Quiet Friday: Weave a Bag with Handles

Voila! A rag-weave bag with the handles woven in. First, the handle straps were woven on my band loom. And then, I wove the straps into the rag-weave bag on my floor loom. Lastly, I cut the weaving from the loom and sewed the bag together. This is a warp for double binding rag rugs. I take advantage of this double cloth structure to make handles that are extremely secure. The pictures show how it all comes together. (Quiet Friday: Rag Rug Bag shows my first attempt at this feat. Be sure to read the comments. My amazing readers helped me develop the idea for this workable solution.)

As a bonus, at the end of this post you will see a new video that demonstrates my method of cutting fabric strips for weaving rag rugs.

1. Weave bag handles. (First seen on Is My Weft Showing?)

Unwoven warp (length equal to the rag rug warp width on the loom, plus 2″/5cm) comes before and after each of two bag handles, which are woven to desired length. Unwoven warp is held together at the beginning, and in between the two handles, and at the end, with 1″/2.5cm of woven band.

Bag handle woven on band loom. Karen Isenhower

2. Insert unwoven band warp for one handle.

Weave approximately 1/3 of the bag.

Cut the two handle straps apart in the middle of the 1″/2.5cm woven section that separates the two lengths of unwoven band warp. Entering from the right-hand side, insert one unwoven band warp, used here as weft, into the first shed of the double binding weave, with 1/2″/1cm of the band-woven handle strap reaching into the shed. Tap the weft in with the beater, but do not beat it in firmly, yet.

Steps for weaving handle into rag weave bag.

Weave handle into rag weave bag. How to.

3. Insert unwoven band warp for the second handle.

Entering from the left-hand side, insert the unwoven band warp, used as weft, from the second handle strap into the second shed of the double binding weave, with 1/2″/1cm of the band-woven handle strap reaching into the shed. Beat firmly, packing in both layers of weft together.

Weave handle into rag weave bag on the loom.

4. Weave the center 1/3 of the bag.

Step-by-step weaving handle into bag.

5. Insert remaining unwoven warp of first handle.

Repeat Step 2 with the unwoven band warp attached to the handle on the right-hand side. Make sure the handle strap is not twisted.

Inserting bag handles during weaving. Tutorial.

6. Insert remaining unwoven warp of second handle.

Repeat Step 3 with the unwoven band warp attached to the handle on the left-hand side. Make sure the handle strap is not twisted.

How to insert bag handles into the weaving.

7. Weave the final 1/3 of the bag.

Double binding rag rug bag.

8. Finishing work.

Cut rag-weave bag from the loom. Remove header and knot the ends. Press. (For more about finishing the ends, see Quiet Friday: Rag Rug Finishing and Wear and Tear Rag Rugs)

Finishing ends to make bag.

9. Stitch the bag.

Fold the bag, right sides together. Stitch side seams. Turn right side out. For whimsical detail, form box corners on the outside, and stitch in place by hand with warp thread. (You could form box corners on the inside just as well, stitching flattened corners by machine or by hand.)

Creating a rag rug bag.

10. Take your bag with you wherever you go.

Rag rug bag with woven handles. Karen Isenhower

Rag rug bag detail. Karen Isenhower

May your ideas turn into fruitful efforts.

Happy weaving,

Conversation with Teresa Loveless of Weaving Southwest

Weaving Southwest has a vibrant history in northern New Mexico that has influenced weaving traditions far and wide. I recently took advantage of this treasure trove of experience in a class taught by Teresa Loveless, the granddaughter of Weaving Southwest pioneer, Rachel Brown. I hoped to sharpen my tapestry skills by learning a fresh approach, and I was not disappointed! Teresa’s attentive teaching style brims with encouragement, making every student exceed their own expectations.

Weaving Southwest in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico
Weaving Southwest in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico.
Weaving Southwest student accomplishments.
Teresa Loveless on the right with her five happy students from the class “Habitat, A Study in Verticals.”

Join me as I sit with Teresa in the park across from the shop to talk about her dreams and aspirations…

Fast forward twenty years. What would you like to be known for?

I have an interest in preservation of culture, and seeing that carried out through textiles. Preserving culture through textiles worldwide is a hidden passion of mine, and I’m working on ways to make that happen.

This sounds like a big dream.

Yes, it is a big dream that I have given a lot of thought to. With modern technology there is great potential. Technology makes it possible to pick out every little niche of fiber in the world and pull it all together in a classy and educational way.

What can be done to preserve cultures through textiles?

You could go to little villages or communities, and through today’s technology, bring them all together and preserve entire cultures. In Before They Pass Away, photographer Jimmy Nelson documents some of the most secluded tribes in the world. And he put them together in an incredible photo book, with their beautiful textiles draping all over them. That book was part of the inspiration for my dream.

Your grandmother taught you how to weave; and your mother taught you jewelry making. And now you are passing weaving on to your very young daughter. What are your thoughts about people passing what they know on to their children and grandchildren?

I grew up in this family of artists and inventors, and they were weavers and jewelers and everything in between, and I did it all. I wove and I made jewelry. It was normal. It was my life. When I went away and realized that not everyone brought their loom to college, or that making a silver ring is not something everybody can do… that was eye opening.

For me, it is all about passing it along. Teach your kids to do what you do. Even if they think they’re going to go off and do something else. I was going to go be a scientist. And then I came back. Clearly, I’m not a scientist. I’m a weaver.

Because it was passed on through my family, and because of my incredible grandmother, I am able to help preserve culture. I am helping to preserve beauty through textiles.

What about your daughter, do you think she will become a weaver?

Pass on the tradition, pass on the skill, and pass on, hopefully, the love for it. But my daughter loves bugs more than she likes yarn right now, so maybe she’ll be the scientist, who knows?

Weaving Southwest in New Mexico
Weaving Southwest pickup truck depicts the down-to-earth approach of the shop. Highly accomplished, yet unpretentious.

Tell me about your sweet spot. Are there times when you think, “I was made for this?”

I’m doing it here, like the class we just finished. I love teaching. I love being able to share what I know, what was passed on to me. It doesn’t matter how much someone knows or doesn’t know when they come. From afar, weaving does look a little confusing, but if you get the feel of it, if you understand the warp and weft and structure… Oh, the things you can do!

You enjoy simplifying things for people, don’t you?

That’s it, definitely! It doesn’t have to be hard. There are all sorts of technical terms, but weaving does not have to be difficult. Seeing people blossom, from, “Oh my gosh, which is warp, which is weft?” Or, “Do I do a single dovetail here?,” to realizing you can do a single dovetail wherever you want, …but you don’t have to. There are so many options. If you go into it with confidence you’re going to be able to produce incredible work!

You seem happy to see your students flourish…

Oh, yes. When I see my students happy, then I’m happy!

Thank you for taking time with me. It has been fun to get to know you more!

Absolutely! Thanks!

Study in verticals from class at Weaving Southwest in NM.
This study in verticals is hung horizontally just above the work table in my weaving studio. Makes me smile.

May you dream big.

Very happy weaving,

Is My Weft Showing?

In warp-faced weaves, like this band, the warp is what you notice. When the weft is placed correctly, it is not seen at all, except at the selvedges. And even then, when the weft is the same color as the outermost warp end, as it usually is, the weft thread blends in and is virtually invisible.

Glimåkra two-treadle band loom.
Four strands of aqua cottolin (cotton/linen thread) are threaded together to form the “dots” in the center of the woven band. Brown weft matches outer warp ends. Glimåkra two-treadle band loom.

The weft is doing its best job when it remains out of view. You could say the weft’s purpose is to make the warp look good. Consistency is the hallmark of a high quality woven band. I aim for that by pulling the weft snug, but not too snug, on each pick. If the weft thread is visible between warp ends, it’s a sign that the weft is not properly placed.

Humility is the hidden weft that holds relationships together. Humility preserves relationships. We must never let selfish ambition or conceit be our motivation for anything. “Me first” has no place in healthy relationships any more than weft is meant to be seen in warp-faced weaves. We are at our best when we make those we love look good.

May you know when to stay out of view.

At your service,

Weaving Southwest Habitat Class

I just spent three days at Weaving Southwest in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico, studying tapestry techniques with Teresa Loveless. It was a great experience! “Habitat, a Study in Verticals” is a fun and informative class, with exceptional personal attention given to each student. The looms are Rio Grande walking looms that were designed by Teresa’s grandmother, Rachel Brown. You weave standing up!

Spectacular rainbow near Arroyo Seco, New Mexico.
This stunning double rainbow over the mountains greeted us on our first evening in Arroyo Seco. Images like this inspire countless artisans in New Mexico.

The emphasis for this class is vertical joins in weft-faced plain weave tapestry. Teresa uses memorable words and phrases that help students remember techniques. Just ask me about threads kissing! Besides the vertical joins, we also practiced other tapestry and shuttle techniques, including pick and pick, color gradation, and hatching. Finishing techniques, like sewing in loose threads, stitching slits, braiding fringe, and blocking the finished piece were covered at the end of the last day.

Rio Grande walking loom at Weaving Southwest.
Standing in front of the Rio Grande walking loom I used at Weaving Southwest, after weaving the first portion of my design.
Weaving Southwest class.
Five students in the class each have a loom.

We had a fabulous selection of Weaving Southwest’s own rug wool in rich, fabulous colors. To take advantage of the hand-dyed wool’s unique features, I chose background colors that had an almost variegated appearance.

Color gradations in tapestry class at Weaving Southwest.
Color gradation with three shades of red, using “wavy lines.”
Tapestry class at Weaving Southwest.
Pick and pick, creating vertical stripes of color, is one of my favorite techniques. Maybe I will make an entire wool rug using pick and pick.
Tapestry class at Weaving Southwest
Just enough time to add some hatching at the end portion of my piece. Fun!

I will show you my finished piece in an upcoming post. And I will share a personal conversation I had with Teresa, talking about her big dreams.

May you learn something beautiful.

Happy Weaving,

Understanding Linen

What is your experience with linen? I know weavers who love it, and others who completely avoid it. Linen has remarkable qualities. Strength, durability, natural beauty. It took me several attempts, though, to become comfortable using linen as warp. Linen has indeed given me more than my share of broken warp ends! But truly, those struggles have been part of the learning process. The more I weave with linen, the more I love this natural fiber. I am beginning to understand how to work with it, instead of against it. In fact, weaving these lace-weave scarves with single-ply linen warp and weft has been a joy. And only two broken selvedge ends this time!

Linen lace weave scarves as they wind onto the cloth beam.
Linen lace-weave scarves as seen on the cloth beam. Fringe between the scarves is left unwoven. The separated stripes are caused by the hemstitching at the end of one scarf and at the beginning of the next one.

It takes effort and experience to understand some things. The love of Christ is like that. The love of Christ is extraordinary. It takes inner determination to discover the beauty of this unconditional love. Some things are simply worth the effort.

May your understanding increase.

Happy Weaving,