In My Rigid Heddle Days

My grandmother made a sweet little pinafore that my sisters and I wore when we were babies–each in our own time. Several years ago I came across that simple little “apron,” and made a pattern from it. My first granddaughter received the little pinafore from me almost six years ago, made from fabric I wove on my rigid heddle loom. Now, this little pink and green pinafore is being handed down to my expectant daughter, for her little baby girl, due this summer. And her baby will have the prettiest handwoven burping towel (or light little blanket) any baby has ever had. Nothing is too good for a grandbaby, right?

Baby girl pinafore made from handwoven fabric. Rigid heddle loom.

Fabric woven on a rigid heddle loom is used to make a baby girl’s pinafore. The pinafore pattern came from my grandmother’s handiwork. The background quilt shows more of my grandmother’s skill with fabric, needle, and thread.

Baby towel and baby pinafore. Handwoven.

Handwoven towel and pinafore. Fit for a little princess.

I want to give something more important than things to my grandchildren. I want to give them the stories of the wonders God has performed in my lifetime. The stories that connect one generation to another. The stories that are woven from ancient stories. Pass down the ancient stories. Weave the threads that the child can wear for life.

May your children’s children remember your stories.



  • Laurie Mrvos says:

    Karen –
    The pinafore is adorable. Great colors! That burping towel is beautiful. I love everything about it. Can you tell me more about it?

    These will are wonderful heirlooms for your grandbabies.


    • Karen says:

      Laurie, the burping towel is from my recent warp of thick and thin. With this piece, I tried to make it as colorful as possible. It is 100% cotton and will get softer and softer with each washing. I’m glad you like it!
      Thanks for the encouraging words!


  • Pattty says:

    Very cute, that would make a great adult apron!

  • linda says:

    Karen: I hope your family has a sense of the worth of a hand made item. My children and grand children have no idea how much goes into making a hand woven, knitted, quilted, ,or a tailor made piece. I give it to them, it’s a “ya thanks” and the next thing I know the 7 year old has it in the dogs bed. These are children who have seen me at work making these items, and seen my husband making furniture and bowls. I’ve explained to parents and grandchildren these items are one of a kind and cannot be reproduced quickly or possibly at all. I’ve asked them to consider them a hug from grand ma and grand pa, and to love them. They are Christian children who experience God each day. I hope whoever gets your works of art keep them as well as your mother and you did the pinafore, respects the hours of work, and the love that goes into each piece. LP&J linda

    • Karen says:

      Linda, I hear what you are saying. A gift made by your hands is a gift from the heart. It carries with it hours of time, countless amounts of effort, and personal attention. From the giver’s perspective, all these are symbols of love. I like how you put it – consider these things as a hug from grand ma and grand pa.

      Your children and grandchildren are very blessed to have you!


  • Anonymous says:

    I’m about to attempt a grown up version of something similar soon – as a crossover apron. I have been pondering the design for a while now, have my fabrics selected but need to get on and get drafting. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Judy says:

    Passing down family stories is so important and you are so fortunate to have creative people in your family. I love the quilt that your grandmother made and it sounds like she enjoyed making things for the special people in her life.

    • Karen says:

      Judy, thanks for sharing your warm thoughts! I so enjoy using the quilts my grandmother made. She did enjoy making things for special people, and she also passed on the stories of faith that are so important in our family.


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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,


  • Charlene says:

    What a lovely review of your year’s weaving work.

    A large and beautiful body of work.

    Thank you.

  • Elisabeth Munkvold says:

    Dear Karen,
    Thank you for seeing such beauty in life and sharing it with us! This was a very inspiring way to start a new year!

    Happy New Year!

  • Betsy says:

    Happy New Year! I really enjoy reading your blog and look forward to new posts.
    Warmest Wishes

  • fran says:

    Always nice to see what you are up to! Best wishes for 2016.

  • Liberty Stickney says:

    Happy New Year Karen,

    I hope it is a wonderful year for you!

  • linda says:

    Your tapestry of the child is wonderful. It has given me so much pleasure to see how your weaving has become so absolutely gorgeous. I’ve has so much fun watching all the love you’ve put into your weaving. The article was a cherry on top of the most delicious desert anyone could have dreamed of.
    I still can’t believe all the time you devote, how quickly you work, and how “perfect “it all is. I hope 2016 is even more bountiful for you and more joyful. lp&j LINDA

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Quiet Friday: Handwoven Skirt

I just crossed an item off my weaving bucket list! Make a ‘cello skirt from handwoven fabric. A ‘cello skirt must be long, and full, and pretty. And if I can wear boots with it, so much the better. A favorite tiered skirt that I made a couple years ago from commercial fabric became the pattern for designing the handwoven fabric for a new skirt. This project included weaving a printed design by stamping the warp on the loom before it was woven. (To see this project develop, check out Related Posts in the sidebar.)

Printed fabric collects on the cloth beam.

Printed fabric collects on the cloth beam. One last round of warping slats is seen on the back beam.

I needed five lengthwise tiers, so I planned it out so that each tier would have a different stamped pattern. This is light blue 8/2 cotton in plain weave, with a dense sett of 30 epi, making a medium-weight fabric. I softened the fabric as much as possible by washing and drying it on hot settings. By strategically placing selvedges at the top and at the bottom of the skirt, I was able to minimize thickness at the waist, and eliminate the need for a hem at the bottom. The finished tiered skirt is long, and full, and has a subtle pretty printed pattern that mildly resembles ikat. And this skirt is made for wearing with boots!

Printed fabric just off the loom - for making a 5-tiered skirt.

Just off the loom, cloth is rolled out on the floor. Five-tiered skirt was made from lengthwise rows of printed fabric.

Layout for handwoven tiered skirt.

Tiers are cut and raw edges serged. Each tier seam is sewn. Floor layout helps to plan placement of seams and printed patterns.

Grosgrain ribbon for elastic casing in handwoven skirt waistband, reducing bulk.

Bulk is reduced at elastic waistband by adding pretty grosgrain ribbon for the casing, right next to the handwoven fabric’s selvedge.

Warp-stamped fabric for skirt. Selvedge at bottom, so no hem needed.

Selvedge forms the bottom edge of skirt, so no hem is needed. Warp-stamped fabric appears as a subtle print.

Handwoven printed tiered skirt. Karen Isenhower

Happy ‘celllist.

May your heart be enriched with thankfulness.

Happy Thanks Giving,


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Tools Day: Let There Be Light!

Sunshine coming through the windows is marvelous for weaving. But my eyes need extra light to see small details. This is noticeably true with errors that I mend on the loom and off the loom. I turn on extra lighting at other times, too–when threading fine threads, sleying the reed with fine or dark threads, counting picks per inch on woven cloth, and checking the treadling pattern in a fine weave, for example. And sometimes I turn on extra lighting for no other reason than it’s a cloudy day.

OttLite Task Lamp with Swivel Base
Handheld lighted magnifier

Broken weft repair.

Pin marks the spot where I broke a thin weft thread, 30/2 cotton, with the temple.

Repairing broken thread requires task lighting.

Repair area is flooded with light from my portable OttLite.

Replacing broken weft thread.

Illuminated stitches are easily seen. A replacement length of weft is needle-woven in.

Oops. A few skips to fix in handwoven cloth.

Series of errant floats are discovered after this fabric is removed from the loom. At 30 ends per inch, my eyes strain to see where to weave the needle.

Lighting and magnification needed for fixing threads.

Needing more than the bright OttLite, I add magnification. Pairing the OttLite with the handheld lighted magnifier does the trick!

Magnified threads for handwoven repairs.

Lighted magnifier, reflecting the OttLite just overhead, balances perfectly on a small sewing basket. Now I can actually see the threads I am fixing.

To further reduce eye strain, I am considering other lighting options. Have you had success with task lighting? I’d love to hear about it. Share your experience and recommendations in the comments.

My Lighting Wish List:
Full spectrum floor lamp
Adjustable-arm magnifying task light to clamp on table or loom

May you see what you need to see.

With a bright outlook,


  • donna says:

    I use a wonderful ott type light that has a folding arm and big round magnifier glass in the center of the light. The light tube is in a circle and the magnifier is the size of a dessert plate. It almost resembles a dentist off light!

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Warp Stamping Is Over

If I could do it over, I would put on a shorter warp for this experimental project. I enjoyed weaving plain weave, with the simplicity of one shuttle and one color. I did not enjoy, however, stopping every six inches to stamp the warp with paint. Clearly, I am not a paint person.

End of the warp is a happy sight!

Bare warp beam, with the end of the warp inches away from coming over the back beam for the final stretch of weaving.

You can guess that I was overjoyed to see the tie-on bar come over the back beam! That hope of finishing propelled me to the end. Of course, I still have work to do–fixing a few floats, wet finishing, and then sewing a tiered skirt. The root of my problem was not that this was long and slow. The root was my uncertainty. Isn’t that always the case? Is all this effort and mess going to be worth it? Will this fabric even work for the skirt I want to make?

Warp was stamped on the loom, using fabric paint, before it was woven.

Printed woven cloth, just off the loom, awaits finishing and sewing. The print was made by stamping the warp on the loom, using fabric paint, before it was woven.

When we are stumbling in the dark, we long for light. It can be discouraging when you are not sure where your decisions will take you. The light of God shines in the darkness, bringing hope. Hope dispels darkness. Much like the tie-on bar at the end of a long warp, when we see hope rounding the corner we know we can make it.

May your path be lit with hope.

By the way, if you are a paint person, I have a set of gently used hand-carved wooden stamps I will send to the first person in the continental U.S. who asks for them. Postage is on me!
Get in Touch to let me know you’d like them.
The stamps have been spoken for! Sandy O. is going to use them to experiment on her rigid heddle loom!

Happy plain weaving,


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