Quiet Friday: Handwoven Handbags

Is there such a thing as too many handbags, pocketbooks, tote bags, and purses? Of course not. Naturally, my favorite handbags are made from handwoven fabric. Linings made from remnants, handwoven bands used for shoulder straps, hidden zippers, and, of course pockets–these are the details that other people will seldom notice. Yet these are the details that make me smile every time I use one of these bags.

Handwoven handbags - with 1 minute video.

Nineteen handwoven handbags. Various sizes, fibers, styles, and purposes. And colors. Lots of colors!

…You know that box of handwoven bits and pieces? Those weavings from the end of the warp, and the “scraps” from various projects? Hmm… looks like I might need to make another handbag or two.

Here is my collection of handwoven handbags, divided into a few categories. Plus, a short video just for the fun of it!

Rigid Heddle Loom

Handbags from fabric woven on a rigid heddle loom.

Wool, novelty chenille yarn, crochet cotton, and narrow fabric strips are used for weft in these bags. Buttons are from my grandma’s button jar. The small rag-weave pocketbook has a permanent home in my daily handbag. The fabric for these bags was woven on my Beka 32″ rigid heddle loom.

Handwoven fabric for handbags from the rigid heddle loom.

Linings are from remnants of other sewing projects. Bag handles were woven on my inkle loom.

Travel Finds

Handwoven handbags from international travels.

Trips to The Philippines yielded interesting woven goods by artisans there. The green stripe tote bag is woven from native plant material, and the teal and burgundy purse is a beautiful example of ikat weaving. The colorful weft-faced woven shoulder bag and the purple bag with lovely weft-float patterning came from travel to Chile.

Project Carriers

Handwoven project bags.

Large tote bag, woven with 1/4″ fabric strips for weft, carries my “show and tell” when I go to my weaving study group. It’s known as the “Mary Poppins Bag.” Rag-rug bag in the center has straps, woven on the band loom, that were woven into the bag. This bag carries my portable tapestry weaving. The rag rug bag on the right carries my one-and-only crochet project.

Special Use

Handwoven handbags.

Linen bag has beads woven into the fabric. It is lined with satin. Rag-weave purse is simply a flat piece folded in half, with lining and pockets added to the inside. The blue bag is wool, woven in a weft-cord technique. The fabric was partially fulled to produce the ribbed texture.

Handwoven lining in a handwoven purse.

Lining for this bag is made from extra fabric after weaving cotton/linen fabric for cushions, and the pocket is a remnant from a two-block twill tencel scarf.

Daily Use Favorites

Favorite handwoven handbags! Karen Isenhower

Representing some of my “firsts.” The brown and blue small shoulder bag is from one of my first cottolin towel projects. This is what I did when the last piece was too short to use for a towel. The green and turquoise clutch has remnants of my first ever handwoven towel, my first rosepath rag rug, and my first big rep weave project! The blue shoulder bag is the bag I use every day. It’s a remnant from the baby wrap I wove for my daughter’s first baby. It’s lined with a remnant from an Easter dress I made for her when she was a little girl.

May you carry your handiwork with you.

Happy weaving,
Karen

10 Comments

  • Mary Kay Stahley says:

    I would love to know where to get patterns to make a bag. Have yardage and really want to turn it into a purse

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mary Kay, I have found a few good commercial patterns for an assortment of bags.

      I used McCall’s 3894 to make the large tote bag. (I did break several sewing machine needles when sewing the very thick corners.)
      And I used Simplicity 2201 for the green and teal clutch. Other patterns that I have not used yet are Simplicity 9949 and Simplicity 2274. All of the patterns have multiples sizes and shapes of bags. There are probably some more good patterns out there now. I’ve had these for several years. I enjoy browsing the pattern books at the fabric store.

      For some of the bags, I folded and played with the fabric to make up a simple design.

      For the shoulder bag that I currently use all the time, made from the baby wrap remnant, I purchased a bag at the store that I thought would work well with handwoven fabric. I took it home and ripped out all the seams to deconstruct it. Then I had the basic shapes, which I reconfigured to exactly what I wanted. I made a practice bag first out of denim before using the handwoven cloth to make the final bag.

      I hope that gives you some ideas!
      Karen

  • D'Anne Craft says:

    It was so much fun to see all your beautiful bags, Karen! Nineteen is certainly not enough!! Hope you keep making more and sharing them with us. You have a wonderful sense of color!

  • Cindy Bills says:

    Hi, Karen,
    You had the icon to share to Facebook, so I shared this post with my Rigid Heddle Adventure group. They’ve been talking a lot lately about creating bags. Thanks for the post!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindy, That’s wonderful! The rigid heddle loom is perfect for making fabric for bags because it’s so easy to use a variety of fibers in the warp and in the weft. It’s a fun adventure!

      Thanks so much for sharing!
      Karen

  • Angela Roberts says:

    Truly an inspiration, as always
    Thank you Karen

  • Kantilal Doobal says:

    Please quote me a Magazine for which I wish to submit and an article dealing with woolen durrie weaving.
    thanks

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kantilal, Thank you for asking.

      I don’t know a magazine that has an article about woolen durrie weaving. “Väv” magazine sometimes has articles about different types of rug weaving, and “Handwoven” magazine sometimes has articles about rag rug weaving. The March/April 2017 issue of “Handwoven” has instructions for a “Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug” that I designed.

      Karen

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Quiet Friday: Favorite Weaving Books

I know how to write music. I am experienced in playing improvisational music on my cello. And I don’t have a problem making up a tune to sing on the spot. But nothing touches the richness of music’s beauty like getting out the Beethoven Sonatas at the piano, or Bach’s Six Suites for the cello, or singing from an old-fashioned hymnal. Likewise, I do know how to write a weaving draft from scratch, but I usually find my starting point in one of my favored weaving books. There are countless designs and dreamy pictures. From simple to extraordinary. Sometimes I follow the instructions precisely. But most often, the improviser in me examines the elements and finds a new version to “play.”

Here are just a few of my favorite weaving books, and a sampling of what they have produced.

Some of my favorite weaving books!

Favored weaving books, in no particular order. Do you see a theme? Yes, I like to weave Swedish patterns from Swedish books on my Swedish Glimåkra looms.

Turned rosepath from "The Big Book of Weaving."

Rosepath band with turned rosepath.
Lundell, Laila, and Elisabeth Windesjö. “The Big Book of Weaving: Handweaving in the Swedish Tradition: Techniques, Patterns, Designs, and Materials.” North Pomfret, VT: Trafalgar Square, 2008.

From "Älskade Trasmattor." Rosepath rag rug.

Rosepath rag rug.
Hallgren, Ann-Kristin, and Monica Hallén. “Älskade Trasmattor: att Väva Som Förr.” Kalmar: Akantus, 2006. (“Beloved Rag Rugs: To Weave As Before”)

Rosepath rag rug. Karen Isenhower

My version of this rosepath rag rug makes itself at home in our Texas hill country getaway.

Rosepath rag rug from "Favorite Rag Rugs," by Tina Ignell.

Rosepath rag rug. My very first rosepath rag rug is positioned in a prominent place in our home where it is seen and stepped on every day. Much to my delight.
Ignell, Tina, and Catherine Zienko. “Favorite Rag Rugs: 45 Inspiring Weave Designs.” North Pomfret, VT: Trafalgar Square Books, 2007.

Rosepath rag rug in "Alla Tiders Trasmattor."

Another rosepath rag rug. No end to rosepath rag rug possibilities, it seems.
Hallgren, Ann-Kristin, and Monica Hallén. “Alla Tiders Trasmattor.” Akantus Edition, 2007. (“All Time Rag Rugs”)

Rosepath rag rug.

Rosepath rag rug uses alternating weft colors in the plain weave sections, adding visual texture.

"Stardust" scarf from "Happy Weaving from Vävmagasinet."

Called “warp-faced combination weave” in the book. I don’t know what else to call it. I wove this scarf when I didn’t know exactly what I was doing yet. If you see any mistakes, just think of them as “design elements.”
Johansson, Lillemor, Charlotta Bosson, Conny Bernhardsson, and Katie Zienko. “Happy Weaving from Vävmagasinet.” Glimåkra: Vävhästen, 2004.

Classic twill towels, from "Simple Weaves," by Björk and Ignell

Cottolin twill towels. I have a small sample piece. All the towels I wove are happily drying hands and dishes in homes of family and friends.
Björk, Birgitta Bengtsson, Tina Ignell, and Bengt Arne Ignell. “Simple Weaves: over 30 Classic Patterns and Fresh New Styles.” North Pomfret, VT: Trafalgar Square, 2012.

Double binding rag rug, from "Swedish Rag Rugs 35 New Designs."

Double binding rag rug. This sweet rug is resting in my Etsy shop, waiting for a new home.
Johansson, Lillemor, Pia Wedderien, Marie Rolander, Conny Bernhardsson, and Katie Zienko. “Swedish Rag Rugs: 35 New Designs.” Glimåkra: Vävhästen, 1995.

May you play as much music as you can find.

…and speaking of Etsy! The original River Stripe Towels and Table Centerpiece Cloth that I wove are now listed in the Warped for Good Etsy Shop. And there may still be one River Stripe Towel Set Pre-Wound Warp Instructional Kit (Workshop in a Box) left! UPDATE: THE KIT HAS BEEN SOLD.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

4 Comments

  • "Blekinges sommarfågel" says:

    You are an inspiration to those who are not able attend weaving courses in Sweden, but successfully forge ahead experimenting guided by the skillfully written and illustrated Swedish weaving texts, using high quality, oftentimes fine gauge imported yarn of natural materials. Keep weaving and inspiring others with your blog!

    • Karen says:

      “Blekinges sommarfågel,” The skillfully written and illustrated Swedish weaving texts open up a world of possibilities. I love to take a stack of the books and thumb through the pages, just to dream of what I might weave someday.

      Thank you for sending such encouraging words!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • kim says:

    I’ve lately been thinking about weaving as I think about cooking, and weaving book as I think about cook books.

    While we are learning, we start with something we see in a book or magazine (a recipe) and maybe weave that as it is, or make some small change like color (ingredients.) Maybe we are brave enough to tweak the “recipe” and use a different fiber, or a thicker one or thinner one. Then, once we have the basics down (boiling eggs, steaming rice, mashing potatoes) we can build on that knowledge and compose our own recipes (pattern combinations.)

    Books are inspiration. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for YOUR endless inspiration.

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Quiet Friday: Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug

My introduction to rosepath rag rugs was on a room-size loom in Joanne Hall’s magical Montana studio. I was so happy at that moment that I actually cried. It’s no surprise, then, that I relish every opportunity to weave a rosepath rag rug. And even better, to share the joy with other handweavers who may not have tried it yet. Look what came in the mail this week! The March/April 2017 issue of Handwoven, with a project by yours truly–Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug!

Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug, as seen in March/April 2017 Handwoven.

Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug, as seen in March/April 2017 Handwoven.

Not everyone loves weaving rag rugs. That’s fine. But if you’re a weaver, there is probably something that draws your interest and brings delight. A certain weave structure, silky fibers, fine threads, complex patterns, bold colors. Something. And if you’re not a weaver, there is something else that triggers your pursued interest. Find that spark that ignites joy in you!

Beginning a rag rug.

Besides using a pre-measured tape, taking a picture at the beginning of the rug, with the yellow tape measure in view, makes it easy to replicate the hem at the end of the rug.

Temple in place, weaving Swedish rosepath rag rug.

Temple is in place, keeping the rugs a consistent width. Metal rug temples are good, but I still prefer a regular wooden Glimåkra temple for weaving rag rugs.

Weaving rosepath rag rugs. Fun!

Many rosepath variations are possible. The rug on the cloth beam uses a similar design, with different colors.

Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug. Karen Isenhower

Making paths of roses. Rosepath.

Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug.

Progress!

Seeing the reverse side of the rosepath rag rug on the loom.

Reverse side of the rug has a subtly different pattern.

Swedish rosepath rag rug on the loom. Rug in March/April 2017 Handwoven.

Cloth beam fills up with rag rugs. Pleasant sight for a rag rug weaver!

Ending the rosepath rag rug on the loom.

Ending the rug on the loom. Following the markings removes guesswork.

Keep a song in your heart. Sing. Sing for joy. Sing praise to the Grand Weaver who put the seed of searching in you. A seed that bursts open with joy when ignited with a spark, and flourishes into something distinguishable. Trust the Lord with all your heart. Your heart will find its melody.

Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug as seen in March/April 2017 Handwoven.

Published in March/April 2017 Handwoven.

May your heart sing a joyful tune.

ATTENTION: The draft for the  Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug from Handwoven is written for a sinking shed loom. Therefore, for a jack loom, you must tie up the “white” empty squares instead of the numbered squares for the pattern to show right side up as you weave.

If you are interested in weaving rag rugs, take a look at Rag Rug Tips, a new tab at the top of the page.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

20 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Congratulations, Karen, on another beautiful article!

  • Maggie Ackerman says:

    I’ve just done my first rose path rug and I loved doing it. Used tee shirt yarn from my stash. Yours is gorgeous and I can’t wait to try it. You also have some great suggestions — I love the photo idea for the hem. Much better than my notes.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Maggie, Rosepath is so much fun. I’m glad to hear you have enjoyed it, too. Yes, the photo has saved me many times. My memory and my notes are not that great.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Fran says:

    I downloaded Handwoven yesterday, and was pleasantly surprised to see your rug! Congratulations !

  • Janet says:

    Congrats Karen!! I have always loved your rugs and will be trying this out shortly:)
    Janet

  • Sandy says:

    I’ve recently returned home from a trip, then going through several days of mail found my Mar/April issue of Handwoven. I was so excited to see your Rosepath Rug article, and was happily anticipating this blog post. Congratulations! Once again thank you for your weaving & life encouragements. 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sandy, Sounds like you have me figured out. 🙂 Isn’t it exciting to get a weaving magazine in a pile of mail? Everything else has to stand still while I flip through the pages. And then, later, I sit down with it and read every page.

      Thank you for your wonderful encouragement to me. It means so much!
      Karen

  • Mary Scott says:

    Don’t you just love her!! Beautiful job on your rug!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Mary

  • Carol says:

    BEAUTIFUL !!
    Congrats. Need to run out and get a copy of Handwoven.

    Carol

  • Sandy says:

    My issue of Handwoven arrived yesterday and I was thrilled to see your article! Beautiful rug and I’m so looking forward to trying this. And checking out your tab of tips – I’ve never woven a rag rug before (I’m a fairly new weaver), though I’ve dreamed about it. I can use all the help I can get!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sandy, You’re in for a treat. Weaving a rag rug is different than other types of weaving. You get to use some muscle! 🙂 Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can help you in any way.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nanette says:

    Congratulations on the article! Also, the photo reminded me I didn’t thank you after I tried your ribbon-measuring system. It works great and I really appreciated your detailed instructions. Nanette

    • Karen says:

      Nanette, I’m happy the measuring ribbon works for you! One of the places I learned about using a ribbon for measuring was at Vavstuga. So many little things can make a big difference.

      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

  • Bonnie Wilker says:

    Karen, it was wonderful to see your work recognized in Handwoven! What a well deserved honor! Your work is beautifully striking and so is your testimony to our Lord. May He who is the master weaver continue to bless your endeavors as you continue to serve Him.
    Bonnie Wilker

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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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Quality Rug Warp

After a few weeks of having to refrain from weaving, I am thankful that there was warp to weave one more rug. The quality of warp thread matters because it is the core of the rug. Never underestimate the value of good, strong warp thread for weaving rag rugs.

Rosepath rag rug almost complete!

First hem is going around the cloth beam. Weaving is almost complete!

I like to use 12/6 cotton from Bockens. This rug warp is a six-strand thread with high twist. The smooth, nearly-unbreakable thread enables me to ratchet up the tension on the warp. That high tension helps produce sturdy, tightly packed rugs with tidy selvedges. Knowing you are making a rug that will last is a very satisfying and enjoyable weaving experience.

Cutting off never gets old!

Cutting off never gets old.

Rosepath rag rug just finished. Karen Isenhower

Ta da! Hems are folded under for the picture. As soon as the hems are stitched, this rosepath rag rug will have its Etsy photoshoot.

With finishing nearly complete, this rag rug will be enjoyed on the floor of someone’s home. Most people aren’t aware of the structural elements of a rag rug, but they do notice quality in the finished work. People, too, have an inner core–the heart. The heart matters. The strength of our inward framework determines our outward attitudes and actions. Since true quality is found in a life that serves others, most everything comes down to a matter of the heart.

May your quality of life be noticeable.

Happy weaving,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Barbara says:

    It’s amazing how a bunch of leftovers can be combined into something so beautiful. I’m so glad you are back to weaving again.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks, Barbara, it’s good to be back in the saddle. I’ve seen you turn leftovers from the refrigerator into a beautiful meal. Now, that’s amazing! 🙂

      Karen

  • Martha says:

    Beautiful rug! Have you tried linen rug warp or poly/cotton rug warp in your work. Both of them are supposed to last far longer than cotton.

    Love your article in Handwoven magazine – lovely.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Martha, That’s a good discussion point. I have used linen rug warp for a wool rug. It’s great for that; and I think it would work well for rag rugs, but it raises the expense considerably. I’m not sure I’d find buyers for that.
      I haven’t tried poly/cotton rug warp. Some of the comparisons may be against the popular 8/4 cotton rug warp, which will certainly have a shorter life.
      It would take a lot to wear out the 12/6 cotton in a rug.

      I’m glad you saw the Handwoven article! Thanks for the compliment.

      Karen

  • D'Anne Craft says:

    Wonderful to hear you are back at the loom! Take care of yourself so you can weave on and on and on………….

  • Sandra says:

    I live in Calgary, Alberta. Our closest weaving supply shop just closed this past summer. Where would you suggest the best place would be to order 12/6 rug warp cotton? Would like to buy Canadian..

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sandra from Calgary, Welcome!
      It is disappointing to see weaving shops close…

      I’m sorry, I am not familiar with Canadian sources. I usually purchase Bockens 12/6 cotton from GlimakraUSA.com or Vavstuga.com, both in the USA.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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