Weft Auditions for Square Dots

I found sixteen weft colors to audition. And I am eliminating all but six—one main color for each of four towels, plus two border colors. This is five-shaft satin dräll hand towels with an 8/2 cotton warp. Good weft options on my shelves include 8/2 cotton, 22/2 cottolin, and 16/2 linen in various colors. And this time, we have square dots!

Weft auditions for 5-shaft satin dräll hand towels.

The warp is tied on and the lamms and treadles are tied up. All ten sheds (one for each of ten treadles) are checked and small adjustments made in the treadle tie-ups. Weft auditions commence!

Trying different weft options. Cotton, cottolin, linen.

Similar colors in different fibers. Teal in cotton, cottolin, and linen. Coral warp as weft would be an interesting monochrome option.

There is one qualification. The colors must fit the color palette of our Texas hill country home. A sample piece of thread doesn’t tell me enough; neither does a whole tube of thread. Twisting two colored threads together gives a decent clue, but even that is not enough. When the warp and the weft threads interweave on the loom the true colors are seen. And that’s when I can tell you which colors I will keep.

Weft auditions! Colorful hand towels.

Sample includes sixteen weft colors (two or three rows for some). Four are chosen for the main colors for a set of hand towels. Two extra colors are selected to use for border designs.

Square Dots cotton hand towels in 5-shaft satin dräll.

First towel has Slate 8/2 cotton weft, with an accent of Silver 22/2 cottolin for a border stripe.

Isn’t that the way it goes with truth? Hearing words isn’t enough; even extensive hearing isn’t enough. Paying attention to what you hear is good, but it mustn’t stop there. We need to understand. Hear and understand. The meaning of the words intersect with thoughtful reflection. Truth enters through understanding. And that’s when we can see which threads to keep.

May truth be woven into your life.

With you,


  • Joyce Lowder says:

    Love your message, Linda! Thanks for your spiritual insights shared with us.

    Question: What is the white thread that looks almost like a basted thread, across the groups that are tied on for this warp? I can see that you were able to go right into weaving without a heading. Is that a technique or just good warping?
    Thanks for any suggestions you can offer! 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joyce, It’s a lifelong journey to hear and understand, isn’t it?

      You are seeing the leveling cord. I use a length of seine twine (12/6 cotton rug warp) to go over and under each tied-on section of threads. The threads must be tied on with half of the bundle going over the tie-on bar and half going under the tie-on bar. The leveling cord is pulled tight, and the ends of the cord are tied through the hole at each end of the tie-on bar. This simple technique flattens out (levels) the warp, and enables weaving from the very start. No scrap weft necessary.

      It’s that simple. 🙂
      Happy weaving,

    • Karen says:

      Joyce, I should have pointed you to this post I wrote about the leveling string – Tools Day: Leveling String.
      Happy weaving,

  • Betsy says:

    Love the stripe!!

  • Joanne Hall says:

    I like the white. And that red would make a very cheerful towel.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanne, The white practically pops off the fabric. It does look good. And the canary red is spectacular on the coral warp, which surprised me. Now I’m tempted to use the red, even though it didn’t make the final four, just because you said so.

      All the best,

  • Annie Lancaster says:

    I must say that I like the sample with all the colors! At least for one trowel. I never heard of a leveling string. Perhaps because it wouldn’t work on a Rigid Heddle loom.

    I was so focused on the different colors of square that my brain did not compute the stripes. The comments about listening and understanding definitely apply to someone like me because I tend to get lost in the details. This was a very needed reminder.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, I like the multi-colored sample, too! It may end up being a short towel, or something… You may be able to use a leveling string on your rigid heddle loom. I haven’t done that, but it might be worth some experimentation.

      Taking listening to the level of understanding is a constant challenge, and worth the effort it takes.

      All the best,

Leave a Reply

Anticipation Is Looming!

Everything starts on paper and in my mind. And then the action begins! Warps are ready now to dress two more looms. One in linen, and one in cotton. Linen for chair-seat upholstery, and cotton for kitchen towels.

Counting linen warp ends on the warping reel.

Counting thread goes over and under groups of warp ends (in this case, 40 ends) to help me keep track of the number of ends being wound on the warping reel. 8/2 linen, unbleached.

Cotton thread is measured out on the warping reel.

Solid color cotton is wound (measured out) on the warping reel.

These are part of the coordinating textiles I’ve been designing for our Texas hill country home. (See Awaken the Empty Looms)  I am looking forward to the moment these fabrics become visible! The anticipation is electric! I will know the success of my plans when I can see and feel the fabric. Every step, including getting these threads ready for the loom, gives me a preview glimpse of the actual fabric to come.

Two linen warp chains, ready for dressing the loom.

Two warp chains are prepared. This is a striped warp, and the chains will be spread separately, each with its own set of lease sticks.

Three warp chains of 8/2 cotton, ready to dress the loom!

Nothing like big, soft warp chains of 8/2 cotton!

Visible. Actual love is visible. It’s much more than kind thoughts and intentions. It is threads of kind thoughts that become touchable fabric in someone else’s life. Jesus Christ is the love of God made visible, in that God sent His Son so that we could fully live. How appropriate for us to make such a fabric visible for each other.

May you get a glimpse of the fabric to come.



  • Annie Lancaster says:

    Good morning, Karen. I can see that you have been quite busy!. The work you do to make a beautiful Handwoven home for your family is definitely love in action. Generations will treasure your creations.

    I didn’t realize that linen was a good upholstery thread. I have only used cottolin and that has been for towels. I am waiting until I purchase a multi shaft loom before trying linen as I have been told the rigid Heddle loom will not keep enough tension. I rather like the natural colors.

    I hope you have a blessed day, Karen.


    • Karen says:

      Good morning, Annie, Linen is such a pleasure to work with, and the natural colors are so restful. You could use linen for weft on your rigid heddle loom. Many times I’ve done a cotton or cottolin warp and linen weft.

      I don’t actually know if linen makes a good upholstery fabric, but thought I would try it. This is a heavier thread – 8/2 line linen. I have a small piece from a couple years ago that I wove in 8/2 linen and I like the weight of it.

      Your friend,

Leave a Reply

Rag Rug Playground

This is a rag rug playground! I am weaving miniature rugs—rosepath rag rug hot pads. My small countermarch loom is perfect for this exploration. Without tabby or with tabby? Planned weft or hit and miss? Vibrant colors or soft neutrals? Weft inlay or plain and simple? So many possibilities! My “idea bank” is exploding.

Mini rag rugs for hot pads.

Reverse treadling adds a diamond design element at both ends of this mini rug.

Handwoven hot pads. Mini rosepath rag rugs.

Color choices are inspired by views outside this Texas hill country window.

My goal is to weave as many different versions as possible. No two alike! Sure, they all have the same 12/9 cotton warp and all-cotton-fabric-strips weft, but with all sorts of variations. Most will be gifts. Handwoven hot pads, making it to the kitchens of friends, to serve them well.

Rosepath detail in mini rag rugs. Making hot pads.

Rosepath detail.

Rosepath rag rug hot pads on the loom.

White fabric strips are used as tabby weft to highlight the blue rosepath pattern.

Rosepath inlay with mini rag rugs--hot pads.

Deep purple fabric strip is used for weft rosepath inlay over a plain weave background. Woven hot pads wind their way around the cloth beam, separated by scrap weft and warping slats.

There is no one like you, with your hopes, dreams, and pains. You touch others like no one else can. Your life makes a difference. Your life matters because it matters to God. Your Creator had good things in mind when he formed you. Lord, place us where we will best show your handiwork, where we can humbly serve those you’ve given us to love.

May you live on purpose.

Your friend,


  • Angela Roberts says:

    Great inspiration as always, creatively and spiritually xoxo

  • Annie says:

    It is good to be reminded that our Heavenly Father has made us all as uniquely diverse as your hot pads. Perhaps there is the bit of the weaver in him.

    And I can’t quite decide which hot pad I like best! But it seems fun experimenting!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, It’s fun to have a project on the loom that allows for experimentation.

      Yes, I’d say our Heavenly Father positively has a weaver side to him.

      All the best,

  • Gayle says:

    Love the variations, we want to see them laid out on the floor when you cut them off!!!

  • Janet says:

    Fantastic idea and I need some office gifts!! How do you finish your ends?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Janet, I plan to tie the ends into overhand knots and then trim them to about 1/4-3/8″ or so. I could have woven hems on them with thin fabric strips and then turn the hems under and stitch, but I haven’t done that this time. It’s possible to bind the edges (after tying knots) with fabric, but that doesn’t always stay looking great, especially if they are washed frequently.

      These weave up nice and fast! …Besides being so much fun to do. Great idea for office gifts!

      Happy weaving!

      • Karen says:

        One more thing… If you plan to tie knots, it is helpful to have at least 4 inches of warp for tying. So I try to put about 8″ between mats, with scrap weft and slats. You can tie knots with less than 4″, but it can get a little tricky. I always regret it when I shorten the distance to try to save warp.

  • Kathryn says:

    Hello Karen,

    These are beautiful! What a wonderful way to play with new patterns and colors while using up fabric scraps. Plus, they’re very useful!

    Can you tell me, how long is your warp and how many potholders do you think you’ll end up with? I don’t have a lot of cotton fabrics laying around, but I’m sure wool scraps would work just as well, don’t you think? In fact, with wool being naturally fire retardant, they might be a good choice:)

    Thank you for sharing. I always look forward to your blog posts!!


    • Karen says:

      Hi Kathryn, I wish I could tell you how long the warp is. This started as a tapestry/inlay project. After finishing the first of four panels, I decided I didn’t want to weave three more. The original warp was probably about 5 or 6 yards. Instead of cutting off the rest of the warp, I decided to do something fun and easy – hot pads! I have not been counting, so I can’t even tell you how many I have so far – maybe 6 or 8. And I’m guessing I’ll get 3 or 4 more.

      If I were planning this from the start, I would figure the length of the hot pad (mine are about 5-6″ long), plus 4″ on both ends for tying knots (or 2″ on each end for weaving hems, plus the 4″ for knots). Multiply by the number of hot pads you want. Add about 15% take-up and shrinkage. Add loom waste. (Hmm… maybe I should do a blog post about project calculations…)

      I think wool fabric would be a great choice for hot pads. I didn’t know about wool being naturally fire retardant. That’s good to know!

      Thanks for asking great questions!

  • Limor Johnson says:

    Hi Karen,
    What is the sett on these beautiful rugs? What size reed are you using?

    Thanks for sharing, great work and pictures,

    • Karen says:

      Hi Limor, The sett is approximately 6 epi. I’m using a metric 25/10 reed, the rough equivalent of which is a 6-dent reed. One end per heddle, and one end per dent.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      All the best,

Leave a Reply

End of Warp Drama

At the final inches of weavable warp, my regular boat shuttle will not fit through the shed. I wove the first half of this final rug thinking I had more than enough warp left to complete a symmetrical design.

Spaced rep rag rug. Last rug on the warp!

Final rug on this warp. I planned a symmetrical design that reverses at the center of the rug.

This warp is almost finished! Rag rugs.

As the back tie-on bar comes over the back beam I am concerned about whether I have enough warp to finish the second half of the rug.

Drama at the end. I still need to weave the ending warp thread header. Time to pull out my secret weapon—a low-profile shuttle. No worries or fretting. The slim shuttle deftly (with a little prodding) weaves the eight picks of the warp thread header that concludes this final rug. Whew.

Low-profile boat shuttle fits through at end of warp.

Low-profile shuttle saves the day. I’m so near the end of the warp that there is not enough room in the shed for my regular boat shuttle to fit through.

End of warp drama! But I made it! Whew.

Very end of the warp is seen right behind the shafts. After the eight picks of warp thread header, I wove as many picks of scrap weft as I could…by hand.

When we face adversity, and our usual coping methods are not working, we feel the pressure and anxiety. It’s time to activate our secret weapon—a gentle and quiet spirit. Gentleness and quietness are beautiful embellishments to the hidden person of the heart. This humble spirit enables you to glide through the tightest situations. Best of all, those last picks you carefully weave will keep the lovely rag rug you’ve been working on from unraveling.

May your heart glow with gratitude.

Happy Giving of Thanks!


  • Beautifully said. Thank you and have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I just found you recently and I love reading your blog. Thank you again.

  • Annie says:

    Thanksgiving is always a time of reflection on all the wonderful blessings in my life. This year, your Christ centered blog has been added as they are always uplifting as well as informative. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and your work with us.

    May you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving, Karen.


    • Karen says:

      Good morning, Annie, That means so much to me! It’s a great privilege for me to have friends like you that I can share with. I’m thankful for you.

      Happy Thanks-Giving,

  • Cindy Bills says:

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I so enjoy reading your blogs and I always learn or am reminded of something important. Sometimes, it’s even about weaving. 🙂
    Blessings to you,

  • Joanna says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and the family, Karen. This time of year seems to me to be a bit like your end of warp: winding down but with one last stretch needing a little extra thought and care.

    I’ve got a question for you. I know that you use new cloth for yor rag strips, but do you wash and press it before cutting the strips? Your rugs are sooo beautiful!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, Yes, these few remaining weeks of the year are a testing ground for our gentle and quiet spirits.

      I do wash and dry the fabric before cutting into strips for weaving. I want to pre-shrink it and rinse out excess dye, so I wash it in hot water and dry it in a hot dryer. I do not press the fabric unless it is too wrinkled to be able to fold it flat for cutting. In that case, just ironing the selvedges is usually enough.

      I appreciate your kind compliment about my rugs. Weaving rag rugs is one of my greatest pleasures.

      Happy Thanks-Giving to you and yours,

  • D’Anne says:

    Wow, that was close to the warp end, wasn’t it, Karen! May all your warps end so well. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

    • Karen says:

      Hi D’Anne, Yes, too close for comfort. When will I learn not to overestimate what I have left? I’ve done this too many times. When you get that far, though, you’re determined to make it work.

      Happy Thanksgiving you and your family, too!

  • Patti Hawryluk says:

    Thank you for your insights! I live in Canada, so we have celebrated Thanksgiving about 5 weeks ago. But a reminded to be grateful is always welcome. May yours be full of both Thanks and Giving.


    • Karen says:

      Hi Patti from Canada, We do need reminders to be grateful. It’s more important than the celebration of a holiday. Thanks for your kind thoughts.

      All the best,

  • Laurie Mrvos says:

    Beautiful post, Karen. Just received the two low profile Hockett shuttles I ordered after reading Handwoven’s article on Finnweave. Glad to have added them to my arsenal.
    Thank you for the beautiful words. I can always count on you for your words of wisdom.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Laurie, I’m sure your new shuttles are beautiful! Yes, it doesn’t hurt to have a low-profile shuttle or two just in case the end of the warp comes a little too soon. 🙂 Of course, these shuttles are also good for proper things like Finnweave and damask weaving.

      I appreciate your sweet sentiments.

      Happy weaving,

  • Lisa says:

    Thank you. Our family has been dealing with one adversity after another this year and I really needed to hear those words in particular today. I can’t tell you how many times standing at the loom has been what helps me make it through the next day.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lisa, It’s not easy to face continued difficulties. If I could be a small part of helping you through that, I’m glad. If only I could reach all the way through and give you a hug, I would. There’s always a new day. Hopefully, your trying times will transition to happier times soon. I’m glad you have your loom.


Leave a Reply

Making this Autumn Rag Rug

I enjoy making it up as I go—changing blocks and switching colors. That’s what I did for the first quarter of this long rug. Then, I made notes of what I did so I could reverse the pattern to the middle of the rug. The entire sequence, then, is repeated for the second half. And now, there are only six more inches to weave on this autumn-toned rug.

Rag rug on the loom. Spaced rep.

First rug on this warp is almost complete.

Because of experience I gained by weaving towels with thick and thin threads, I am quite comfortable designing this rug on the loom. Fabric strips and rug warp = thick and thin. I understand it. On the other hand, for every weaving concept I understand, I realize how much more I don’t know at all. Who can be good at it all?

Cloth beam fills up with a long rag rug.

Cloth beam is wrapped with this long rag rug. Kumihimo braided cord that is attached to my Gingher snips hangs on the corner of the breast beam. I “wear” the snips when I sit down to weave.

Rag rug on the loom. Karen Isenhower

Thick and thin weft enables interesting patterns in the spaced rep rag rug.

I am pretty good at being “good.” But I’m far from perfect. We know that Jesus went about doing good and helping people. So, yes, we can follow his example. But there’s a problem. Being good is not good enough. Our good will never reach perfection. Fortunately, Jesus gave us more than a good example. He gave his life so that we could receive forgiveness for everything in us that is not good. And that is what we call good news!

May your cloth beam fill up with woven goods.

Happy weaving,


  • Joann says:

    I always look forward to your posts. Thank you for showing us your weaving and your love for the Savoir Jesus

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joann, It’s a special pleasure for me to have someone like you with whom I can share my weaving progress and my thoughts.


  • Julia Weldon says:

    Your words: “for every weaving concept I understand, I realize how much more I don’t know at all” remind me of the quotes my high school bible teacher had above the chalk board. This quote has stayed with me ever since,”The bigger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.”

    Your rug is lovely and will warm some feet soon.

  • Annie says:

    I love the way your mind works, Karen, and your hands. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. The brighten my day.

Leave a Reply