Hi, I am Karen Isenhower. Handweaving is a field rich with these treasures, and I enjoy sharing what I find. I’ll let you know right up front that I’m still learning, that I don’t always know what I’m talking about, and that I do make mistakes. Here you will find weaving patterns for your own projeects.
Adding draw cords. I stand on the foot beam to reach up to the top of the draw frame to pull cords through the holes.
Draw cords are added in order.
Adding all these draw cords and handles is a big job. It involves a cord threader and scissors and time—reaching, going back and forth, measuring, cutting, tying. Over and over. It’s not hard, but it seems endless. Yet for some strange reason this job is entirely enjoyable. I feel like an architect and builder, a dreamer and investor. It’s incredible to step back and see the structure that this effort has produced. And this is merely the set up. Can you imagine the weaving prospects?!
This is how we build good structures in our lives. Intentional, persistent, focused. Listen well. Over and over. The way we speak makes a difference in the way we listen. When we speak with grace, seasoned for the hearer, we ready ourselves to listen. Our cord threader is our unselfish attentiveness to pull someone else’s thoughts and questions toward our understanding. With this beautiful structure we are ready for anything. Accomplished through the grace of God, the sky’s the limit!
Drawloom with fifty draw handles, a sight to behold.
Before starting, I sketched out several versions of the finished blanket, showing different sizes and arrangements of the rectangle blocks. My favorite version is one with a random look. This twelve-shaftdouble weave has three blocks. Block 1 is a solid color across the warp. Block 2 has a narrow, vertical contrasting rectangle. Block 3 has a wide, horizontal contrasting rectangle. The warp threading determines the width of the rectangles. But the height of the rectangles is determined by the treadling pattern. I decided to use a Fibonacci sequence of numbers in random order to guide my treadling options as I weave.
Rectangles vary in size.
Low-Tech Random Fibonacci Sequence
1 Determine the desired range of the Fibonacci sequence. 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13
2 Determine the number of repeat options for each block (one repeat is 4 picks per double-weave layer).
Inspired by some of Joanne Hall’s exquisite large tapestries, I have been taking steps to learn her techniques. This fascinating style that is unique to Joanne enables her to weave large tapestries at a comfortable pace. My Lizard tapestry last year was a step in this direction. (See Quiet Friday: Lizard Tapestry.) One thing that the lizard taught me is how much more I need to learn. So, you can imagine my delight in having the opportunity to take a Pictorial Tapestry Weaving workshop taught by Joanne Hall last week! (Contemporary Handweavers of Texas Conference in Fort Worth was the setting.)
Texas Wildflowers, tapestry by Joanne Hall. Photo credit: Steve Isenhower 2013
Detail of Texas Wildflowers. Threaded in rosepath, with a linen warp. Woven with butterfly bundles of wool yarn. Photo credit: Steve Isenhower 2013
Things to remember: Don’t beat hard. Bubble the weft more. Color theory is invaluable for adding depth and intensity. Simplify the cartoon. And countless more bits of insight and instruction! I am invigorated in my pursuit to develop these tapestry skills. Expect to see a tapestry on my 120cm Glimåkra Standard in coming days.
My hand-built countermarch loom is perfect for a tapestry workshop. Betsy brought her Glimåkra Julia loom.
Workshop sampler gives students various tapestry techniques to practice. We learned techniques of other tapestry weavers, such as Hans Krondahl and Helena Hernmarck, as well as Joanne’s unique approach.
Fellow student Cindy created this pear, taking advantage of the rosepath threading to add pattern to the image.
Joanne, center, explains the process of creating a cartoon. She spreads out photos of flowers as a starting point for students’ cartoons.
Joanne’s tapestry sample demonstrates the outcome of her process. A portion of the photo was enlarged from which she drew the cartoon.
Fellow student Deborah creates a flower from her original cartoon.
I am choosing to make my cartoon from an enlarged portion of a lily photo.
Color studies and technique exercises all come together in the last part of the tapestry sampler. Weaving from a cartoon.
Time to take the loom apart and head home. Checking my progress with the photo before packing up.
Lily sample is finished at home.
I find myself pondering how experiences fall into place in our lives. There are times when the stepping stones seem to be set out before us, showing the way, when we don’t know exactly where we are going. The Lord knows where I am going. He knows me. And he kindly sets out the next steps. Perhaps he smiles as he sees our delight when we figure out that we are the bundles of yarn in his tapestry.
This little Casita travel trailer is a good symbol of the retirement phase for Steve and me. I started the tapestry a few months before our move to Texas hill country, in anticipation of our new adventures. And then, the day after Steve retired we went to Rice, Texas and drove away with our new Casita La Perlita (Little Pearl), as if to say, “Let the adventure begin!”
Just off the loom, La Perlita Casita. 37 cm x 26 cm (14 1/2″ x 10 1/4″)
I made an embarrassing blunder. No wonder this Tuna wool resists all my efforts. It’s the wrong yarn! Tuna is 6/2 wool—twice as thick as the 6/1 wool I should be using. Cowboy Magic won’t solve this sticky problem. (I thought it would, as I expressed in this post: Tame the Wool.)
The yarn is gorgeous, but my frustration level is pushing me to throw in the towel. I tried hard to make this work. I was so convinced I had the right yarn that I missed it even when reader Joan left a gentle comment asking if 6/1 Fårö yarn would work (I’m sorry for not listening, Joan). There is nothing left but to cut off this failure.
Every shed is a struggle. It seems impossible to get a clean shed with this “sticky” yarn. (It’s not the yarn’s fault, though.)
Failed piece is cut off. There are unwanted floats everywhere, and the fabric is like cardboard because of the tight sett.
Bottom of the double weave has even more unwanted floats than the top layer.
In this lowest moment a thought occurs to me. Re-sley the reed. An ounce of hope rises.
Reed is changed from 50/10 metric to 40/10 metric. This spreads the warp an additional 19.9 cm (7 3/4″).
Sleying is complete and the new reed is placed in the beater.
Warp is tied on and leveling string is tightened. On your mark, get ready, get set…
I re-sley to a coarser reed and tie back on. I hold my breath and step on the treadles. It works. And it’s gorgeous!
Go! Night and day difference in being able to clear each shed.
Double weave at its finest.
Weaving into the sunset.
Clean lines of double weave, with a (very) few unwanted floats that will be easy to fix later.
This is now a pleasure to weave!
Have you experienced great disappointment and loss of hope? Sometimes our own failure brings us to that point. The Lord makes things new. We come to Jesus with our failed attempts, and he exchanges our used rags of effort with his clean cloth of righteousness. In his forgiveness, the failure is cut off and removed. Our threads are re-sleyed and re-tied to make us gloriously new.
Handwoven towels need handwoven hanging tabs. I finished the Vavstuga cottolin towel warp, so now it’s time to put my band loom to use. Why not use the warp thrums to make the woven band? The length of the thrums is too short for the band loom, so I am knotting two ends together for each strand.
Thrumsends are tied together to make a warp long enough for the Glimåkra band loom.
Cottolin band warp is from the towel warp. Unbleached cottolin is used for the weft.
Everything is starting out just fine, but my inexperience with the “weaver’s knot” proves problematic. One by one, the knots are working themselves loose. I re-tie each failed knot into a confident square knot. Finally, after three weaver’s knot failures, I decided to advance the warp far enough to get past the knots altogether. Smooth sailing after that, and I still ended up with plenty of woven band for the six woven towels.
Weaving about 30 cm before the knots, and about 40 cm after the knots. Each hanging tab is about 10 cm, so I have plenty of woven band for the six towels.
Unwashed towel fabric. Using warp thread from the towels is a great way to make coordinating hanging tabs, as well as a satisfying use for some of the thrums.
I like finding another good use for the thrums. So, I will do this again. But next time, I’ll do a refresher on knot tying before I begin.
I need to free up this little loom in order to put on a different warp that has a deadline. So, now that I have returned from my travels, my attention is going to these towels. My friend is letting me weave this lovely cottolin warp that she got at Vavstuga.
Simple border stripe in first towel. Straight twill.
Cottolin warp and 8/1 tow linen weft.
Point twill on four shafts. Three horizontal stripes made with half-bleached tow linen weft.
Straight twill, point twill, broken twill, and now “rick-rack.” And after that, a couple towels in plain weave. Everyone who weaves this Vavstuga towel kit and follows the instructions will end up with the same six towels. True? Not necessarily. I like to step off the expected path. That is why I vary the weft and include some type of simple border design on each towel.
Three colors of 8/1 tow linen sit on the little blue table as choices for weft. Half-bleached, Unbleached, and Bronze.
Changed the tie-up to broken twill, which allows me to keep a simple straight treadling pattern. Dashed weft pattern for the border stripe is produced by alternating the bronze linen weft with the half-bleached linen weft.
Long wavy vertical lines give the appearance of rick-rack. Again, I changed the tie-up to keep the simple straight treadling pattern. I use all three weft colors in this color-blocked towel.
Plain weave, with four shafts and two treadles. The main body of the towel uses the unbleached linen weft. Two picks of half-bleached linen are sandwiched between several rows of bronze linen weft.
There is a wide path that is crowded with many people. It’s the common and expected way of life. It’s where you stay if you want to fit in with everyone else. But if you search for it, you’ll find an uncommon path. It’s narrow; and few find it. It’s the path of life that is found in Jesus Christ. Stand in the narrow path. That is where your unique features will show up as border designs that set you apart as a cherished child of God.
My adventure to Germany and Austria with my sister was incredible! Many firsts and many blessings. First time to visit Europe. First castle, first currywurst, first German symphony, first hike in the Alps, first Austrian apfelstrudel, first close-up mountain waterfall. And many, many more wonders, delights, and amazements. Any weaving? We visited a handweaving museum in Germany. And I did some occasional tapestry weaving in the evenings. The best tapestry times happened while sitting out on the balcony at our room in Innsbruck.
Weberplatz of Babelsberg. These were weavers quarters in days gone by.
We had a picnic lunch on the castle steps.
Weaving an image from Big Bend State Park, Texas, while enjoying the balcony view in Innsbruck, Austria.
Be open for blessings. Look for blessings. I don’t mean life should be easy, conflict free, or always comfortable. The blessings are often hidden in long hours, tired feet, and foreign words. Be ready for the best lessons the Creator has for you. The Lord’s faithfulness is stamped into the gardens, mountain peaks, and waterfalls. His glory is written on every face, voice, and pair of hands. His blessings are tucked into secret places, awaiting our delighted discoveries. Live blessed.
I am in Germany this week, but before I left home I started the blue wool blanket. Twelve shafts and twelve treadles is challenge enough. Double weave with a sett of 5 EPC (12 EPI) per layer in 6/2 Tuna wool adds to the challenge. This wool stubbornly clings to itself in this sett. I don’t care to fight defiant wool to get a clean shed on every treadle! I could re-sley to a coarser sett. But I want to keep the sett as is, as written for this project in The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell. Cowboy Magic to the rescue! I discovered this horse mane detangler when I wove a mohair throw a few years ago. It rinses out nicely in the wet finishing. It worked magic for me at that time. Now, with a small amount of slick detangler on my fingers I can tame these blue wool fibers. Voila! No more fighting to get a clean shed.
Twelve treadles means clearing and adjusting the shed twelve times just to get started. Before Cowboy Magic, I had to run my hands through the shed to clear it each time. That’s asking for trouble–and skipped threads all over the bottom layer.
Now I have something to look forward to when I get home.
Twelve shafts gives me three blocks in this double weave small blanket. I think it will be a very pretty addition to use in our little Casita Travel Trailer on cool evenings.
I am turning right around to head out on another travel adventure. This time it’s Potsdam, Germany and Innsbruck, Austria with my sister Barbara. You know what that means—prepare my smallest tapestry frame for travel weaving. Besides the loom, I need necessary tools, warp thread, weft yarn, a cartoon, extra paper and pencil, book light and extra batteries, and a small bag in which to carry it all.
Fresno Canyon in Big Bend Ranch State Park is breathtaking. Steve captured the awe last week with his Canon Rebel T3i Digital SLR camera. My dream now is to capture the view in yarn. I am making a cartoon directly from a black-and-white print of the photograph.
My Fårö yarn is housed in three baskets of an Elfa cart. I look at a photo image of Fresno Canyon on my iPhone to select colors to use for the tapestry.
Selected colors of yarn are wrapped on labelled embroidery floss bobbins to put in the travel tapestry bag.
Weft colors are sorted and placed in the plastic pockets of this craft holder I found at Hobby Lobby.
Everything needed for a little 3 1/2″ x 6″ desert vista tapestry is being tucked away in travel bags.
After that, I can pack my clothes, etc. First things first.
(By the time you read this Barbara and I will be in Germany enjoying the food, listening to fine music, and scouting out fiber-y treasures whenever we get a chance.)