Biggest Challenge of Weaving a Pictorial Tapestry

Lucia grasps Ari’s plump wrist as they bravely inch a step closer to the rabbit hutch. For them, it’s a step of faith. Sugar Pie, the bunny, is wide-eyed at their approach. You’ll see the bunny later in the weaving of this pictorial tapestry.

Detail of a pictorial tapestry in progress.
Lucia’s tiny thumbnail is on top of Ari’s hand. Contrast in skin color is exaggerated to make the two arms distinct from each other.
Color gradation in a new large tapestry.
Five shades of orange/red butterflies are used to make the fabric of Lucia’s orange shirt.

It is a huge challenge to work on one element, like the hands, while not being able to see it in the context of the whole picture. The row-by-row weaving is an act of faith. I peer through the wrong end of the binoculars, and stand on a chair to take pictures. And I’m reassured about the outcome. It’s not blind faith. It’s a series of carefully reasoned and thought-out steps.

Gaining a higher perspective.
Gaining a higher perspective by standing on a chair.

We see only a small slice of life at a time. Where do my day-to-day threads fit in the context of the big picture of a lifetime? Grace is amazing! Grace is unearned good favor. Grace is a final tapestry that makes sense of all the wanderings. Grace is good favor extended by God to all who trust Jesus. So, with God’s grace we walk by faith, with carefully reasoned and thought-out steps. And we extend grace at every opportunity, holding the wrist of our fellow adventurer to walk by faith together.

"Siblings" tapestry.
Siblings tapestry, work in progress.

Grace is amazing.

May your life make a difference.

Grace,
Karen

10 Comments

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What to Do with Linen Leftovers

These waffle-weave washcloths are made out of my linen leftovers. For years, I’ve been saving linen scraps: the small amount left on the tube, quills that weren’t used up, thrums that I couldn’t bear to discard, and skinny warp chains from the times I accidentally wound a few extra warp ends.

Using linen leftovers for a new warp.
To make this warp, I finished off about a dozen tubes that had small amounts of 16/2 linen.
Winding a linen warp.
Putting leftover threads together.

The warp is 16/2 linen. I alternated two colors at a time in the warp, so there are interesting color-and-weave effects that outline the “waffles” in the weave.

New linen warp.
Heddles are threaded in point twill for waffle weave, alternating two colors at a time.
Afternoon sun on a new warp.
Afternoon sun is a pleasant sight on a new warp.

The linen for the weft is everything from fine 16/1 line linen to coarse 8/1 tow linen. I am purposely leaving weft tails exposed. I expect significant shrinkage, so I will trim the tails shorter after wet finishing.

How to use linen leftovers.
Linen “weft-overs” include thrums, end of tubes, and accidental warp chains.

Ideas for this project originated with Clean with Linen, by Sanna Ignell in Väv 2016 No.2, p.6, and Handtowels made of linen, by Elisabet Jansson in Happy Weaving from Vävmagasinet, p.31.

Linen waffle weave.
Linen waffle weave.

Do you have precious leftovers you’ve saved from your journey through life? Memories we don’t want to lose. And memories we wish we could forget. All these leftover threads serve as reminders that we are meant for more than what we can produce on our own. Here’s the good news. Love invites us to hand over our collection of scraps. Listen to Love. His name is Jesus. He takes our linen discards, and, with nothing wasted, weaves his beautiful story of redemption in us.

May your leftovers be given new life.

Love,
Karen

14 Comments

  • Joyce Lowder says:

    Beautifully said, Karen! And great idea! 🙂

  • Robin says:

    Fantastic idea!
    Would love to see pix of the finished wash cloth. Perhaps a future post?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Robin, Thanks for giving your thoughts! I will be happy to show pictures of the wash cloths when they are finished! I’ll be as surprised as you at the results. I expect to get 10 wash cloths from this warp, so hang on, it may take a while.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    An album quilt I made for my daughter’s wedding was cobbled together of the obvious dress fabric from her childhood, but also needle work from her ancestors. Textiles too fragile to use as originally designed, but reinforced and added to the beauty of the quilt designed for the next generations to come.

    One block included a piece of weaving done on a home made loom by my husband’s grandmother.

    Leftovers from earlier generations kept to build something useful and beautiful.

    Nothing goes to waste in God’s world.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, Your quilt sounds fantastic. What a wonderful gift, full of meaning.

      “Nothing goes to waste in God’s world.” Amen!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Linda Cornell says:

    Beautifully said!

  • Laurie says:

    Is that a plainweave hem? Does it contract the same as the waffleweave?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Laurie, Yes, I am doing a plain weave hem. I am sure it will not contract the same as the waffle weave. I expect the hem to look a bit wavy. Since this is my first time to do waffle weave, I’m waiting to see what it does for sure. 🙂

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Charlotte says:

    I cannot believe, yet I must! The timing of your post – waffleweave wash cloths to my drawdown for the next project – waffleweave wash cloths! Isn’t this fun?!?!?!
    Mine will be 12/6 seine twine. The warp on the drawloom is nearly tweaked for a new run of Casita bath towels – Cottolin. The wash cloth warp will go on Julia once my Marines have come and gone. Also, for the Casita.

    The Inkle loom is warped for the hang loops…it’ll go to the mountains with us.

    Oh how I love the direction of our path and sharing it, such a sweet gift!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Charlotte, How fun! And believe it or not, yesterday I finished the drawdown for my next project on the Standard – Cottolin bath towels! Wow, you and I are really in sync.

      Love,
      Karen

  • Betty Morrissey says:

    HI!
    Can’t’ wait to see them. Love how everything finds its purpose.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betty, With purpose there’s hope. And we all need hope. I’ll keep you posted on the progress and finishing of these washcloths. Stay tuned…

      All the best,
      Karen

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Weaving through The Big Book

It took me seven years of study, practice, and mistakes to complete this rigorous Swedish weaving curriculum! You have been with me through much of it right here. I’m talking about The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell. I made it through the book, sequentially, page by page, warp by warp. 43 warps in all! Remember the blue 12-shaft double-weave blanket I had on the loom in June? That is the final project in the book.

Handwoven double weave blanket. 12 shafts.
Double-weave wool fabric is ready for wet finishing, where it will be transformed into a soft, cozy blanket.

In the short video below, each completed project is presented in order in our Texas hill country home. Watch to the end to see the blue blanket in all its finished glory.

For nitty-gritty details, check out The Big Book of Weaving tab at the top of the page.

I. Secrets to success:

  • mindset of a student
  • determination
  • eyes on the goal
  • no option other than completion

One loom dedicated to the book.


II. Lessons learned:

  • technique
  • processes
  • planning
  • drafting
  • Swedish practices

Any mistake can be remedied.


III. Treasures gained:

  • patience
  • humility
  • endurance
  • focused attention
  • problem solving
  • creative freedom

Confidence.


IV. Prized perspectives:

  • new experiences
  • delight of dressing the loom
  • wonder of cloth-making
  • fresh ideas
  • joy of discovery
  • knowledge and understanding of the loom

Getting lost and absorbed in the whole process of weaving.

V. Favorite project: Old-Fashioned Weaving / Monksbelt (at 4:46 in the video)

Are we determined students of heavenly things? Oh, to know God’s will! Study what’s written, don’t lose heart, eyes on the prize, no option besides completion through Jesus Christ. One life dedicated to know him. Day by day, warp by warp, the Grand Weaver teaches us. We can know God’s will.

May you be a lifelong learner.

Happy Weaving to you,
Karen

38 Comments

  • Susie Redman says:

    Well done. It’s such a great book. I’m picking and choosing from the book – its a great way to learn.

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Your work is so inspiring, Karen. I recall many of these projects, here and in Handwoven. Do you have a personal favorite? One that you’ll perhaps explore even further? Kudos!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, Thank you so much! My personal favorite is the monksbelt piece—the large multicolor runner on the dining room table. And yes, I have monksbelt ideas that I would like to explore. Another one I’d like to play around with and learn more about is the turned rosepath—the long narrow red band. There are so many possibilities!

      Thanks for asking,
      Karen

  • Geri Rickard says:

    What a splendid presentation, Karen! You have accomplished so much, and each one is beautiful! Thanks for sharing, it was fun!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Geri, I’m glad you enjoyed the presentation. It was a lot of fun for me to put together, going back in time remembering all the projects.

      Thank you!
      Karen

  • Betsy says:

    Such a feast for the eyes!

  • Cindy Bills says:

    Wow and Wow! Such an accomplishment! And your lovely home showcases all those projects beautifully. Thanks for making this video and thanks for your encouragement. I’m currently doing the Jane Stafford online guild lessons with a new video lesson and project every five weeks. Sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming but I’m determined to try each one. I’ve already learned so much!
    Thanks again for your encouragement and dedication, both to your weaving and for sharing your weaving and faith with others. It DOES make a big difference to many.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindy, I know how you feel. Many times I was overwhelmed and even discouraged about completing this mammoth dream. Keep pressing on with your lessons, it WILL be worth it–I promise! And between the hard parts, I really had a lot of fun! So enjoy it, too.

      I really appreciate your encouragement to me. It means more than you know.

      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    Hi, Karen! I remember that you recommended this book to me last July was exploring what loom to purchase for my first multi shaft loom. I ended up purchasing a small table loom, a Louet Erica Loom so decided not to purchase the book since I would not have the capacity to work many of the projects.

    However, I recently purchased a larger loom and now, I believe that I will purchase this book. Thank you for sharing this and tweaking my memory of your recommendation.

    Everything you make is so beautiful! You are a wonderful inspiration to a beginning weaver.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, The Big Book of Weaving has been my tutor. I started with it as a complete beginner. It was written as a curriculum, so it has everything I needed to gain skill and confidence. I hope you find it a great resource for learning.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Karen Simpson says:

    That video is amazing. As I hadn’t found you then, I didn’t know that you were following this book and studying your way through it. What a lovely compilation of work and color. Thank you

    • Karen says:

      Hi Karen, Only a handful of people knew I was working my way through the book. I have mentioned The Big Book of Weaving here many times, but this is my first time to mention here on the blog that I was going through the book, step by step. I didn’t want too many people to “guess” what project I would do next… 🙂

      Thank you!
      Karen

  • D’Anne says:

    Congratulations, Karen! I remember when you started working through The Big Book of Weaving, but I didn’t remember it had been 7 years. What a great learning experience! Did you use all the same yarns as the projects called for?

    • Karen says:

      Hi D’Anne, It’s hard to believe it’s been 7 years, isn’t it? For most of the projects I used the yarns that were called for, but in colors of my choosing. I did change a few, though. For instance, two projects call for paper yarn. I didn’t know a good resource for that, so I substituted 8/2 cotton for one, and 16/1 linen for the other. So, for those I have beautiful scarves instead of room screens, which suits me better anyway.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Joanna says:

    Karen, I’m speechless. There are no words for my admiration of not only your artistic vision, but also the incredible amount of work clearly visible in the lovely video. Thank you for all the encouragement and advice you’ve given us you worked through the Big Book. MORE happy weaving to you. Joanna

    (My v. Favorite piece of your is also that fantastic monks belt. I think you captured all the lovely colors of the Texas Hill Country. It couldn’t be more perfect.)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, I’m fortunate to have a place where I can talk about things that I learn! Thanks for joining in!
      Every time I look at that monks belt piece, I get warm and fuzzy feelings. It’s so cheerful! I’m happy you like it, too!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • kerimae says:

    You inspire me! As you know! 🙂

  • Carolyn Penny says:

    Truly inspirational. Thank you for your diligence and following the goal.
    What a lesson in perseverance. Warm glow…… -Carolyn Penny

  • Vida Clyne says:

    Congratulations on completing such an amazing and inspirational project. I love all the patterns and the lovely colours. I have not got the book but your lovely video makes me think I will buy it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Vida, I am very happy to hear your thoughts about my adventure! This is one weaving book I wouldn’t do without. 🙂

      Thank you very much!
      Karen

  • Gail Goodrick says:

    What an inspiration this is! Your work is wonderful. I love your color choices. Love, love love…

  • Sue Blanding-Wilson says:

    So inspiring! I will look at my book with new eyes!

  • Maria Hanson says:

    Wow! I so enjoy following your work, but seeing everything in one video is just amazing! Congratulations on such a major accomplishment!

  • Penelope kept the suitors at bay for 10 years weaving one tapestry. What a remarkable legacy of a textile artist in 7 years!
    AND.. the hand wovens are not kept in a chest to pull out and admire. Basis the hems on the towels, they are being used. Beautiful!!
    Thank you for sharing. PS welcome back from your sabbatical.
    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, Thank you for noticing. Yes, the articles were made to be used, and they are used and enjoyed.

      It’s good to be back.
      Karen

      • Anonymous says:

        One of the sweetest moments was when I saw one of my patched blankets worn to the point of being hand mended. Textiles will age one way or another. It fills my heart knowing the ones that pass through my hands are used daily.

        • Karen says:

          That is sweet to think of your handiwork being used to the point of needing hand mending. I agree that the best handwoven items are the ones being used.

          Karen

  • Cindy Buvala says:

    Wow! I am very impressed! A 10 minute video doesn’t do justice to the hours and hours of weaving work that precedes it. You are an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your talent.

  • Karen Reff says:

    I haven’t looked at that book in so long. I’m definitely going back for another look! I hope you realize what an amazing thing you’ve done!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Karen, I frequently go to the book for reference. It answers so many questions for me.

      I just took one step, and then the next step, and so on. I’m not sure I would have started had I known how long it would take me. But I’m very happy to have taken that first step…and so on.

      Thanks for your sweet encouragement,
      Karen

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Cutting Off a Failure

I made an embarrassing blunder. No wonder this Tuna wool resists all my efforts. It’s the wrong yarn! Tuna is 6/2 wool—twice as thick as the 6/1 wool I should be using. Cowboy Magic won’t solve this sticky problem. (I thought it would, as I expressed in this post: Tame the Wool.)

The yarn is gorgeous, but my frustration level is pushing me to throw in the towel. I tried hard to make this work. I was so convinced I had the right yarn that I missed it even when reader Joan left a gentle comment asking if 6/1 Fårö yarn would work (I’m sorry for not listening, Joan). There is nothing left but to cut off this failure.

Cutting off out of frustration.
Every shed is a struggle. It seems impossible to get a clean shed with this “sticky” yarn. (It’s not the yarn’s fault, though.)
Cutting off a failure. Ouch!
Failed piece is cut off. There are unwanted floats everywhere, and the fabric is like cardboard because of the tight sett.
Cutting off a failed double weave project. Ugh.
Bottom of the double weave has even more unwanted floats than the top layer.

In this lowest moment a thought occurs to me. Re-sley the reed. An ounce of hope rises.

Re-sleying to a coarser sett. Hoping for success.
Reed is changed from 50/10 metric to 40/10 metric. This spreads the warp an additional 19.9 cm (7 3/4″).
Wool for a double weave blanket. Second try.
Sleying is complete and the new reed is placed in the beater.
Wool warp for a double weave blanket.
Warp is tied on and leveling string is tightened. On your mark, get ready, get set…

I re-sley to a coarser reed and tie back on. I hold my breath and step on the treadles. It works. And it’s gorgeous!

Double weave wool blanket on 12 shafts. Glimakra Standard.
Go! Night and day difference in being able to clear each shed.
Double weave at its finest. Wool blanket.
Double weave at its finest.
Weaving into the sunset!
Weaving into the sunset.
Double weave Tuna wool blanket on Glimakra Standard. Success!
Clean lines of double weave, with a (very) few unwanted floats that will be easy to fix later.
Double weave wool blanket. Success after starting over!
This is now a pleasure to weave!

Have you experienced great disappointment and loss of hope? Sometimes our own failure brings us to that point. The Lord makes things new. We come to Jesus with our failed attempts, and he exchanges our used rags of effort with his clean cloth of righteousness. In his forgiveness, the failure is cut off and removed. Our threads are re-sleyed and re-tied to make us gloriously new.

May you know when to cut off and start over.

Love,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Beth says:

    Where there’s a will, there’s a way! The “failure” would make lovely bolster pillows. We all make mistakes and move forward. The resleyed weaving is beautiful. I’m holding my breath about the project I’m about to start.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, I thought about making a handbag out of the failed piece, but bolster pillows is another good idea!

      I came perilously close to pulling all the yarn off the loom and calling it a total loss. What stopped me was the beauty of the yarn itself. I just had to find a way to make it work.

      I’ll be looking for your brave project on IG.

      Thanks for your sweet encouragement,
      Karen

  • Betsy says:

    I’m glad you figured out what the problem was and got it fixed. The colors are so pretty!

    Looking forward to seeing you next week!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, Fortunately, most weaving problems are fixable…when we calm down enough to think it through.

      I’m looking forward to seeing you, too, at the CHT conference next week!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Hi Karen,
    Very pretty lemonade.
    Thank you for explaining how to make a correction when plans need a little help.

    Kind regards,
    Nannette

  • Karen Reff says:

    It’s not fun when it’s happening, but oh, how good it feels to get everything straightened out! Good for you for sticking with it!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Karen, Thanks! I came awfully close to giving up altogether. You’re right, it feels terrific to get everything straightened out. At loom everything (or almost everything) is fixable.

      Karen

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Weaving Some Simple Borders

I need to free up this little loom in order to put on a different warp that has a deadline. So, now that I have returned from my travels, my attention is going to these towels. My friend is letting me weave this lovely cottolin warp that she got at Vavstuga.

Simple border stripe in first towel of the Vavstuga towel kit.
Simple border stripe in first towel. Straight twill.
Cottolin warp and 8/1 tow linen weft.
Cottolin warp and 8/1 tow linen weft.
Point twill on four shafts.
Point twill on four shafts. Three horizontal stripes made with half-bleached tow linen weft.

Straight twill, point twill, broken twill, and now “rick-rack.” And after that, a couple towels in plain weave. Everyone who weaves this Vavstuga towel kit and follows the instructions will end up with the same six towels. True? Not necessarily. I like to step off the expected path. That is why I vary the weft and include some type of simple border design on each towel.

Loom with a view. Texas Hill Country.
Three colors of 8/1 tow linen sit on the little blue table as choices for weft. Half-bleached, Unbleached, and Bronze.
Broken twill for a cottolin towel.
Changed the tie-up to broken twill, which allows me to keep a simple straight treadling pattern. Dashed weft pattern for the border stripe is produced by alternating the bronze linen weft with the half-bleached linen weft.
Color-blocked towel uses three neutral weft colors.
Long wavy vertical lines give the appearance of rick-rack. Again, I changed the tie-up to keep the simple straight treadling pattern. I use all three weft colors in this color-blocked towel.
Cottolin towels with 8/1 tow linen weft.
Plain weave, with four shafts and two treadles. The main body of the towel uses the unbleached linen weft. Two picks of half-bleached linen are sandwiched between several rows of bronze linen weft.

There is a wide path that is crowded with many people. It’s the common and expected way of life. It’s where you stay if you want to fit in with everyone else. But if you search for it, you’ll find an uncommon path. It’s narrow; and few find it. It’s the path of life that is found in Jesus Christ. Stand in the narrow path. That is where your unique features will show up as border designs that set you apart as a cherished child of God.

May you be set apart.

Happy weaving,
Karen

9 Comments

  • Joanna says:

    What a timely post this is! I have a long striped towel warp on that I was getting seriously bored with after only two towels. Right now it’s 4S/2T in a straight draw, but I was mulling over putting more treadles on and fiddling with the tie-up. Thanks for helping me decide (I’m prone to dithering). Bless you, Karen.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, I tend to thrive on variety. Maybe you’re like me in that regard? I have changed the tie-up three times on this warp so far. With only four shafts, it’s an easy way to change things up. The instructions that came with the Vavstuga towel kit gave different tie-up options, so I thought – why not do them all? 🙂

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kristin Martzall says:

    Your posts are so inspiring! How do you use the grosgrain ribbon? as a measuring device? Like a cash register tape bit not as bulky and fragile.?
    Thanks ,in advance ,for your help in explaining that process!

    Kris

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kristin, Welcome!
      The marked grosgrain ribbon came with the Vavstuga towel kit. I normally use twill tape for the same purpose – to pre-measure the desired length of what I am weaving. Here’s a blog post I wrote about it: Tools Day: Measured Weaving

      Happy weaving!
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    Welcome home, Karen! I am sure that you missed your looms! Were you able to finish the tapestry from Big Bend?
    I also like to try different tie ups or striping when I make towels. I like the combination of striping and pattern you have with those colors.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, I made some good progress on my Big Bend tapestry while away. But my floor looms have a louder voice in calling me than the portable frame loom does. I guess I better set aside some quiet evening time to finish the tapestry.

      Thanks!
      Karen

  • Linda Cornell says:

    Five sentences, so precious, choose the narrow path!

    Thank you and Blessings.

    Linda

  • Pam Cauchon says:

    Thank you, Karen, for such wise words. I had been questioning my decision to simplify my life. While simplification is good for contemplation it can be a bit lonely. Weaving provides those moments for contemplation and it is encouraging to hear from someone who is like-minded. To know Christ’s narrow path is well worth it. Then I realize I’m not so lonely after all. Indeed, thank you for the encouraging words.

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