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

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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 Plans on Paper

I doubt myself when I start weaving something. But it’s a good time to question everything. The first twenty centimeters are designated for sampling. Is this the right sett? How is the weft density? What treadling order will I use? Which weft color(s) works best?

Trying out some treadling patterns.

Trying out some treadling patterns for this cotton throw. Undulating twill is planned.

It helps to see it on the loom. I plan on paper, and get excited when I see a ready warp on the warp beam. But nothing is settled until I’ve passed the sampling tests. The plan on paper is what I think I want. And then, unanticipated adjustments and changes are necessary at the loom. In the end, I expect the actual weaving to be better than my original plan.

Sampling before weaving a cotton throw.

More sampling of treadling patterns.

Testing weft colors for undulating twill cotton throw.

Testing weft colors.

When we think we must have what we planned, we give up a better way. We lose our way when we insist on having our way. Jesus came to us as an infant (the Christmas message), leaving his rightful heavenly position. To follow Jesus is to deny myself like he did. Some of the testing means telling myself no. In return, I gain the life I could not see on my paper plan.

May you give up some of your favorite plans.

With Advent thoughts,
Karen

14 Comments

  • Joyce Lowder says:

    Beautifully said, Karen! Too often, I don’t want to deny myself, but when I follow Him, I am at peace, as I know He wishes, all the time. So there is much joy in giving up my plans. Thanks for sharing and reminding me. Thankfully, we have Him to follow, every day! His love is not measured by our standards, and it is everlasting! Merry Christmas to you and yours! 🙂

  • Anneloes says:

    Beautiful! Both the sample, as well as your message of encouragement. I hope to get better at letting go of my ‘paper plans’ in life.

  • Beautiful work, may God’s blessing be upon you this Christmas

  • Ruth says:

    Life is what happens while we are making plans is a favorite saying of a dear friend. Your reflections on paper plans and letting go to follow Christ’s example coincide with that statement and remind me to follow Christ’s path and not my own. Blessings to you and yours as we follow the light of Christ during the coming year.

    • Karen says:

      Ruth, Your friend’s saying rings true with me. How much better to willingly let go of how we thought things should be, than to hold tightly to our ‘paper plans’ and miss the joys of living life to the fullest. What a relief that we have Christ to follow!

      Blessings to you,
      Karen

  • Beautiful weaving. Beautiful thoughts.

    Merry Christmas from the great white north.

    Nannette

  • Alison says:

    Thank yo Karen for sharing. I would have liked to have seen what your paper plans look like also, as they are part of the process. Your message is just what I needed.

    Alison

    • Karen says:

      Hi Alison, I don’t think I have done a post on project planning. I’ll have to do that! My paper plans hold the calculations, yarns, draft, and other details. I always have that piece of paper close at hand as I dress the loom and weave.

      I’m glad to hear that you gained something from today’s words.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Linda says:

    Your reflections are such a blessing.
    Thank you and may God continue to bless you.

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Band Loom Time!

Before I can hem these new towels, I need to make some hanging tabs. Band loom time! Making a warp for the band loom is one way to use up some of the weft on quills that didn’t quite get emptied when weaving the towels. Of the four colors in the towels, I am using aqua, poppy, and orchid for the hanging tabs. The bright marigold, my favorite of the four colors, may bring too much attention to itself, so I’m leaving it out. A hanging tab must be a stable and firm loop that becomes a pleasing part of the towel.

Planning to weave hanging tabs for handwoven towels. Karen Isenhower

Towels, before wet finishing, are spread out with the thread colors on top. I am trying to determine which colors will work together in woven hanging tabs for all four towels.

Glimakra band loom. Hanging tabs for handwoven towels.

Eleven ends are just enough for weaving a narrow band. (The two ends in the center are doubled in the heddle and counted as one.)

Glimakra band loom, making hanging tabs for handwoven towels.

Simple symmetrical design with aqua, poppy, and orchid colors. To use as hanging tabs for towels, the band is cut into short pieces, about ten centimeters (four inches) each. Each cut tab is then sewn into the hem of a towel.

Established. Stable (root word of e-stabl-ish) and firm. That’s how important our faith is as we walk through life. Everything hangs from it. So it must be woven carefully and stitched in securely, a pleasing part of who we are. Stable and firm in faith as we live for the Lord—that’s a beautiful way to live.

May your finishing details be pleasing.

With you,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Laura says:

    Your towels are beautiful. Love the little bobbin you are using. Do you mind telling me where you got that from? Love all your posts.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Laura, Thank you! My husband carved the little band loom shuttle for me. You probably know that you can use a short cardboard quill for band weaving, but I will email the specs of the little shuttle to you in case you or someone you know wants to carve one.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Thank you for sharing the design and craft process for finishing the beautiful towels. So true is the need for a firm foundation in life. Nannette

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Weave Past the Mid Mark

“Mid” marks the halfway point on every pre-measured tape I make. I like to know when I’m starting the second half of something. It’s a target before I reach it, and a passing milestone after I cross that line.

Middle line marks the halfway point in the weaving.

Pre-measured twill tape has a line at the halfway point, marked “Mid.” Tail from a spliced warp end will be trimmed in the finishing process.

As I’m weaving this throw, my thoughts jump ahead. I will have a few skipped threads to fix, and spliced warp ends to clip. I think about how I will hem the piece, and wash and dry it. In what special manner shall I present the finished throw to my beloved daughter-in-law? And, my mind goes to the twelve-shaft double weave towels for my daughter that are up next, with the flowery threads beckoning me from the shelves.

Cotton double weave on the loom.

Double weave with eight shafts. 8/2 cotton.

Shelves of weaving thread!

Do you see the aqua, poppy, marigold, and orchid cottolin threads that are ready to jump off the shelves and be woven into hand towels?

I’d like to know where I am in the span of my life. There is no “Mid” mark, though, is there? I’m not in charge of that measured tape. Faith in Christ, love, and perseverance—these form a foundation. A solid foundation is security for life. In this security, I think about what I need to repair and resolve and finish. And how to leave intangible gifts that outlive me. And I think about the glory that awaits. Imagine fabric of unbridled creativity in colors only heaven knows!

May your second half be better than your first.

With you,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Meg says:

    What a awesome, beautiful, fantastic piece. And congrats to midway.

  • Written like the creative soul God created you as.

    Midway is hard to place with life on Earth. It is not as ‘tangible’ as your weaving. I often wonder why some people have a very short midpoint and others…. much longer… What have they left behind to continue on through others?

    Even so, having been gifted hand woven fabric from another generation, I cannot help but look at your sparkling colors and see the colors they will fade to be with time. Is the softness that time brings to dyes also a softness God gives to our memories left behind.

    Blessings,

    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, The items I have of my grandmother’s handwork is faded, as you say. Her memory lives on in me, and is softly faded to the point I only remember the good things about her.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts,
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    Good morning, Karen. At my age, I have no doubt that I have long since passed my mid point although I didn’t really wake up to that fact until I hit fifty. The first half of my life, I believed the tangible was so important; but in the second half, I believe that it is the intangible we leave behind that will be the longest lasting.
    After seeing so many beautiful handcrafted items in second hand stores, I realized that what I valued as family heirlooms to be handed down through the generations with stories may not be valued as such by the recipient of my work.
    So I just try to concentrate on the enjoyment of creating whatever I make, make what I like and hope that someone else might value it.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, I agree with you that the intangible seems more important now. The values we pass on will outlast the things we hand down.

      Blessings,
      Karen

  • Linda Cornell says:

    Thank you all for your reflections, uncannily, similar to my own recently… the Holy Spirit weaving through our lives. Can you recommend 4 shaft double weave patterns for baby blankets? Though the blankets will probably not last, hopefully the love that weaves them will cover those new little lives.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Linda, The only 4-shaft double weave I’ve done was a double-width throw. The double weave baby blankets I’ve woven were on 8-shafts. Both the double-width and the 8-shaft double weave projects were from The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell.

      Your love will definitely have the longest-lasting impact.

      All the best,
      Karen

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