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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When to Start Over

I have started this tapestry sampler three times. The biggest problem was the header. I had so much draw-in that warp ends were breaking at the selvedges. Cut off and tie back on. I knew what to do–bubble the weft. But again, the second time, I had too much draw-in. Maybe I can ease the width back out to where it should be… Nope. After several hours of weaving with beautiful linen butterflies, and breaking more warp ends, I gave up.

Texas hill country wildflowers!

Texas hill country wildflowers fill the landscape with color.

I carefully removed all of the linen weft, and took out all of the header. Start over. Again. I did what I should have done from the start. Bubble the weft MORE. It works! Now I have a great starting place for the tapestry weaving to flourish. Until I had a good header, I was wasting my time trying to make the tapestry work.

Beginning of linen tapestry sampler.

Successful header is the foundation for this hem of bleached and unbleached linen. Tapestry sampler begins with some color shading, using butterfly bundles of linen in vivid colors, borrowed from the wildflowers.

Windows beside the little loom light up the linen tapestry sampler.

Windows let in the Texas hill country sunshine.

Texas wild flower bouquet. Monksbelt cloth on the table.

Monksbelt cloth on the table borrows the colors of the wildflower bouquet.

Words are like a header for our view of the world. Words shape our thinking. Listen carefully to test words, like you test food on your plate by tasting it before eating the whole thing. Test the words you hear. And only swallow what is right and good. If the header is good, your tapestry can flourish.

May you hear words that pass the test.

With you,
Karen

As a follow up to Quiet Friday: Favorite Weaving Books, Besty Greene sent me this picture. I love it!

Hi Karen
I am sending you this message in the theme of your last blog post. Ta da! A rug inspired by your project in Handwoven.
Betsy

Rag rug inspired by Handwoven project.

Rag rug by Betsy Greene.

 

2 Comments

  • Cate Kauffman says:

    I’m curious to know what you mean by bubble the warp. I’m unfamiliar with that term.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cate, Bubbling the weft (not warp) is placing the weft in waves, or bubbles, across the shed. Click here to read my definition in the Weaving Glosssry: Bubbling. And here is a picture of bubbling the weft. I didn’t get a picture of placing the weft for the header, but this is a picture of the hem area of the tapestry.
      Bubbling the Weft

      Karen

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Now This Year

New year 2017 is beginning! It’s time again to take account of where we stand in our life’s dreams and goals. What can we check off the list? And, what is still in progress? And, maybe there’s something new to add. But first, let me count my blessings. I’m filled with gratitude, thankful for you! What a JOY it is to have friends like you to walk through this weaving journey with me.

Here’s what you’ll find on my looms right now:

Striped cottolin warp for towels.

Glimåkra Ideal loom: Striped warp for the sample kit is all set! Winding quills is next. Then, weaving! If all goes well, a few pre-warped plattväv towel kits will show up in my Etsy shop.

Transparency with linen warp and background weft. Cotton chenille weft inlay.

Glimåkra Standard loom: Weaving a transparency. 16/2 linen warp and background weft. The weft pattern inlay is cotton chenille.

Practice piece on little Hokett loom.

Hokett loom has the start of a simple stripes tapestry practice piece. 12/6 cotton warp, 6/1 Fåro wool weft.

Thank you for joining me through 2016!

May you have joy in the journey.

Happy Weaving New Year,
Karen

22 Comments

  • Beth says:

    I love the “Year in Review” and see so many favorites. Your work is simply beautiful and inspiring. You are brimming with talent!

    Happy New Year, Karen!

  • Jennifer says:

    A lovely and inspiring post! I enjoyed the video of your weaving year.

  • Truly Blessed, thanks for all you share.

  • Loyanne says:

    Thanks for sharing. Seeing the Faro piece bring to mind a question. I am working on a Whig Rose scarf. Trying to weave according to tradition and the warp is 8/2, weft is Faro and 16/2 for tabby. Just wondered if you had used cotton and wool and how you wet fingers she’d it ? Thanks

    • Karen says:

      Hi Loyanne, I’m sure your scarf is beautiful! The monksbelt does use 16/2 cotton for tabby, and Faro wool for pattern weft. I’m not sure of your question… I have a feeling that spellcheck gremlins took over. Could you try asking again?

      Karen

      • Loyanne says:

        Boy did the gremlins take over. I wondered how you wet finish a piece out of cotton and wool?
        Thanks.

        • Karen says:

          Ok, now that question makes sense. 🙂 That’s a great question! I did not wet finish my piece because I am going to use it for a hanging, so I wanted it to soften up or get distorted through washing. I did steam press it, though, which helped to tighten everything up and straighten it out.

          I think if I were going to wet finish this cotton and wool combination I would gently hand wash in cool water with mild soap, like Eucalan, with as little agitation as possible. And then hang or lay flat to dry. If I had a sample piece, I would try washing that first, before submerging the main article.

          I wish I could give you a better answer…

          Thanks for asking,
          Karen

  • Fran says:

    A year of accomplishing lots! You do black and white especially well. I enjoy your posts.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Fran, The black and white was a new experience for me. It was a surprise to me to find out how much I enjoyed working with it! Thanks for stopping by!

      Happy New Year,
      Karen

  • Cindy says:

    I just joined in on your posts! It’s part of my goals for 2017 to surround myself with others who love weaving, and to be inspired and motivated to continue learning from them. Thanks for having this blog!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindy, A big welcome to you! I do love weaving, and you will find many who comment here are the same way. I love it that we can all learn from each other.

      Happy weaving new year!
      Karen

  • Lynette says:

    Hi Karen,
    I enjoyed seeing your transparency, because I have used the same 16/2 linen to weave pictorial transparencies for the last 10 years or so. Is your sett 12 epi? How many selvedge warps are doubled on each side? I have never tried using chenille for the inlay, but this gives me a new idea to try!
    Happy New Year, and God bless you and your family!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lynette, I’m excited to hear that you weave pictorial transparencies! This is my first attempt, and I’m enjoying it very much. I would love to see some of your work. Can you send me pictures?

      I am using a metric 50/10 reed, which is just a little more dense than 12 epi, but pretty close. I doubled 4 selvedge warps on each side, as instructed in The Big Book of Weaving.

      Happy weaving new year!
      Karen

  • Liberty Stickney says:

    Hi Karen, Happy New Year! Thank you so much for all the work you do for us, your posts are always beautiful and informative. I have been sick for a bit but I can’t wait to get back to my loom soon.
    Happy weaving,
    Liberty

    • Karen says:

      Hi Liberty, It’s no fun to be under the weather. I hope you’re all better very soon!

      I always appreciate your sweet encouragement.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Tom Z says:

    The year in review is so Inspiring Karen!

    Sometimes we don’t look back to view where we’ve come from. We just keep plowing forward. The past gives us a much needed perspective on where we’re going. Your video reminded me of that simple face. And the music was perfect for that reflection.

    Thank you Karen. Keep up the ‘good’ work.
    Happy weaving new year!
    Tom Z in IL

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tom,
      I completely agree! Perspective can make a world of difference.
      I appreciate your thoughtful words so much!

      Happy weaving new year to you!
      Karen

  • Pat McNew says:

    I love your web page. I look forward to each one. I have learned a lot from you even tho I have been weaving for about 12 years.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Pat, This is such a sweet thing for you to say! It’s my goal to be a help to others, so I’m thrilled to hear you’ve learned some things here.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to spread a little kindness. 🙂
      Karen

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Now We See the Monksbelt

When you cut fabric from the loom, and see it, handle it, feel it… It takes your breath away. Every time. You, the weaver, know what went into it. All the effort, corrections, uncertainties, anticipations, and the many joyful hours of throwing shuttles, and designing at the loom to your heart’s content. You keep going, even when the going is long, because of the thrill of making something you can’t find anywhere in the world…except right here.

Monksbelt cutting off party!

Nothing matches the exhilaration of cutting handwoven fabric off the loom!

Monksbelt just off the loom! Karen Isenhower

Sense of wonder arises when you see what threads can make when they are interlaced in a purposeful way. Imagine that! It’s simply threads.

Wisdom points to truth. Truth is a picture of reality, like fabric just cut from the loom. When the fabric is unrolled from the cloth beam, you get a realistic view of what has been woven. You can see it. But wisdom leads you to that moment. That’s why you keep weaving, even when the going is longer than you thought it would be. The voice of wisdom compels you to reach the truth.

Classic Swedish monksbelt, with a colorful twist or two.

Fabric, in classic Swedish monksbelt, with a colorful twist or two.

May you make something that only you can make.

Yours truly,
Karen

10 Comments

  • Marilyn Cann says:

    Hi Karen, your work on this piece using has been inspiring. Since I have only joined your blog recently I am wondering if you discussed how you threaded for the selvedge edges. Thanks

    • Karen says:

      Hi Marilyn, I’m glad you asked! I don’t think I have discussed how the selvedges are threaded on this.
      I write it this way in my project notes: 2-2, 2 X each side
      That means 2 threads per heddle, 2 threads per dent, 2 times on each side.

      I hope that answers your question.
      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

  • Tobie says:

    I have been enjoying your process for the monks belt.
    I have that great feeling also—when you cut your project off the loom!
    Such a wonderful feeling.

    How will you use this fabric?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tobie, It’s great to have you along!
      How will I use this fabric? I don’t know yet. This time, I decided to weave without having a specific use for the fabric. That freed me to constantly play with the pattern and color, exploring what monksbelt could do. It was a learning experience.
      Now that I can fully see it and feel it, I am considering some options: large throw pillows, tote bags or handbags of some sort, table squares, panels in a jacket…

      I’d love to hear suggestions on how to use this colorful cloth!

      Karen

  • Charlotte says:

    Hello, my sweet Karen!
    I love your exploration into Monksbelt. Would you mind telling me the sett and yarns used for warp and weft? I’m wondering if you used Faro for patter. Your colors are stunning. You do have grand ideas for using your cloth.

    Love to you…Charlotte

    • Karen says:

      Hi, dear Charlotte,
      Yes, Faro is the pattern weft. The warp and the ground weft is 16/2 cotton, sett is 22 1/2 epi, weft density is 30 ppi with 2 tabby shots between each pattern shot. I love working with Faro – the colors are so rich. I chose nine colors of Faro for this project.

      Love,
      Karen

  • Charlotte says:

    I have doubled and tripled Faro, previously. I wonder if tripled, there might need to be only one shot of tabby. I’ve been mulling over a cloth in Monksbelt, using 3 strands and then, I saw your post.

    Any thoughts? Missing you terribly…love…Charlotte

    • Karen says:

      It seems like tripled Faro would cover one tabby shot, but I don’t have the experience to tell you how it would look… It couldn’t hurt to try. Anything you make will be beautiful!

      Would love to see you,
      Karen

  • Judy says:

    What wonderful colors and cloth! Thanks for sharing this with us.

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Color Inspiration

The problem with having more than one loom is that you must divide your time between looms. Monksbelt has been on the big loom a little too long, since the baby loom has had most of my attention lately. That means little progress for this extra-slow weave.

Monksbelt on the Glimakra Standard loom.

Two shuttles take turns gliding across the warp.

Now that the baby loom is empty I am getting some good weaving time on the monksbelt. When I look at the loom, the whole task seems too big. But these colors are invigorating. When I pull out a few Fårö wool colors for the next treadling sequence, I forget my complaints about this taking too long. When I sit on the loom bench and start weaving with these colors I am inspired to keep going.

Colorful monksbelt. Karen Isenhower

Red ground weave gives a strong background for graded blues and violets.

Monksbelt on the loom. Progress!

Progress is seen as fabric rounds the cloth beam below.

Your words can be like these colors, giving someone the vitality they need to finish well. Your pleasant words are like honey to a weary soul. Pleasant words go deeper than you think. They bring needed inspiration when someone cannot see the end of a challenge. Your words may be the color palette that inspires your friend or loved one to keep going.

Monksbelt on the loom. Karen Isenhower

Many options for sets of color.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
– Solomon

May your pleasant words reach the weary.

With love,
Karen

4 Comments

  • linda says:

    Such Happy Colors. I can’t wait for a finished piece. linda

  • Pam says:

    Hi, Karen,
    What kind of fiber are you using and what is its size?. . . 3/2? My very first scarf had a pattern that advanced only 3/4″. That was slow going, but gave me a meditative mind set. I always felt rested after my time at the loom. I used the same warp and pattern sequence for a second scarf, but used a much larger weft in a different fiber and color. It went quicker of course, but I was most impressed how the pattern seemed to change with a different color. I appreciate how sharing these little things construct the design process. Thanks for the insight, and the inspiration to call my friend.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Pam,
      The warp and the ground weft is 16/2 cotton. The pattern weft is 6/1 Fårö wool. The 16/2 cotton weft is what makes this slow going. The ground weave on this is supposed to be weft rep, which should cover the warp almost completely. Mine probably isn’t quite weft rep, but it is definitely weft-faced. A coarser weft would certainly weave faster, as would a balanced weave, where the warp and weft are evenly interlaced. But it wouldn’t look or feel the same as this cloth. And, like you say, is a different weaving experience – not as meditative.

      I’m so pleased you were prompted to encourage a friend.
      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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