What the Label Tells You

I know details about these towels that most casual observers will never see. Every cloth starts with a plan; and, as the weaver, I am intricately involved in every aspect from start to finish. Labels on my handwoven articles identify me as the maker. When you see my label, you know that you can ask me anything about the weaving process for that item.

Finishing touch for handwoven towels.
Stitching the “Handwoven by” label on the towel is the final step in finishing this group of towels. 16/2 cotton, 3-shaft twill with warp floats.

On a grander scale, you and I have a maker. You don’t have to wonder if your maker knows you. He has known you from the beginning, planning the colors in the warp before it was on the loom, so to speak. You also don’t have to wonder if your maker hears you. Your prayers are heard. Even when no one else around you is listening, the Lord hears your prayer. Everything he has made, including you, bears his label. That makes you beautiful.

May you put your maker’s skills on display.


Quiet Friday: Coral Shawl for a Memorable Occasion

Have you ever experienced a chain of events, where the dominos start falling, and you just try to keep up? That is the story of this shawl. My daughter got engaged, so I bought a dress to wear at her wedding. The dress is sleeveless, so I wanted a shawl to wear over my shoulders. Not knowing where to find a matching shawl, I decided to weave one. To weave a shawl, I had to finish weaving these towels that were on the loom, plan the draft for a shawl, and order thread.

Thread and yarn record notebook.
New 10/2 bamboo thread samples added to my thread/yarn record book.

The excitement of dressing the loom, trying out weft color options, weaving the delicate huck lace pattern, twisting fringe, wet finishing the cloth, and waiting for the wet cloth to dry, is all intensified because of the meaning of the event where I will wear the shawl. The shawl, itself, is a minor player that will serve best if it is not even noticed. The attention will be on Melody and Eddie as they pledge their love and faithfulness to each other, embracing companionship for a lifetime. Three weeks to go!

Threading heddles with coral bamboo thread for huck lace.
Threading heddles for huck lace.
Sleying the reed on Glimakra Ideal.
Reed is sleyed with two ends per dent in a 12 dent reed, which means the sett is 24 ends per inch.
Every thread is ready. Let the weaving begin!
Every thread stands at attention, each in their proper place. Let the weaving begin!
Weft color auditions on coral bamboo warp. Karen Isenhower
Trying out the weft colors in the late afternoon on the dark coral warp. First, coral weft; and then, hot pink weft.
Coral pink bamboo shawl in huck lace.
Pink coral shawl was woven first. The hot pink huck lace weft floats are on the back side of the cloth, visible as the cloth angles toward the knee beam.
Hemstitching on the loom. Huck lace bamboo shawl.
Hemstitching at the beginning of the coral shawl. Notice the subtle border treatment that starts with plain weave and three closer rows of huck lace before the body of the shawl.
Twisting fringe.
Twisting groups of warp ends together to create twisted fringe that embellishes the ends of the shawl.
Wet finishing begins for coral huck lace shawl.
There is nothing that makes me more nervous than wet finishing. A mistake at this point can ruin the handwoven masterpiece. For this reason, I first wet finished the sample piece, and then the pink coral shawl. Now, I am confident about throwing the coral shawl into the washing machine with a half-capful of no rinse delicate wash concentrate.
Bamboo shawl, laying flat to dry.
After gently rolling the wet cloth in towels to remove excess water, I lay it out smoothly on my longest countertop, and leave it to dry overnight.
Trimming the fringe after washing. Frayed ends removed.
After the cloth is fully dry, knots at the ends of the twisted fringe are trimmed off, removing frayed ends and leaving clean-cut ends.
Finished handwoven coral bamboo huck lace shawl. Karen Isenhower
Ready for a special occasion!

May those you love know how much you love them.

With Anticipation,

The Pleasant Surprise of Dots

Honestly, I didn’t know it would come out dotted. If I wanted dotted cloth, I could use surface design, like paint, embroidery, or beading. Instead, I got the pleasant surprise of dots that are woven into the fabric itself!

Wet-finishing differences in huck lace.
Huck lace weft floats, as seen in unwashed cloth (on the left), hand-washed cloth, (center), and machine-washed cloth (on the right).

These shawls have a dark coral warp. The unwashed piece on the left is the one I intend to wear to my daughter’s wedding. You can see the light coral weft in the little weft floats of the huck lace. The other two pieces have a hot pink weft, which gives the cloth a (difficult to photograph) pink-ish coral color. The one in the center was hand washed. Notice that the pink weft floats are barely distinguishable from the rest of the fabric. The piece on the right was washed on the gentle cycle in the washing machine (omitting the spin cycle). Look at the pink dots! They were there all along, but they became subtle, but noticeable, punctuation marks in the cloth through agitation in the washing machine.

Like the dots that are woven into this fabric, truth is woven into our universe. Truth is. And truth is discoverable. It is there all along, but we don’t always understand it or see it. Sometimes, it is when we go through life’s agitations that truth rises to the surface as a pleasant surprise.

May truth be your favorite surprise.

Discovering with you,

Secure with Hemstitching

Easter brings fun things to mind. Spring colors, decorated eggs, pretty dresses. Speaking of pretty dresses, in just one month I will wear my mother-of-the-bride dress, with this handwoven shawl on my shoulders. I am finishing the edge of the shawl with hemstitching on the loom. The hemstitching is decorative, but also has a practical purpose–it secures the warp ends and keeps the cloth from unraveling. If all goes as planned, twisted fringe will hang from the hem-stitched edge.

Hemstitching at the loom. Bamboo shawl.
Using a tapestry needle, every four warp ends are cinched together and connected with the two weft threads nearest the fell line.

Forgiveness, the truest demonstration of love, is the ultimate security. Do you see how forgiveness serves as a finishing edge that gives beauty and definition to real life? When you know you are forgiven, you are secure in knowing you are loved. To be forgiven–that’s the gift, the meaning, the wonder of Easter. This is love. God so loved the world that he offered forgiveness.

May your edges be beautifully finished.

Good Easter to you,

Aiming At Perfection?

If I show you pictures of the bands and pieces of cloth I have woven, you might think they look perfect. That’s because the photographer (me) stages the photos so you get the best impression of the work. If you look closely enough for imperfections, trust me, you will find them. We all know that only God is perfect, so why are we so consumed with trying to reach perfection?

Cottolin ribbon woven on Glimakra band loom. Karen Isenhower
Nearly five yards of cotton/linen ribbon woven on the Glimåkra band loom. I had to finish this warp so I could start making a band to use for tabs on the towels I recently finished.

We think that if we are good or do enough good things we will make God happy. A lot of people have been practicing; so, if practice makes perfect, why isn’t anyone perfect yet? Most of all, me. How can I stand before my grand weaver and expect him to overlook all my imperfections? My camera tricks are useless.

Off with the old, on with the new. Band loom weaving.
Warp made with a few colors from the towels, this cotton ribbon will be a good match for making hanging tabs for the towels.
Glimakra band loom, weaving hanging tabs to match handwoven towels. Karen Isenhower
Three yards of cotton ribbon, completely in harmony with the towels they will adorn.

Jesus takes my place before God. His perfection covers my imperfect deeds. My simple part is to put my trust in him. His cross took all my failures to the grave. Now, when my grand weaver sees me, he notices the perfection of his original design as seen in Jesus, his son.

Hand-carved marionette and relief carving by Steve Isenhower. Handwoven towel by Karen Isenhower
New towel with hanging loop on display with Steve’s relief carving and hand-carved marionette. (Seven more towels to hem.)

May you be who you were designed to be.

Weaving onward,