New Year of Weaving Progress

This year is different. I’m going to get organized, keep every loom dressed, and bake fruit pies for my husband! Alas, good intentions are not a reliable measure of what my progress will be. I always want to do more than what I manage to get done.

Finishing work for cotton placemats.

Before washing and drying the fabric I examine it. I look for errors and clip off any weft tails.

Luggage ribbons made from handwoven scraps.

I cut the placemats to a uniform size. Scraps that were cut off will be used as ribbons to mark luggage for my daughter’s family as they prepare to travel. I simply zigzagged the edges of the scraps.

I washed, pressed, hemmed, and pressed again the twelve placemats. Finishing is finished. It’s a nice way to end one year and start the next. Measurable progress.

Pressing handwoven placemats.

Pressing in the dining room.

Twelve handwoven cotton placemats.

Twelve handwoven placemats. No two alike. Basket weave, color and weave effects. 8/2 cotton warp and weft.

Thankfully, our value isn’t wrapped up in what we accomplish. Or what we don’t. We need the Lord’s grace. It’s strength that’s beyond our own strength. Grow in grace. Grow in strength. That’s my prayer this year for you and for me.

New handwoven cotton placemats.

Welcome. Grace spoken here.

May your value be wrapped up in grace.

Happy New Weaving Year,
Karen

25 Comments

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Quiet Friday: Square Dots

It was six weeks ago that I began winding the warp for these towels. The thread for my next Glimåkra Standard project is due to arrive tomorrow. Just like I like it—revolving door weaving. I have no doubt that this set of towels will become family favorites. They are a feast for the eyes, and a tactile delight for the hands. Seeing the color on the reverse side takes my breath away. This whole experience has been the weaving satisfaction that I’ve come to cherish!

"Square Dot" towels. Satin dräll. Karen Isenhower

Square Dot towels. Ten shafts, ten treadles. Two block five-shaft satin dräll. 8/2 cotton warp. Weft is 8/2 cotton and 22/2 cottolin, and 16/2 linen for the white stripes on the red towel.

I did face difficulties near the end of the warp. The shed started deteriorating with some of the shafts, but I was determined to finish off the last towel to its full length. That meant coaxing the low profile shuttle through for a few inches. Consequently, I did have more errant floats to repair than usual. But, isn’t it wonderful that we can fix just about anything in this weaving adventure?

Fixing floats on a towel that was at the end of the warp.

End of warp. What I didn’t see at the loom is that one shaft in particular was not behaving. There were at least eight floats along that one warp end. After repairs and washing and pressing, the errors are barely noticeable.

I made a warp from thread on leftover quills to weave up some hanging tabs on my band loom for three of the towels. And I found a linen piece in my “band stash” that is perfect for the red and white towel.

Enjoy the slideshow that I made for you with details of the process.

May you weave some family favorites.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

16 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Oh, these are lovely! Both sides!

  • Karen, these are beautiful! Your color choices are wonderful.

    Does your pattern have a balanced tie-up? I’m ready to try a ten shaft pattern on my ten shaft counterbalance loom, but it would have to be a balanced tie-up in order for me to use the dräll pulleys. Is the pattern readily available? Where would I look?

    I enjoy reading your blog posts.
    Jenny B

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jenny, Thank you! Managing color choices is one of the things I enjoy most in my weaving space, so I really appreciate your compliment.

      You can find this draft in The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell, p.172 (mine is “Sample 8”).

      Joanne Hall tells me that it is possible to tie up the two block satin with a counterbalance tie-up. The tie-up on countermarch is a little easier than a counterbalance tie-up, but she has seen weavers able to weave this very fast on a counterbalance loom.

      I’ll be interested in hearing if you try it.
      Happy weaving,
      Karen

      • I have the book. I’m excited to give this pattern a try. It has so many possibilities. My loom has been empty for over a month due to lack of inspiration and other life problems getting in the way. Hopefully I can get something on Julie in a few days.

        Hopefully you won’t mind if some of mine end up similar to yours. I think it was the colors that attracted me to the weave first, and then seeing the reverse side made me love them even more.

        Thanks for steering me to the pattern.

        Jenny B

        • Karen says:

          Hi Jenny, I would be thrilled to pieces and honored if you chose to weave something similar to mine! Oh I do hope your inspiration at the loom returns quickly, and that some of the weight you carry is lifted.

          The reverse side is amazing!

          In case it helps, here are the colors I used: (All Bockens)

          Warp – 8/2 cotton #471 lt red (it’s coral to me)
          Weft –
          1. 8/2 cotton #557 slate with band of 22/2 cottolin #2003 silver
          2. 8/2 cotton #470 beige with band of 22/2 cottolin #2004 gray
          3. cottolin #2080 red with band of 16/2 linen #0005 golden bleached
          4. cottolin #2017 rust with band of 8/2 cotton #470 beige (This one has the least contrast, and it is also my favorite.)

          Very happy weaving to you,
          Karen

  • Kay Larson says:

    They are just lovely! I look forward to seeing your next project.
    Kay

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kay, It won’t be long before you see my next project! I’m pretty excited about it…as always. 🙂
      Thanks so much for your kind words!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Joanne Hall says:

    That was a great slide show. And yes, the two block satin is such a beautiful weave. And your colors are so nice. Thanks for taking the time to share what you are weaving.
    Joanne

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanne, I appreciate your thoughtful words. That means so much to me! I’m accumulating a long list of things that I want to do more of, and this two block satin weave is one of them.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Liberty says:

    Oh Karen, I love these, my favorite color! Thanks for the slide show, it’s fun to see your whole process!!

  • Ruth says:

    Such beautiful work AGAIN! You are an inspiration and offer such an open and positive approach to fixing weaving issues. I recently finished an M’s and O’s table cloth with many floats over the last couple of inches of weaving due to a decreasing shed. Like you I was determined to have the whole length of that cloth. I thought I’d fixed all the floats but keep finding them as I use the cloth. Enjoy your new favorites.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ruth, Oh I have floats in cloth that I use, too. They do like to hide when we have that needle out. Haha! But really, it’s a mark of distinction because it proves our fabric is handmade.

      Your kind words are a sweet encouragement to me. Thank you so much!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Angela W says:

    I’m new to weaving and discovered your blog. It has been very helpful. Thank you for all the good information especially your glossary. But what I have found most wonderful are the words of hope and encouragement to trust in our Lord. I really needed that right now. Blessings to you, Karen.

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Quiet Friday: Linen Satin Dräll

This is one of those weaving projects that puts you on top of the world. Everything about it. Linen, ten shafts, five-shaft satin weave, ten treadles, gorgeous Moberg damask shuttle, single-shuttle rhythm, full-body weaving, magical fabric. I did have more than my share of knots in the warp, and a few skipped threads and selvedge loops. But you will see no evidence of those glitches now. All you will see is the natural beauty of linen, with its characteristic unevenness. And the reflective satin dräll weave, with its light-catching trickery.

The warp is Bockens unbleached 16/2 line linen. Two of the towels use 16/1 golden bleached linen for the weft. At my husband’s request, the remaining three towels have 16/2 linen weft, in ecru. The thicker weft helps make these into robust absorbent handtowels. A table square finishes off the set.

Enjoy the process with me as I reminisce over the start-to-finish pleasure of weaving these towels.

Winding a linen warp.

Linen warp chains.

Tying on the linen warp.

Tying up 10 treadles on a countermarch!

Sampling weft colors on a linen warp.

Sunlit linen damask weaving.

Hidden patterns in the 5-shaft satin.

Linen 5-shaft satin dräll!

Beautiful Moberg damask shuttle.

Spliced warp ends.

Linen satin dräll on the loom.

End of the warp is near. So many warp end repairs!

Cutting off! Linen 5-shaft satin dräll.

Just off the loom--linen 5-shaft satin.

Glimakra band loom. Hanging tabs for towels.

Ready to sew handwoven hanging tabs on new linen towels.

Just off the loom--linen 5-shaft satin handtowels.

Handwoven linen towel with handwoven hanging tab.

Handwoven set of linen satin dräll towels. Karen Isenhower

May you find pleasure in what you do.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

18 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Exquisite, Karen!

  • JAN says:

    Nice finishing touch with hand woven hanging tab. Had you ever though of putting another one in the middle of the long edge so the towel can be hung on a hook above the sink?

    • Karen says:

      Hi JAN, I haven’t done that, but it’s a great idea. I would need to figure out how to attach it, since there is not a hem on the side. These tabs would be a little too thick to fold the ends under, but could certainly do that with tabs made with thinner threads. Have you done it?

      Thanks,
      Karen

  • Janet says:

    Beautiful towels and beautifully woven!

  • Betsy says:

    Wonderful towels! And I’m so impressed that your husband knows enough about yarn to recommend 16/2 over 16/1.

    Your little bowl of pegs next to the treadles reminds me of my last project, huck placemats. I could remember the treadling, but not the 18 repeats. So I had a bowl like yours with 18 pegs, and after every repeat I moved one peg to another bowl. And every once in a while I’d crawl around the Julia counting the repeats in case I made a mistake, lol.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, Haha, I may have given the wrong impression about my husband. He specified thicker, less dainty towels, and I chose the appropriate size of linen.

      What a great way to keep track of repeats. I’m going to remember that!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nancy Nordquist says:

    These are absolutely beautiful! Than you for sharing so many photos and details of the process.

  • Joanne Hall says:

    Yes, this weave is magical and so fun to weave. And thank you for the beauticul photos. Did you use your phone to take these photos?
    Joanne

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanne, I feel so “at home” weaving something like this. It is satisfying and rewarding.

      I use my iPhone 7 for all my photos. Steve has a very nice digital SLR camera, but I do best with the simple little iPhone. And it’s always in my pocket or on the table beside me. I take way too many pictures, and then I whittle them down to my very favorites to share here.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Barb says:

    Beautiful design, beautifully woven. The joy & pleasure you have in weaving shows in every finished project. Each time you use these towels, you will be reminded of your enjoyment of the process of weaving. Thank you for sharing your talents and inspiring other weavers to find that joy!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barb, Your thoughtful comments mean so much! If I can inspire another weaver to find a little more joy in this wonderful weaving process, that would be fantastic!
      Part of the pleasure of having towels like this in my home is getting to see others enjoy the results, too.

      Thanks so much,
      Karen

  • Angela says:

    Beautiful and inspirational!

  • Gretchen says:

    Love these Karen!! So simple and classic… and perfect! Beautiful.

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How Many Square Knots?

Would you like to tie 1,890 knots? These rag rugs have more warp ends than usual. Every four warp ends are tied into a square knot, and pulled tight. With 756 ends and five rugs, the knots add up! But it’s the best way I know to make the rug permanently secure. Hand-stitched hems will finalize the process. Three of the five spaced rep rugs are finished and hemmed. Two to go.

Rag rug finishing. Tying square knots.

Four warp ends are tied into a square knot. Plastic quilters clip keeps tied ends out of the way.

Tying knots on rag rug warp ends.

Sacking needles are used for easing the warp ends out of the scrap weft, and for wrapping the thread around to tie tight knots, as shown in this short video: Quick Tip: Square Knots Without Blisters.

Finishing work for rag rugs.

Progress.

Christmas is about a heavenly promise. Jesus is the promise of God. Jesus—the word of God in person. The promise of God is as near as our own mouths and our own hearts—we say it and believe it. The promise is brought to us by grace, which means all the knots have been tied for us, and the hem is stitched. It is finished. And we enjoy the permanent security of the Savior’s redemptive love. This is no magic carpet, but a handwoven rug with rags that have been made beautiful.

May you enjoy a promise fulfilled.

Have a grace-filled Christmas,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    That’s a lot of knots! Wondering, since the hems will be turned under could the ends be secured with machine zig zag stitching?

    Merry Christmas, Karen! Thank you for bringing me joy with your posts. I look forward to seeing them.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, I have tried machine zig-zag stitching on some smaller pieces. It’s tricky to get the zig-zag stitches to catch every warp end. But you have a good point. That would certainly shorten the finishing time! I should do some experiments with that.

      It’s such a treat for me to know that you enjoy these posts!
      Merry Christmas to you,
      Karen

      • Karen, if you are worrying about catching every thread with the zig-zag, a row or two of close straight stitch would work. Personally, I use my serger, set with a closer than usual stitch, but not every weaver has one. It is much faster with either method.

        The only time I tied knots like you are doing was when I was binding the ends with a cloth binding. That many knots does give sore fingers!

        I enjoy your posts and your witness messages.

        • Karen says:

          Hi Jenny, Thanks for the pointer about using straight stitches or a serger. The Swedish weaving books that I have instruct to tie knots, so I’ve been following those guidelines. I always appreciate hearing other efficient ways to do things!

          Have a good Christmas!
          Karen

  • Annie Lancaster says:

    I learn so much from you, Karen, both weaving wisdom and spiritual wisdom.

    I am planning to attempt my first rag rug in January. I have already warped my Rigid Heddle loom but I am waiting for January when Ashford will have a Freedom roller available for me to roll the bulky cloth onto the front beam. I am both excited and apprehensive about the new challenge.

    Thank you for sharing your rag rug tips.
    Merry Christmas, Karen!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, I knew I wanted to weave rag rugs long before I had a floor loom on which to weave them. So, my first rag weaving was on my 32” Beka rigid heddle loom. I didn’t exactly make a rug, but some rag-woven fabric that I turned into little pocketbooks and things.

      I predict you are really going to enjoy the experience!

      Your kind words mean so much to me.
      Merry Christmas,
      Karen

  • Joanna says:

    I just employed an earlier tip, the treadle adjustment cheat sheet, and it’s exceptionally helpful in keeping me on the right treadle. Like so many others, I eagerly look forward to your posts and not just for the weaving tips. Due to a health issue I must avoid large groups so your loving words about our Lord are a major source of spiritual comfort. Thanks for everything!

    May He who gave Light to the world bring you joy this Christmastide.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, I’m touched by your kind thoughts. It is very satisfying to hear that my weaving tips and spiritual insights fall into welcoming hearts.

      Joy to you,
      Karen

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Tools Day: Needles

Even though there are dozens of needles in and around my weaving and sewing spaces, nine stand out from the rest. These go-to needles have earned special favor. As essential tools, these needles have specific holders and permanent homes.

The 9 needles I use most for handweaving.

  • Sharp needles: hand-hemming, hand-sewing, stitching on labels, and stitching a tapestry to a linen mat for mounting (curved needle)
    HOLDER: Pincushion I made in 1980
    HOME: Sewing supply closet, “Needles and Pins” drawer

Sharp needles for hand-hemming. 1980 pin cushion.

Stitching labels onto handwoven towels.

Hand hemming handwoven table runner.

  • Blunt tapestry needles, small and medium: hemstitching, stitching a thread mark to the right side of the fabric, sewing in tapestry weft tails, finishing work—needle-weaving for corrections and repairs
    HOLDER: Remnant of cotton handwoven plain weave fabric
    HOME: Loom-side cart, top drawer

Handy needles to keep by the loom.

Blunt needles by the loom.

Steve sanded and rounded the tips of the needles to make them blunt. A needle with a rounded tip won’t pierce and split the threads.

Hemstitching at the loom.

Sewing in weft tails in the back of a tapestry.

  • Blunt tapestry needles, large: hemstitching, hand-hemming rugs, weaving small tapestries
    HOLDER: Felted inkle-woven tape
    HOME: cutting/work table, Grandma’s old sewing tin

Felted inkle-woven needle holder.

Rag rug hemming by hand.

Hemming a handwoven rag rug.

  • Sacking needles: pulling rag rug warp ends out of scrap weft, threading warp ends back into a wool rug (I did this…once)
    HOLDER: straw-woven pouch from a trip to The Philippines
    HOME: weaving supply closet, top drawer on the left

Woven pouch from The Philippines.

Tying warp ends into knots. Rag rug finishing.

May you find the needle you need when you need a needle.

All the best,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Nanette says:

    Works for you, and a beautiful system! I have several “work stations” (sounds more organized than it is!) on two floors. So, my “system” is four (handwoven of course!) pin cushions, each with a variety of the needles, in various places. Not ideal, I suppose, because often the needles “migrate” and the right one is sometimes not in the right place! Do enjoy all your posts.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nanette, I like how you call them “work stations.” It does sound very orderly. I do understand how those needles can migrate! Mine do that sometimes, too. At least we have some sort of system…

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Elisabeth Munkvold says:

    I love how you store the different needles you use! It makes so much sense. In addition to being a beautiful way to preserve memories, I really like the make-do approach, too.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Elisabeth, I enjoy finding creative solutions to keeping things somewhat organized. I may have learned that from you. 🙂
      It is sweet to find ways to use special items, like my Grandma’s sewing tin.

      Merry Christmas,
      Karen

  • Beth says:

    You’re inspiring me to make something out of a handwoven scrap for needles and get them out of the little plastic box.

  • faun says:

    my great aunt did a similar checkerboard pattern
    “https://flic.kr/p/EnVPZE”

    my needles will migrate thanx to the intervention of critters.
    filling your pincushion with wool fleece with the natural lanolin
    will help prevent rusting- cotton will collect moisture and help them rust
    so wool cloth for your pin cushions is better in the long run too.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Faun, It looks like your great aunt’s rug uses thick and thin weft, like mine. Nice!

      Thanks for the tip about wool for pincushions. Good to know!

      All the best,
      Karen

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