Small Tapestry Revived

This little tapestry has been almost finished for a very long time. I stopped short of completion months ago. I’ve missed my small tapestry weaving, so I’m back at it. Only a few steps remain with this one. Soon this little color gradation sweetheart will be on the wall, to be enjoyed.

Small tapestry with color gradation.

Last few picks of this small tapestry are woven in one sitting. Warp thread header and waste yarn are added.

Small tapestry with color gradation.

Small tapestry frame makes an interesting artwork frame. But this tapestry must be removed so another tapestry can begin.

The finishing steps are not difficult. (Rebecca Mezoff gives excellent instructions in Weaving Tapestry on Little Looms.) After the piece is removed from the loom, it is steamed. Then, weft tails are sewn in and/or trimmed on the back. Half Damascus knots secure the warp ends. The hems will be folded under and stitched down. Then, this little masterpiece will be ready for mounting and display.

Weft tails that will be sewn in and/or trimmed.

Tapestry was woven from the front, so all the weft tails are on the back.

Sewing in and trimming weft tails.

Weft tails have been sewn in and/or trimmed on the back of the weaving.

Finishing ends on a small tapestry.

Warp ends are secured with half damascus knots. Two-pound walking weight helps hold the little tapestry in place.

Here is an ancient description of an interesting woman, as told by another woman.

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
—from Solomon’s book of Proverbs

Small tapestry is ready to be hemmed.

Small tapestry with color gradation is ready to be hemmed. Ends will be folded under at the soumak lines, and stitched into place.

This is the type of woman I admire. Wear the best clothes that money can’t buy—strength and dignity. She has optimism. No anger. She speaks with wisdom and kindness. These are finishing touches I ask my Maker to work in me. To be a woman ready for what she was made for.

May you be finished.

Kindest regards,
Karen

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Hint of Shadows

I hope this isn’t cheating, but I added a teeny bit of embroidery to the finished bluebonnets. One thing I learned with this transparency is that an image that looks flat can be improved with a hint of shadows.

Woven transparency just off the loom.

Wide casing at the top and bottom of the bluebonnet transparency make it easy to hang for display. I envision it hanging from a stripped and polished cedar rod, harvested from our Texas hill country property.

I’m thankful for my husband’s artful eye. He helped me identify the “off-screen sunlight” that would produce natural shadows. I am adding a few darker stitches to the right-hand side of some of the lighter areas, and a touch at the sides and lower end of the flower stems. My hope is to give the picture a bit more depth.

Embroidery added to finished woven transparency.

A single strand of mora wool in a darker shade is used to embroider some outline stitches on the right side of some of the bluebonnet petals.

Shadows tell us something: There is a light source. Find out where the light is coming from. That is what it’s like for those seeking God. There are shadows everywhere you look. We see the shadows–the effects of a shining light. And we want to find the source.

Texas Bluebonnets transparency. Karen Isenhower

Hint of shadows helps give shape to the otherwise flat transparency.

Go on a search and exploration expedition. Start with small shadows that you see, the circumstances and blessings that hint at an outside light source. Such seekers may discover that God is just off-screen, waiting to be found.

May you follow where the shadows lead.

With joy,
Karen

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Woven Transparency Cactus Revealed!

It started with a prickly pear cactus in the front yard of our Texas hill country place, and then a photograph. Now, I have a woven representation of this interesting specimen of our Texas landscape! I am hoping that Steve will whittle a rustic rod from which this cactus banner will hang in our home.

Finishing woven transparency of a cactus.

Weaving the casing for the top of the transparency. Linen warp and weft make an appealing mesh that holds and surrounds the pictorial weaving.

Woven transparency of a prickly pear cactus. Just off the loom!

After cutting off, the complete front side of the transparency is seen for the first time.

Eager to hang this transparency, I didn’t want to waste any time. I finished the ends of the piece with a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine. And I sewed casings at the top and bottom. Now, in full view, a little back lighting reveals the complete picture of the woven threads.

Woven transparency. Prickly Pear Cactus. Karen Isenhower

Cactus spines in the woven image seem to reach outward and almost appear three-dimensional.

Detail view of woven transparency cactus.

Detail view of some of the shading in the cactus.

We weave thoughts and ideas in our heart. And when we speak, we bring those thoughts out into the open. Words reveal the treasures of the heart. When we speak words of value, we bring our choicest treasures out in the open. And what a welcome picture that is.

May your words be received as treasures.

Love,
Karen

18 Comments

  • Barbara Crockett says:

    Wow! Looking back at your June 30 post of the photo and how you started this project is fun. The details in the shading create an amazing effect. Great job!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barbara, I’m thinking about framing the cactus photograph to hang near the transparency. The light plays off the yarn and gives it a feel of realism that surprises even me.

      Thanks!
      Karen

  • Deborah Pudliner says:

    Thank you Karen! I am not a weaver, but my daughter is. Each time I read your blog I have been blessed not only in seeing what you are weaving/teaching/learning, but the words you use to share bring it all to life and encourage not only the weavers but those who are blessed in seeing the work of the weaver unfold. May He bless you, encourage you and fill you with wisdom and much joy to continue the work He has to do in you and through you.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Deborah, Thank you for sharing the treasures of your heart with me! Your words have ministered to me today more than you know.

      Blessings,
      Karen

  • Betsy G says:

    Karen
    Well done! The cactus is so realistic with your use of shading. I want to keep clear of those prickers.

  • Maria says:

    Karen- it is absolutely fantastic. I have never done a transparency but I now would love to try . What an inspiration! The stickers on the cactus are so realistic.
    Just fabulous!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Maria, I hope you do try it! This project has been great fun. Transparency weaving is quickly becoming one of my very favorite things to do. It makes me happy that you like the finished piece. That means a lot!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Cindie says:

    Your piece turned out incredible.

  • Beautiful! Weaving transparencies is rather fun! Did you use something other than wool for the spines? Just curious, because sometimes when I weave white wool into a transparency it doesn’t show up very well. One other question – what brand and type of wool did you use for the greens?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lynette, I have to agree – weaving transparencies is fun indeed!

      I did use wool for the cactus spines. All of the wool in this piece is 20/2 Mora. I used 4 strands of yarn in each bundle, which gave me a lot of opportunity to blend colors. Most of the white is white and off-white blended together. By blending 4 strands together, it greatly multiplied my palette of greens. As much as possible, I tried to combine colors that are close in value, so they would really blend together well.

      Thanks for sharing your transparencies with me. Your work has been a huge inspiration!
      Karen

  • D'Anne says:

    The spines definitely look 3D! Great job!! Hope you will bring it to WOW sometime so we can see it in person.

  • Cindy Bills says:

    Thank you for showing us the finished piece. It is lovely! I find your whole process of transparency weaving to be fascinating.

  • Emily says:

    Hi, I came across this post while searching for information about using linen weft for tapestry. I had never heard of transparency weaving before and it has spurred a huge interest for me! I bought a book– I forget the author but I believe it’s the only one in English– and have been learning a ton. I can’t wait to try this out. I weave on a Mirrix, and don’t have a floor loom, but I am fairly confident I can make that work. It will be strange for me not to really pack my weft, and to put two wefts in the same shed. Can’t wait!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Emily, How exciting! The book I’m familiar with is “Sheer Delight: Handwoven Transparencies,” by Doramay Keasbey. It’s an excellent book, and very inspiring.

      I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t weave a transparency on your Mirrix loom. I hope you enjoy this type of weaving as much as I do!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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Tools Day: Narrow Hems

Hems shouldn’t be noticed. At least, not at first glance. I don’t want the stitching of the hem to detract from the overall handwoven quality. Decorative items, like this table runner, deserve a hand-stitched hem. But for functional pieces, like these tea towels, I stitch the hems on my trusty old Bernina sewing machine. This ensures the durability I want for something that will be thrown in the washer and dryer again and again.

Long M's and O's table runner is hemmed by hand.

Long M’s and O’s table runner is hemmed by hand using an invisible hem stitch.

Last year I purchased a Bernina walking foot through my local Bernina repairman. It was one of the best sewing investments I have made. (Don’t be fooled by off-brand “Bernina compatible” products.) The advantage of a walking foot is that it evenly feeds layers of fabric, which is especially useful for sewing handwoven fabric. And for the towel hem, it means the top of the hem won’t become skewed and slanted as you sew, like it might with a regular sewing machine foot.

Bernina Walking Foot - good investment!

Bernina Three Sole Walking Foot with Seam Guide. The walking foot stays on my Bernina sewing machine almost all the time.

One of the three sole plates that comes with the Bernina walking foot is a sole for edge stitching. This works beautifully for stitching a narrow hem on lighter-weight fabric, like these airy cotton and linen towels.

My process for a machine-stitched narrow hem

  • Turn and press the 1/4″ hem twice. Hold the folded edge in place with small fabric clips.
Sewing narrow hems on handwoven towels.

Small fabric clips hold the folded and pressed towel hem in place, in preparation for stitching the hem.

  • At the sewing machine, attach the edge-stitching sole plate to the walking foot. Align the fold of the hem with the edge-stitching guide.
Bernina walking foot with stitch guide.

Sole with stitch guide. The metal plate that extends below the foot is a steady guide that works for sewing a narrow hem, as well as for top-stitching, or “stitch-in-the-ditch” techniques.

  • Adjust the sewing machine needle to the right, so that it catches the fabric just inside the edge of the fold.
Sewing hems on handwoven towels.

Sewing the narrow hem. Needle is positioned so that it is to the right of the hem fold.

Slowly sew a narrow hem, keeping the folded edge next to the walking foot’s edge-stitching guide. Remove fabric clips before they come to the needle.

Hemming handwoven towels.

Front and back of the hem have consistent, straight stitching. The narrow hem (not yet pressed) will be barely visible.

May your hems be a suitable frame for your handiwork.

Finishing,
Karen

10 Comments

  • Cate says:

    I’m going to have to visit a Bernina dealer soon and get one of these for my machine. I really love that little stitch guide! Brilliant!

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Really pretty project! I inherited a Bernina last Summer but I have yet to play. My Elna sits in a cabinet making the sewing surface larger and at a much better level. I need a cabinet (and more floor space) for the Bernina. Sewing with my arms raised above cabinet height causes me too much shoulder/neck pain. Any suggestions would be welcome, Karen. The walking foot lives on the Elna most of the time.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, It’s not worth it to get shoulder/neck pain! I have never had a sewing machine cabinet, but my Bernina sits on a small lower-height table that Steve made for me eons ago. Table and chair height make a huge difference. Maybe you can find a lower table or an adjustable chair that you can raise to sit a little higher. I use an adjustable swivel desk chair at mine.

      I’ve always heard that an Elna is a great machine. So maybe just stick with that. 🙂 (but I do love my trusty old Bernina…ha)

      Happy pain-free sewing,
      Karen

  • D'Anne Craft says:

    The M’s and O’s fabric turned out beautifully, just like all your weaving. I’m a Bernina gal, too.

    • Karen says:

      Hi D’Anne, I’m very happy with the way the M’s and O’s turned out! I got started with Bernina many years ago. It’s the only sewing machine I’ve owned. I don’t think it will ever wear out.

      Karen

  • Mary says:

    I too recently invested in a walking foot and what a difference it makes in my hems.j I no longer dread this part of finishing. Do you like those hem clips better than straight pinning.? Where do you find the clips?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mary, I do prefer the fabric clips over pins for simple stitching like this. It’s quick and easy, and there is no distortion of the fabric. Also, there is no threat of snagging the fabric with a rough pin. Of course, I do use straight pins for sewing that requires more detail.

      I got my clips at Hobby Lobby, but I think you can find them at most places that have quilting supplies.

      Karen

  • Suzy says:

    What size machine needle do you use for your handwovens?
    I am experiencing some pulled threads, and wonder if it’s the needle, or the
    8/2 cotton I/m weaving with?
    Thanks, suzy

    • Karen says:

      Hi Suzy,
      The 8/2 cotton shouldn’t make a difference at all. I use a size 70 or 80 machine needle, depending on the weight of the fabric. A finer needle for finer fabric. For very delicate fabric, sometimes I put in a ballpoint needle.

      The size of the needle probably doesn’t make that big a difference. If I had to guess, though, I would guess that your needle needed to be replaced. Sewing machine needles can get little nicks and burrs on them, even after just a little bit of use, and that can cause pulled threads. I often put in a new sewing machine needle before I start sewing on handwoven fabric.

      Karen

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Cutting Off Celebration!

Is there anything as exciting as cutting off? Oh sure, there will be some errors to mend. And only wet finishing will reveal the true nature of the cloth. But after investing hours and hours at the loom, cutting the fabric off is a celebration. This is the moment when the work of this weaver’s hands is finally revealed!

While admiring and examining the fabric as it comes off the loom, I am already moving onto the next step–finishing. Here are a few of my regular practices.

  • Thread-mark the right side of the fabric on each sample and individual piece before completely removing the fabric from the loom. This removes guesswork later. Thread a blunt-tip needle with 6 – 8″ of warp or weft thread, and make a 1/2″ stitch through the fabric. Leaving a loose loop, tie the ends of the thread together in a square knot on the right side of the fabric.
Weaving tip: Thread-mark the fabric.

Knot in the thread tells me that this is the right side of the fabric. Thread marks are sewn onto each piece before removing the fabric from the loom if the difference between the right and wrong side of the fabric is less than obvious. Thread marks remain until hems are turned under.

  • Tie sequential knots in the thread marks. e.g., First towel has one knot, second towel has 2 knots, etc. This enables accurate record-keeping measurements before and after wet finishing for individual items.
Weaving tip: How I number the towels on a warp.

After washing, I count the number of knots in the thread to know which towel is which. Before and after measurements enable me to calculate the amount of shrinkage that occurs, which helps for planning future projects.

  • Cut pieces apart before washing.

1. Two weft picks have been woven for each cutting line. The two threads make an easy guide path for the scissors.

Cutting line between woven items.

Cutting line for separating the woven pieces. Cut between the two red weft threads.

2. Use the same cutting-line color for every project (I use red, unless red is one of the weft colors in the project). This helps prevent accidental cutting at weft design stripes in the piece (which I did once –Oops!– before establishing this rule).

3. Pull out the cutting-line threads. Any remaining thread residue is easily removed with a lint roller.

Pulling out the cutting line.

Red cutting line thread pulls off, leaving a straight woven edge for finishing.

  • Finish the cut edges with an overlock stitch on a serger or with a zigzag stitch (preferably a three-stitch zigzag, according to my friend, Elisabeth) on a sewing machine.
Getting ready to wet finish these M's and O's towels!

All items are prepared for washing. Errors have been mended, and cut edges have been finished with the serger.

M's and O's (Sålldräll) after washing. Karen Isenhower

Lovely texture of the M’s and O’s (Sålldräll) structure is revealed after washing. A few more finishing steps remain: pressing, adding handwoven hanging tabs, and hemming.

Humans are not finished until they are loved. Love is patience and kindness at the core. We want to be on the receiving end of that, don’t we? We all need someone to love us–to carry our burdens, to believe us, to hope the best for us, to endure with us. It’s in the finishing that we discover the value, the corrections needed, and the beauty that has been woven in. This is the love of God to us. This is the finishing work of Jesus Christ, and his love in us.

May you have many cutting-off celebrations.

With love,
Karen

PS It’s good to be back with you! I hope you had a pleasant and weaving-full July.

20 Comments

  • Carol Ashworth says:

    Nice ideas! God is good God is great!! It’s is true JOY when we give ourselves to Jesus Others and You!!

  • Marjorie says:

    Nice to have you back again!

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Great to have you back! These are going to be beautiful! Nice tips.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, Thank you so much! I am thrilled to be here.
      These towels and table runner are going to be some of my very favorite handwoven items. They are simply elegant.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • carla weitzel says:

    I was happy to see this post. I was never sure if I should cut towels apart before or after laundering. This seems much easier.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Carla, I like to cut towels apart before washing because a long piece tends to twist up more, which can lead to some permanent creases. In fact, I had some problem with that on the long table runner in this set. If I have an extra-short sample, I may leave it connected to a towel and then cut them apart after washing, so the short piece doesn’t get too battered in the wash.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Cherie says:

    I so look forward to your posts! So often I am encouraged to try new ideas, and always walk away with a sense of blessings and community! Thank you!

    I usually weave 1 3/4″ with sewing thread on the ends so that my hems are not thick. (But I am mostly using 5/2 cotton at this point, as a new weaver.) I see you are not…is this because you are using finer yarns?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cherie, I love the community of friends here! I’m glad you get that same sense.

      Great question! Thanks for asking. I’ve never used a different thread for my hems than what is in the towel or other item. I think that’s a great idea if you are using coarser threads. The weft in these towels is 20/1 linen, so it’s pretty fine to start with. I like to think of the hems as a design element of the towel, so the weft choice plays into that.

      All the best,
      Karen

      • Anonymous says:

        Your weaving is beautiful.
        I’ve used rug warp for my hems when doing rag rugs and always put in the contrasting cutting line, but with the coarser fabric I also try to zig-zag before cutting apart. I don’t have a serger and by careful folding one rug will fit under the machine arm. Cut one off and then sew the next one 🙂

        • Karen says:

          Thank you for the compliment!

          I’ve used rug warp for hems on rag rugs, too. Sounds like you have a great system! Thanks for sharing.

          All the best,
          Karen

  • Liberty Stickney says:

    Morning Karen, glad your back and all these towels are beautiful!
    Liberty

    • Karen says:

      Hi Liberty, I’m glad to be back! These towels turned out even better than I had hoped. I’m glad you like them.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Betty Morrissey says:

    Thank you for sharing your tips and practices! Lovely towels.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betty, It’s a joy for me to get to share about the things I’ve learned and stumbled onto along the way. Thanks for letting me know you get something out of it.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Angie says:

    Happy to see you back as well. I did take notice that you had separated the towels before washing, seems it would work much nicer.Thanks for your wonderful tips and messages.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Angie, Thanks for the warm greeting! Separating the towels before washing does work well for me. And then, after drying them and pressing them, they are ready for hemming.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Julie says:

    Hi Karen

    I just love your videos and I am learning so much from them, and they are truly inspiring, I hope to be able to weave as beautifully as you do one day. I’m a newbie to weaving you see so I’m watching loads of videos at the minute. I have just managed to pick up a Glimakra standard countermarch loom second hand (with 8 shafts and 8 treadles) and I am so lucky have it. However, there are no videos on the web or on Youtube (that I can find) about seeing how the lams operate and about how to tie up lams with shafts and treadles according to the desired pattern. So any advise or comments would be hugely appreciated. I have seen other tie up videos but with different looms so unsure if its kind of the same??

    Can’t wait to see your next project x

    • Karen says:

      Hi Julie, I am so happy to hear that you are learning things from my videos! Thanks for letting me know.

      How exciting that you ended up with an 8-shaft Glimakra Standard countermarch loom! You will love it!! It will take some learning and practice, but you will find it is a great loom for anything you want to weave.

      There are some excellent books that describe in detail how the lamms and treadles are tied up on a countermarch loom. Different types of looms do have different ways of being tied up. I have listed my three favorite resources at the end of the post at this link: Quiet Friday: Warping Back to Front with Confidence.

      If you are reading a Scandinavian weaving draft, the upper lamms correspond with the black squares in the draft, and the lower lamms correspond with the white (or empty) squares in the draft. (I hope that is helpful!)

      My next project on this loom (Glimakra Ideal) will be rag rugs. But first, I’m going to concentrate on the other loom (my Glimakra Standard) to make significant progress on that project!

      Let me know how it goes as you get set up and get started weaving.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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