Tools Day: Paper and Yarn

A folded piece of paper and a seven-inch tail from a yarn butterfly become an answer to a small technical problem. When using a cartoon, like I am for this transparency, it’s imperative to identify the center warp end so I can align the dotted-line center of the cartoon with that one end. Finding the center warp end is my technical problem. The paper and yarn work together as the tool that helps remove the guesswork.

Weaving a transparency. Bluebonnets.

I check the alignment of the cartoon about every inch, and move up the pins that hold the cartoon in place.

With these bluebonnets, if the cartoon slides to the right or left by even one warp end it distorts the picture. It’s not enough to eyeball it. I need a way to make sure I am finding, and marking, the exact center end every time.

How to Find and Mark the Center Warp End

Supplies:

  • Pencil
  • Subscription card from a magazine, folded in half lengthwise
  • Seven-inch tail from a yarn butterfly, or a strand of yarn
  1. Measure the width of the beater and use a pencil to mark the exact center with a vertical line.
  2. Hold the folded edge of the card against the vertical pencil line on the beater, with the bottom edge of the card almost touching the warp.

Finding and marking the center warp end to align with cartoon.

3. Slip the yarn tail under the center warp end, as identified by the bottom corner of the card.

Aligning center warp end with cartoon. Tutorial.

4. Check the alignment of the center line of the cartoon with the center warp end.

How to mark the center warp end.

5. Slide the yarn from the reed to the fell line to check the entire length of the alignment. Reposition the cartoon, if needed.

Aligning cartoon with center warp end. How to.

Bluebonnet woven transparency almost finished!

Ready for one last alignment!

May you find a solution that eliminates guesswork.

All the best,
Karen

4 Comments

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Tools Day: Narrow Hems

Hems shouldn’t be noticed. At least, not at first glance. I don’t want the stitching of the hem to detract from the overall handwoven quality. Decorative items, like this table runner, deserve a hand-stitched hem. But for functional pieces, like these tea towels, I stitch the hems on my trusty old Bernina sewing machine. This ensures the durability I want for something that will be thrown in the washer and dryer again and again.

Long M's and O's table runner is hemmed by hand.

Long M’s and O’s table runner is hemmed by hand using an invisible hem stitch.

Last year I purchased a Bernina walking foot through my local Bernina repairman. It was one of the best sewing investments I have made. (Don’t be fooled by off-brand “Bernina compatible” products.) The advantage of a walking foot is that it evenly feeds layers of fabric, which is especially useful for sewing handwoven fabric. And for the towel hem, it means the top of the hem won’t become skewed and slanted as you sew, like it might with a regular sewing machine foot.

Bernina Walking Foot - good investment!

Bernina Three Sole Walking Foot with Seam Guide. The walking foot stays on my Bernina sewing machine almost all the time.

One of the three sole plates that comes with the Bernina walking foot is a sole for edge stitching. This works beautifully for stitching a narrow hem on lighter-weight fabric, like these airy cotton and linen towels.

My process for a machine-stitched narrow hem

  • Turn and press the 1/4″ hem twice. Hold the folded edge in place with small fabric clips.
Sewing narrow hems on handwoven towels.

Small fabric clips hold the folded and pressed towel hem in place, in preparation for stitching the hem.

  • At the sewing machine, attach the edge-stitching sole plate to the walking foot. Align the fold of the hem with the edge-stitching guide.
Bernina walking foot with stitch guide.

Sole with stitch guide. The metal plate that extends below the foot is a steady guide that works for sewing a narrow hem, as well as for top-stitching, or “stitch-in-the-ditch” techniques.

  • Adjust the sewing machine needle to the right, so that it catches the fabric just inside the edge of the fold.
Sewing hems on handwoven towels.

Sewing the narrow hem. Needle is positioned so that it is to the right of the hem fold.

Slowly sew a narrow hem, keeping the folded edge next to the walking foot’s edge-stitching guide. Remove fabric clips before they come to the needle.

Hemming handwoven towels.

Front and back of the hem have consistent, straight stitching. The narrow hem (not yet pressed) will be barely visible.

May your hems be a suitable frame for your handiwork.

Finishing,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Cate says:

    I’m going to have to visit a Bernina dealer soon and get one of these for my machine. I really love that little stitch guide! Brilliant!

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Really pretty project! I inherited a Bernina last Summer but I have yet to play. My Elna sits in a cabinet making the sewing surface larger and at a much better level. I need a cabinet (and more floor space) for the Bernina. Sewing with my arms raised above cabinet height causes me too much shoulder/neck pain. Any suggestions would be welcome, Karen. The walking foot lives on the Elna most of the time.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, It’s not worth it to get shoulder/neck pain! I have never had a sewing machine cabinet, but my Bernina sits on a small lower-height table that Steve made for me eons ago. Table and chair height make a huge difference. Maybe you can find a lower table or an adjustable chair that you can raise to sit a little higher. I use an adjustable swivel desk chair at mine.

      I’ve always heard that an Elna is a great machine. So maybe just stick with that. 🙂 (but I do love my trusty old Bernina…ha)

      Happy pain-free sewing,
      Karen

  • D'Anne Craft says:

    The M’s and O’s fabric turned out beautifully, just like all your weaving. I’m a Bernina gal, too.

    • Karen says:

      Hi D’Anne, I’m very happy with the way the M’s and O’s turned out! I got started with Bernina many years ago. It’s the only sewing machine I’ve owned. I don’t think it will ever wear out.

      Karen

  • Mary says:

    I too recently invested in a walking foot and what a difference it makes in my hems.j I no longer dread this part of finishing. Do you like those hem clips better than straight pinning.? Where do you find the clips?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mary, I do prefer the fabric clips over pins for simple stitching like this. It’s quick and easy, and there is no distortion of the fabric. Also, there is no threat of snagging the fabric with a rough pin. Of course, I do use straight pins for sewing that requires more detail.

      I got my clips at Hobby Lobby, but I think you can find them at most places that have quilting supplies.

      Karen

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Cutting Off Celebration!

Is there anything as exciting as cutting off? Oh sure, there will be some errors to mend. And only wet finishing will reveal the true nature of the cloth. But after investing hours and hours at the loom, cutting the fabric off is a celebration. This is the moment when the work of this weaver’s hands is finally revealed!

While admiring and examining the fabric as it comes off the loom, I am already moving onto the next step–finishing. Here are a few of my regular practices.

  • Thread-mark the right side of the fabric on each sample and individual piece before completely removing the fabric from the loom. This removes guesswork later. Thread a blunt-tip needle with 6 – 8″ of warp or weft thread, and make a 1/2″ stitch through the fabric. Leaving a loose loop, tie the ends of the thread together in a square knot on the right side of the fabric.
Weaving tip: Thread-mark the fabric.

Knot in the thread tells me that this is the right side of the fabric. Thread marks are sewn onto each piece before removing the fabric from the loom if the difference between the right and wrong side of the fabric is less than obvious. Thread marks remain until hems are turned under.

  • Tie sequential knots in the thread marks. e.g., First towel has one knot, second towel has 2 knots, etc. This enables accurate record-keeping measurements before and after wet finishing for individual items.
Weaving tip: How I number the towels on a warp.

After washing, I count the number of knots in the thread to know which towel is which. Before and after measurements enable me to calculate the amount of shrinkage that occurs, which helps for planning future projects.

  • Cut pieces apart before washing.

1. Two weft picks have been woven for each cutting line. The two threads make an easy guide path for the scissors.

Cutting line between woven items.

Cutting line for separating the woven pieces. Cut between the two red weft threads.

2. Use the same cutting-line color for every project (I use red, unless red is one of the weft colors in the project). This helps prevent accidental cutting at weft design stripes in the piece (which I did once –Oops!– before establishing this rule).

3. Pull out the cutting-line threads. Any remaining thread residue is easily removed with a lint roller.

Pulling out the cutting line.

Red cutting line thread pulls off, leaving a straight woven edge for finishing.

  • Finish the cut edges with an overlock stitch on a serger or with a zigzag stitch (preferably a three-stitch zigzag, according to my friend, Elisabeth) on a sewing machine.
Getting ready to wet finish these M's and O's towels!

All items are prepared for washing. Errors have been mended, and cut edges have been finished with the serger.

M's and O's (Sålldräll) after washing. Karen Isenhower

Lovely texture of the M’s and O’s (Sålldräll) structure is revealed after washing. A few more finishing steps remain: pressing, adding handwoven hanging tabs, and hemming.

Humans are not finished until they are loved. Love is patience and kindness at the core. We want to be on the receiving end of that, don’t we? We all need someone to love us–to carry our burdens, to believe us, to hope the best for us, to endure with us. It’s in the finishing that we discover the value, the corrections needed, and the beauty that has been woven in. This is the love of God to us. This is the finishing work of Jesus Christ, and his love in us.

May you have many cutting-off celebrations.

With love,
Karen

PS It’s good to be back with you! I hope you had a pleasant and weaving-full July.

20 Comments

  • Carol Ashworth says:

    Nice ideas! God is good God is great!! It’s is true JOY when we give ourselves to Jesus Others and You!!

  • Marjorie says:

    Nice to have you back again!

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Great to have you back! These are going to be beautiful! Nice tips.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, Thank you so much! I am thrilled to be here.
      These towels and table runner are going to be some of my very favorite handwoven items. They are simply elegant.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • carla weitzel says:

    I was happy to see this post. I was never sure if I should cut towels apart before or after laundering. This seems much easier.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Carla, I like to cut towels apart before washing because a long piece tends to twist up more, which can lead to some permanent creases. In fact, I had some problem with that on the long table runner in this set. If I have an extra-short sample, I may leave it connected to a towel and then cut them apart after washing, so the short piece doesn’t get too battered in the wash.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Cherie says:

    I so look forward to your posts! So often I am encouraged to try new ideas, and always walk away with a sense of blessings and community! Thank you!

    I usually weave 1 3/4″ with sewing thread on the ends so that my hems are not thick. (But I am mostly using 5/2 cotton at this point, as a new weaver.) I see you are not…is this because you are using finer yarns?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cherie, I love the community of friends here! I’m glad you get that same sense.

      Great question! Thanks for asking. I’ve never used a different thread for my hems than what is in the towel or other item. I think that’s a great idea if you are using coarser threads. The weft in these towels is 20/1 linen, so it’s pretty fine to start with. I like to think of the hems as a design element of the towel, so the weft choice plays into that.

      All the best,
      Karen

      • Anonymous says:

        Your weaving is beautiful.
        I’ve used rug warp for my hems when doing rag rugs and always put in the contrasting cutting line, but with the coarser fabric I also try to zig-zag before cutting apart. I don’t have a serger and by careful folding one rug will fit under the machine arm. Cut one off and then sew the next one 🙂

        • Karen says:

          Thank you for the compliment!

          I’ve used rug warp for hems on rag rugs, too. Sounds like you have a great system! Thanks for sharing.

          All the best,
          Karen

  • Liberty Stickney says:

    Morning Karen, glad your back and all these towels are beautiful!
    Liberty

    • Karen says:

      Hi Liberty, I’m glad to be back! These towels turned out even better than I had hoped. I’m glad you like them.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Betty Morrissey says:

    Thank you for sharing your tips and practices! Lovely towels.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betty, It’s a joy for me to get to share about the things I’ve learned and stumbled onto along the way. Thanks for letting me know you get something out of it.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Angie says:

    Happy to see you back as well. I did take notice that you had separated the towels before washing, seems it would work much nicer.Thanks for your wonderful tips and messages.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Angie, Thanks for the warm greeting! Separating the towels before washing does work well for me. And then, after drying them and pressing them, they are ready for hemming.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Julie says:

    Hi Karen

    I just love your videos and I am learning so much from them, and they are truly inspiring, I hope to be able to weave as beautifully as you do one day. I’m a newbie to weaving you see so I’m watching loads of videos at the minute. I have just managed to pick up a Glimakra standard countermarch loom second hand (with 8 shafts and 8 treadles) and I am so lucky have it. However, there are no videos on the web or on Youtube (that I can find) about seeing how the lams operate and about how to tie up lams with shafts and treadles according to the desired pattern. So any advise or comments would be hugely appreciated. I have seen other tie up videos but with different looms so unsure if its kind of the same??

    Can’t wait to see your next project x

    • Karen says:

      Hi Julie, I am so happy to hear that you are learning things from my videos! Thanks for letting me know.

      How exciting that you ended up with an 8-shaft Glimakra Standard countermarch loom! You will love it!! It will take some learning and practice, but you will find it is a great loom for anything you want to weave.

      There are some excellent books that describe in detail how the lamms and treadles are tied up on a countermarch loom. Different types of looms do have different ways of being tied up. I have listed my three favorite resources at the end of the post at this link: Quiet Friday: Warping Back to Front with Confidence.

      If you are reading a Scandinavian weaving draft, the upper lamms correspond with the black squares in the draft, and the lower lamms correspond with the white (or empty) squares in the draft. (I hope that is helpful!)

      My next project on this loom (Glimakra Ideal) will be rag rugs. But first, I’m going to concentrate on the other loom (my Glimakra Standard) to make significant progress on that project!

      Let me know how it goes as you get set up and get started weaving.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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Woven Transparency Cactus

I found a subject for my next transparency. It’s a prickly pear cactus in Texas hill country. Weaving this cactus is a fantastic experience! I started with a photograph, from which I made a cartoon. And I have an outline that shows where to place each color. It’s all based on the timeless beauty of colors in nature. I’m hopeful that when light shines through the final woven transparency we will see a likeness of the original cactus.

Prickly Pear Cactus in Texas hill country.

Prickly Pear Cactus in the front yard of our Texas hill country home.

Make a Cartoon

  • Crop and enlarge the photo. (I use Acrobat Reader to enlarge and print in multiple pages, and then tape the pages together.)

Prickly Pear Cactus in Texas hill country.

  • Outline the main lines of the picture.
  • Turn the enlarged picture over and draw the traced lines on the back to have the reverse image. (This transparency is woven from the back.)

Photo to sketch to cartoon for woven transparency.

  • Trace the line drawing onto a piece of buckram to use as the cartoon.
  • Draw a vertical dashed line down the center of the buckram cartoon.
  • Pin the cartoon under the weaving, lining up the center line on the cartoon with the center warp end. Move the pins, one at a time, before advancing the warp each time.

Buckram used for transparency cartoon.

Color Selection

  • Use the photograph to select yarn colors for the transparency. (I used the iPad to view the photo, and selected sixteen shades of 20/2 Mora wool.)
  • Sort the yarn by hues. (I used my iPhone camera black-and-white setting to help in the sorting.) Sorting by hues helps me blend similar-hued colors, and shows me the contrasts that will help define the picture.

Color selection for woven transparency. Sorting by hues.

 

Sorting colors by hues for woven transparency.

  • Assign a number to each yarn color.
  • Make the enlarged outline into a color-by-number sheet by designating a color or blend of colors for each section. (I taped this sheet to the wall beside my loom, to use as a color guide. The iPad photo also serves as a reference.)

Butterflies of Mora wool for woven transparency.

Virtues are timeless. Virtues are like colors that blend together to weave a masterpiece. When we let the Grand Weaver lay in the weft, these are the colors that appear as light shines through His woven transparency: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And when this occurs, it shows that we are made in His image.

Making a transparency cartoon. Tutorial.

 

Woven transparency from a photo. How to.

May the next leg of your journey be a fantastic experience.

I’ll meet you back here on Tuesday, August 1st, 2017.
In the meantime, I hope you investigate claims of Jesus. Take time with people. Keep weaving. And the same for me.

Head over to Instagram to stay in touch with my daily journey.

Love,
Karen

16 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    This is going to be fabulous!

  • So exciting to see your transparency! That is my absolute favorite thing to weave, and yours is inspiring me to do another one too. What size linen and sett are you using?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lynette, You are responsible for inspiring me! I couldn’t stop thinking about your beautiful transparencies, and knew I wanted to make another attempt. It’s not hard for me to understand why this is your very favorite thing to weave. I may be following you in that! I can’t thank you enough for answering my questions behind the scenes!

      This is 16/2 linen, 12 epi.

      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

  • D'Anne Craft says:

    You’ve put lots of planning time into this piece. Can’t wait to see the finished work!

    • Karen says:

      Hi D’Anne, The planning for this has been a lot of fun. I was getting discouraged trying to find a good subject to weave, but when I found this pic that I took on our own property I got pretty excited about the whole thing! I can’t wait to show it to you when it’s finished!

      Karen

  • Liberty Stickney says:

    This is so exciting Karen, I can’t wait to see it!! Have a wonderful vacation, I will be looking forward to august and this finished piece!
    Liberty

  • Wende says:

    Love this!

  • Maria says:

    Karen,
    Where in the hill country do you live? I so enjoy your blog- I like how you “weave” your faith in your posts!! Gifted weaver and writer?

    • Karen says:

      Maria, We are a little north of Kerrville. We currently live in the Houston area, but this special place in Kerrville will become our permanent home when my husband retires. Your sweet thoughts are very touching. Let me know when you will be in Houston again, or in hill country. I’d love to meet up.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Carol Ashworth says:

    I am so glad I found your site! I love everything and have a lot to learn!
    I love how you try to do every so nice and neat!
    Carol

  • Patricia Tiemann says:

    Great blog! Thanks for posting so much info.

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Tools Day: Umbrella Swift

The umbrella swift earns the “Cool Tool” award! I have sixteen skeins of 20/2 Mora wool (as seen in Skeins of Colors). Before making them into little butterflies of color for a woven transparency, I am winding the skeins into balls. This means I get to use one of my favorite tools–the umbrella swift. My Glimåkra swift is simple to use and gives flawless results every time.

How to Use an Umbrella Swift

  • Attach the clamp of the umbrella swift to the side of the loom, or other secure structure, like a table. The swift functions vertically or horizontally. I prefer to position the swift horizontally so the yarn rolls off vertically. Also, I find it easier to hang the yarn on a horizontal swift than to place the yarn on a vertical swift, holding the yarn while expanding the umbrella.

How to use an umbrella swift. Tutorial.

  • Position the yarn ball winder so that it is in line with the umbrella swift, a short distance away. I clamp the yarn ball winder to my loom bench, and sit on a small stool behind the bench.

Yarn ball winder in use with umbrella swift.

  • Remove the yarn skein’s label and put it aside. Carefully unfold and untwist the skein of yarn and open it out to a big circle. Place both arms through the center of the circle of yarn and snap your arms outward. Repeat the snapping action one or two more times, with the yarn repositioned about a quarter turn each time. This helps straighten out the yarn for placing it on the swift.
  • Lower the “umbrella” of the swift by loosing the screw and pulling the bottom screw-piece toward the clamp. Place the opened and prepared skein of yarn around the swift.

Placing the skein on an umbrella swift. How to.

  • Push open the “umbrella.” Spread it open just far enough to hold the yarn taut. Tighten the screw to keep the swift in that position.

How to use an umbrella swift for weaving yarn.

  • Find the place(s) on the skein where the skein has been tied, and untie the knot(s). Identify the end of the yarn that is on the outer side of the skein and connect that end to the yarn ball winder. For consistency among multiple skeins of yarn, I have the umbrella swift turn in the same direction for each one, with the yarn unwinding from the top of the swift.

Putting skein of yarn on umbrella swift.

  • Turn the yarn ball winder until all the yarn has been unwound from the swift.

Set up for using umbrella swift. Tips.

Winding ball of yarn from umbrella swift.

Winding ball of yarn from umbrella swift.

  • Remove the yarn ball from the yarn ball winder and wrap the skein’s label on the new yarn ball.

New ball of yarn thanks to umbrella swift.

  • Collect the new balls of yarn and play with the colors in your imagination.

Mora wool. Getting ready for woven transparency!

May you take pleasure in your work of preparation.

All the best,
Karen

11 Comments

  • Dear Karen,
    Good morning, I just had the luck of stumbling onto your lovely blog and I see you have accomplished what I am struggling with. I too have a glimakra and I recently “upgraded” it to 8 shafts. Very long story short, I don’t have any documentation and I suspect the reason I’m getting terrible sheds is because of cord lengths. Is there any chance we could talk for a few minutes?
    On a pretty morning by the Bay,
    Astrig

  • Betsy says:

    Well, duh! I’ve never thought to use my swift horizontally! I’ll have to give it a try. It’s a little smaller than yours, but hopefully it will fit on the Standard upright.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, I hope it works for you! Horizontal seems logical to me, but I suppose if you think of it as an actual umbrella, it naturally would go in the vertical direction. The good thing is, it works either way!

      Karen

  • Thank you Karen for the explanation of use and excellent photos to accompany. I’d be lost without my swift. As we all know, skeins can bite you if you don’t treat them with respect!
    Alison

  • Ruth says:

    Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, KU. Love the KU foot stool(?)!
    Wonderful horizontal use of your skein winder. Never looked at using mine horizontally – must remember to keep an open mind and look at all possibilities in life.
    Happy weekend.

    • Ruth says:

      Guess I’m tired this morning. I intended to refer to the swift as a swift. LOL

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ruth, You took the bait. I was hoping to draw out any KU alumns with that little stool. 😉
      Good point about seeing possibilities. We can do surprising things if we are not set in our ways.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • tsw says:

    Karen, your photos and step by step instructions are clear and wonderful. As a former private investigator, I give you high marks for your ” evidentiary photography.” I am a wannabe weaver, awaiting retirement to spread my wings, attend Vavstuga, and weave away my retirement. In the meantime, I study, and gain inspiration and food for thought from your blog and the online weaving forums.
    If you only knew how much you nurture other people’s hearts and minds…
    You are a blessing to all of us!

    • Karen says:

      Dear tsw, I am touched by your thoughtful remarks. Your encouragement means so much to me!

      What a wonderful way to prepare for retirement! Keep dreaming, and seeing those dreams come to life. You have nurtured me today with your kindness.

      Happy weaving dreams,
      Karen

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