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

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What a Cellist Weaves

I approach weaving like a musician. The looms are instruments, and everything is practice. When I was twelve years old I fell in love with the ‘cello and began learning to play the instrument. Over time, I discovered the value of mindful practice, the need for which is ongoing. It’s not perfection I’m after, but intent to apply all I’ve learned.

Glimakra band loom.

Finished woven band. 12/6 cotton for warp and 16/1 linen for weft.

Band loom woven cord for cello endpin stop.

Small slider is added to make the cord’s length adjustable.

This once, my weaving and ‘cello playing overlap. My husband designed this cello endpin stop for me! I got to weave a cord on my band loom that connects the pieces together. (I showed you the beginning steps in Finer Weft for a Stronger Cord.)

Hand-crafted cello endpin stop, with handwoven band.

Hand-crafted ‘cello endpin stop.

Hand-crafted cello endpin stop.

‘Cello and me.

What if our interactions with people are opportunities to practice real love? It’s no big deal if I love those who love me. Or, do good when I know someone will return the favor. Or, lend to someone who will pay me back. Real love is loving those who don’t love you back. That takes practice. When we love, do good, and give, expecting nothing in return, we start to resemble God’s character. No, we won’t attain His perfection, but when we apply all He’s taught us, we begin to look like His children. For He loved us long before we loved Him back.

May you practice real love.

Love,
Karen

10 Comments

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Finer Weft for a Stronger Cord

I need a strong cord for a specific use. It needs to look nice, without drawing attention to itself. This cord will connect three small pieces of wood. I will reveal how they will be used after I finish weaving the cord.

Three wooden pieces for a special purpose...

Three wooden pieces to be connected for a purpose. What are they for? You are welcome to put your guess in the comments…

I chose 12/6 rug warp for the project, to make this a durable cord. With a band this narrow, the 12/6 cotton is too bulky for weft. I could not pull the selvedges tight. I need a finer weft that will draw the warp ends together and disappear at the selvedges. Black 16/1 linen works beautifully!

New woven narrow band. Need to change the weft.

Using 12/6 cotton rug warp for the weft proved to be unworkable for this narrow band. Light shows through the gaps at the selvedges.

Linen weft for this narrow band.

Black linen weft matches the black selvedge threads. The 16/1 linen enables tight and even selvedges for this 5/16″ (8 mm) band.

A change of heart changes everything. The condition of our heart is revealed in the way we behave toward others. Our thoughts and actions are a matter of the heart. To live in a manner that is unselfish, generous, kind, and content, we must do more than line up the right outward appearances. We must start with humility. Having the perfect warp means nothing if the weft interferes with a beautiful outcome. Humility, like the linen weft, is a posture of the heart that pulls everything else together.

May your heart be beautiful.

Warmly,
Karen

2 Comments

  • I can’t guess what the wooden pieces are for. They remind me of several times when I purchased a used loom from someone, and there were several wooden or metal pieces that came with it that neither they nor I knew what they were for. I am glad you know what these are for, and I am looking forward to finding out!

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Quiet Friday: Plattväv Towels and Thanksgiving Prayer

Start to finish, the plattväv towels have been a handweaver’s joy. Narrow stripes on the warp beam are strangely invigorating. Does it take extra effort to wind a warp with many stripes? Yes–cut off one color and tie on a new color, over and over. But when the loom is dressed and ready to go, the weaving is a breeze. Being cottolin, the warp is fully compliant; and with a little care, the linen weft becomes a weaver’s friend. Plattväv, the icing on the cake, gives me a simple pattern weft that dresses up these plain weave towels. (And, yes, I am in the process of developing a kit for these plattväv towels.)

Planning handwoven towels.

Cottolin warp with counting cord.

Striped warp for plattväv towels.

Threading the loom for plattväv towels.

Tying up treadles the easy way.

Weft auditions for plattväv towels.

Plattväv towels on the loom, with linen weft.

Plattväv towels on the loom. Karen Isenhower

Blue linen pattern weft.

Beautiful blue linen pattern weft.

Plattväv towels coming off the loom!

Off the loom and ready for trimming threads.

Band loom weaving.

Plattväv towels ready to roll!

Plattväv towels. Karen Isenhower

The joy of weaving is a blessing, as is the joy of friendships across the miles. Thank you for walking this journey with me.

Thanksgiving prayer: Thank you, Lord, for everything.

May you overflow with blessings and reasons for giving thanks.

Thankful for you,
Karen

10 Comments

  • Liberty Stickney says:

    Hi Karen,
    These towels are just beautiful. Thank you for all the work you do to help us with our weaving. Happy Thanksgiving my friend!

  • Martha says:

    Love the photo of the towels rolled up- very interesting to view. Beautiful work as always.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Martha, The linen is predominant in these towels, and linen begs to be rolled. I had fun playing around with them to take pictures.
      Thanks for your kind words!

      Happy Thanksgiving,
      Karen

  • Anne says:

    I will definitely be interested win the kit! Beautiful!

  • Theresa says:

    The towels are lovely. I too will be watching out for kit information.
    I’m wondering if hemp would be worth a whirl in place of linen?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Theresa, I’m excited about putting the kit together. It’s good to know you are keeping an eye on it.
      I have never woven with hemp. From what I’ve heard, it weaves much like linen. So I’m certain it would work for this.
      I love the Bockens and the Borgs Swedish linen, so I haven’t branched out much in that regard.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

    • Karen says:

      Hi Christine, Thank you so much!

      If you’re interested, there are a couple of these towels in my Etsy shop, as well as “Workshop in a Box” kits, where you can weave these towels for yourself.

      All the best,
      Karen

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Almost Forgot the Hanging Tabs…Again

I was ready to hem the plattväv towels. But then, I thought of one more thing–I need a woven band for the hanging tabs! Since the towels have black borders, I decided to weave a simple band in black cottolin, with a single white dotted line down the center. I measured the little warp, put it on the band loom, and quickly wove it up.

Black woven band with dotted white line. Glimakra band loom.

Single white thread produces dotted white line in the woven band.

I love the classy black band with the white dotted line. However, I don’t love it with these towels… Too wide, and too… black. It’s going into my band stash box. Someday, when I least expect it, I’ll find this band in the box; and it will be exactly what I need at the time. So, I started over at the band loom this morning, and wove a new band.

White dotted line on handwoven band. Glimåkra band loom.

Second chances are possible with a Glimåkra two-treadle band loom. It doesn’t take long to weave a second band if the first one doesn’t work out.

Woven band, ready to be cut into hanging tabs for towels.

Ready to be cut into hanging tabs for the plattväv towels.

Ready to hem towels, with hanging tabs included. Karen Isenhower

Hem, turned twice to the back of the towel, is pressed and ready to be stitched. The ends of a coordinating hanging tab will be stitched in the seam. The black woven band is stashed away for future use. The narrower gray band fits the style of the towels.

Joy is ignited by giving thanks. Gratitude changes your outlook. Instead of seeing the black band as a setback, it’s a gift for the future. The gray band is a reminder to be thankful for second chances. To whom will we give our thanks? To our looms? No. To each other? Yes. And to our Maker who gave himself for us? A resounding, joyful yes.

May you continuously be thankful.

Thankful for you,
Karen

9 Comments

  • ellen santana says:

    beautiful towels. i recently read an article about antique handwovens that she found that towels that had a hanging tab on them were quite worn on the opposite end of the tab. maybe if you put tabs on both sides they would get won equally. es

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ellen, I never would have thought of that! That’s very interesting and good to know. I’ve seen some towels with the tab on the side – maybe that would help with the wear, too.

      I will have to give this some more thought…

      Karen

  • Ruth says:

    Thank you for your beautiful post. Quick question: do you finish your hems by hand or machine? Happy weaving, Ruth

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ruth, I like to hem my towels with the sewing machine. To me, that seems the most reliable way for the hems to stay in place through years and years of washings. I did hem the table square (not shown) by hand. I don’t expect it to go through many washings, and I wanted the hem stitches to be invisible.

      I love the look of hand-hemmed towels, and the craftsmanship it shows. And I have friends who always hand hem their handwoven towels. I admire them for it.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nanette Mosher says:

    Could you post a photo of your whole band loom, with heddles and maybe a warp with something to show its relative size? I have a couple of looms for bands, one very antique and the other an inkle, but neither seems as quick and easy as yours seems to be. I’m really impressed that you didn’t just “make do” with the black; certainly the grey is an improvement and perfect. Will be interested in your answers to the other questions also. N.

  • Sherri says:

    Curious about the bobbin/shuttle you’re using with the band loom. Where do you get them?

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