Tried and True: Something New from Something Old

My grandma made a pattern on brown paper for a neck pillow. I suppose she found the pattern in a magazine or newspaper decades ago. I am using my copy of her pattern to make my own neck pillow. Maybe someday my pillow will be as worn and wobbly as Grandma’s well-loved neck pillow that I remember.

My version of Grandma’s neck pillow.

Looking through my pile of handwoven scraps I find the piece of fabric that had been hanging as a Roman shade on the back door of our previous home. This two-block twill in cotton and linen was my first 8-shaft project on my floor loom. Good memories! The fabric, softened and slightly faded through daily use, is perfect for the comfy neck pillow I’m imagining. (Unlike Grandma’s pillow, I’m making this one with a removable cover so it can be easily laundered.)

Roman shade from my first 8-shaft weaving project.
Roman shade from my first 8-shaft weaving project. I wove the linen draw cord on my two-treadle band loom.

Instructions for Constructing a Handwoven Neck Pillow

Supplies:

  • Cotton muslin, pre-washed
  • Handwoven fabric, pre-washed
  • Cluster Fluff, or other cluster fill or polyester fiberfill
  • 7” invisible zipper
  • Sewing machine
  • Invisible zipper foot
  • Sewing thread
  • Hand-sewing needle
  • Iron
  • Sleeve board for pressing, optional

Steps:

  1. Cut four pillow pattern pieces from the muslin.
  2. Sew two of the muslin pieces together, right sides together. Press seams open.
  3. Sew the other two muslin pieces together, right sides together. Press seams open.
  4. Sew the two parts together, right sides together, leaving a 4-inch opening for turning and stuffing. Press seams open using a sleeve board.
  5. Turn the pillow right side out.
  6. Stuff with Cluster Fluff, starting at the furthest end from the opening. Fill to desired fullness.
  7. Hand stitch the opening closed.
  8. Cut four pillow pattern pieces from the handwoven fabric.
  9. Serge or zigzag the fabric edges. Press flat.
  10. Insert invisible zipper between two of the pieces.
Making a handwoven neck pillow.
Invisible zipper is sewn into place between two of the panels.
  1. Complete the seams at both ends of the zipper. Press seams open.
  2. Sew the two other pieces together, right sides together. Press seams open.
  3. Open zipper, and sew the two parts together, right sides together. Press seams open using a sleeve board.
  4. Turn the pillow case right side out.
  5. Push the muslin pillow into the pillow case. Close the zipper.
Handwoven neck pillow cover.
Inner pillow and outer cover are made from the same pattern to make it a snug fit.
Handwoven neck pillow. How to with construction steps.
Fabric is 16/2 cotton warp and 16/1 linen weft.
  1. Take a nap in your favorite chair with the pillow behind your neck.
Handwoven neck pillow.

If you would like a pdf copy of my grandma’s neck pillow pattern, please click HERE to send me an email request. I will be happy to send the pattern to you.

May you see old treasures in new ways.

Rest and Be Well,
Karen

6 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    This is wonderful! A lovely tribute to your Grandma!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, My Grandma was very resourceful. She probably made her pillow from a leftover scrap from her sewing fabrics, or from a garment too worn to wear. I think she would be happy with my humble version.

      Thank you!
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Nice demonstration of what to do with hand woven fabrics. A 2nd life for a beautiful fabric.

    My Grandma left behind recipes and gingham cross stitched textiles. I cut up a skirt with her embroidery to add to a wedding memory quilt made for my daughter and husband.

    You have a hug from your grandma every time you recline.

    How wonderful.

  • Linda Mesavage says:

    My grandmother was not a Weaver but she was the seller and did a lot of things out of leftovers. What a lovely tribute to your grandmother! I love your project.

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Tied Up in Knots

Every time you cut off a warp there is more to do before the woven material is ready for its end purpose. Do you enjoy tying knots? And, hemming rugs by hand? I don’t mind completing these final steps. It’s part of the whole weaving process. Three of the six rosepath rag rugs are now finished. Truly finished.

Six new rosepath rag rugs, ready for finishing!
Six rosepath rag rugs. Rugs are cut apart and warping-slat dividers have been removed.

Tying the warp ends in overhand knots permanently secures the weft. These knots won’t work loose. I turn the hem, concealing the knots; and stitch the hem down. After I sew on my label, the work is complete.

Tying knots to finish a rag rug.
Warp ends are tied into overhand knots, four ends at a time.
Rag rug finishing.
Ends are trimmed to 1 inch.
Hand hemming a rosepath rag rug.
Hem is folded under and pressed. The needle catches a warp end from the fold and a warp end from the body of the rug. Rug warp is used as thread for hemming.

Jesus famously said, “It is finished,” when he was on the cross. His completed good work replaces our work of trying to be good enough, trying to fix everything, trying to control our lives. Our knots won’t hold. We can trust that his finished work will never be undone. God loves you. Trusting him is loving him back.

Rosepath rag rug, fresh off the loom.
One completed rug, named “Treasures,” for my neighbor’s home.
Handwoven rag rugs, named "Blessed Assurance." Made for a friend.
Pair of completed rugs, named “Blessed Assurance,” for another neighbor’s home.

May love securely hold you.

Trusting,
Karen

12 Comments

  • Beth says:

    They are beautiful, Karen!
    I’m curious, do you wet finish the rugs before using them on the floor?

  • Charlotte says:

    Blessed assurance…Jesus is mine…oh what a foretaste of Glory divine…

    I adore your two rugs entitled “Blessed Assurance”…absolutely adore them!

    As you may be aware, Art Camp was cancelled. Now…the Bluebonnet Rally is cancelled. For 9 years…our April has been spent serving 250 people in Bandera. Goodness…we are quarantined and home. Now, I have this wonderful time before me to play in the studio. We need to talk!!!!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Charlotte, The “Blessed Assurance” rugs are showstoppers, much to my surprise, since there is not a bit of blue in them. 🙂

      This is my story, this is my song. Our Lord is song-worthy all the day long.

      Love you,
      Karen

  • ellen b santana says:

    i heard in a sermon that the phrase it is finished in the original language was words used in commerce, to signify that the debt was paid. so cool.

  • Kristin G says:

    Such lovely rugs and words, Karen! I’m so glad I got to see one of them up close at the guild meeting – they really are beautiful. You made my heart smile with the ‘Blessed Assurance” named rugs. What a wonderful song to have playing in my mind today.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kristin, I’m always happy when someone has a song in their heart. Glad to contribute to that!

      Your kind words are such an encouragement to me.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Elisabeth Munkvold says:

    What a beautiful bunch of rag rugs you have made!
    I am cutting rags at the moment…in between other textile projects 🙂
    We are so blessed to always have something to do, even more so now when staying home has become our new daily life. The healthcare system needs for as many of us as possible to do just that!! My mom has been on lockdown (in Norway) for a week already.
    Take care and stay healthy!
    Love, Elisabeth

    • Karen says:

      Hi Elisabeth, I’m glad to hear you have another rag rug project in the works. I agree, it is a blessing to have no shortage of things to do at home. It’s a good time to pray for our mothers, and those more vulnerable.

      Keep in health.
      Love,
      Karen

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Tried and True: Designing Handwoven Towels

How do you come up with a design for standout hand towels? Sometimes it’s nice to start with someone else’s ideas. There is a gorgeous wool throw, designed by Anna Svenstedt, in Favorite Scandinavian Projects To Weave: 45 Stylish Designs for the Modern Home, by Tina Ignell. This Colorful Throw—Reverse Twill makes a perfect template for designing eye-catching hand towels.

New handwoven towels.
Warp chains with seven colors of 22/2 cottolin for standout hand towels.

Decisions:

  • Colors – a set of seven colors, to be used in warp and weft
  • Fiber – 22/2 cottolin for warp and weft
  • Reed and sett50/10 metric reed, 10 ends per centimeter (~ 12-dent reed, 24 ends per inch)
  • Finished size of towel – 39.5 cm x 63 cm (15.5” x 24.5”)
  • Number of towels – 2 pairs of towels = 4 total
  • Spacing of warp stripes – add two more narrow stripes at each selvedge to balance the pattern

These decisions enable me to prepare a project plan, make calculations, and write a new weaving draft.

New handwoven towels.
Testing, testing…

When the loom is dressed, the design process continues as I begin weaving a sample section. This is where I decide what weft colors to use, the spacing of weft stripes, and specific treadling patterns. I add these notes to my project sheet, which I keep at the loom as my weaving roadmap.

Measuring for weft stripes.
I place my measuring twill tape along the reed to mark the spacing of the warp stripes. I will use that same spacing for weft stripes to make plaid towels.
Testing colors and patterns.
Sample weaving to try out colors, stripe spacing, and treadling patterns. And, simply to practice this broken reverse twill treadling, which requires concentration.
First towel starts after the red cutting line.
First towel starts after the red cutting line.

These hand towels are a preview. If they turn out as hoped, I may have to make some bath towels to match.

May your designs stand out.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

14 Comments

  • Charlotte says:

    You will love the cottolin for your bath towels. I’ve used cottolin for warp and linen for weft. That works well. But, the balance of cottolin for warp and weft makes a wonderful bath towel.

    Your hand towels will be a treasure!!! The colors are smashing!!!!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Charlotte, I like the idea of using linen for weft with a cottolin warp. You would get the softness of the cotton in the cottolin and the extra absorbency of the linen. I may consider that for the bath towels. What size linen do you recommend for that?

      I’m already thinking these may be my favorite hand towels.

      Thanks!
      Karen

      • Charlotte says:

        I am sitting here at home, sipping my first cup of coffee. Hence, I don’t have my notes available to answer your question. But, I usually try a weft and weave a few rows of blocks to make certain I can square the block. If the yarn is too thick for the weft, but I’m crazy about it…I’ll weave 1/2 blocks for the cloth. I’ll treadle 1, 2, 3 and change to the next pattern row: 4, 5, 6. Does this make sense?

  • Anonymous says:

    Absolutely beautiful! Gorgeous colors. Eight shaft?

  • Joanna says:

    I wish you more joy with your plaid than I have had with mine. It’s been stalled on the loom forever. What was your inspiration for the color choices? I keep looking for echoes of your beautiful Texas Hill Country.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, I know it is disappointing when something on the loom is less than what we’d hoped. What if you just finished your towels off with a single weft color, having only the warp stripes? Would that work? At least you could get them off the loom sooner.

      I have a set palette of colors for our home in Sherwin-Williams paint chips. I spread those paint chips out when deciding on thread colors for weaving that will be used in our home. I have yarn samples of all the main yarn/thread that I use (Yarn in a Jar from Vavstuga is fantastic for this) so I can spread the yarn colors out, too, and find pleasing arrangements.

      I hope you find a way to put joy back into your towel weaving.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kevin says:

    Really beautiful! I love the colors and the pattern!

  • Barb says:

    Love the idea of using the warp stripe pattern as the spacing for the weft colors! It is an idea i will sample on the striped cotton towels on my loom. Thanks so much for sharing, I always find inspiration in your weaving journey.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barb, Copying the warp stripe spacing is an easy way to bring a cohesive look to the towels. Good for you to sample the idea for yourself.

      I sure appreciate your kind encouragement.
      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Beautiful weave.Love your color choices.

    Thank you. Much needed as I sit next to totes being filled with decades of craft supplies to be moved to the retirement home and the empty boxes to be filled for the anticipated rummage sale. The Reed Pleater will have to be sold. Can I let go of the silk screening supplies from my college days?

    In the next 9 months there is much to do to make the transition.

    Between you and Curmugeom66 my creative soul is renewed. (His last VLOG was snow blowing his yard just south of Green Bay.) That said, he has posted quite a few VLOGs using cottalin.

    Thank you for keeping me in the loop with your wonderful projects..

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, I understand. I, too, had to let go of many prized saved things when we prepared for our retirement move. Happily, I have no regret of letting go, and I have not missed any of it. The move became my chance to start fresh. That doesn’t make your challenge any easier, but I hope you will be encouraged. You have a bright future to look forward to.

      All the best,
      Karen

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Tried and True: Outsmart the Rag Rug Weft Tails

What do you do with weft tails on a rag rug? Normally, you wrap the weft tail around the outer warp end and tuck it back into the shed. But what about color changes? If you have several color changes in a row, you can end up with extra bulk on one selvedge or another from those tucked-in tails.

3 Ways to Outsmart Rag Rug Weft Tails

  • TWO PICKS For a two-pick stripe, leave a tail of several inches on the first pick. For the second pick, lay the weft tail from the first pick in the shed. Lay in the second pick, and cut the fabric strip to overlap the weft tail in the shed. This eliminates any extra bulk at the selvedges. (All tails are cut at a steep angle.)
  • CARRY IT When feasible, carry the weft up the side. If a weft is out of play for only one or two rows, do not cut it. When another weft enters the shed, make sure it encircles the idle weft.
  • DISTRIBUTE Whenever possible, avoid tucking in weft tails two picks in a row. Wait, and tuck in the tail on a subsequent pick.

HERE IS AN EXAMPLE:

How to outsmart rag rug weft tails!
Gray weft ends with weft tail tucked in. White tabby weft tail is not tucked in.
How to outsmart rag rug weft tails!
Rosepath pattern weft for a two-pick stripe. Loooooong weft tail.
How to outsmart rag rug weft tails!
Tabby weft goes around the rosepath pattern weft, and is tucked in the shed.
How to outsmart rag rug weft tails!
Tabby weft comes through the shed and lays over the tucked-in tail.
How to outsmart rag rug weft tails!
Tabby weft is beaten in.
How to outsmart rag rug weft tails!
Pattern weft is laid in the shed, with tails overlapping near the center of the warp.
Tabby weft is beaten in, and weft tail is tucked in. In the middle of the rosepath medallion the orange print weft is carried up the side until it is used again. For the gray strip that follows the last white tabby pick, the weft tail is tucked in on the second gray pick.
How to outsmart rag rug weft tails!
Rosepath medallion with several color changes.

One more thing. Cut the weft tail extra long if you are tucking it in a row with weft floats, as in rosepath (Like the center pick in this medallion). This helps keep that weft tail from popping out of place. You don’t want those tails to start waving at you.

May you pay attention to the details.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

4 Comments

  • I’ve thought of doing a post like this as a visual for my students. Now I don’t have to! I will just refer them to your beautiful rug!

    One thing you didn’t mention was the single black pick. How I do a single pick is to cut the strip half the width of my other strips. I cut the length a bit longer than twice the width, allowing for the angle and the overlap and tapered ends. I insert it with a stick shuttle leaving both ends hanging out and beat. Both ends then wrap around the end warp or the weft being carried up the side and have the tapered ends overlap somewhere in the center.

    Excellent tutorial!

    Jenny Bellairs

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jenny, Basics like this are always good to review. Thanks for your encouragement!

      Your method for weaving a single pick is excellent, and eliminates another tail at the selvedge.
      I don’t usually take that extra step, though, of cutting a strip half width. So my single picks do have a long tail tucked in.

      Thank you!
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Brilliant! Thank you.

    I’m working on a strip quilt project with an abundance of leftovers. 4″ will be cut down to 1″ widths and woven into the extra rose path warp on the loom.

    A very timely posting.

    Nannette

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Tried and True: Five Steps for Rag Rug Selvedges and a Quick Tip Video

What do you look for in a handwoven rag rug? How do you detect quality of craftsmanship? I look at the selvedges. First thing. I look for selvedges that are nice and tight, and that have a uniform twist at the edge. A few simple steps, consistently practiced, produce the kind of quality you can see and feel. It’s one more reason I find delight in weaving rag rugs.

Rag rug selvedges. Short quick tip video.
Rag rug selvedges. Weft is snugly wrapped around the selvedge warp ends.

Five Steps for Firm Selvedges on a Rag Rug

  1. Throw the shuttle, leaving a loop of the fabric-strip weft at the selvedge.
  2. Hold the weft out taut, and turn the weft under twice at the selvedge.
  3. Untwist the weft in the shed, straightening it, as needed.
  4. Pull the weft tight against the selvedge.
  5. Position the weft in the shed and beat it in.
Weaving a rag rug. Tutorial video of a quick tip.
Beater swings forward to beat in the weft with its just-formed firm and tidy selvedge.
Filming a short video on weaving rag rug selvedges.
Set up for filming the short tutorial. My husband does the filming and proves his patience through several retakes.

Watch this Quick Tip video for a short demonstration.

Rag rug on the loom. Tutorial about selvedges.

May the quality of your work be the first thing noticed.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

26 Comments

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