Woven Transparency Cactus

I found a subject for my next transparency. It’s a prickly pear cactus in Texas hill country. Weaving this cactus is a fantastic experience! I started with a photograph, from which I made a cartoon. And I have an outline that shows where to place each color. It’s all based on the timeless beauty of colors in nature. I’m hopeful that when light shines through the final woven transparency we will see a likeness of the original cactus.

Prickly Pear Cactus in Texas hill country.

Prickly Pear Cactus in the front yard of our Texas hill country home.

Make a Cartoon

  • Crop and enlarge the photo. (I use Acrobat Reader to enlarge and print in multiple pages, and then tape the pages together.)

Prickly Pear Cactus in Texas hill country.

  • Outline the main lines of the picture.
  • Turn the enlarged picture over and draw the traced lines on the back to have the reverse image. (This transparency is woven from the back.)

Photo to sketch to cartoon for woven transparency.

  • Trace the line drawing onto a piece of buckram to use as the cartoon.
  • Draw a vertical dashed line down the center of the buckram cartoon.
  • Pin the cartoon under the weaving, lining up the center line on the cartoon with the center warp end. Move the pins, one at a time, before advancing the warp each time.

Buckram used for transparency cartoon.

Color Selection

  • Use the photograph to select yarn colors for the transparency. (I used the iPad to view the photo, and selected sixteen shades of 20/2 Mora wool.)
  • Sort the yarn by hues. (I used my iPhone camera black-and-white setting to help in the sorting.) Sorting by hues helps me blend similar-hued colors, and shows me the contrasts that will help define the picture.

Color selection for woven transparency. Sorting by hues.


Sorting colors by hues for woven transparency.

  • Assign a number to each yarn color.
  • Make the enlarged outline into a color-by-number sheet by designating a color or blend of colors for each section. (I taped this sheet to the wall beside my loom, to use as a color guide. The iPad photo also serves as a reference.)

Butterflies of Mora wool for woven transparency.

Virtues are timeless. Virtues are like colors that blend together to weave a masterpiece. When we let the Grand Weaver lay in the weft, these are the colors that appear as light shines through His woven transparency: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And when this occurs, it shows that we are made in His image.

Making a transparency cartoon. Tutorial.


Woven transparency from a photo. How to.

May the next leg of your journey be a fantastic experience.

I’ll meet you back here on Tuesday, August 1st, 2017.
In the meantime, I hope you investigate claims of Jesus. Take time with people. Keep weaving. And the same for me.

Head over to Instagram to stay in touch with my daily journey.



  • Beth Mullins says:

    This is going to be fabulous!

  • So exciting to see your transparency! That is my absolute favorite thing to weave, and yours is inspiring me to do another one too. What size linen and sett are you using?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lynette, You are responsible for inspiring me! I couldn’t stop thinking about your beautiful transparencies, and knew I wanted to make another attempt. It’s not hard for me to understand why this is your very favorite thing to weave. I may be following you in that! I can’t thank you enough for answering my questions behind the scenes!

      This is 16/2 linen, 12 epi.

      Happy Weaving,

  • D'Anne Craft says:

    You’ve put lots of planning time into this piece. Can’t wait to see the finished work!

    • Karen says:

      Hi D’Anne, The planning for this has been a lot of fun. I was getting discouraged trying to find a good subject to weave, but when I found this pic that I took on our own property I got pretty excited about the whole thing! I can’t wait to show it to you when it’s finished!


  • Liberty Stickney says:

    This is so exciting Karen, I can’t wait to see it!! Have a wonderful vacation, I will be looking forward to august and this finished piece!

  • Wende says:

    Love this!

  • Maria says:

    Where in the hill country do you live? I so enjoy your blog- I like how you “weave” your faith in your posts!! Gifted weaver and writer?

    • Karen says:

      Maria, We are a little north of Kerrville. We currently live in the Houston area, but this special place in Kerrville will become our permanent home when my husband retires. Your sweet thoughts are very touching. Let me know when you will be in Houston again, or in hill country. I’d love to meet up.

      Happy weaving,

  • Carol Ashworth says:

    I am so glad I found your site! I love everything and have a lot to learn!
    I love how you try to do every so nice and neat!

  • Patricia Tiemann says:

    Great blog! Thanks for posting so much info.

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Tools Day: Reading Swedish

Through my exploration of Swedish weaving techniques, I have acquired several Swedish weaving books. Fortunately, I also found a Swedish-English weaving glossary with pages and pages of translated words. Looking up a word at a time, I slowly made my way through small portions of the books. And then I discovered Google Translate, an app for my iPhone!

A few of my favorite Swedish weaving books.

Ever-expanding library of Swedish weaving books.

Google Translate allows me to type Swedish words or phrases, or try to speak them, and it gives me an English translation in return. The app also allows me to hold the phone’s camera over printed words, and the translation shows on the phone’s screen.

Using Google Translate to read Swedish weaving books.

Multiple ways to enter text for translation. Translations give a general idea of the subject matter, even though some of the wording may be unclear.

I’m the first to admit that Google is unfamiliar with standard weaving terms, and the results can be humorous. “Varp” might be translated as “Puppy,” “Inslag” as “Element,” and “Sked” as “Spoon.” But “Warp,” “Weft,” and “Reed” are easy to understand because of their placement in the instructions. Shouldn’t Google brush up on vocabulary for handweavers? Overall, the Google Translate app is a useful tool for understanding the basics of a Swedish draft and instructions.

Using Google Translate to read Swedish weaving books.

Book titles in Swedish, as seen through the iPhone camera in the Google Translate app.

Using Google Translate to read Swedish weaving books.

Through the app, the Swedish words are seen as translated into English.

Now, all I need are a few more Swedish weaving books!

May you overcome a language barrier.

Vävglädje (Happy Weaving),


  • Pia says:

    Well, even though I speak Swedish, today I learned the word åkläde, which is a blanket made from two pieces sewn together in layers. 🙂

    That’s a very clever app!

  • Betsy says:

    Back in the dark ages I wanted to go to a college that taught Swedish (assuming that a language was required). My grandparents were Swedish and spoke it in the home. Unfortunately the only college that did and also offered my major was in California. I lived in CT and there was no way my parents were going to let me go that far.

    Wonder if that school also taught weaving? 🙂

    Google Translate is awesome. I didn’t know there was an app!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, It’s not hard to imagine that you were interested in learning Swedish at that age, since you had grandparents who spoke Swedish.
      I could have taken weaving classes at my university, but I was in the music world at the time, and hadn’t yet been exposed to the world of weaving. Oh, the what ifs…


  • Anonymous says:

    Have you seen the book lists on some of the Scandinavian Weaving groups? Sara Von Treskow kindly put up an exhaustive list of the books in her personal library and a very nice Swedish weaver, whose name escapes me this early in the morning, did another very good one. They’re worth finding and make great shopping lists.

  • Kat says:

    I don’t know about the app, but on the google translate website you can help by contributing better translations. A lot of it relies on context so if you (and other weavers here) update the weaving words in weaving contexts it will learn!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kat, I didn’t know that about Google Translate. I can’t find anything on the app that lets you contribute better translations, but that’s great that the website takes that kind of input. We could really get a good Swedish-English weaving glossary at our fingertips!


  • Marjorie says:

    You have quite a fan club on Facebook! Several people have recommended your blog to me, as I recently purchased a Glimakra Ideal, but haven’t warped it yet because I find it so overwhelming. But I am eager to get started!

    As for Swedish, there is a super neat language learning site called Duolingo that you can learn basic Swedish on, if you’d like to extend your understanding of your books. Google Translate is decent, but as you’ve found, it’s also limited.

    I am learning a great deal from your blog, so thank you for your generosity to new weavers.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Majorie, I wasn’t aware of a fan club. Haha. That’s cool. It gives me joy to hear that I am helping other people, especially new weavers!

      I know it can feel overwhelming to warp the Ideal the first time, but if you have the steps to follow, you’ll do just fine. It’s pretty exciting once you get going.

      I checked the Duolingo site. It looks great. Thanks for the tip!

      Happy weaving,

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Quiet Friday: Thick and Thin

A vote of confidence from someone you look up to can make a world of difference. When I saw Joanne Hall’s exquisite towel made with thick and thin threads, I asked her, “Do you think I can weave something like that?” “Of course you can;” she replied without hesitation, “it’s plain weave.” Keep in mind that I was a complete novice on the floor loom; and I barely knew how to handle one shuttle, much less two! I plunged into the ambitious project and came out with a winner! The blue and cream towel hangs on the oven door in my kitchen as a daily reminder of the powerful impact of an encouraging word. Thank you, Joanne!

Cotton tea towel, thick and thin. Karen Isenhower

First thick and thin towel, completed as a beginning weaver. This is one of Erica de Ruiter’s designs, found in “The Best of Weaver’s Thick’n Thin,” Edited by Madelyn van der Hoogt.

Thick and thin is just as fascinating this time around. It is delightful to revisit a rewarding experience. Who knew that plain weave could be this much fun?

Zebra warp on Glimakra warping reel.

Zebra warp with thick and thin threads on my new Glimakra warping reel. One of three bouts, 10 1/2 meters.

Warping trapeze in action.

View from the crossbar at the top of the warping trapeze, looking down. Ready to untie choke ties and add weights to the warp bouts.

Threading Texsolv heddles.

Thick ends alternate with thin ends as the heddles are threaded. Left hand separates the shafts‘ heddles for ease of threading.

Ready to weave thick and thin towels!

Weaving begins as soon as the warp is tied on and the leveling string is secured. I use the first few inches to check the threading and sett, and to do some sampling.

Border pattern for cottoln towel on the loom.

First border is captured with my iPhone camera so that I can easily reproduce the pattern at the other end of the towel.

Plain weave with three shuttles creates interesting patterns.

I added a second double bobbin shuttle to make it easier and quicker to switch weft colors. Plain weave gets even more interesting with three shuttles!

Thick and thin cottolin towels on the Glimakra Ideal loom.

End of the third towel.

Black and white towels on the loom. Karen Isenhower

View from under the breast beam. I love to see the fabric rolled up on the cloth beam.

Temple in place for weaving black and white cottolin towels.

Temple keeps the fabric at the optimum width for weaving. Red cutting line serves as the separation between the end of one towel and the beginning of the next. Ready to start another fascinating pattern.

May you give a vote of confidence to someone who needs it.

Happy weaving,


  • Betsy says:

    Who would have thought black and white would look so interesting. I would like to see all the different towels when they are finished. Thanks for sharing. Something else to add to my list.

  • Betsy says:

    PS. I’m going to Vavstuga in February.

  • Helen Hart says:

    I really enjoy your blog and these towels are fascinating. I see one white thread is a “ladder” thread? Can you tell me the brands, sizes of your warp? I won’t copy and sell I promise. Thank you very much.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Helen,
      I’m thrilled that you enjoy what you see and read here! Thanks for keepin’ comin’ back!

      I don’t know what you mean by “ladder” thread…
      The warp and the weft are the same: Bockens 22/2 Nialin (cottolin, cotton/linen blend), used doubled, in bleached and in black; and Bockens 30/2 Cotton, in bleached. I ordered mine from GlimakraUSA.com, but there are many good USA suppliers of Bockens’ threads.

      All the best!

  • linda says:

    best guess. ladder thread used for counting. love those towels. Did you by any chance play with a color in the warp??? LPJ, linda

    • linda says:

      I’m tired……I meant in the weft for the color. it’s been a lon day and more to go. LPJ, linda

      • Karen says:

        Hi Linda, I have not used color for the weft…yet. But I’m far from finished. After the fourth towel, you will see me play with bits of weft color. It’s going to be fun!
        I hope you get some good rest in the coming days.
        LPJ to you,

  • maggie says:

    Hi Linda
    i really enjoy your blog. what setts did you use for the different size warp threads?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Maggie, It’s great to have you here!

      This sett is 24 epi, with doubled thick ends and single thin end per dent.

      Thanks for asking,

  • […] you remember the black and white towels? I love the fascinating results of weaving with thick and thin warp ends, and thick and thin weft […]

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How I Remember Woven Details

A picture works better than memory. By the time I get to the opposite end of this rug, I doubt I will remember the details of this starting hem. Technology makes it simple. This is one reason I keep my iPhone handy when I am at the loom. Click. Now I have a visual record of the hem that will do the remembering for me.

Take picture with smartphone to remember hem details.

Four picks of rug warp between hem sections gives a good edge when turning the hem under.

Some things are worth the effort to remember. Remember the good. When times are difficult, waiting to see the Lord’s goodness requires strength and courage of heart. It requires remembering the good from before. Wait for the Lord with faith–the faith that looks like courage. Faith is that picture of good that made an impression on your soul, that’s been tucked away for a while. Maybe it’s time to pull it out and remember.

May you build many good memories.

Yours Truly,


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Tools Day: Handwoven Photography Simplified

If you take pictures, does that make you a photographer? I enjoy taking pictures at the loom. Besides the creative challenge of finding a good shot, I like the aspect of letting a picture tell a story. The Warped for Good Etsy shop is another avenue to expand my photo skills. My goal is to take photos that showcase finished handwoven articles, while keeping the process as simple as possible. Typically, I take fifteen to twenty pictures of an item, and then choose the best five shots to upload on Etsy. When I have new items to add to Etsy, I do a photo marathon on a good sunshiny day.

Tips for taking photos of handwovens.

Single towel photo from photo marathon.


iPhone 5
– I take all my photos with my phone. I know that is crazy! I never use my husband’s fancy digital SLR camera. My phone is always in my pocket, and there is nothing for me to figure out.

– I do not actually attach the camera (iPhone) to the tripod. By leaning my hand on the tripod, I can get a steady shot; and I change the angle or height simply by moving my hand.

Natural light
– Colors are not true if I use any artificial lighting. Colors will vary on computer monitors and mobile screens, but natural light gives the best chance of capturing the colors as I see them.

Sunshine, not cloudy
– With the iPhone camera, I find it impossible to get true colors if the sky is overcast. Sometimes an overcast sky in the afternoon still seems bright, not dark. Even so, I find the colors are distorted. If the conditions are not favorable, it is worth waiting.

Long roll of white paper
– A white background appeals to me. I think it conveys simplicity and elegance.

Four walking weights
– There is no end to the usefulness of two-pound walking weights. These soft weights are perfect for holding the roll of paper out to size, without creasing. (You’ll find me using walking weights for just about everything …except walking.)

White poster board
– Sometimes a white poster board or two is needed to provide background for a shot from a lower angle.

Tips for simplified photo shoot for handwovens.

Simple set up for photo shoot. Testing lighting with first shot.

Tips for setting up simple textile photo shoot.

First few practice shots show me what adjustments to make with lighting, focus, and white paper and poster board background arrangement.

Three of a kind. Simple photo tips.

Three of a kind. I like to photograph complimentary pieces together.

May your photos show your best moments.

Say cheese,


  • Carol Bogue says:

    Thanks for the great tips. I did wonder how you took such good pictures for your site. I’m sure my own will improve now.

  • Vladka says:

    Thank you very much for sharing your experience. It is very helpful for me. I have often bad results. Some colors of the picture disappears.

    • Karen says:

      I am happy this is helpful for you. I have bad results, too, sometimes. It is frustrating when some of the colors disappear or fade. Yesterday, it was cloudy all day and it did not work to take pictures. I am hoping for sunshine today.

      Happy weaving,

  • Heike Boudalfa says:

    Dear Karen,
    thank you so much for sharing. Your work is absolutely amazing. I love the way you arrange the colors. Best wishes from Germany.

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