Make a Handwoven Something

There is less than a yard of this lovely fabric. I want to use it for something. After weaving the baby wrap, I wove off the remainder of the warp in twill, using multiple weft colors. The colors seem even more vibrant in this twill weave. The fabric feels great in hand, as well. Is there enough to make a handbag? Just barely; but, yes, there is enough!

Making a handbag from handwoven fabric.

After ironing interfacing to the back of the fabric, I work the puzzle of fitting the pattern pieces onto the fabric. Some piecing is necessary.

Making lining for a handbag.

Lining pieces have pockets added.

Making a handbag from handwoven fabric.

Topstitching goes all around the top perimeter of the handbag.

How do you feel about cutting into your handwoven fabric? Once you cut, there’s no turning back. You better be sure before you get out the scissors. Fear of ruining your precious fabric can keep you from ever making the first cut. You might be tempted to fold up your fabric and tuck it away in a drawer. “At least you didn’t ruin it,” your fear would tell you. However, if you know something good will come of it, and if you have a plan, you walk past the fear and do the cutting.

Finished handwoven handbag holds rolled baby wrap. Karen Isenhower

Finished handbag holds the rolled baby wrap.

Handwoven handbag. Karen Isenhower

Handbag front is mostly twill, with five different weft colors. The warp length is crosswise in this piece.

Handbag made from handwoven fabric.

Back of the handbag. The lining fabric is cut from a remnant left from an Easter dress I made my daughter umpteen years ago.

The peace of Christ takes the power out of fear. Instead of looking at the status quo as the only option, internal peace enables us to walk past the fear. His peace enables us to do things that require faith. Fear fades when you know that the one who is truly good does have a plan. After all, handwoven fabric is made for such a use as this.

May you do things that require faith.

Making things,


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Happy Weaving New Year!

January 1st is more than just another day, isn’t it? It’s a time to review the past year and bring new dreams into the year ahead. This pivot point calls for gratitude. I am especially grateful for friends like you who walk with me on this weaving journey!

Thick and thin cottolin towels on this warp. One towel to go!

Thick and thin cottolin towels on this warp. One towel to go!

The end is near! The end of the warp, that is. Halvdräll on the loom.

The end is near! The end of the warp, that is. Almost ready for the final border of the halvdräll table square. There will be just enough warp left for a short sample piece.

First up in the new year I have thick and thin towels to finish, and the halvdräll is oh so close to the end of the warp (didn’t quite make it for Christmas). And one little girl is off the small tapestry loom, waiting for final finishing, mounting, and framing.

Little girl small tapestry.

Little girl small tapestry. After finishing the ends, the piece will be mounted on linen-covered foam board and placed in a frame.

Thank you for walking with me through 2015!

May you bring big dreams into the new year!

Joyful New Year,


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Quiet Friday: Custom Lining for a Handwoven Bag

Every good bag deserves a good lining, with pockets inside and a zipper on top. This handwoven rag rug bag is no exception. The lining fabric is some of the same fabric that is woven in the bag. The polka dot pocket fabric is a cheery piece from a visit to The Philippines. The completed zippered tote is a perfect fit for my small tapestry frame, and goes with me when I travel. Quiet Friday: Weave a Bag with Handles shows how I made the bag.

How to add zippered lining to a bag.

How to Add a Custom Zippered Lining to a Bag


  • Sewing machine
  • Zipper foot
  • Walking foot (recommended, but not required)
  • Steam iron
  • Straight pins
  • Tool for pushing out corners
  • Needle and sewing thread
  • Disappearing ink fabric marker
  • Fabric scissors


  • Fabric for lining. Lay bag on top of folded lining fabric, with bottom of bag aligned with the fold of the lining fabric. Cut the folded fabric a generous 1 1/2″ wider and 1 1/2″ taller than the bag.
  • Fabric for pocket. Mark two pieces of fabric (or use a folded piece of fabric) the desired pocket size. Add 1/4″ seam allowance. Cut along the marked lines. Stitch, right sides together, leaving an opening for turning. Turn right side out, pushing out corners. Press. Topstitch all four sides.
  • Fabric for zipper insert pieces. Cut two pieces of fabric 4 1/2″ wide by the length of the zipper plus 1″.
  • Tabs for ends of zipper tape. Cut from handwoven band or piece of fabric with sides folded under.
  • Zipper. Regular, non-separating zipper, as long as, or longer than, bag opening


  1. Sew bottom three sides of pocket onto lining fabric. Stitch a dividing line on pocket.Adding pocket to lining for bag.
  2. Stitch sides of lining, right sides together. Fold and stitch box corners.Box corners on lining for a bag.
  3. With lining seated in bag, fold down top edge of lining, so that folded edge fits just inside top edge of bag. Pin folded edge of lining and remove from bag. Set aside. Fitting lining for a handwoven bag.
  4. Bar tack top ends of zipper tape together. Bar tack over end of desired zipper length. Cut off excess. Cut a tab from a woven band, or from fabric with sides folded in, to fold over each end of zipper tape. Use zipper foot to stitch tabs over zipper tape ends. Preparing zipper to add to bag.
    Handwoven tabs for ends of zipper tape.
  5. For zipper insert, cut two pieces of complementary fabric 4 1/2″ wide by the length of the zipper, plus 1″. Making zipper insert for top of bag. Tutorial with pics.
  6. Fold each zipper insert piece lengthwise in half, right sides together. Draw stitching line that matches length of zipper. Zipper insert for top of bag. Tutorial.
  7. Stitch both short ends of zipper insert pieces. Clip corners and trim seams. Making zipper insert for top of bag.
  8. Turn zipper insert pieces right side out. Push corners out. Press. Making zipper insert for top of bag.
  9. Pin folded edge of zipper insert fabric to right side of zipper tape, centered lengthwise, 1/8″ away from zipper teeth. Open zipper partway. With zipper foot, starting at top end of zipper, topstitch close to folded edge. After stitching a third of the way, with needle down, close zipper, and then continue topstitching to bottom of zipper. Repeat for other side of zipper insert. Press. Making zippered lining for handwoven bag. Tutorial.
    Adding zippered top to handwoven bag.
  10. With zipper opened, and zipper tab down (picture shows zipper tab up, after having pinned both sides), center and pin one side of zipper insert under one side of folded top edge of lining, so that lining overlaps insert 1/2″. Repeat with other side of zipper insert and lining. Making zippered lining for handwoven bag. How to pics.
  11. Insert lining into bag, matching side seams and mid points on bag and lining, with top folded edge of lining 1/4″ below top edge of bag. (Edge of zipper insert is sandwiched between lining fold and bag.) Make sure bag handles are up and out of the way of stitching. From inside of bag, use walking foot to stitch 1/8″ from lining fold, all the way around top of lining, keeping zipper insert up and out of the way of stitching. (Walking foot helps ensure even feed of fabric layers.) Adding zippered lining to handwoven bag. Instructions.
    Pinning lining into handmade bag. Instructions.
    Sewing lining into Handmade bag. How to.
  12. Fold zipper inserts down into bag. Press. Stitch across zipper inserts 1/2″ below top of lining on inside of bag. Press again.Last step of tutorial for inserting lining in bag.

Give your new bag a special purpose.

Handwoven bag with custom lining. Karen Isenhower

May your lining on the inside be as attractive as your handbag on the outside.

Happy Creating,

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Quiet Friday: Weave a Bag with Handles

Voila! A rag-weave bag with the handles woven in. First, the handle straps were woven on my band loom. And then, I wove the straps into the rag-weave bag on my floor loom. Lastly, I cut the weaving from the loom and sewed the bag together. This is a warp for double binding rag rugs. I take advantage of this double cloth structure to make handles that are extremely secure. The pictures show how it all comes together. (Quiet Friday: Rag Rug Bag shows my first attempt at this feat. Be sure to read the comments. My amazing readers helped me develop the idea for this workable solution.)

As a bonus, at the end of this post you will see a new video that demonstrates my method of cutting fabric strips for weaving rag rugs.

1. Weave bag handles. (First seen on Is My Weft Showing?)

Unwoven warp (length equal to the rag rug warp width on the loom, plus 2″/5cm) comes before and after each of two bag handles, which are woven to desired length. Unwoven warp is held together at the beginning, and in between the two handles, and at the end, with 1″/2.5cm of woven band.

Bag handle woven on band loom. Karen Isenhower

2. Insert unwoven band warp for one handle.

Weave approximately 1/3 of the bag.

Cut the two handle straps apart in the middle of the 1″/2.5cm woven section that separates the two lengths of unwoven band warp. Entering from the right-hand side, insert one unwoven band warp, used here as weft, into the first shed of the double binding weave, with 1/2″/1cm of the band-woven handle strap reaching into the shed. Tap the weft in with the beater, but do not beat it in firmly, yet.

Steps for weaving handle into rag weave bag.

Weave handle into rag weave bag. How to.

3. Insert unwoven band warp for the second handle.

Entering from the left-hand side, insert the unwoven band warp, used as weft, from the second handle strap into the second shed of the double binding weave, with 1/2″/1cm of the band-woven handle strap reaching into the shed. Beat firmly, packing in both layers of weft together.

Weave handle into rag weave bag on the loom.

4. Weave the center 1/3 of the bag.

Step-by-step weaving handle into bag.

5. Insert remaining unwoven warp of first handle.

Repeat Step 2 with the unwoven band warp attached to the handle on the right-hand side. Make sure the handle strap is not twisted.

Inserting bag handles during weaving. Tutorial.

6. Insert remaining unwoven warp of second handle.

Repeat Step 3 with the unwoven band warp attached to the handle on the left-hand side. Make sure the handle strap is not twisted.

How to insert bag handles into the weaving.

7. Weave the final 1/3 of the bag.

Double binding rag rug bag.

8. Finishing work.

Cut rag-weave bag from the loom. Remove header and knot the ends. Press. (For more about finishing the ends, see Quiet Friday: Rag Rug Finishing and Wear and Tear Rag Rugs)

Finishing ends to make bag.

9. Stitch the bag.

Fold the bag, right sides together. Stitch side seams. Turn right side out. For whimsical detail, form box corners on the outside, and stitch in place by hand with warp thread. (You could form box corners on the inside just as well, stitching flattened corners by machine or by hand.)

Creating a rag rug bag.

10. Take your bag with you wherever you go.

Rag rug bag with woven handles. Karen Isenhower

Rag rug bag detail. Karen Isenhower

May your ideas turn into fruitful efforts.

Happy weaving,


  • Liberty Stickney says:

    Hi Karen,
    I am really looking forward to making a rag rug, I haven’t tried one yet and I’m thinking if doing one next. I see the kind of shuttles you are using and I’m thinking of buying one like that. What length are yours? I just need a little advice on them. Do you like that kind?
    Thank you!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Liberty,
      I think you will love making a rag rug!

      I use 19 1/2″ ski shuttles from Glimakra (besides the one my hubby made for me out of cherry). These shuttles work great for rag weaving. They have a low profile, so they fit through the shed easily, yet they hold a lot of weft. It is also very easy to wind the fabric strips on this type of shuttle. I find that it helps to have at least two ski shuttles, even for a plain, plain weave rag rug, especially if you plan to use more than one color of fabric.

      Send me a pic when you have some of your rag rug woven. I’d love to see it!!

      Happy weaving,

  • Liberty says:

    Hi Karen,
    Thank you for the advice. I just ordered a ski shuttle and some rug warp to give it a try!!! I have been wanting to make something different. So far it’s been just dish towels and scarves. I’ll let you know how I’m doing!

  • Sandy says:

    Thank you for your bags with handles posts! I was trying to figure out how to do this because there isn’t enough warp for a rug left on the loom. Your ideas are a great help! Now to figure out what I want to use for the handles!
    I have quite a stash of fabrics. I’m thinking I’ll use the idea of sewing the strap and joining the material where it meets in the middle.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sandy, Making a bag is a great way to finish out the rug warp on the loom. I think your idea for the handles sounds great. It worked best for me when the part woven in is not too thick or rigid. If you sew the strap and plan to weave it in, keep that in mind.

      Happy weaving,

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Quiet Friday: Rag Rug Bag

Think of this as an experiment. A first try. A specimen with which to work out procedures and details. I like the bag, and I will certainly use it; however, there are a few things that I will do differently when I make the next one. And I do intend to make another one, or two, or three. Experiments are like that. One idea leads to another. This warp was all about double binding rag rugs. As always, though, it is delightful to have some warp left at the end for play.

Weaving bag handles into the rag rug bag.

Length of 1-inch/2.5 cm black cotton webbing is woven in. The webbing that extends beyond both selvedges will form the bag handle. Rag weaving continues for a few inches before placing the webbing ends back into the shed.

Placing bag strap ends in the shed.

Both ends of the webbing strap are tapered, and then overlapped in the shed before beating them in.

Temple maintains the weaving width.

Temple maintains the weaving width as the rag weave continues past the woven-in handle straps.

Securing warp ends of rag rug.

Warp ends are secured, as usual. First, square knots, and then cut off to 1/2 inch/1 cm.

Stitching up a rag rug bag.

Sewing the sides of the bag, right sides together. I am using the four rows of woven rug warp at the beginning of the woven hem as my stitching line.

Creating lining for rag rug bag.

After turning the bag right-side out, and pressing the seams open, I created a simple flat lining, with added pocket, to fit inside the bag.

Pinning lining into the rag rug bag.

Lining is pinned into the bag, matching seams and mid-points at front and back.

Lining is inserted into the rag rug bag.

Lining is stitched into place with narrow topstitching.

Rag rug bag, with handle woven in. Karen Isenhower


Finished rag rug tote bag! Karen Isenhower

Fun tote bag to carry to and fro.

Next time… Find a strap that is not as stiff, so it will beat in better. Weave in a strap that is the same color as the warp. Make the strap longer. Find a way to secure the cut ends of the strap (this is the biggest issue). Possibly use a band woven on my inkle or band loom for the strap.

What would you use for the strap? Can you think of a good way to secure the ends of the strap together? What other suggestions or thoughts do you have to improve a bag like this? I would love to hear your ideas.

May your experiments lead to fresh ideas.

Always trying new things,


  • Mary Linden says:

    Tape used to bind hooked rugs is softer and can be dyed. Your weaving is inspiring. My loom has been empty too long.

  • Love the idea of weaving the band directly into the warp! Instead of sewing a band on your woven product afterwards.

    Each time I am excited to receive a post from you!
    Kind regards,
    The Netherlands

    • Karen says:

      It is very nice to hear from you, Tjitske! Yes, if we can make it work to weave the band into the warp, it will be fun to make more bags!

      Your alpaca weaving in your Etsy shop is beautiful!
      Happy Weaving,

  • Sara Jeanne says:

    I’ve been enjoying your weaving blog since we met at Vavstuga.
    Some things that I’ve observed when making ‘rug’ bags:
    Use the overlay technique for the strap rather than a single weft shot.
    Use a 1/2″ webbing for the strap.
    When laying in the returning strap, pull the ends up through the warp and hand stitch down the ends with carpet thread.
    Weave a wide heading at each end of the piece to allow for hemming, and to assist in making a box bottom on the bag.
    Really like your colors and the introspection your weaving brings to the process.

    • Karen says:

      Sara, what a great help you are! I’m taking notes…

      – I am not sure what you mean “Use the overlay technique for the strap rather than a single weft shot.” Could you explain that a little more?

      – I have not found 1/2″ webbing. Do you know a source for that?

      – Hand-stitching the ends together is a good idea. I had considered that, but was too lazy to actually do it. It wouldn’t be hard, though.

      – The wide hem is a great idea, too. I had thought about a box bottom, too, but decided to make this one quick and simple. (Lazy again.) In the future, I’ll probably do a box bottom. That’s not hard, either.

      I really appreciate you chiming in! It’s great to get your perspective and a piece of your expertise.

      Happy Weaving,

      • Anonymous says:

        Hi Karen,
        Glad to offer some tips!
        For overlay, throw your rag shot, and with the same shed open, lay your strap on top of the rag shot. You may have to add another strip of rag to that particular shot so that the strap and rag shot are the same size. The strap lays better with equal sizes.
        As for the 1/2″ strapping, try The Shaker Workshops. They have a web site. I’ve been lucky enough to find quite a bit of 1/2″ cotton strap at my local Goodwill store.
        Hope this helps.
        Sara Jeanne
        PS you are many things Karen and lazy is certainly not one of them!

  • Joanna says:

    Ooh, a bandwoven strap, for sure. How about a strap with tubular weaving sections for where the hand would grip? How about a bandwoven strap with narrower ‘bits’ woven by cramming warp ends? You could use those sections where they act as war, rather than strap.

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Joanna,

      Great ideas!! I can see what you’re talking about… Yes, that would make a wonderful handle for a handwoven bag.
      This gives me another idea! What if… Instead of cramming warp ends (since there is no reed on the band loom, the best I can do is pull the weft tighter), what if I bandweave the tubular handle, and flat sides of the handle, and leave a length of unwoven warp before and after? The unwoven band warp could be the weft in the rag weave. And the band-warp weft could be woven in two consecutive sheds, making a very secure connection for the handle. I’m getting excited about this idea!

      Thank you!

  • linda says:

    Opinion: a hand woven band would really make a statement, especially if the bag is a suttle tone on tone. The stitching of the strap ends is a great idea….
    Question: is everyone a Quilter too? I noticed the symbols next to each name is a quilting square. love, eace,joy, linda

    • Karen says:

      Linda, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I like the idea of a subtle tone on tone bag. A handwoven band would certainly be the best choice for that!

      (The little quilt icons are generated by the website. I had just a few options for what type of icon to use. Quilt blocks seemed the most appropriate for this space. Better than little aliens or something like that. :))

  • Laurie Mrvos says:

    I love how your mind works, Karen. I think you’re on to something here. As always, I certainly reading your posts. Be well.

  • Anne says:

    I have been weaving “raggedy bags”…basically rag rugs that I turn into tote bags. I weave the bags horizontally and extend 2-5 rags on both sides for the first handle. I will weave more of the bag and when I get to the handle on the other side I braid the rags I left extended and weave in the ends. Weaving width-wise also allows the carpet headers to be the seams of the bag. It is much easier to sew the carpet warp headers than the rags.

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