Quiet Friday: Serenity Towels

The neutral colors and the quiet elegance of these towels say “serenity.” What a pleasure to weave M’s and O’s. This was mostly single-shuttle weaving! Uncomplicated, luxurious, and serene. Five towels, plus one very long table runner that I made specifically for our dining room table. The fine 20/1 line linen weft increases the visual and tactile elegance for me.

I’m still amazed when I see the results that come from threads and a weaving loom. And thrilled that I get to be a part of that experience. Enjoy this short slide-show video of the process.

May serenity be woven into your days.

All the best,
Karen

22 Comments

  • Kerry Fagan says:

    Just beautiful and inspiring work. Love M &O’s and agree on serenity while weaving it. Your fluid ratios and colours are wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kerry, Your sweet words put a smile on my face this morning! Thanks for your kindness.
      M’s and O’s is one of those favorites I will keep coming back to.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Sabine says:

    Beautiful, Kerry! And the music you’ve chosen complements the mood perfectly.

  • Cathy M. says:

    I’m so happy I came across your blog and receive your posts! I’ve learned so much from you, and seeing the photos of your work fills me with a sense of calm about MY weaving. Thank you!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cathy, It’s my greatest hope that this would be a place where people can learn something useful, so I’m thrilled by your kind words! I’m sure your weaving is beautiful. A sense of calm is always a good thing for weaving, and for everything.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Ruth says:

    What a beautiful way to begin my day. Thank you for sharing your work and creativity.

  • Ghislaine says:

    Très beau, félicitations, belle présentation.

  • Liberty Stickney says:

    Morning Karen,
    They are so beautiful, I love them!!! Your video is great too, I love seeing the weaving that comes off the loom, it is always amazing to me!!

    • Karen says:

      Liberty, Thank you so much! I am fond of this fabric, too. It is so lightweight, and has a wonderful sheen because of the linen weft.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • martha chiang says:

    Hello Karen,

    I love your slideshow and tomorrow I will watch it again with the music, husband and big dogs on bed are trying to sleep. I am a brand new weaver and not sure how I found my way to your site a couple of weeks ago, but I am really glad that I did. Intimidating though it is to see what someone like you can do with so much experience and equipment, etc.

    I love your serenity towels. I wove my first towels a couple of weeks ago, and I am now working on getting a warp wound and onto my loom for a scarf. I had a few local weavers (unfortunately not just one!) come and each help me get my first warp on my loom for my first project. What this means to me is that I have seen lots of different ways to do this, but am now a bit terrified to do it all alone this time around.

    But one way or another, the warp will get onto my loom and then from there the weaving is just so rhythmical and meditative and seems to take no time or effort at all.

    Well, hope I can learn too even though I am a bare beginner.

    Warmly,
    Martha

    • Karen says:

      Hi Martha, Of course you can learn! Every one of us started as a bare beginner.

      I know what you mean about seeing several ways of warping the loom. It can be confusing. I have some great resources I like to recommend that give step-by-step pictures and explanations for warping the loom back to front. The books are listed at the end of this post: Quiet Friday: Warping Back to Front with Confidence.

      Every baby step forward is exciting!

      Welcome to the world of weaving,
      Karen

      • Anonymous says:

        Hi Karen,

        I had been to your post once before on Warping Back to Front with Confidence, and so now having looked at that post again and taken an even more careful look at the 3 books you recommend, I have an important question. My first loom in from Harrisville Designs, neither a countermarch nor a counterbalance loom, not a Swedish loom nor do I have a trapeze. I have been cautioned repeatedly agagainst taking in too much weaving info all at once–in your opinion, would these 3 books still be appropriate for me? When I look at your lovely photos, I feel a bit lost, your loom looks so very different from mine. Thank you in advance, Martha

        • Karen says:

          Martha, I believe your Harrisville Designs is a jack loom. I don’t have any experience with jack looms, but I know you can use the same principles of back-to-front warping. I’m not going to be able to give you specific advice regarding your loom. Before I had a trapeze, I laid the warp out on the floor in front of the loom and put weights (bricks covered with cloth) on it. Many people use a helper to pull the warp as it is wound on. So you don’t have to have a trapeze for warping with this method.

          The book that might be most helpful for what you need right now is Joanne Hall’s book, “Learning to Warp Your Loom.” I’m pretty sure you would be able to make sense of her clear instructions, and adapt them to your type of loom.

          Karen

  • tw says:

    Karen,
    I hope you get as much enjoyment out of making these videos and slideshows as we get from watching them. They always provide creative inspiration and food for thought. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Theo

  • tsw says:

    I just realized where you live and am keeping you and fellow & sister Texans in my thoughts. I hope you and yours are safe.

    Theo

    • Karen says:

      Theo, Thank you very much for thinking of us! We are safe, but many friends are struggling right now. I’ll have a short update on my blog post tomorrow morning.

      Karen

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Tools Day: Narrow Hems

Hems shouldn’t be noticed. At least, not at first glance. I don’t want the stitching of the hem to detract from the overall handwoven quality. Decorative items, like this table runner, deserve a hand-stitched hem. But for functional pieces, like these tea towels, I stitch the hems on my trusty old Bernina sewing machine. This ensures the durability I want for something that will be thrown in the washer and dryer again and again.

Long M's and O's table runner is hemmed by hand.

Long M’s and O’s table runner is hemmed by hand using an invisible hem stitch.

Last year I purchased a Bernina walking foot through my local Bernina repairman. It was one of the best sewing investments I have made. (Don’t be fooled by off-brand “Bernina compatible” products.) The advantage of a walking foot is that it evenly feeds layers of fabric, which is especially useful for sewing handwoven fabric. And for the towel hem, it means the top of the hem won’t become skewed and slanted as you sew, like it might with a regular sewing machine foot.

Bernina Walking Foot - good investment!

Bernina Three Sole Walking Foot with Seam Guide. The walking foot stays on my Bernina sewing machine almost all the time.

One of the three sole plates that comes with the Bernina walking foot is a sole for edge stitching. This works beautifully for stitching a narrow hem on lighter-weight fabric, like these airy cotton and linen towels.

My process for a machine-stitched narrow hem

  • Turn and press the 1/4″ hem twice. Hold the folded edge in place with small fabric clips.
Sewing narrow hems on handwoven towels.

Small fabric clips hold the folded and pressed towel hem in place, in preparation for stitching the hem.

  • At the sewing machine, attach the edge-stitching sole plate to the walking foot. Align the fold of the hem with the edge-stitching guide.
Bernina walking foot with stitch guide.

Sole with stitch guide. The metal plate that extends below the foot is a steady guide that works for sewing a narrow hem, as well as for top-stitching, or “stitch-in-the-ditch” techniques.

  • Adjust the sewing machine needle to the right, so that it catches the fabric just inside the edge of the fold.
Sewing hems on handwoven towels.

Sewing the narrow hem. Needle is positioned so that it is to the right of the hem fold.

Slowly sew a narrow hem, keeping the folded edge next to the walking foot’s edge-stitching guide. Remove fabric clips before they come to the needle.

Hemming handwoven towels.

Front and back of the hem have consistent, straight stitching. The narrow hem (not yet pressed) will be barely visible.

May your hems be a suitable frame for your handiwork.

Finishing,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Cate says:

    I’m going to have to visit a Bernina dealer soon and get one of these for my machine. I really love that little stitch guide! Brilliant!

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Really pretty project! I inherited a Bernina last Summer but I have yet to play. My Elna sits in a cabinet making the sewing surface larger and at a much better level. I need a cabinet (and more floor space) for the Bernina. Sewing with my arms raised above cabinet height causes me too much shoulder/neck pain. Any suggestions would be welcome, Karen. The walking foot lives on the Elna most of the time.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, It’s not worth it to get shoulder/neck pain! I have never had a sewing machine cabinet, but my Bernina sits on a small lower-height table that Steve made for me eons ago. Table and chair height make a huge difference. Maybe you can find a lower table or an adjustable chair that you can raise to sit a little higher. I use an adjustable swivel desk chair at mine.

      I’ve always heard that an Elna is a great machine. So maybe just stick with that. 🙂 (but I do love my trusty old Bernina…ha)

      Happy pain-free sewing,
      Karen

  • D'Anne Craft says:

    The M’s and O’s fabric turned out beautifully, just like all your weaving. I’m a Bernina gal, too.

    • Karen says:

      Hi D’Anne, I’m very happy with the way the M’s and O’s turned out! I got started with Bernina many years ago. It’s the only sewing machine I’ve owned. I don’t think it will ever wear out.

      Karen

  • Mary says:

    I too recently invested in a walking foot and what a difference it makes in my hems.j I no longer dread this part of finishing. Do you like those hem clips better than straight pinning.? Where do you find the clips?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mary, I do prefer the fabric clips over pins for simple stitching like this. It’s quick and easy, and there is no distortion of the fabric. Also, there is no threat of snagging the fabric with a rough pin. Of course, I do use straight pins for sewing that requires more detail.

      I got my clips at Hobby Lobby, but I think you can find them at most places that have quilting supplies.

      Karen

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Cutting Off Celebration!

Is there anything as exciting as cutting off? Oh sure, there will be some errors to mend. And only wet finishing will reveal the true nature of the cloth. But after investing hours and hours at the loom, cutting the fabric off is a celebration. This is the moment when the work of this weaver’s hands is finally revealed!

While admiring and examining the fabric as it comes off the loom, I am already moving onto the next step–finishing. Here are a few of my regular practices.

  • Thread-mark the right side of the fabric on each sample and individual piece before completely removing the fabric from the loom. This removes guesswork later. Thread a blunt-tip needle with 6 – 8″ of warp or weft thread, and make a 1/2″ stitch through the fabric. Leaving a loose loop, tie the ends of the thread together in a square knot on the right side of the fabric.
Weaving tip: Thread-mark the fabric.

Knot in the thread tells me that this is the right side of the fabric. Thread marks are sewn onto each piece before removing the fabric from the loom if the difference between the right and wrong side of the fabric is less than obvious. Thread marks remain until hems are turned under.

  • Tie sequential knots in the thread marks. e.g., First towel has one knot, second towel has 2 knots, etc. This enables accurate record-keeping measurements before and after wet finishing for individual items.
Weaving tip: How I number the towels on a warp.

After washing, I count the number of knots in the thread to know which towel is which. Before and after measurements enable me to calculate the amount of shrinkage that occurs, which helps for planning future projects.

  • Cut pieces apart before washing.

1. Two weft picks have been woven for each cutting line. The two threads make an easy guide path for the scissors.

Cutting line between woven items.

Cutting line for separating the woven pieces. Cut between the two red weft threads.

2. Use the same cutting-line color for every project (I use red, unless red is one of the weft colors in the project). This helps prevent accidental cutting at weft design stripes in the piece (which I did once –Oops!– before establishing this rule).

3. Pull out the cutting-line threads. Any remaining thread residue is easily removed with a lint roller.

Pulling out the cutting line.

Red cutting line thread pulls off, leaving a straight woven edge for finishing.

  • Finish the cut edges with an overlock stitch on a serger or with a zigzag stitch (preferably a three-stitch zigzag, according to my friend, Elisabeth) on a sewing machine.
Getting ready to wet finish these M's and O's towels!

All items are prepared for washing. Errors have been mended, and cut edges have been finished with the serger.

M's and O's (Sålldräll) after washing. Karen Isenhower

Lovely texture of the M’s and O’s (Sålldräll) structure is revealed after washing. A few more finishing steps remain: pressing, adding handwoven hanging tabs, and hemming.

Humans are not finished until they are loved. Love is patience and kindness at the core. We want to be on the receiving end of that, don’t we? We all need someone to love us–to carry our burdens, to believe us, to hope the best for us, to endure with us. It’s in the finishing that we discover the value, the corrections needed, and the beauty that has been woven in. This is the love of God to us. This is the finishing work of Jesus Christ, and his love in us.

May you have many cutting-off celebrations.

With love,
Karen

PS It’s good to be back with you! I hope you had a pleasant and weaving-full July.

20 Comments

  • Carol Ashworth says:

    Nice ideas! God is good God is great!! It’s is true JOY when we give ourselves to Jesus Others and You!!

  • Marjorie says:

    Nice to have you back again!

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Great to have you back! These are going to be beautiful! Nice tips.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, Thank you so much! I am thrilled to be here.
      These towels and table runner are going to be some of my very favorite handwoven items. They are simply elegant.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • carla weitzel says:

    I was happy to see this post. I was never sure if I should cut towels apart before or after laundering. This seems much easier.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Carla, I like to cut towels apart before washing because a long piece tends to twist up more, which can lead to some permanent creases. In fact, I had some problem with that on the long table runner in this set. If I have an extra-short sample, I may leave it connected to a towel and then cut them apart after washing, so the short piece doesn’t get too battered in the wash.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Cherie says:

    I so look forward to your posts! So often I am encouraged to try new ideas, and always walk away with a sense of blessings and community! Thank you!

    I usually weave 1 3/4″ with sewing thread on the ends so that my hems are not thick. (But I am mostly using 5/2 cotton at this point, as a new weaver.) I see you are not…is this because you are using finer yarns?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cherie, I love the community of friends here! I’m glad you get that same sense.

      Great question! Thanks for asking. I’ve never used a different thread for my hems than what is in the towel or other item. I think that’s a great idea if you are using coarser threads. The weft in these towels is 20/1 linen, so it’s pretty fine to start with. I like to think of the hems as a design element of the towel, so the weft choice plays into that.

      All the best,
      Karen

      • Anonymous says:

        Your weaving is beautiful.
        I’ve used rug warp for my hems when doing rag rugs and always put in the contrasting cutting line, but with the coarser fabric I also try to zig-zag before cutting apart. I don’t have a serger and by careful folding one rug will fit under the machine arm. Cut one off and then sew the next one 🙂

        • Karen says:

          Thank you for the compliment!

          I’ve used rug warp for hems on rag rugs, too. Sounds like you have a great system! Thanks for sharing.

          All the best,
          Karen

  • Liberty Stickney says:

    Morning Karen, glad your back and all these towels are beautiful!
    Liberty

    • Karen says:

      Hi Liberty, I’m glad to be back! These towels turned out even better than I had hoped. I’m glad you like them.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Betty Morrissey says:

    Thank you for sharing your tips and practices! Lovely towels.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betty, It’s a joy for me to get to share about the things I’ve learned and stumbled onto along the way. Thanks for letting me know you get something out of it.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Angie says:

    Happy to see you back as well. I did take notice that you had separated the towels before washing, seems it would work much nicer.Thanks for your wonderful tips and messages.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Angie, Thanks for the warm greeting! Separating the towels before washing does work well for me. And then, after drying them and pressing them, they are ready for hemming.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Julie says:

    Hi Karen

    I just love your videos and I am learning so much from them, and they are truly inspiring, I hope to be able to weave as beautifully as you do one day. I’m a newbie to weaving you see so I’m watching loads of videos at the minute. I have just managed to pick up a Glimakra standard countermarch loom second hand (with 8 shafts and 8 treadles) and I am so lucky have it. However, there are no videos on the web or on Youtube (that I can find) about seeing how the lams operate and about how to tie up lams with shafts and treadles according to the desired pattern. So any advise or comments would be hugely appreciated. I have seen other tie up videos but with different looms so unsure if its kind of the same??

    Can’t wait to see your next project x

    • Karen says:

      Hi Julie, I am so happy to hear that you are learning things from my videos! Thanks for letting me know.

      How exciting that you ended up with an 8-shaft Glimakra Standard countermarch loom! You will love it!! It will take some learning and practice, but you will find it is a great loom for anything you want to weave.

      There are some excellent books that describe in detail how the lamms and treadles are tied up on a countermarch loom. Different types of looms do have different ways of being tied up. I have listed my three favorite resources at the end of the post at this link: Quiet Friday: Warping Back to Front with Confidence.

      If you are reading a Scandinavian weaving draft, the upper lamms correspond with the black squares in the draft, and the lower lamms correspond with the white (or empty) squares in the draft. (I hope that is helpful!)

      My next project on this loom (Glimakra Ideal) will be rag rugs. But first, I’m going to concentrate on the other loom (my Glimakra Standard) to make significant progress on that project!

      Let me know how it goes as you get set up and get started weaving.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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Little Experiments on the Loom

This is my attempt to add a fascinating detail. I alternated white and brass-colored ends in the warp stripe. In a similar fashion, I alternated colors in the weft stripe, too. It’s an experiment. The short columns that emerge in the weft stripe are a result of this thread arrangement. The outcome looks promising. Wet finishing will reveal the final effects of this low-risk exploration.

M's and O's on the loom. Experiment in progress.

M’s and O’s (Sålldräll) with a warp stripe and weft stripe that have alternating light and dark threads.

I like to do experiments on the loom. Little risks open up possibilities and ideas for future projects. Every learning experience is a step that leads to insight for future learning. And I have so much more to learn!

Weaving the border of the long table runner. M's and O's.

Weft stripe signals the beginning of the end border for this long table runner.

M's and O's on the loom.

Short vertical columns take shape in the brass-colored weft stripe.

Step-by-step learning has some common ground with finding a good path for life. Walking the right path is like walking in the early morning. The dim light of dawn gradually increases and the pathway becomes more and more clear as the sun rises to the full light of day. Our Creator gave us a lighted path. The learning experiences from our experiments and explorations in life help us discover the path of the Lord, where the light beckons us. Walk in the light. It’s where we can see the next good step.

Happy weaving,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Olivia Stewart says:

    Not clear from photos or text exactly what you did. Could you share draft? Thank you

    • Karen says:

      Hi Olivia, Thank you for asking. I’m not able to share the draft, but I’ll see if I can explain what I did.

      This warp is threaded as M’s and O’s, which is a four-shaft weave with two blocks. For the warp stripes, I threaded the narrow beige stripes all one color. But for the brass-colored stripes, for that block of the threading, I used the brass-colored thread and the white thread, alternating the two colors.

      And then for the weft, again, the narrow beige stripe is all one color. And the brass-colored stripe uses two shuttles – brass, and white. By alternating the colors, I get the fascinating little vertical brass/white stripes in one block of the M’s and O’s, making it look more complex than it is.

      Does that make sense? Let me know if that answers your question.

      Thanks for your interest!
      Karen

  • Nancy C. says:

    I also like to do a little experimentation on the loom, and always plan extra warp to give me that opportunity. It sounds like you did a little planning in advance with the warp stripe to allow playing with weft stripes as borders or accents. Very smart use of your time, and a great way to play!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nancy, I’m a big fan of putting on extra warp for play and experimentation. You are correct, I did plan these stripes in advance. I even used weaving software to try to see how it would look. I think of the whole endeavor as an experiment, though, since I’ve never tried alternating colors like that with M’s and O’s. It’s exciting to finish working it out as I do the weaving!

      Happy weaving!
      Karen

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Miles and Miles to Weave

I just reached the quarter-of-the-way mark. After completing a long border at the beginning of this runner, I have been weaving the same two blocks over and over. And over. Really? I’m only a fourth of the way there? This long table runner is a marathon, not a sprint.

M's and O's on the loom.

Unbleached cotton warp and half-bleached linen weft. The checkerboard appearance of this sålldräll (M’s and O’s) will become rounded when taken off the loom, and, even more so when wet-finished.

Reached the quarter-of-the-way mark!

Weaving reaches the “1/4” mark on the pre-measured tape. Only 3/4 of the way to go! 🙂

I am already thinking about the rag rug project that’s up next. The plans are written out. The rug warp is waiting on my shelf. And it has been too long since I’ve had rag rugs on the loom. As you know, rag rugs are my favorite. If I’m not careful, impatience creeps in.

M's and O's table runner on the loom.

Keep weaving, winding more quills, and making fabric.

M's and O's on the loom.

Beginning border of the table runner is going around the cloth beam.

Look up to heaven. When you pray, it’s a signal that you want the Lord of heaven to get involved. It’s a way of saying you don’t have everything you need on your own. Like patience. And gratitude. He brings you back to remember how much you enjoy the mechanics of weaving–throwing the shuttle back and forth, gliding your feet across the treadles, making threads turn into cloth. Living a dream come true. Miles and miles of Sålldräll (M’s and O’s)? Yes, please. I’m happy with that.

May you live your dream.

Gratefully,
Karen

10 Comments

  • Tiny Beunk says:

    This is SO unbeleavable! Just yesterday I made MY warp to weave this same weave! I use red for accent, just like VÄV showed it. Curious for your result.

  • Mary Lawver says:

    Beautiful Karen. So subtle and so striking. And your selvedges. I know, practice!
    Mary

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mary, I do love vibrant colors, but I’m fond of the neutral colors, too, with their subtlety and elegance. Yes, practice -mindful practice- improves just about anything.

      Thanks for taking time to comment!
      Karen

  • Cindy Bills says:

    Thanks as always for sharing! I often fight impatience when I get a project on the loom, weave a foot or so, realize it’s going to work and see how it’s turning out. Then my mind begins my next project and I begin to lose interest in the one I’m doing.
    Our Lord uses weaving to teach us many things, doesn’t He?! I’m weaving and praying and I suddenly realize this is a habit of mine across many areas of my life, this “beginning to execute” then losing initial interest and wanting to move on to something new. I AM a finisher, but too wrapped up in that initial thrill…
    As a writer, this can be deadly to my work. Starting a book and losing interest half-way through… and our Lord begins to teach me while I’m weaving. Throw the shuttle, like you said; BE HERE in this moment; revel in the joy of creation itself rather than concentrating on anything else. And practice patience in all things. Thank you for reminding me of recent lessons learned! 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Cindy, I love hearing what you’ve been learning. Life is rich with teachable moments. “Practice patience in all things.” – This would be a great motto to hang on the wall in the weaving studio. What better way to practice than weaving!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Nanette says:

    I’m sort of there too, but haven’t lost patience YET. A 6 foot runner, with border. BUT mine is a multi-color 8 shaft overshot long repeat, so it isn’t too boring yet either, and rather challenging since it is on a table loom using a 5-lever lift plan instead of treadles. My mantra: ” the process, not the product” and the process includes concentration and hopefully perfection! Your ribbon-measuring technique has been a big help. Thanks for sharing. Nanette

  • Karen says:

    Sometimes the long repitition, instead of frustration, gives me a kind of peaceful or comforting feeling. Relaxing because I know that particular cycle. Peace of mind, heart.

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