Preventing Errors

After the warp is wound onto the back beam, I prepare to thread the heddles. By counting the warp ends into measured groups, I am much more likely to prevent a threading error. If I miss a heddle, I catch it after only 24 ends, instead of after threading all 424 ends. Now, if only I would measure my words before I speak, I could prevent errors in what I say, too.

16/1 linen warp, reading for threading heddles

Blue linen shimmers on the back beam, with loosely-tied overhand knots holding groups of warp ends.

Of course, you wouldn’t literally count your words before speaking, but thinking before speaking is always a good idea. When we rush to say what’s on our mind, our safeguards are gone. And spoken errors are a lot harder to fix than threading errors.

Wisdom protects your words. It means not saying everything you think. Wisdom is a filter that makes your thoughts presentable, so you can speak in a way that does no harm, and only good. When we stop and count the cost of our spoken words, before they leave our mouths, we have the beginning of a good conversation, a healthy dialog, or even a worthwhile disagreement. Oh, the interesting cloth we weave with our words!

May you speak wise words at just the right moment.


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Quiet Friday: Rag Rugs

My grandmother believed in wearing clothing until it wore out; and even then, she would darn thin areas inconspicuously, to make something last longer. So, it made perfect sense for her to turn scraps of dresses into quilts, and anything that was left could go to the lady across town who made rag rugs. Fortunately, I have a few of Grandma’s hand-sewn quilts, and two of those memory-filled rag rugs. As I weave new rag rugs, I think of the stories woven into her old rugs.

My grandmother's quilt and rag rug from old clothes

This old rag rug is made of clothing fabrics that are very similar to those in this quilt my grandmother hand-stitched.

Vintage Rag Rug from Missouri

This old rug is right beside my big loom. I like to imagine that the green denim in this rug was my grandfather’s worn out overalls he wore on the farm.

Detail of vintage rag rug

Close-up view shows the interesting pattern in the rug.

Rosepath Rag Rug on the Loom

Rag rug on the loom, with the distinctive Swedish rosepath motif right at the breast beam. (Click picture to enlarge)

Rosepath Rag Rugs, Karen Isenhower

In contrast to the muted tones of my grandmother’s rugs, the new cotton fabrics I used in these rosepath rag rugs are colorful and bright.

Double-Faced Rag Rug

Double-faced rag rug. Flip the rug over for a different look. (Click picture to enlarge)

Twill rag rug on the loom

Twill rag rug in the making.

Blue Twill Rag Rug

Sturdy rug, perfect for the entry hall. This is our “Welcome to our home” rug.

Diamond Twill Rag Rug

The treadling pattern in this diamond twill rag rug took full concentration. I did a fair amount of “unweaving” and do-it-over’s with this rug. Perhaps someday a grandchild of mine will put this rug in a special place and wonder about the stories woven into it.

May you find something old and something new; ponder stories of the past and make new stories yourself.

Happy weaving,




  • Fran says:

    Lovely rugs, Karen! What type of loom do you use?? (Just curious!) Fran

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Fran,
      Thank you for the compliment!

      I wove these rugs on my 47″ (120cm) Glimakra Standard countermarch loom. I wish I knew what kind of loom was used to weave my grandmother’s rugs (the first three pictures).

      • Fran says:

        Yes, all very nice, I didn’t know I liked rosepath rugs til now.
        I will have a go.
        I just have a counterbalance, but I think it can handle it. Fran

      • Anonymous says:

        The first weaving I saw was an elderly lady “Aunt Sally”. She wove on a barn loom. I bet that is what the lady used to weave your grandmothers rugs. Aunt Sally lived to be 106 and wove some on the day she died.

        • Karen says:

          I would love to have met “Aunt Sally.” I expect you are right, my grandmother’s friend was probably someone just like that with an old barn loom. Oh, I’d love to be an elderly someone who is said to have woven on her loom the day she died.

          Thank you,

  • Elisabeth Munkvold says:

    Beautiful rag rugs and quilt! I grew up with rag rugs and I love the concept of reusing materials. Maybe we need to keep our clothes until they wear out.

    What intrigues me the most is that despite the limited selection of materials they had access to, the result is so powerful. To me this is such a strong reminder that what may seem worthless and weak contributes to beauty and strength in a bigger picture.

    • Karen says:

      Great insight, Elizabeth! I agree, the limited selection of materials certainly didn’t limit the beauty of design, which was also entirely functional.

  • heather says:

    sounds like our grandmothers were cut out of the same cloth 🙂 in the 1970’s (when i was little) she would take me (and all her saved up strips of cloth wound into balls like yarn) to the “rug lady” down the street.the rug lady was my first exposure to weaving. she would let me climb up to the loom and explain how the rugs were made. i still have a quilt my grandma pieced out of all of my childhood pajamas. im sure all of the scraps went to the rug lady 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Oh how fun to hear your story, Heather! Yes, it does sound like our grandmothers had some similarities! That’s cool that the “rug lady” took time to show you what she was doing. Thanks for sharing!

  • Claudia says:

    What is your usual sett for your rag rugs? And when you lay two pieces together, do you fold one inside the other? I have always sewn my pieces together but is makes the process so much longer. I’d love to skip that step. You have a wonderful eye for color.

  • Karen says:


    My sett for rag rugs is 8 ends per inch.
    I cut the ends of my fabric strips into tapered ends – about 2-3-inch taper. I overlap the tapered ends in the shed. Because the ends have a long, narrow taper, there is no need to fold one inside the other. Overlapping the tapered ends makes a sturdy, almost invisible join, with no bump or bulge in the weaving.

    • Colleen says:

      Hi Karen,
      I wish I lived close enough to take lessons from you. Your skills and your beliefs would be such a pleasure to absorb.
      I am still looking for a floor loom and a band loom (the new ones, in addition to more money, do not appear as sturdy). In the meantime I am learning.
      How wide do you cut your cloth strips? I would think fabric weight would be a factor, but still how do you decided?

      • Karen says:

        Hi Colleen,
        If you are ever near Houston, let me know. I’d love to spend time together. That would be delightful!

        The Glimakra countermarch floor looms that are new are just as sturdy as the old ones. I have a new one and an old one. There is a slight change in the band loom, though. The older ones, like mine, have metal ratchets. I’ve been told that the new ones work just as well, though. But you are right, the new looms are more expensive. I bought my big loom new because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t inheriting anyone else’s problems.

        I normally cut my fabric strips about 3/4-inch wide, except for the ones I use in the hem, where I cut them about 1/4-1/3-inch wide. I have found that the weight of the fabric doesn’t really make that much difference in the final outcome, as long as the differences are distributed fairly evenly as you go. To simplify, I cut all my fabric strips the same width.

        Great questions!
        Happy weaving,

        • Colleen says:

          Hi Again Karen,
          Sorry to take your time from weaving, but I really appreciate your advice!
          Thank you for the invite! I think I need to actually get to weaving so I can have a better understanding of what I’m being taught.
          Thank you also for the loom evaluation. I had not thought of inheriting other’s problems! Glimakras must be enjoyable looms as I don’t see many used ones listed.
          And, thank you for the cutting information. One thing I forgot to ask is how do you know you have enough cloth for a rug?

          • Karen says:

            Ask away. I’m happy to answer questions.
            No need to be concerned about a second hand loom if it’s a Swedish loom, like Glimakra. There’s not much that can go wrong with it. I didn’t know that, though, when I started, and I wanted to make sure I was learning on a good “instrument.”

            How much fabric for a rug? Good question. Haha. I’m still trying to figure that out. My method is guess and hope it’s enough. Usually, that has worked for me. I need to get better at record keeping for my rug materials. I do buy new 100% cotton fabric in 5-yard lengths – I like weaving with long strips because it’s much more efficient than using short strips. I find bargain fabric on clearance at fabric stores or at Walmart. I’m at the point where I have a small collection of fabric in different colors to choose from, and I just add to it little by little as needed.

            I hope that helps!


  • Colleen says:

    Yes, thank you, it was very helpful. It made think though of how some fabric stores take inventory and wonder if it could help you. They have the figure for the weight of a yard of any given type of fabric and then they wander around the store with a scales and weigh the bolts. You could weigh some of your fabric to see how consistent the weights are for a given length and then weigh a finished rug. You would need to do the weight calculation for the warp too. Not hard and once you have the calculations for a couple of rugs you would only have to spot check or factor in the weight for a different type of fabric. I know there are weaving variables, but I think you could come close. Then “someday” when you get everything measured and weighed before you start you could double check your calculations. Just an idea 🙂

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My Near Mishap with the Curtains

Finally! The Swedish lace curtains are hung…Yippee! However,…I came really, really close to cutting the finished material in the wrong place, about eight inches too short. Gasp! I had sewn the top casing and ruffle, and had carefully measured for the placement of the hem. But in my enthusiasm to finish, I got confused when it came to the final cut. Fortunately, I decided to put my scissors down and measure one. more. time. Catastrophe avoided!

Handwoven Swedish Lace curtains by Karen Isenhower

Swedish lace curtains, at their best when sunlight shines through.

Decisions come every day, big and small. How do you make decisions? Luck, make a guess, have a feeling? Luck isn’t dependable, guessing is risky, and feelings change with the weather. Like my near mishap with the curtain fabric, we could be one decision away from a huge mistake.

If we pay attention, Lady Wisdom’s invitation is heard at every decision point. We face decisions that are far more important than where to cut the fabric. There are plans for the future, and crossroads in life, as well as daily choices. Wisdom creates building blocks for future decisions. One wise decision leads to another, and then another. And before you know it, you have sunlight streaming through the fabric you’ve created.

If you are interested in how the fabric was made for these curtains, you may enjoy this post, and other posts in the category, yardage: curtains.

May your decisions be secured through wisdom.



  • Barbara says:

    So true! And I’m so thankful for God’s grace when I mess up. The curtains are beautiful. Where did you hang them?

    • Karen says:

      The curtains are hanging in the two long, narrow windows at each end of the front of our house. Both are “personal” spaces that we use every day – the window in our bedroom closet, and the window in the laundry room.

      God’s grace is essential, because we all make serious mistakes. Yes, I’m thankful for grace, too.

  • Wende says:

    What a beautiful, tangible reminder to take time to listen before I plow ahead with what I think seems right….

  • Grethe says:

    I’m so glad, that you lay down your scissors. Your curtains are beautiful.

  • Leigh Ellis says:

    Oh, Karen the curtains are absolutely gorgeous! I really enjoyed the post about almost making a huge mistake with the scissors. I can really relate, having done things like this many times. Years ago, a really wise person taught me to think aboout these kinds of occurances not as mistakes, but as an oppurtunity to thank our minds for doing the right thing.

    • Karen says:

      I’m glad you like the curtains, Leigh. It’s a learning experience either way. If I had made that wrong cut, who knows… the curtain may have ended up with a ruffle at the bottom to make up the length. 🙂
      We should never pick up scissors when we’re tired, excited, or in a hurry…

    • Anonymous says:

      Did you happen to post any details or perhaps the draft for these curtains.? Can you tell me what fiber and sett you used? I have found myself as the volunteer to weave curtains for 7 Windows for our guild studio. This will be a huge undertaking. Honestly I’m not sure my selvedges are good enough but I will try a temple and roll them over if I have to. You have done beautiful work. Thanks for sharing.

      • Karen says:

        Hi fellow weaver, You can find the draft for these Swedish lace curtains in The Big Book of Weaving, by a Laila Lundell, p.114. They would be a beautiful choice for the windows at your guild.

        I used 20/2 cotton, and 8/2 cotton (for the lines around the “windows”). My sett was 8 ends per cm (~20 ends per inch).

        The most challenging aspect for me of weaving these curtains was keeping a light beat.

        Happy weaving,

  • Elisabeth Munkvold says:

    Gorgeous curtains! The subtle pattern is just beautiful. Don’t you think the process of making beautiful things better prepares us to pause and listen to to “Lady Wisdom”?

    As you know, I recently experienced how important it is to stop for a moment and listen in order to make the right decision. Your post just reinforced this message. And I am already experiencing that one wise decision leads to another.

  • Iréne says:

    Your curtains are fabulous. And I like your reflection om decisions… I usually make decisions very fast, am focused on problem solving. But with age I’ve come to reflect more often. Stop, before I make up my mind, listen, see what happens. It’s a new experience that includes learning. I think that’s one of the reasons why weaving is so good to me, I cannot rush. That is so good 🙂 Enjoy your wonderful curtains.

    • Karen says:

      I appreciate your kind comments so much, Iréne. It’s fun to end up with something useful and lovely to look at.

      You and Elizabeth make a great point, that weaving (or knitting, quilting, wood carving…, making beautiful things) does give us a wonderful opportunity to be comfortable with going slow. A lot of thinking is required. It is a constant learning environment where we are actively paying attention to what our hands are doing.

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Conversation with Jason Collingwood, Part 2

At Jason Collingwood’s Plain Weave Rug Workshop in Waco, Texas last week, I completed a technique sampler. I was not one of the fastest guns in the West, so I have a couple yards (or more…) of that linen warp still on my little loom. One piece of advice Jason gave in class was to use the intricacies of these techniques sparingly–to keep it simple when it comes to rug design. That is what I am aiming for as I finish off this warp, hoping to end up with some miniature rugs (the warp is only 11 1/4″ wide) as design samples.

Jason Collingwood Plain Weave Workshop Sampler

Finished sample of plain weave rug techniques. The sample begins with countered twining that extends past the selvedge with a four-strand braid. My favorite technique is the crossed weft combined with meet and separate, seen at the far end of the sample.

Jason was kind enough to converse with me on topics that would benefit you, my blog friends. You can catch the first part of that conversation, covering Jason’s perspective as a rug weaver and a teacher of rug weaving, here.

Now, enjoy Part 2 of our conversation.

Me: Once someone has mastered the technical aspects, and is producing quality handwoven goods, they may want to sell what they have produced. What advice do you have for someone just starting out?

Jason: You need to be very determined. You have to accept that it’s not going to happen instantly. And you have to be prepared to sacrifice certain things in life that a normal job may give you–be that security, spare income, or, possibly, medical insurance coverage.

Me: It’s challenging to get started, then?

Jason: I look back to my early years, and it’s interesting… And Akiko, my wife, is a very successful ceramicist now, but when she started off, to save money, she would walk across London four or five miles, with a little dolly on wheels. She would buy her bags of clay, put them on the dolly, and wheel them back across London. And you know, there are all these early little sacrifices that you don’t see, when you see the person in the galleries successfully selling their work.

Me: Your father, Peter Collingwood, was well-known as an extraordinary rug weaver. But you still needed to put in a lot of hard work, yourself, for people to associate Jason Collingwood with high quality handwoven rugs. So, if someone aspires to succeed as a weaver, how can they make it work?

Jason: I think you need to have determination, and some amount of grit, and self-discipline. At the end of the day, there’s no one telling you to sit at that loom, and weave again the same things you did yesterday, and again, and again, and again. I think it’s just perseverance. As long as you are producing something of quality, eventually, if you persevere, it’ll pay off.

Me: Okay, that gives hope to someone willing to work hard. If we look beyond the present challenges, and work, with determination, we have something to look forward to.

Jason: You know, those barren early years are almost like an investment in your future life, your weaving life. I mean, I didn’t particularly enjoy those years, but I think they were almost a necessary test of whether I was going to stick it out. I think a lot of people would’ve folded in those early years, and said, Okay, this isn’t working. But, you know, it was kind of a test of my resolve that I carried on.

Me: Thank you for sharing your story! Your insights bring considerable value to weavers, but also to people in other fields interested in improving their craft. I appreciate the encouragement of your example of determination. Thanks again!


Please visit Jason Collingwood’s website, here, to see the stunning rugs he weaves and sells, as well as descriptions of his workshops. You can also enjoy the artistry of Jason’s wife, Akiko, at her website, here.

May your determination and perseverence pay off.

With some amount of grit,


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Conversation with Jason Collingwood, Part 1

Last week I had the privilege to sit down with Jason Collingwood, internationally acclaimed rug weaver, for an interesting conversation, covering several topics. This, the first of two parts, focuses on Jason’s experience as a rug weaver and a teacher of rug weaving. The second part, in my next post, focuses on Jason’s views of what it takes to become a successful artisan.

Jason Collingwood Plain Weave Rug Workshop

Jason Collingwood, at my little loom, demonstrates a selvedge technique used for plain weave rugs. I am watching every move.

Me: Your father, Peter Collingwood, wrote the comprehensive book, The Techniques of Rug Weaving. Just how important is technical skill for creating handwoven rugs?

Jason: I’m passionate about technical competence. That is number one, because if you don’t get that part right, what you are producing is not going to be satisfactory.

Me: Is it possible to look at a rug and tell if it was woven with technical competence?

Jason: One of the defining parts of a good rug is the selvedge. Always check out people’s selvedges. If they’ve got a neat selvedge, then it’s a sign of a good rug weaver.

Me: What is it that sets you apart from other rug weavers?

Jason: Well, there aren’t many rug weavers to set me apart from. I remember when I started weaving–and I did endless shows–there would be maybe five or six rug weavers in the same show. And for the past fifteen years, or so, when I’ve done shows in London, I am the only rug weaver. So, whether that’s survival of the fittest, or they went on and got proper jobs (with a grin)

Me: You have excelled in producing high quality handwoven rugs, even though few people have been able to do that. How do you account for your success?

Jason: I think what possibly sets me apart is that I’ve just done this one thing for twenty-six years now. Most weavers, be they rug weavers, or other, probably have other strings to their bow, and do other things. By just concentrating on one thing, your name perhaps becomes associated with that product, and that helps you in the long run.

Me: Have you considered weaving other items besides rugs–like scarves, for instance?

Jason: I don’t think there’d be any benefit for me, suddenly trying to weave scarves, and sell scarves. I don’t think I’d be adding anything to the world of weaving scarves.

Me: You teach in your studio in England; and you travel around the world teaching rug weaving. Is there any piece of advice that you want your students to grasp?

Jason: One overlooked bit of advice is that you have to accept that the technique that we’re weaving in, and the looms that we’re using, place limitations upon you. You need to work within those limitations. Do not try to make the loom or technique do things that it doesn’t want to do. I think too many people have preconceived ideas of what they want to produce from a workshop; and then they try and make the structure achieve these ideas. Sometimes it just technically doesn’t produce the design they want, and they get frustrated.

Me: How can a student get the best results, then?

Jason: I think you need to understand the structure, and work in harmony with the structure. And then you will be much happier with your finished product, because you are not fighting the structure.

…To be continued…

Please visit Jason Collingwood’s website to see the beautiful rugs he creates and sells, and descriptions of the classes he teaches. I was fortunate to take Jason’s Plain Weave workshop last week at Homestead Fiber Crafts in Waco, Texas, where my little Glimåkra Ideal had her maiden voyage. It was an excellent class that I would recommend to anyone interested in learning basic rug weaving techniques.

May you find your one thing, and grow in expertise.

Still learning,




  • Doug Gagnon says:

    I have taken 2 classes with Jason. He covers a lot of material in his classes.
    One finishing technique he covered was a method to finishe without fringes. I believe he had a red sample. I am trying to use this technique but cannot remember how to do it nor can I find it in my notes.
    Is there someone that can explain the technique?


    Doug Gagnon

    • Karen says:

      Hi Doug,
      I do remember seeing Jason demonstrate a few finishing techniques. I’m not positive which one you are referring to, but I will go take a look in my notes from the workshop and see if I find something that answers your question.
      In the meantime, I have a short video on tapestry edging that is very similar to one of the edgings that Jason described. Besides the “braided” edge that I show in my video, Jason also showed us how to weave each of the ends back into the rug using a sacking needle.

      I hope this helps,

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