.
    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, Thank you for noticing. Yes, the articles were made to be used, and they are used and enjoyed.

      It’s good to be back.
      Karen

      • Anonymous says:

        One of the sweetest moments was when I saw one of my patched blankets worn to the point of being hand mended. Textiles will age one way or another. It fills my heart knowing the ones that pass through my hands are used daily.

        • Karen says:

          That is sweet to think of your handiwork being used to the point of needing hand mending. I agree that the best handwoven items are the ones being used.

          Karen

  • Cindy Buvala says:

    Wow! I am very impressed! A 10 minute video doesn’t do justice to the hours and hours of weaving work that precedes it. You are an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your talent.

  • Karen Reff says:

    I haven’t looked at that book in so long. I’m definitely going back for another look! I hope you realize what an amazing thing you’ve done!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Karen, I frequently go to the book for reference. It answers so many questions for me.

      I just took one step, and then the next step, and so on. I’m not sure I would have started had I known how long it would take me. But I’m very happy to have taken that first step…and so on.

      Thanks for your sweet encouragement,
      Karen

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Every Color Imaginable

Can you imagine weaving in a place where you have access to fully-stocked shelves of colors and fibers? Or, imagine someone with excellent color sense setting up a warp-faced project for you to weave, giving you the freedom to simply focus on pattern. This is what it was like at Vävstuga Weaving School for More Swedish Classics.

Pick-up Band woven on floor loom at Vavstuga

Set up on a four-shaft loom, band weaving with pick-up is simplified (or complicated, depending on how you see it). Five treadles are used to raise and lower threads. A pick-up stick is used to lift pattern threads, and a band shuttle stick is used to beat in the weft. Being a warp-faced weave, all the color is in the warp, and the weft is mostly hidden.

Rep weave on the loom at Vavstuga

Becky’s Rep Weave in Four Blocks on Eight Shafts. I took this opportunity to experiment with patterns. You might call this “playing with blocks.” Again, being a warp-faced weave, the color is pre-determined by the arrangement of the warp ends. The thin 16/2 cotton weft alternates with a thick weft of mini string yarn, giving the characteristic ribbed surface.

Worry happens when I don’t think I have what it takes to do the job, or when I think I won’t have enough of what I need. When Becky Ashenden prepares the warp, I certainly have no worries about choosing colors. And, with an abundant supply of 16/1 linen, I can combine three shades to produce a gorgeous, rich red, with no fear that the color supply will run out before I finish.

Beautiful Smålandsväv in linen on the loom at Vavstuga!

Deep red, burgundy, and coral 16/1 linen are wound together for the pattern weft in Smålandsväv. The warp is 16/2 line linen. This is the project in “More Swedish Classics” that gave me the most pleasure AND the most angst. …but that’s a story for another day.

We have a Father in heaven who knows all the things we need. All he asks is that we get to know him so we can learn to do things his way. It is much like weaving within the guidelines of the studio where we’ve been given the privilege to weave. Is that too much to ask? For his part, then, he sees to it that we have everything we need, giving us access, through his Son, to his great supply closet.

May your needs be amply supplied.

In case you missed, here is what I posted last week while I was at Vävstuga in beautiful New England: Vävstuga Autumn and Vävstuga Autumn II

Once again, Becky graciously allowed me to sit down with her to ask a few key questions. I am excited to share that conversation with you soon! Stay tuned… (Remember last year?)

Love,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Helen Hart says:

    Wonderful photos and am jealous of your being able to go to the V studio. Where might I find the instructions for band weaving on a 4s loom. Thanks.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Helen, I wish everyone could go to Vavstuga with me! Maybe you can go sometime.

      This is my first experience with band weaving on a 4 shaft loom. I’m not at liberty to hand out Becky’s instructions for the class. I’m not sure where else to find instructions for this. I do know that the Baltic patterns in Anne Dixon’s “Inkle Pattern Directory,” pgs.61-81, can be used for this type of set up. We used 4 shafts and 5 treadles; 1 of the treadles just lifted the pattern threads, and then we used the pick-up stick to create the pattern.

      Karen

  • Laurie says:

    I followed you the next week at More Classics. Amazing. (I was at Basics with Steph.) Your voice for this experience is perfect.

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Vävstuga Autumn II

Five days of weaving, learning many new things. It’s a wonderland of sights and sounds, colors, textures, fabric, looms, tools. The people I get to enjoy this with are as much a treasure as the skills I develop. Becky Ashenden’s cheerful teaching style makes the experience fun, and she stretches us to our limits so that we leave knowing more than when we came.

Here is a small sampling of my week. I’ll show you more after I get home.

Autumn at Vavstuga, view from student quarters

 

Swedish curtains on the loom at Vavstuga

 

Rep rug on the loom at Vavstuga

 

Weaving 3-Shaft Ticking at Vavstuga. On the porch.

 

Jämtlands Drall (Crackle in the US) at Vavstuga, 133cm wide.

 

Autumn in Shelburne Falls, MA, Bridge of Flowers at dawn

May your stretching be enjoyable.

Vävglädje (Happy Weaving),
Karen

14 Comments

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Indirect, Irreversible, and Impossible

The easiest and shortest route isn’t always the best path out of trouble. When I want to change negative behavior, I start out trying really hard; but when my effort meets resistance, I tend to go back to old habits.

removing Texsolv heddles

Texsolv heddles, tied into groups of 50, before removing them from the shaft bars

I removed all the excess heddles left from the warp rep rug. 2,760 heddles, reduced to 274. We want to improve, making positive changes in our behavior, but are we willing to remove the heddles that supported our old ways? The heddles that once served us well are now in the way. It’s silly, but we keep some of the familiar old ways, just in case we want to go back into trouble…

In the ancient story about rescuing people from slavery in Egypt, God chose a path for the escaping Israelites that was indirect, irreversible, and impossible. God opened up the Red Sea for the people to cross, and then closed it back up. He essentially eliminated a return route to captivity. If we let him, I’m sure he’ll close off our return route, too. It may be not be the easiest path, but freedom is never easy, is it?

May you find courage to leave old ways behind for good.

(I can hardly wait until Friday to show you what I’m weaving now! Hint: It has to do with Rosepath–my favorite Scandinavian motif.)

3 Comments

  • Bev says:

    This leads me to meditate on Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” And also to what I am studying in Isaiah, when the Israelites’ default mode (chapters 30 & 31) was to “go down to Egypt” for help rather than going to God. Excellent advice, Karen, “remove the heddles”.

  • Elisabeth Munkvold says:

    You said: “The heddles that once served us well are now in the way.” I find this very interesting. Since they served you well during a particular phase of your process they had a purpose and a place in your life at that time. But they are definitely not going to be useful in your next project…and to me, this is the interesting part: We are constantly facing a blank slate. Every day is a new beginning, every person we meet is unique, nothing in nature is an identical copy of something else, every project we take on is different from the previous, even when it appears to be identical. Life is very dynamic, there is constant change, we don’t know anything about tomorrow or even the rest of the day.

    What if we were able to face every new day, every new person, every new project with an open mind, and let the “heddles” from yesterday become “wisdom building blocks” instead of supporters of old habits?

    • Karen says:

      I love your bright perspective, Elizabeth!
      “We are constantly facing a blank slate.” I’m so glad we get to keep learning and growing. Our old habits don’t have to define us, especially when we “let the ‘heddles’ from yesterday become ‘wisdom building blocks.'”

      Now, that’s a beautiful thought!

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That’s My Story and I’m Sticking to it

Everyone has a unique story. Most of us are engaged in our own narrative, watching the chapters go by. Discovering the meaning in our personal story is a lifelong pursuit. Where do I fit?… Who am I meant to be?… Do I add value anywhere?…

handwoven warp rep rug

After many hours of planning, warping, weaving, and finishing, this warp rep rug is ready to be put to use!

The colors and graphic boldness of this design won’t fit just any ol’ room. But don’t worry! This rug will be perfect for one special room, and we’ll all exclaim, This rug was made for this very place! Don’t we all hope to say that about ourselves? I was made for this… I’m in my sweet spot… My life is making a difference…

If I’m in a story, surely there is an author! When I delve into the author’s story, I end up finding where I belong. My story is being written within a much, much bigger story–one that I can base my life on. (Handweaving is one element in this current chapter of my story; and for that, I’m incredibly grateful.)

May you find your sweet spot in the bigger story.

6 Comments

  • Wende says:

    What a beautiful rug! This is a sweet reminder of our author’s weaving things together for good in our lives.

  • Bev Romans says:

    I add my “Amen” to Wende’s comment. And I LOVE this line “When I delve into the author’s story, I end up finding where I belong. My story is being written within a much, much bigger story–one that I can base my life on.” SO true! It points the reader to the love story God wrote to us ~ His word. And the fact that He has woven each of us together for a purpose. (Psalm 139 is a favorite.) You may be finding a sweet spot in this blog where you can make a difference for God’s kingdom purposes!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks for you kind comment, Bev! I will be thrilled if this writing turns out to be a sweet spot for me. I’m very much in the growing and stretching phase in this new endeavor, but with encouragement like yours I’m certainly going to keep at it for a while.

  • Jenny Weddle says:

    Hi Karen, I’m sorry I have not visited your site until now. My email account was having problems, but is working now.
    I enjoyed your word picture of our lives being woven in to any even bigger picture than we can see. And, what a beautiful rug you have made!
    I’m glad God loves us so much that he wants us to have a “sweet spot”.

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