Quiet Friday: Handwoven Handbags

Is there such a thing as too many handbags, pocketbooks, tote bags, and purses? Of course not. Naturally, my favorite handbags are made from handwoven fabric. Linings made from remnants, handwoven bands used for shoulder straps, hidden zippers, and, of course pockets–these are the details that other people will seldom notice. Yet these are the details that make me smile every time I use one of these bags.

Handwoven handbags - with 1 minute video.

Nineteen handwoven handbags. Various sizes, fibers, styles, and purposes. And colors. Lots of colors!

…You know that box of handwoven bits and pieces? Those weavings from the end of the warp, and the “scraps” from various projects? Hmm… looks like I might need to make another handbag or two.

Here is my collection of handwoven handbags, divided into a few categories. Plus, a short video just for the fun of it!

Rigid Heddle Loom

Handbags from fabric woven on a rigid heddle loom.

Wool, novelty chenille yarn, crochet cotton, and narrow fabric strips are used for weft in these bags. Buttons are from my grandma’s button jar. The small rag-weave pocketbook has a permanent home in my daily handbag. The fabric for these bags was woven on my Beka 32″ rigid heddle loom.

Handwoven fabric for handbags from the rigid heddle loom.

Linings are from remnants of other sewing projects. Bag handles were woven on my inkle loom.

Travel Finds

Handwoven handbags from international travels.

Trips to The Philippines yielded interesting woven goods by artisans there. The green stripe tote bag is woven from native plant material, and the teal and burgundy purse is a beautiful example of ikat weaving. The colorful weft-faced woven shoulder bag and the purple bag with lovely weft-float patterning came from travel to Chile.

Project Carriers

Handwoven project bags.

Large tote bag, woven with 1/4″ fabric strips for weft, carries my “show and tell” when I go to my weaving study group. It’s known as the “Mary Poppins Bag.” Rag-rug bag in the center has straps, woven on the band loom, that were woven into the bag. This bag carries my portable tapestry weaving. The rag rug bag on the right carries my one-and-only crochet project.

Special Use

Handwoven handbags.

Linen bag has beads woven into the fabric. It is lined with satin. Rag-weave purse is simply a flat piece folded in half, with lining and pockets added to the inside. The blue bag is wool, woven in a weft-cord technique. The fabric was partially fulled to produce the ribbed texture.

Handwoven lining in a handwoven purse.

Lining for this bag is made from extra fabric after weaving cotton/linen fabric for cushions, and the pocket is a remnant from a two-block twill tencel scarf.

Daily Use Favorites

Favorite handwoven handbags! Karen Isenhower

Representing some of my “firsts.” The brown and blue small shoulder bag is from one of my first cottolin towel projects. This is what I did when the last piece was too short to use for a towel. The green and turquoise clutch has remnants of my first ever handwoven towel, my first rosepath rag rug, and my first big rep weave project! The blue shoulder bag is the bag I use every day. It’s a remnant from the baby wrap I wove for my daughter’s first baby. It’s lined with a remnant from an Easter dress I made for her when she was a little girl.

May you carry your handiwork with you.

Happy weaving,
Karen

10 Comments

  • Mary Kay Stahley says:

    I would love to know where to get patterns to make a bag. Have yardage and really want to turn it into a purse

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mary Kay, I have found a few good commercial patterns for an assortment of bags.

      I used McCall’s 3894 to make the large tote bag. (I did break several sewing machine needles when sewing the very thick corners.)
      And I used Simplicity 2201 for the green and teal clutch. Other patterns that I have not used yet are Simplicity 9949 and Simplicity 2274. All of the patterns have multiples sizes and shapes of bags. There are probably some more good patterns out there now. I’ve had these for several years. I enjoy browsing the pattern books at the fabric store.

      For some of the bags, I folded and played with the fabric to make up a simple design.

      For the shoulder bag that I currently use all the time, made from the baby wrap remnant, I purchased a bag at the store that I thought would work well with handwoven fabric. I took it home and ripped out all the seams to deconstruct it. Then I had the basic shapes, which I reconfigured to exactly what I wanted. I made a practice bag first out of denim before using the handwoven cloth to make the final bag.

      I hope that gives you some ideas!
      Karen

  • D'Anne Craft says:

    It was so much fun to see all your beautiful bags, Karen! Nineteen is certainly not enough!! Hope you keep making more and sharing them with us. You have a wonderful sense of color!

  • Cindy Bills says:

    Hi, Karen,
    You had the icon to share to Facebook, so I shared this post with my Rigid Heddle Adventure group. They’ve been talking a lot lately about creating bags. Thanks for the post!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindy, That’s wonderful! The rigid heddle loom is perfect for making fabric for bags because it’s so easy to use a variety of fibers in the warp and in the weft. It’s a fun adventure!

      Thanks so much for sharing!
      Karen

  • Angela Roberts says:

    Truly an inspiration, as always
    Thank you Karen

  • Kantilal Doobal says:

    Please quote me a Magazine for which I wish to submit and an article dealing with woolen durrie weaving.
    thanks

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kantilal, Thank you for asking.

      I don’t know a magazine that has an article about woolen durrie weaving. “Väv” magazine sometimes has articles about different types of rug weaving, and “Handwoven” magazine sometimes has articles about rag rug weaving. The March/April 2017 issue of “Handwoven” has instructions for a “Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug” that I designed.

      Karen

Leave a Reply


Quiet Friday: Favorite Weaving Books

I know how to write music. I am experienced in playing improvisational music on my cello. And I don’t have a problem making up a tune to sing on the spot. But nothing touches the richness of music’s beauty like getting out the Beethoven Sonatas at the piano, or Bach’s Six Suites for the cello, or singing from an old-fashioned hymnal. Likewise, I do know how to write a weaving draft from scratch, but I usually find my starting point in one of my favored weaving books. There are countless designs and dreamy pictures. From simple to extraordinary. Sometimes I follow the instructions precisely. But most often, the improviser in me examines the elements and finds a new version to “play.”

Here are just a few of my favorite weaving books, and a sampling of what they have produced.

Some of my favorite weaving books!

Favored weaving books, in no particular order. Do you see a theme? Yes, I like to weave Swedish patterns from Swedish books on my Swedish Glimåkra looms.

Turned rosepath from "The Big Book of Weaving."

Rosepath band with turned rosepath.
Lundell, Laila, and Elisabeth Windesjö. “The Big Book of Weaving: Handweaving in the Swedish Tradition: Techniques, Patterns, Designs, and Materials.” North Pomfret, VT: Trafalgar Square, 2008.

From "Älskade Trasmattor." Rosepath rag rug.

Rosepath rag rug.
Hallgren, Ann-Kristin, and Monica Hallén. “Älskade Trasmattor: att Väva Som Förr.” Kalmar: Akantus, 2006. (“Beloved Rag Rugs: To Weave As Before”)

Rosepath rag rug. Karen Isenhower

My version of this rosepath rag rug makes itself at home in our Texas hill country getaway.

Rosepath rag rug from "Favorite Rag Rugs," by Tina Ignell.

Rosepath rag rug. My very first rosepath rag rug is positioned in a prominent place in our home where it is seen and stepped on every day. Much to my delight.
Ignell, Tina, and Catherine Zienko. “Favorite Rag Rugs: 45 Inspiring Weave Designs.” North Pomfret, VT: Trafalgar Square Books, 2007.

Rosepath rag rug in "Alla Tiders Trasmattor."

Another rosepath rag rug. No end to rosepath rag rug possibilities, it seems.
Hallgren, Ann-Kristin, and Monica Hallén. “Alla Tiders Trasmattor.” Akantus Edition, 2007. (“All Time Rag Rugs”)

Rosepath rag rug.

Rosepath rag rug uses alternating weft colors in the plain weave sections, adding visual texture.

"Stardust" scarf from "Happy Weaving from Vävmagasinet."

Called “warp-faced combination weave” in the book. I don’t know what else to call it. I wove this scarf when I didn’t know exactly what I was doing yet. If you see any mistakes, just think of them as “design elements.”
Johansson, Lillemor, Charlotta Bosson, Conny Bernhardsson, and Katie Zienko. “Happy Weaving from Vävmagasinet.” Glimåkra: Vävhästen, 2004.

Classic twill towels, from "Simple Weaves," by Björk and Ignell

Cottolin twill towels. I have a small sample piece. All the towels I wove are happily drying hands and dishes in homes of family and friends.
Björk, Birgitta Bengtsson, Tina Ignell, and Bengt Arne Ignell. “Simple Weaves: over 30 Classic Patterns and Fresh New Styles.” North Pomfret, VT: Trafalgar Square, 2012.

Double binding rag rug, from "Swedish Rag Rugs 35 New Designs."

Double binding rag rug. This sweet rug is resting in my Etsy shop, waiting for a new home.
Johansson, Lillemor, Pia Wedderien, Marie Rolander, Conny Bernhardsson, and Katie Zienko. “Swedish Rag Rugs: 35 New Designs.” Glimåkra: Vävhästen, 1995.

May you play as much music as you can find.

…and speaking of Etsy! The original River Stripe Towels and Table Centerpiece Cloth that I wove are now listed in the Warped for Good Etsy Shop. And there may still be one River Stripe Towel Set Pre-Wound Warp Instructional Kit (Workshop in a Box) left! UPDATE: THE KIT HAS BEEN SOLD.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

4 Comments

  • "Blekinges sommarfågel" says:

    You are an inspiration to those who are not able attend weaving courses in Sweden, but successfully forge ahead experimenting guided by the skillfully written and illustrated Swedish weaving texts, using high quality, oftentimes fine gauge imported yarn of natural materials. Keep weaving and inspiring others with your blog!

    • Karen says:

      “Blekinges sommarfågel,” The skillfully written and illustrated Swedish weaving texts open up a world of possibilities. I love to take a stack of the books and thumb through the pages, just to dream of what I might weave someday.

      Thank you for sending such encouraging words!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • kim says:

    I’ve lately been thinking about weaving as I think about cooking, and weaving book as I think about cook books.

    While we are learning, we start with something we see in a book or magazine (a recipe) and maybe weave that as it is, or make some small change like color (ingredients.) Maybe we are brave enough to tweak the “recipe” and use a different fiber, or a thicker one or thinner one. Then, once we have the basics down (boiling eggs, steaming rice, mashing potatoes) we can build on that knowledge and compose our own recipes (pattern combinations.)

    Books are inspiration. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for YOUR endless inspiration.

Leave a Reply


Now This Year

New year 2017 is beginning! It’s time again to take account of where we stand in our life’s dreams and goals. What can we check off the list? And, what is still in progress? And, maybe there’s something new to add. But first, let me count my blessings. I’m filled with gratitude, thankful for you! What a JOY it is to have friends like you to walk through this weaving journey with me.

Here’s what you’ll find on my looms right now:

Striped cottolin warp for towels.

Glimåkra Ideal loom: Striped warp for the sample kit is all set! Winding quills is next. Then, weaving! If all goes well, a few pre-warped plattväv towel kits will show up in my Etsy shop.

Transparency with linen warp and background weft. Cotton chenille weft inlay.

Glimåkra Standard loom: Weaving a transparency. 16/2 linen warp and background weft. The weft pattern inlay is cotton chenille.

Practice piece on little Hokett loom.

Hokett loom has the start of a simple stripes tapestry practice piece. 12/6 cotton warp, 6/1 Fåro wool weft.

Thank you for joining me through 2016!

May you have joy in the journey.

Happy Weaving New Year,
Karen

22 Comments

  • Beth says:

    I love the “Year in Review” and see so many favorites. Your work is simply beautiful and inspiring. You are brimming with talent!

    Happy New Year, Karen!

  • Jennifer says:

    A lovely and inspiring post! I enjoyed the video of your weaving year.

  • Truly Blessed, thanks for all you share.

  • Loyanne says:

    Thanks for sharing. Seeing the Faro piece bring to mind a question. I am working on a Whig Rose scarf. Trying to weave according to tradition and the warp is 8/2, weft is Faro and 16/2 for tabby. Just wondered if you had used cotton and wool and how you wet fingers she’d it ? Thanks

    • Karen says:

      Hi Loyanne, I’m sure your scarf is beautiful! The monksbelt does use 16/2 cotton for tabby, and Faro wool for pattern weft. I’m not sure of your question… I have a feeling that spellcheck gremlins took over. Could you try asking again?

      Karen

      • Loyanne says:

        Boy did the gremlins take over. I wondered how you wet finish a piece out of cotton and wool?
        Thanks.

        • Karen says:

          Ok, now that question makes sense. 🙂 That’s a great question! I did not wet finish my piece because I am going to use it for a hanging, so I wanted it to soften up or get distorted through washing. I did steam press it, though, which helped to tighten everything up and straighten it out.

          I think if I were going to wet finish this cotton and wool combination I would gently hand wash in cool water with mild soap, like Eucalan, with as little agitation as possible. And then hang or lay flat to dry. If I had a sample piece, I would try washing that first, before submerging the main article.

          I wish I could give you a better answer…

          Thanks for asking,
          Karen

  • Fran says:

    A year of accomplishing lots! You do black and white especially well. I enjoy your posts.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Fran, The black and white was a new experience for me. It was a surprise to me to find out how much I enjoyed working with it! Thanks for stopping by!

      Happy New Year,
      Karen

  • Cindy says:

    I just joined in on your posts! It’s part of my goals for 2017 to surround myself with others who love weaving, and to be inspired and motivated to continue learning from them. Thanks for having this blog!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindy, A big welcome to you! I do love weaving, and you will find many who comment here are the same way. I love it that we can all learn from each other.

      Happy weaving new year!
      Karen

  • Lynette says:

    Hi Karen,
    I enjoyed seeing your transparency, because I have used the same 16/2 linen to weave pictorial transparencies for the last 10 years or so. Is your sett 12 epi? How many selvedge warps are doubled on each side? I have never tried using chenille for the inlay, but this gives me a new idea to try!
    Happy New Year, and God bless you and your family!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lynette, I’m excited to hear that you weave pictorial transparencies! This is my first attempt, and I’m enjoying it very much. I would love to see some of your work. Can you send me pictures?

      I am using a metric 50/10 reed, which is just a little more dense than 12 epi, but pretty close. I doubled 4 selvedge warps on each side, as instructed in The Big Book of Weaving.

      Happy weaving new year!
      Karen

  • Liberty Stickney says:

    Hi Karen, Happy New Year! Thank you so much for all the work you do for us, your posts are always beautiful and informative. I have been sick for a bit but I can’t wait to get back to my loom soon.
    Happy weaving,
    Liberty

    • Karen says:

      Hi Liberty, It’s no fun to be under the weather. I hope you’re all better very soon!

      I always appreciate your sweet encouragement.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Tom Z says:

    The year in review is so Inspiring Karen!

    Sometimes we don’t look back to view where we’ve come from. We just keep plowing forward. The past gives us a much needed perspective on where we’re going. Your video reminded me of that simple face. And the music was perfect for that reflection.

    Thank you Karen. Keep up the ‘good’ work.
    Happy weaving new year!
    Tom Z in IL

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tom,
      I completely agree! Perspective can make a world of difference.
      I appreciate your thoughtful words so much!

      Happy weaving new year to you!
      Karen

  • Pat McNew says:

    I love your web page. I look forward to each one. I have learned a lot from you even tho I have been weaving for about 12 years.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Pat, This is such a sweet thing for you to say! It’s my goal to be a help to others, so I’m thrilled to hear you’ve learned some things here.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to spread a little kindness. 🙂
      Karen

Leave a Reply


Alpaca Warmth

Now that the fringe is finished, and the scarf has been washed, it is ready to be worn! The textural detail of this scarf is striking. An observer may not be aware that the woven pattern is that of an eight-shaft wavy (undulating) twill. But they are sure to notice the gentle drape of the long, warm scarf. The unique curvy ribbed surface is secondary.

Alpaca scarf in an eight-shaft wavy twill, with lattice fringe.

Alpaca scarf in an eight-shaft wavy twill, with lattice fringe.

I can’t think of anything more rewarding than spending time with beloved family! It’s been super sweet to be surrounded with such special adults and little children the last few days to celebrate Christmas together.

Handwoven undulating twill alpaca scarf.

Wavy twill gives the scarf a distinct textural element.

Soft, warm, and long handwoven alpaca scarf.

Celebrating Christmas joys in Texas hill country.

Handwoven long and soft alpaca scarf.

My daughter Melody models the alpaca scarf. Her husband, Eddie, is the photographer.

You are set apart to be a blessing. Let that blessing begin at home, and reach out from there. As alpaca fiber is known for its warmth and wearability, this scarf is perfect comfort for a cold winter day. May our homes, also, be known for the warmth and comfort that comes from being a place of blessing.

May you stay warm.

Merry Christmas, still,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Liberty Stickney says:

    The scarf is beautiful and looks so soft! I hope you had a wonderful time with all your family!
    Liberty

    • Karen says:

      Hi Liberty, Thanks! The scarf is fun to wear. It’s long enough to wrap around once or twice, but it’s not heavy.
      We really had a great time with family. I hope you did, too!

      Karen

  • Stunning !~! The undulating pattern mesmerizes as I look at it. And alpaca’s incredible lightness creates a jewel of a scarf. Wow. Does it get cold enough where you live for this ?

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Lynda,
      😉 It doesn’t get cold enough here very often. On those few days that it is cold enough, 2 or 3 days in the last couple weeks, I’m glad to have it around my neck.
      Karen

Leave a Reply


Fringe Benefits

Did you notice I didn’t hemstitch these alpaca scarves on the loom? Instead, small overhand knots secure the weft. The knots provide a base for lattice fringe on one scarf, and for twisted fringe on another.

Finishing ends on a long handwoven alpaca scarf.

Purple mohair thread marks the right side of the fabric. The thread is added before the fabric is cut from the loom. Six warp ends at a time are formed into overhand knots that cinch up to the edge of the scarf.

Making lattice fringe.

Three offset rows of overhand knots form the lattice fringe.

Fringe is finished. Ready for washing and drying.

Knots at the tips of the fringe will be trimmed off after washing and drying.

Tying knots for lattice fringe is meticulous. And twisting the fringe is not much faster. But it’s not about how long it takes. I’m not a production weaver. I’m a one-of-a-kind weaver who enjoys the process of turning threads into unique cloth, no matter how long it takes. After the fringes are done, I will hand wash the scarves and let them hang to dry. Slow and steady, the scarves take shape. From the very beginning, I work with the end in mind–handcrafted artisan designer scarves.

Twisting fringe on a handwoven scarf.

By inserting a long straight pin through the center of each knot as it is formed, I can pierce the foam board at the spot where I want the knot to end up–right at the woven edge of the scarf.

Twisted Fringe

Twisted fringe dangles from the edge of the soft scarf.

Time is a gift. Time to make things. Time to finish what we make. And time to undergo our own finishing. Look up. The one who made us takes the time to do the finishing we need. Our Maker doesn’t rush or hurry. He has a beautiful end in mind. We look up to heaven as we pray, acknowledging that our Grand Weaver is on his throne. We can be thankful that our times are in his hands.

May your finishing bring beautiful results.

With you,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Linda Sloan says:

    Wonderful message…love your blog and work. What an inspiration you are!! Linda

  • Kris says:

    This message brought tears to my eyes, Karen. I don’t remember how I found you, but I am so grateful that I did!! Advent Blessings to you! You are such a Blessing to us, your readers!

  • Katie says:

    Hi Karen,

    I’m curios about one of your photo captions about using the purple mohair to mark the right side of your fabric. Is this simply to make it easy to know which side is up or is there another reason for it having to do with tying the knots?

    Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Katie, It makes me smile to know someone reads the captions. 🙂

      I mark the right side of the fabric with a thread when it comes off the loom because sometimes it’s not easy to tell the right side from the reverse side. If it’s that close, it doesn’t usually matter, but I still like to know. By marking it right away, I don’t have to guess about it or hold it up to the light to try to tell the difference, etc.

      Secondly, if I am tying knots for fringe, like this time, I want the right side of the fabric up. My overhand knots have a front and a back to them, and I want the consistency of having the front of the knots on the right side of the fabric. These are details that most won’t notice. But that’s what sets handcrafted goods apart, isn’t it?

      I hope that makes sense.

      Thanks so much for asking!
      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Pam says:

    You’re right. It is HIS perfect timing that makes us who we are. HE is the author and the finisher of out faith.
    I always say that every thing we do has a little secret to tell us. The trick with the pin in the center of the knot, as it is made to insure its proper place, is just such a secret. I wondered how to do that. Now my work will be better. Thank you,Karen.
    Pam

    • Karen says:

      Hi Pam,

      Yes, it’s often the little things that make a big difference. I’m thankful that the Lord planned in the little things that make us who we are.
      So glad you found a helpful tip here!

      Karen

Leave a Reply