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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Crabba or Not

Sometimes I really don’t know what I am doing! It’s uncomfortable. I make a guess and hope for the best. I almost skipped this section of the tapestry/inlay sampler because I don’t understand the instructions for crabba in The Big Book of Weaving. I’ve heard of crabba, and have seen pictures, but I have no experience with it.

Tapestry / inlay sampler. All linen.

First two attempts at weaving the diamond-shapes of crabba. 1) Too faint. 2) Too flat.

Consequently, I am attempting to weave something that resembles the crabba motif, with  “rhomboid pattern shapes and stairstep contours.” My first little diamond all but disappeared. Pattern weft needs to be thicker. My second attempt flattened into a flying saucer. Aha! I need at least two pattern picks of each row. Finally, I wove three more diamond motifs. Crabba, or not, they are now a part of this inlay sampler.

Color gradation in linen background, with inlay in diamond shapes.

Color gradation continues in the background under the inlay diamond shapes.

Tapestry / inlay sampler. All linen. Morning light!

Visiting the loom in morning light brings a reminder that much of weaving is learning by doing. And much of life is that way, too.

We can’t know everything. But we can keep learning, even when we don’t understand the instructions. Instead of quitting, step up and make an attempt. Raise your hopes. Stir up your faith to hope for the impossible. Your brave steps today set you up for greater progress next time you face a hurdle. Place your faith in the Lord, the instruction-giver. Sometimes He lets you learn by doing.

May you hope for the best.

~~Houston update: After diverting to Texas hill country because of the Hurricane Harvey flooding last week, Steve and I finally returned home to Houston this weekend. We are very thankful to come home to a dry house, untouched by the flooding that has devastated so many in our city. Relief efforts will continue in Houston for some time. Thank you for your prayers.~~

Hopefully,
Karen

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Wild Linen Rya

Rya knots and loops of threads look chaotic at first. These linen rya knots will never be tame, but that’s to be expected. Linen butterflies have created a swath of wild rya “flowers” planted in a smooth linen “lawn.”

Making rya knots with a bundle of linen threads.

Continuous weft bundle forms loops between rya knots.

Linen rya knots.

Loops are clipped. Green butterfly is for the background plain weave weft.

Each section of rya starts with a butterfly made of several strands of linen in assorted weights and colors. I tie each rya knot on a pair of warp ends, leaving a loop between knots. There are two to three passes of plain weave between each row of knots. When I finish a butterfly, I go back and clip all the loops. After the loops are cut, I trim the tops of the threads to even out the rya “flower garden.”

Linen rya knots on a linen weft-faced background.

Tops of the rya threads are trimmed. I intentionally leave a few shorter and longer threads, for interest.

Linen rya knots on a weft-faced linen background. Tapestry/inlay sampler.

Linen rya knots on a weft-faced linen background. Wild linen “flowers” growing out of a smooth linen “lawn.”

When things around us look a mess and don’t make sense, full of knots and loops, there is one thing we must do. Keep holding on to faith. Fight to keep your faith strong. Faith in Christ Jesus will carry you through uncertainty and will reveal the first ray of hope. The loops will be clipped, the threads will be trimmed. A garden of color will emerge. Faith waits for that.

May your faith be strong.

All the best,
Karen

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Rya for the Rest

This loom doesn’t get first priority. This sweet little loom is at our Texas hill country getaway. Usually there are several fixer-upper projects to be done around the place. But I’m glad the loom is there. It calls to me to come and sit down, to get absorbed in linen threads and colors. The loom is a resting place for me. A place where ideas take shape and new dreams begin.

Sweet little hand-made loom.

Sweet little loom sits in a corner of the living room beckoning me to come and rest for a while.

Rya knots and inlay. All linen.

Green weft butterfly weaves the background. A yellow bundle, not seen, hangs under the warp and is added here and there for the “dots” in the green. Rya butterflies are in assorted combinations of colors. All linen.

I’m at the rya section of this tapestry and inlay sampler. It is a fun exercise in creativity. The rya knots are tied using a continuous weft bundle. After a few rows are woven I clip the loops that are formed, and trim them down a little to shape the pile.

Linen rya knots!

Explosion of linen threads. Several sizes and types of linen are combined in the rya butterflies that are used to make the rya knots.

Weaving linen rya knots. Weaving from the front.

Weaving from the front means that all the loose inlay weft tails, and spliced wefts, are hanging down on the back.

Make time for rest. We need periods of rest built into the rhythm of our lives. Intentional rest acknowledges our human limitations and inadequacy, which leads us to put our trust in the Lord. And that is where the best hopes and dreams get their start.

May you enjoy sweet rest.

With you,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Cindy Bills says:

    Thank you for reminding us about our need to rest in the Lord. I needed to hear that today. 🙂 I, too, find rest at my loom. It is a place of creativity and prayer as I look out my window onto the pond and wildlife in my front yard. Our place requires a lot of upkeep, especially in the summer. It’s nice to have a chance to sit for a while and like you said, create and dream.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindy, It sounds like you have a beautiful setting for creativity at your loom. I’m happy you found a nugget of encouragement today.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Linda Cornell says:

    Thank you for that good reminder; to rest in the Lord.

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Quiet Friday: Rya Rag Rug

I wasn’t happy with a simple “X” for the design area, but I struggled to come up with something better for this rug. And then, Steve and I went to the symphony. There, on the floor, in the long hallway, was the inspiration I needed for the pattern design on this rug!

Design inspiration for a rug.

Design inspiration is found on the floor on the way to the symphony.

Despite all that went wrong from the start, and how many things I had to undo and do over, I must tell you that I really did enjoy weaving this rug. The rya knots and loops made it fun and interesting. And this unique fluffy rug will always remind me of that sweet symphony date with my honey, when he patiently waited as I pulled out my iPhone to snap a few shots of the floor. Now that’s love.

Counting warp ends on the warping reel.

Counting warp ends on the warping reel.

Ski shuttle and temple for making large rag rug.

Ski shuttle holds doubled weft–fabric cut into 3/4″-wide strips.

Cutting fabric strips for rya knots.

Three different lengths of fabric strips are used for making the rya knots.

Placing rya knots in large rag rug.

Adding more rya knots.

Large rag rug with rya knots and loops.

Loops are made with the help of a wooden dowel.

Rag rug with inlay, using a brown paper cartoon under the warp.

Brown paper cartoon under the warp has the outline for the pattern. Lines on the cartoon, showing where to change the inlay technique, are inked onto the warp as a guide.

Making loops on a rag rug. Fun!

Making loops.

Extra warp width after re-sleying the reed.

After weaving a sample at the very beginning, I re-sleyed the reed, spreading the warp ends further apart. Excess warp ends, because of the increased width, are chained on both sides. Future band loom warps?

Another do-over.

Don’t ask. Almost finished weaving, and another do-over happened.

Cutting off!! Time to celebrate!!

Cutting off! Time to celebrate!!

Handwoven rag rug with rya knots and loops.

Sculpted inlay appearance is achieved by graduated lengths of the rya strips and heights of the loops.

Rag rug with rya and loops. Karen Isenhower

May your design inspiration come from unanticipated places.

Love,
Karen

12 Comments

  • Mary says:

    Hello Karen,

    I’m a relatively new weaver and so enjoy your blog posts – my favourite weaving blog and because you post so frequently I feel as if I’m there with you in your workshop.
    I’ve learnt so much from your posts and and often refer to your weaving tips. I’m in the process of becoming familiar with my Louet Delta countermarch loom – treadling and tie up is all new to me and I’m finding it quite challenging but strangely enjoyable.(perhaps not enjoying all the pulling out and reworking!).
    Your rag rugs are beautiful and your recent linen weaves – a great source of inspiration.
    Thank you very much.

    Mary

    • Karen says:

      Hello Mary,

      It’s a pleasure to meet you! I’m thrilled to hear that you find useful things here. What a wonderful camaraderie we handweavers have as we struggle and learn how to do this thing called weaving.

      Thank you so much for taking time to leave your thoughts!
      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

  • Shirley Haeny says:

    Hello, thanks for sharing your weaving , Is really good to know that it doesnt always go as we planned. But it encourages me to keep going. I love your rug.
    and will try the technique ( rya, inlay) out on my next . enjoy your weaving, it the greatest hobby ever!
    Shirley

  • Sharon says:

    The rug is fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing. I get excited when your email pops up. Sharon

  • Liberty says:

    Oh Karen, it is beautiful, what a great design!
    I know of another woman who gets inspiration in strange places, she went to Italy and spent a lot of time taking pics of floors for quilts! I think she even did a book on it!!
    Thank you for all your wonderful posts!!
    Liberty

  • linda says:

    Karen: The rug would be fun as a bathmat. I’ve almost cleared the loom of colonial overshot and the warp for rag rugs is wound. The weft is colored venetian blind tape. warp is blue linen rug warp with a white stripe. I’ll get my grand kids to send it to your site. Don’t hold your breath waiting; I’m really slow
    I just love the rug. I’ve only done Rya with wool. You have some great ideas. LP&J, linda

    • Karen says:

      Hi Linda,
      I enjoyed this fabric strip rya more than I did the wool yarn rya that I did previously. I like the whimsical, fun look it has.

      I look forward to seeing your pictures. No hurry; take your time.

      Karen

  • Anne says:

    Hi Karen
    I too am a fan of your blog and have learned lots. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. Love the rug. Hope you won’t use it as a bathmat!. It’s too beautiful for that.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Anne, I’m glad you’re with us. This rug is a little too big for a bath mat anyway. I have decided to hang the rug, where it will make a statement as you come into our home.

      Thanks so much for weighing in!
      Karen

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