Quiet Friday: Linen Upholstery Fabric

Do you dream of making upholstery fabric? I do. There are four chair seats at our Texas hill country home that I want to re-cover. Now I have custom upholstery fabric!

Linen on the cloth beam.

Linen upholstery fabric on the loom.

Cutting off never loses its excitement! I have one long piece of yardage, with no separations or divisions.

Cutting off! Linen upholstery fabric.

Cutting off! Linen.

New linen fabric.

Light through the linen fabric. Cutting off!

Tie-on bar as linen fabric is unrolled.

Just off the loom, the hefty linen fabric (8/2 linen, warp and weft) is stiff and unyielding. Will this window-screen material make suitable upholstery that’s soft enough to sit on? Yet, even in this state, the linen beckons and intrigues.

Unwashed new linen fabric.

First, the edges are serged. I check for weaving errors, finding none. There are spliced warp ends in five places, which are trimmed.

Unwashed new linen fabric.

I make a large tube by basting the two ends of the yardage together, to reduce twisting in the wash. The washing machine (top loader) works as a soaking tub first. The linen slowly soaks up water in the tub, relaxing there for an hour or two. Then it’s time to wash and dry. The first time, I omit the spin cycle and remove it from the dryer while still damp, to prevent permanent creasing.

New handwoven linen fabric just washed.

New handwoven linen fabric just washed.

And then, I wash and dry the yardage again.

New handwoven fabric after second wash.

Custom handwoven linen upholstery fabric!

Talk about softening up! Oh, I wish you could be here to handle it with me! This is dreamy linen fabric, perfect for sitting.

Just woven custom linen upholstery fabric.

May your fabric dreams come true.

Happy weaving,


  • Betsy says:

    What a great project! What sett did you use and how much shrinkage did you get with washing and drying. I have some dining room chairs that I want to recover. Your project may be the “kick” that I need to go from dreaming to doing.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, So I’m not the only one who thinks of weaving fabric to recover chairs…
      The sett is 15 epi. I haven’t done the final measuring yet. I’ll report back later today with the shrinkage after I’ve done that.

      Happy weaving,

    • Karen says:

      Betsy, I have the shrinkage figures for you.

      I had 12% shrinkage in width and about 15% shrinkage in length. The fabric was washed in warm water and dried on a medium setting.


      • Betsy says:

        Thank you for the info. That will help in my planning. I was just looking at a book by Ann Sutton called Color and Weave Design that has handreds of designs. They are all in black and white yarn and the book is arranged like pages of gamps.


        • Karen says:

          Betsy, Sounds like a fascinating book. I’ll have to look that up.

          Send me a picture (Karen @ warpedforgood . com) when you get something going. I’d enjoy seeing what you come up with.


          • Betsy says:

            My current project is to make a jacket to through on on summer evenings. I’ve just wound a warp with 3/2 cotton for sampling. I’ll move on to upholstery fabric after I finish the jacket.

  • Shari says:

    Absolutely lovely! It looks like two colors. What colors did you use. Looks like grey or brown. What’s the weave structure? 4 or 8? Absolutely lovely!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Shari, This is 8/2 line linen, unbleached and golden bleached. The look of natural linen is pleasing! Four shaft plain weave, with color and weave effect. Only two treadles! This was relatively fast and easy weaving.

      Happy weaving,

  • Bev says:

    Love linen (having learned to spin on it decades ago) I really need to get my looms going. Thanks to your examples and encouragement.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Bev, I admire anyone who can spin, especially linen! I’m happy to hear that you’re feeling prompted to get weaving looms going. That makes me smile!

      Happy weaving,

  • Kathryn says:

    This is so beautiful Karen! I have a padded piano bench that was my mothers that I have been wanting to recover and this is the inspiration that I needed to get going.

    I’ll take any opportunity to work with linen and I just love the combination of unbleached and golden. I’m wondering if a shadow and weave pattern would also work with this color combination of linen. The pattern might be more subtle, but could be interesting!


    • Karen says:

      Kathryn, How lovely to weave fabric for your piano bench! I think this weight linen will work well for seat and piano bench covers.
      The unbleached and golden linen give only a subtle pattern, so if you want the pattern to be more noticeable, you’d want higher contrast in the colors. I don’t have experience with shadow weave, so I’m probably not the best one to ask about that.

      I’d love to see what you come up with!

      And, yay!, another weaving upholstery dreamer…

      All the best,

  • Janet H says:

    Your fabric came out beautifully (LOVE it)–I do so want to touch it! Do you have to do any special handling while weaving with linen (I have no experience with linen)? And how do you handle the fabric from the washer without using the spin cycle? Isn’t it heavy and dripping with water?

    • Karen says:

      Janet, Linen works best with a little extra care, but I find it a special pleasure to weave with linen. I have a sidebar with tips for linen in my Dice Weave Pillows project in Jan/Feb 2016 Handwoven.

      Generally, you want good, even tension across the warp as you beam the warp. Avoid abrasion as much as possible, for which a temple is helpful. And, sometimes a little moisture will help if you have warp ends breaking.

      Near the end of the rinse cycle I stand at the washing machine and listen for the water to drain out. When it sounds like the last little bit has drained and the spin has started, I stop the machine. If there is still too much water in the fabric at that point, I even out the yardage, untwisting and unfolding it as much as possible and then turn it on and let it just barely spin. That gets enough water out so it’s not dripping wet, and I can to move it to the dryer.

      For smaller pieces, like towels, I don’t mind if they are wet and dripping. I roll them in dry towels to remove moisture before putting them in the dryer, or laying them flat to dry.

      By the way, this piece of linen yardage is heavy even when dry. When I first pulled it out of the washer it was really heavy!

      Thanks for asking,

  • Libby says:

    Hi Karen,
    This is just beautiful! What a good idea to cover your chairs, I’ve done that many times over the years, but yours will be so nice. I can’t wait to see them done!!

  • Hi Karen,
    In 1991 my mother-in-law was going through her attic and handed me some yardage that her mother wove on a loom made by her father. It was of pearl cotton with one in a birds eye weave of red and cream. I put them away because the fabrics had no purpose in my house hold with young children

    When we put together a weekend home I used one of the pieces to cover second hand dining room chairs. The result proves the rule to use beautiful things.

    Your beautiful newly covered chairs will give you years of enjoyment.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, Oh how wonderful! Thanks for sharing your experience. That’s great that you were able to put that special fabric to good use.

      I look forward to putting these chair seats together and sharing my enjoyment of them with my family and friends. It’s a great way to be able to see and feel the handwoven fabric in daily living.

      Thanks for your sweet encouragement,

  • Doris says:

    Hi Karen
    You have woven a very wonderful fabric, that certainly gives great chairs
    Kind regards

  • Elisabeth says:

    This fabric is gorgeous! Such a pleasant weight linen and the beautiful suble texture and pattern really adds to its beauty!
    I strongly believe that surrounding ourselves with things made with passion and love, and out of quality materials do something to us. I am convinced that the qualities put into it by the maker follow the item and is sensed by the user. It is so satisfying to touch, use, and take care of things like these. And they age so beautifully 🙂
    Thank you for so generously sharing your passion!

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Karen says:

      Hi Elisabeth, You have a way with words. I enjoy hearing your thoughts—so rich and insightful. I agree, it is immensely satisfying to surround ourselves with beautiful things that are made by hand, with love mixed in.

      Happy weaving, friend,

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Tools Day: Eliminating Warp Knots

You are not going to believe how many knots I came across in this 16/2 linen warp! Too many. As I wound the warp I made the decision to leave most of the knots, and deal with them on the loom. (I did remove knots that were close to the beginning or ending peg on the warping reel.) I lost count, but I’m sure I have spliced the warp on this five-and-a-half-meter project at least a dozen times. (To see more details about how I splice the warp, visit this blog post and video: How To Splice the Warp – Video.)

I do not weave over warp knots. A knot introduces a spot of vulnerability to the fabric. Knots can fray, loosen, or come undone over time, even if the knot is originally imperceptible.

In a couple instances, a knot distorted the tension of the warp end because of catching on a heddle or passing through the reed. For that reason, I now try to eliminate knots in the warp before they reach the heddles.

Tool: Warp Separator

  • Identify the warp end that has a knot, and insert the warp separator between warp ends to isolate the thread.

Warp separator to isolate warp with knot.

  • With a length of repair warp thread, follow the path of the original thread to splice in the new warp end, feeding it through the heddle of the original warp end.

Warp separator to isolate warp end with knot.

  • Bring the repair warp thread through the reed in the same dent as the warp end that has a knot.

Eliminating a warp knot.

  • Attach the repair warp thread near the fell by wrapping it around a flat straight pin.

Splicing a warp end.

  • Remove the warp separator from between the warp ends.

Warp separator for repairing a warp end.

  • Place a weight on the floor below the back beam. Wrap the repair thread around the weight two or three times to hold the thread at tension that matches the rest of the warp. Loosen the wrapped-around thread before advancing the warp, and then re-tighten before resuming weaving.

Splicing warp ends.

  • Weave one to two inches with both the original warp end and the repair warp thread in place.
  • Then, cut the original warp end with the knot (behind the heddles) and let it hang over the back beam.

Cutting a warp knot behind the reed.

  • The original and replacement warp ends overlap in the weaving for about one to two inches.
  • Remove the straight pin when it reaches the breast beam.
  • Re-attach the original warp end when it is long enough to secure in front of the fell line with a flat straight pin.
  • And then, cut and remove the replacement warp thread.
  • Trim all the spliced warp tails after wet finishing.

Spliced warp end to eliminate a knot in the warp.

Warp separator guy, ready to jump in and help!

Warp separator guy, ready to jump in and help!

This warp separator was a gift from The Weavers and Spinners Society of Austin, included in the goodie bag from last summer’s Contemporary Handweavers of Texas Conference. It would not be hard to make a warp separator like this from wood or sturdy cardboard. I have not been able to locate a supplier online.

If you know where to find a warp separator tool, please put a link in the comments.

May you have very few warp knots.

All the best,


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Keep Advancing the Warp

This is a series of learning experiences—some easy, and some quite challenging. I am near the end of the first panel of the tapestry/inlay sampler. All along the way, I encounter obstacles. Like a broken warp end. Again. That broken warp end is discouraging. Surely, I should be able to keep that from happening by now.

Tapestry/inlay sampler. All linen weft.

Broken warp end on the right selvedge required taking out several rows of weaving so I could splice the warp.

Meanwhile, a simple line of soumak makes a pleasing border for this curve. It defines the shape with a slightly raised line. Over three, around one…all the way across. This part is nice and easy.

Soumak border on tapestry sampler.

Soumak technique, Step 1.

Soumak border line on tapestry sampler.

Soumak technique, Step 2.

Peaceful setting for the weaving loom!

Despite another broken warp end, the warp is advanced and the weaving continues. It helps to weave in a peaceful setting.

Daily life is not always easy. Put your eyes on God, not on the obstacles you face. And don’t worry about your own inability to navigate the circumstances. Trust God to carry you. He has carried you this far, and will continue to show himself strong on your behalf. Those broken warp ends are spliced, and the weaving continues. The selvedge may show some evidence of having had trouble, but the soumak outlines and other woven features will draw the eye. There is victory in advancing the warp to continue the sampler to the end.

May you advance through the obstacles you face.

With you,

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Tools Day: How to Set a Temple and Video

The temple is one of my favorite tools. I have a collection of them. I happily use a temple for almost everything I weave. And I certainly wouldn’t dream of weaving a rag rug without one!

Temple instructions and video.

Temple in place.

Rag rugs are especially susceptible to draw-in, and a temple helps reduce that by maintaining the proper width of the rug. Draw-in distorts the shape of a rug, contributes to uneven warp tension, and can make selvedge threads break. A temple also aids in getting tight selvedges, and enables the firmest beat possible. (My favorite temples to use, even for rugs, are the wooden ones made by Glimåkra.)

How and why to use a temple for rag rugs.

Spaced rep rag rug, using fabric strips and warp thread for weft.

Temple Tips:

  • Set the temple to the proper width. (The video below shows how I do it.)
  • You can set the temple into the cloth as soon as there is is enough woven for two or three teeth to sink into. Then, move the temple up when you have woven enough to set all the teeth into the cloth.
  • Even with a temple, place adequate weft through the shed. The tool works best in conjunction with careful weaving practices.
  • Watch out for the sharp points! I get pricked when I forget and reach around the selvedge to straighten something out.
  • Make sure the temple is far enough back from the fell line that it won’t scrape the edge of your beater. I have a scar on my beater because it was hitting the temple. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice until the damage was done.
  • Move the temple frequently. For consistency at the selvedges on a rag rug, I move the temple at least every inch.
  • Remove the temple by moving the slider with one hand, while holding the center part down with the other hand. Keep the pin in place and the temple will draw up in the center. Then, disengage the teeth from the cloth on both sides.
Spaced rep rag rugs on the loom. Tutorial for using a temple.

Width in the reed for this rag rug is 90 cm on this 100 cm loom. I keep a supply of temples so that I have what I need for any weaving width.


May your tools serve you well.

Happy weaving,


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Tools Day: Paper and Yarn

A folded piece of paper and a seven-inch tail from a yarn butterfly become an answer to a small technical problem. When using a cartoon, like I am for this transparency, it’s imperative to identify the center warp end so I can align the dotted-line center of the cartoon with that one end. Finding the center warp end is my technical problem. The paper and yarn work together as the tool that helps remove the guesswork.

Weaving a transparency. Bluebonnets.

I check the alignment of the cartoon about every inch, and move up the pins that hold the cartoon in place.

With these bluebonnets, if the cartoon slides to the right or left by even one warp end it distorts the picture. It’s not enough to eyeball it. I need a way to make sure I am finding, and marking, the exact center end every time.

How to Find and Mark the Center Warp End


  • Pencil
  • Subscription card from a magazine, folded in half lengthwise
  • Seven-inch tail from a yarn butterfly, or a strand of yarn
  1. Measure the width of the beater and use a pencil to mark the exact center with a vertical line.
  2. Hold the folded edge of the card against the vertical pencil line on the beater, with the bottom edge of the card almost touching the warp.

Finding and marking the center warp end to align with cartoon.

3. Slip the yarn tail under the center warp end, as identified by the bottom corner of the card.

Aligning center warp end with cartoon. Tutorial.

4. Check the alignment of the center line of the cartoon with the center warp end.

How to mark the center warp end.

5. Slide the yarn from the reed to the fell line to check the entire length of the alignment. Reposition the cartoon, if needed.

Aligning cartoon with center warp end. How to.

Bluebonnet woven transparency almost finished!

Ready for one last alignment!

May you find a solution that eliminates guesswork.

All the best,


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