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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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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Skeins of Colors

New yarn arrived this week! Seeing the skeins of colors makes me excited about starting the next project. I am preparing to weave another transparency. This time, the hanging will have a pictorial design. But there are several things to tend to before the weaving begins. First, I will wind the skeins into balls, and wind the linen warp. And then, I will finalize the cartoon. Stay tuned…

Collection of colors in Mora wool for a transparency.

Collection of colors in 20/2 Mora wool for a planned transparency. 16/2 linen for warp and background weft.

Meanwhile, this week I am at the Contemporary Handweavers of Texas Biennial Conference, learning new things and making connections with handweavers across the state.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

6 Comments

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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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Small Tapestry Front and Back

My small tapestries are a mess of threads on the back. I weave from the back, so I get used to seeing the mess. I admire the tapestry weavers who sew all the weft tails in. Front and back, the tapestry is finished and clean. So, I am sewing in the weft tails on this little Lucia patch.

Back of tapestry, sewing in weft tails.

Sewing in weft tails, one thread at a time. Threaded on a needle, weft tail is sewn through the back of an adjacent ridge, and then the tail is clipped off close to the surface of the weaving.

Back of small tapestry, stitching in weft tails.

When completed, the back is as finished as the front.

Lucia, woven with my youngest granddaughter in mind.

Lucia, our youngest grandchild, is the reason for this small tapestry. I may need to weave the names of the other four…

Sometimes we hit a patch in life that is filled with a mess of troubles. Take troubles to the Lord. He hears when we call. The Lord answers every little prayer. Each little trouble is taken care of, step by step. When the finished tapestry is revealed, we see that He knows our name. And a bit of every one of the messy threads is woven into our back story. Front and back, the tapestry is finished and clean.

May you be known by name.

Yours truly,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Julia says:

    Gorgeous. The weaving, the finishing and the reminder of our constant guidance from God. Thank you.

  • Beth says:

    Karen, Everything about this little tapestry and your parallel to life, is wonderful! I imagine that your other Grandchildren would want their names woven by their sweet Grandma. I so admire your work.

    • Karen says:

      Beth, you are so sweet! Thank you for your thoughtful words. That means a lot to me.

      I think you are right about the other grandchildren. I’ve begun the planning in my head.

      Karen

  • Louise Yale says:

    Your photo of the finishing technique for small tapestry is clear and the answer to a question I had about small tapestry work.
    Thanks.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Louise, This is just one way to do the finishing on the back. I’m certainly not an expert in this area, but I find ways that work for me. I’m glad you found this helpful.

      Karen

  • Angie says:

    Beautiful message, along with the tapestry.
    All the best to you

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