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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Tools Day: Swedish Bobbin Winder

There’s nothing quite like the beauty and functionality of a well-designed tool. The Swedish hand bobbin winder is one of those tools. A bobbin winder is essential. Steve made a superb electric bobbin winder for me that I normally use. But at our Texas hill country home, my Swedish bobbin winder comes into play. And it is a pleasure to use. I clamp the bobbin winder on a shelf in the cabinet where I store my few weaving supplies for this location. The tube of thread sits directly below on a simple homemade spool holder.

Swedish hand bobbin winder for winding quills.

Swedish hand bobbin winder is set up in my supply cabinet. It is easy to remove and put away when I finish winding quills.

Swedish hand bobbin winder for winding quills.

Narrow spindle on the bobbin winder is the size that works for winding quills.

For these color-and-weave cotton placemats, I am using double-bobbin shuttles. So, with the impressively simple Swedish hand bobbin winder I am winding matching pairs of colorful 8/2 cotton quills.

Double-bobbin shuttles for weaving doubled weft.

Double bobbin shuttles are handy for weaving this doubled weft color-and-weave pattern.

May you have the pleasure of working with well-designed tools.

Happy weaving,
Karen

2 Comments

  • I am glad I found your blog. It visually explains how weaving should look when done right. AND—– (very important) has been kept up to date since 2013.
    Thank you.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, What a kind thing for you to say! I aim to give visual explanations, so I’m happy to hear that from you.

      Yes, I have been posting twice a week ever since I started in April 2013. Thank you for noticing!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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Tools Day: Countermarch Loom Pros and Con

When my long-held dream of weaving on a floor loom became a possibility, I started my journey with questions. What are the pros and cons of the different types of looms? After considerable research, a winner emerged—the Swedish countermarch loom!

Pros and Con of Countermarch Looms
(My experience is with Glimåkra. Other countermarch looms may differ.)

Pros

  • Weave anything. Rag rugs to lace-weight fabric.
  • Hanging beater. Swinging beater has momentum that enables a firm beat. No strain to shoulders, arms, or wrists. Asset for weaving rag rugs, and superb control for cloth with an open weave. Beater placement is adjustable, making it possible to weave longer before advancing the warp.
  • Rear-hinged treadles. Pressing treadles is effortless, no matter how many shafts. No strain on back, legs, knees, or ankles, even with robust weaving. Because treadles are close to each other, I press correct treadles with sock- or bare-footed ease…without having to watch my feet. Ample foot rest makes it easy to trade feet when using many treadles.
  • Clean shed. Stepping on a treadle raises and lowers shafts at the same time, so a great shed is not only possible, but usual.

Horizontal countermarch. Info about CM looms.

Glimåkra Ideal with horizontal countermarch. The cords from the countermarch jacks at the top of the loom go straight down through the warp to the lower lamms. The lower lamms connected to treadles cause shafts to lift when a treadle is depressed.

  • Even warp tension. Because shafts are both raised and lowered, tension is equal on raised and lowered warp ends. Even warp tension is good for all types of weaving. This even tension makes a tight warp possible. Perfect for linen, and for rugs.

Vertical Countermarch Loom - info about CM

Gimåkra Standard loom with vertical countermarch. Cords from the countermarch jacks go over the side of the loom to the lower lamms below. The upper lamms (not pictured) attached to treadles cause shafts to sink when a treadle is depressed.

Threading ease of countermarch looms.

Bench sits in the loom for threading heddles. I call this my little playhouse.

  • Texsolv heddles. Heddles can be easily added or removed from shafts (shafts are also easily added or removed). Quiet. Easy to thread.
  • Perfect fit. A petite person like me can weave on a large loom (my Standard is 47”/120cm) as comfortably as someone with longer arms and legs. Able to sit in upright posture for weaving.
  • Wooden. The loom is primarily wood. Bonus if you appreciate natural beauty of wood. Held together with wooden wedges and a few bolts. No screws or wing nuts.
  • Scandinavian clarity. Because of the Swedish loom, I adopt Swedish weaving practices and have an interest in traditional Scandinavian textiles. The loom fits the style. Streamlined design, precision, systematic and logical processes, and beauty with function.

Con

  • Treadle tie-ups. Shafts are connected to upper lamms and lower lamms. Treadle cords with a bead at one end are hung in the lamms. Lamms are then attached to treadles. Treadle tie-ups normally fall under the Pros category, because this is what enables the loom to have the clean shed it’s known for. But since I just finished tying up ten shafts to ten treadles (that’s 100 treadle cords), this is my least favorite part right now. 😉 (The weaving pleasure more than makes up for it, though.)

Countermarch treadle cords. Pros and cons.

One hundred treadle cords hang from upper and lower lamms. The only thing left is to attach all the cords to treadles. 😉

Treadle cords for 10 shafts! 5-shaft satin coming up!

Treadle cords are attached. Little anchor pins lock each cord into position under the treadle. After a few adjustments, the shed on each treadle is good. The loom is dressed! Five-shaft satin dräll coming up!

Conclusion:
When I weave on my Glimåkra Standard countermarch loom, I am soaring like an eagle. I’m sailing with the spinnaker up. I am a pipe organ maestro. I am dreaming while fully awake. This is everything I imagined weaving could be, only better.

Countermarch looms - pros and con.

Testing weft options. Gorgeous handcrafted damask shuttle, Chechen wood, made by Moberg Tools. Five-shaft satin dräll–a weaver’s dream.

For more in-depth information about countermarch looms, comparisons of looms, and other fantastic resources, see articles written by Joanne Hall, found at Glimåkra USA.

May you live your dream.

Very Happy Weaving,
Karen

12 Comments

  • Annie says:

    This article is exactly what I needed to read, Karen. I have been looking online at websites at the various looms, trying to decide which one I think would be best. I narrowed it down to countermarches for the versatility and sheds but was confused about brands, sizes, etc. This really helps. However,l I have a large learning curve before I jump into buying one unless a great used one suddenly appears.
    Many blessings, Karen.

    Annie

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, It was your previous comment that prompted me to write this. So I thank you for that!

      Take your time with research and questions. As you narrow it down, you’ll gain confidence about making the right choice for your circumstances.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • JAN says:

    Great descriptions/instructions! Yes, sitting on the floor tying up the treadle cords for any contramarsch loom is tedious, but as you said, the results are well worth it. Sounds like you have written an ad for Glimåkra. The same, even somewhat better results can be obtained on an Öxabäck loom, a.k.a “Ulla Cyrus”?

    • Karen says:

      Hi, JAN, Yes, the tie-up can be demanding, but I can see that you enjoy what comes as a result, too.

      I’m afraid you’re right. It does sound like an ad for Glimåkra. I’m very happy with my Glimåkra looms, so I may be a little eager about my own experiences.

      Öxabäck has a wonderful reputation! I haven’t yet had the pleasure of weaving on one. I’m sure there are details about the Ulla Cyrus and other countermarch looms that I would really appreciate!

      Thank you,
      Karen

  • Joan says:

    Check out Vavstuga Weaving Studio’s way of tying up the treadles. Becky has figured out how to ditch the legged pegs for knitting needles. So much easier!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joan, I think Becky’s ingenious method of using knitting needles for tying up treadles is fantastic! I learned it at Vavstuga Basics a few years ago. I use that method when weaving with two, four, or even six shafts.

      When weaving with eight shafts, however, I have found that I can get better sheds by tweaking the tie-up after weaving a few inches. And it’s easier to pop out and replace individual pegs than to pull out the knitting needle and redo the whole treadle. So, with eight or more shafts, I prefer the old-fashioned method of pinning each treadle cord.

      Thanks for your input!
      Karen

  • Esther Bauer says:

    I have a 4 shaft Glimåkra. I love it.

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Esther, I can spend hours on my 4-shaft Glimåkra. It’s such a weaver-friendly loom. It’s good to hear of your experience!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kayleen Andresen says:

    I have a Glimakra 4 shaft. I have found it to be great to use. I have had to dismantle it to move and it is very easy to assemble again. My least favorite job is changing the tie up.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kayleen, Thank you for bringing up how easy it is to dismantle and re-assemble. I didn’t think of including that in my list. That is definitely a big plus!
      Changing the tie-up is one of those things of which can be said: “I didn’t necessary like doing it, but I like having done it.” It does give me a good sense of accomplishment!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Gerda says:

    Thanks Karen, very clear and I love your conclusion. Such prose! It is exactly how I felt when I finally had my Toika countermarch up and running, after years on a counterbalance (which is still very useful, and I like it too). I have graduated to 8 shafts, 8 treadles, this week going to 10 treadles: more texsolv to cut, more crawling to do… 10 shafts comes in a year or so, lots of soaring and playing to do first. Living the journey and reading your blog faithfully!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Gerda, There’s such satisfaction in weaving on a loom that functions so beautifully for the task. That’s great that you are graduating little-by-little adding treadles and shafts. There’s no hurry, because even 2 or 4 shafts is sufficient to have a grand time at the loom.

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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Tapestry and Inlay Sampler

It is satisfying to see this ambitious project take shape on the loom! When finished, this sampler of tapestry and inlay techniques will be a handy reference as well as a colorful hanging for the wall. It’s a much-anticipated project from The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell!

Tapestry and inlay sampler with linen weft.

Practicing parallelogram shapes.

Linen butterflies are usedf for twill inlay.

Linen butterflies are used for the twill inlay. Turns are made below the warp.

I don’t always understand the instructions, in which case I struggle, doing the best I can. But the more I progress, the more I understand. I am finding out what works. The text, Swedish translated to English, about unfamiliar techniques is helpful, but I often wish I had the author looking over my shoulder to guide me.

Loom with a view. Linen tapestry/inlay sampler.

Loom with a view. Time flies, even with slow weaving, at this Texas hill country loom.

Threads on the underside. Tapestry / inlay sampler in linen.

Weaving from the front. Weft tails are taken to the back of the weaving.

Where do we get instructions for living? We may consider entering the kingdom of God for that. But Jesus also spoke of the kingdom of God entering us. Invite the King in. That’s when His ways become our ways. Instead of struggling through instructions, we find ourselves learning His will by doing what we know to do. Life is a sampler, with occasions to learn, to struggle, and to soar. Let’s weave our living sampler in the shadow of the Grand Weaver, Himself.

May your sampler show what you’ve learned.

Happy weaving,
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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