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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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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If a Warp End Is Frayed…

I noticed that a warp end was starting to fray, but I kept on weaving. I thought I could make it past the weak spot. Well, I was wrong. The warp end broke. So much for happy weaving! A broken warp end at the selvedge is no fun, especially on a weft-faced piece like this. Looking back, I wish I had taken time to splice in a new length of thread when I first noticed the weakness. But at the time, I didn’t want to be bothered with that. I just wanted to weave.

Tapestry / inlay sampler on small countermarch loom.

Weaving right along. I start to notice some abrasion on the warp end at the right selvedge. I’ll be extra careful. I can keep weaving and enjoy myself, right???

Broken selvedge end on the right. Ugh.

Warp end on the right selvedge frayed to the breaking point. Gone! The weaving must be removed far enough back to reach at least 1/2″ of the warp end in front of the break. That reaches back into the red portion–the first section of the sampler.

Tapestry / inlay sampler on small countermarch loom.

Pin is inserted to secure a new selvedge warp end. The fourth end from the right showed some fraying, so I am splicing in a new piece of 12/9 cotton warp. Learned my lesson.

Original selvedge warp end is now being spliced back in (green flathead pin). Second splice is complete, with thread tail hanging out, to be trimmed after this is off the loom.

Tapestry and inlay sampler. Spliced warp ends fix frayed threads.

Two sections of the tapestry and inlay sampler are complete.

We tell ourselves if we do what we want, we will be happy. That’s a delusion. Happiness will fail you. It doesn’t last. I was only happy weaving until the thread broke. There is something better than happiness. Faithfulness. It’s better to be faithful in the moment, even if it puts a delay on being happy. Faithfulness lasts. Next time, I hope to choose the long satisfaction of faithfulness over the short-lived gain of happiness.

May your broken selvedge ends be few.

Faithful weaving,
Karen

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Finer Weft for a Stronger Cord

I need a strong cord for a specific use. It needs to look nice, without drawing attention to itself. This cord will connect three small pieces of wood. I will reveal how they will be used after I finish weaving the cord.

Three wooden pieces for a special purpose...

Three wooden pieces to be connected for a purpose. What are they for? You are welcome to put your guess in the comments…

I chose 12/6 rug warp for the project, to make this a durable cord. With a band this narrow, the 12/6 cotton is too bulky for weft. I could not pull the selvedges tight. I need a finer weft that will draw the warp ends together and disappear at the selvedges. Black 16/1 linen works beautifully!

New woven narrow band. Need to change the weft.

Using 12/6 cotton rug warp for the weft proved to be unworkable for this narrow band. Light shows through the gaps at the selvedges.

Linen weft for this narrow band.

Black linen weft matches the black selvedge threads. The 16/1 linen enables tight and even selvedges for this 5/16″ (8 mm) band.

A change of heart changes everything. The condition of our heart is revealed in the way we behave toward others. Our thoughts and actions are a matter of the heart. To live in a manner that is unselfish, generous, kind, and content, we must do more than line up the right outward appearances. We must start with humility. Having the perfect warp means nothing if the weft interferes with a beautiful outcome. Humility, like the linen weft, is a posture of the heart that pulls everything else together.

May your heart be beautiful.

Warmly,
Karen

2 Comments

  • I can’t guess what the wooden pieces are for. They remind me of several times when I purchased a used loom from someone, and there were several wooden or metal pieces that came with it that neither they nor I knew what they were for. I am glad you know what these are for, and I am looking forward to finding out!

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Linen Is Never Boring

Simplicity, purity, new. It’s invigorating to start something fresh. Weaving this delicate cloth in neutral colors is calming, but not boring. The linen sheen makes it spectacular. This is the delightful texture of M’s and O’s on a cotton warp, with linen weft. Peer across the cloth at a lower angle and you will see the linen’s pearlescent glory embedded in the woven texture.

Weaving M's and O's with linen weft.

Structure of M’s and O’s puts interesting texture in the fabric. The texture will be intensified after the fabric is cut from the loom and wet finished.

Even though weaving seems like magic at this stage, it has been preceded by a lot of planning, precision, and patient work. This new creation is refreshing because it’s everything I had imagined it would be. And the linen is doing as expected–making the fabric “glow.”

Handwoven towel in M's and O's with linen weft.

One-shuttle weaving for most of the towel makes this a relaxing weave. You can see that the treadling pattern alternates between two blocks. (The camera doesn’t catch the linen’s sheen like the human eye does. Wish you were here to see it!)

Handwoven towel in M's and O's.

Towel has reached the midway point.

The best creation is what happens inside of you. There is hope for all those who long for a fresh start. The dusty and worn threads are replaced with a new warp. Cut my selfish ways off the loom, Lord. All the preparations have been done by the Grand Weaver that enable weaving to begin. Create a clean heart in me, Lord. Let my life glow with the linen of your Spirit woven through my soul.

May you be refreshed.

Love,
Karen

~They’re back~ Towel Kits ~

By request, I have put the towel kits back in my shop! The River Stripe Towel Set, Pre-Wound Warp and Instructional Kit, for $150 per kit, is now listed again in the Warped for Good Etsy Shop. Happy weaving!

10 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Beautiful, Karen! I’ve never worked with linen. When used as weft, does it have to be kept damp? Seems that I once read this was necessary when linen is used as warp but, I could be dreaming.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, I like to keep linen weft a little damp because it behaves better for me that way. It doesn’t take a lot of moisture. Just holding a damp cloth around the wound quill for a few seconds is enough. The moisture makes the linen relax, and it lays more straight and flat in the shed. Without some moisture, the linen has a tendency to get little kinks and curls when you beat it in.

      When used as warp, some moisture can be helpful. Houston is pretty humid, but in drier climates some people run a humidifier when warping with linen.

      Linen is wonderful to work with. You should try it. Using it as weft is a good way to start.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Martha says:

    Beautiful work as always!

    • Karen says:

      That means a lot to me, Martha! Thank you so much. I feel like the threads are really the stars, I just got to put them on the loom. 🙂

      Karen

  • Bev says:

    Beautiful weaving! I have a special place in my heart for linen, since it is what I learned to spin first. And I having linsey/woolsey on my future to-do list!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Bev, I admire anyone who can spin! Spinning linen seems like such an interesting process. Is linsey/woolsey linen and wool combined?

      Karen

  • Gorgeous Karen,
    Thank you for your time and wisdom, as well as weaving knowledge. You’ve encourage me to have a go with linen. There is so much brouhaha in much of the weaving talk here in Australia about using linen. How difficult it is, how fickle, how tetchy (all unfounded, no doubt). So most of us have backed away from such a ‘difficult’ fibre. Your example here shows us the very opposite. With careful planning and consideration for linen’s ‘needs’ why should we miss such weaving pleasure.

    I really admire the way you have crafted the Christian message into your daily work and passion. And, I must admit, after reading your blog posts I have really thought how I can apply the same ‘message’ into the writing work that I do for children. I write children’s books for my ‘day’ job (when not weaving!) and I endeavour to give a ‘heart’ message in all my books. One where my readers are touched by a subtle message from more than what I am. So, thank you for sharing with us.
    Regards,
    Alison

    • Karen says:

      Hi Alison, If I’ve encouraged you to try linen, I’m happy! I don’t think linen is anything to be afraid of. Yes, it has its own special characteristics, but with some knowledge and careful planning you’ll have success. Like I mentioned to Beth, starting with linen weft is a great way to get your toes in the water…

      And if I’ve encouraged you to live out your faith with a little more intention, then you are an answer to prayer.

      It doesn’t surprise me that you are a writer, as I see how beautifully you’ve chosen your words.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • SM says:

    I’m a new weaver and really enjoy your blog. I was wondering if you worry at all about different shrinkage rates for the cotton and the linen? I keep hearing people say that different fibres react differently. Or do cotton and linen both shrink the same?

    • Karen says:

      Hi SM, Great question! You raise a valid point. Yes, different shrinkage rates are an issue, and it can make a difference in the outcome of a fabric after wet finishing. Cotton and linen won’t necessarily shrink at the same rate. Cotton usually shrinks a little more than linen. In this instance, I’m hopeful that some differential shrinkage will work to my advantage in making a beautifully, softly puckered M’s and O’s textured fabric. But until I wash and dry the fabric, it’s only a guess. 🙂

      Thanks for asking!
      Karen

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