Warp Chains Are Beautiful

The reel spins ‘round, ‘round, ‘round one way, and then ‘round, ‘round, ‘round back the other way. Rhythmic, mesmerizing, and strangely soothing. Counting, as I wind two ends at a time, I find myself whispering “2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, ….” The warping reel is one of my favorite pieces of equipment. This warp has seven colors of 22/2 Cottolin for bath towels which are to accompany the hand towels I recently made. I am winding this in four bouts, and there are different color changes in each bout.

Winding a warp for cottolin bath towels.
First bout on the warping reel.
Making cottolin bath towels.
Second bout. Choke ties about every meter keep the ends from shifting as the warp bout is chained and taken to the loom.
Making a warp for handwoven bath towels. Cottolin.
Third bout. Each of the four bouts has nearly the same number of warp ends.
Glimakra warping reel - one of my favorite pieces of equipment!
Fourth bout.

I marvel at the combination of thread colors as I chain each bout off the reel. The warp chains look beautiful. They always do. Warp chains are dreams in the making, where anything is possible. Haven’t you dreamt of handwoven bath towels?

Winding a warp on the Glimakra warping reel.
Came close to running out of thread on some of the tubes. (I did have backup tubes, but not from the same dye lots.)
Beautiful warp chains!
Beautiful warp chains, ready for the loom.

When we listen closely, we can hear the inaudible. Our hearts can hear the softest whisper. “2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, …” Even the hairs on our head are numbered by the Grand Weaver who planned our existence. Our days are numbered, as well. And when our heart is listening, we can hear the quiet whisper of the Lord Jesus, “Are you weary and burdened? Come to me, and I will give you rest.”

May you listen for the softest whisper.

Gently,
Karen

9 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Beautiful colors! I’m looking forward to seeing the warp spread across the reed. Best to you and yours!

  • Nannette says:

    The promise of the future beauty. The beginning of a process that completes at the plans and skills of the weaver. Time will tell.

    I always gorge on your color choices.

    Thank you.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, There’s always an element of time that holds the promise. I’m glad you enjoy the color choices. Choosing colors one of the most exciting parts about weaving for me.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • LJ Arndt says:

    Beautiful colors, looking forward to seeing the towel sets when they are complete and put together as the sets.

    • Karen says:

      Hi LJ, Making towel sets for our bathroom is something I’ve thought about doing for a long time. It’s nice to see it coming to pass. Thanks for your encouragement.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Ruth says:

    Karen,
    Thank you for your thoughts about listening to the whispers in our lives. Your words are always a breath of fresh air and I appreciate your reminders to look closely into my life and know that God is working his miracles in the smallest things. Looking forward to seeing your bath towels – wrapping up in a handwoven bath towel is such a luxury!
    Blessings to you and yours.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ruth, I like your words that God is working his miracles in the smallest things. So true!

      I suppose that handwoven bath towels are a luxury. It’s nice to be surrounded by handwoven articles, simple luxuries.

      Blessings to you,
      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: Another Use for Thrums

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.

Thrums are used to make a warp for the Glimåkra band loom.
Thrums ends are tied together to make a warp long enough for the Glimåkra band loom.
Glimakra 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.

Woven band for hanging tabs on handwoven 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.
Using thrums to make coordinating tabs for handwoven 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.

May your knots hold tight.

All the best,
Karen

9 Comments

  • Nancy says:

    What a great idea!

  • Nannette says:

    It is great to find a use for the thrums. I cringe when the work of the spinner is cut away. My last thrums were set aside for raspberry tie ups. Someone else I know uses hers for pillow stuffing.

    I am not familiar with a weaver’s knot. Would you have time in a future posting describe?

    Kind regards,

    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, I haven’t found a lot of uses for thrums, so I’m happy when it works out like this.

      I don’t think you should learn the weaver’s knot from me until I get better at myself. 🙂 Jenny Bellairs shows a terrific way of tying it – see the link in her comment below this.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • I know the people in the weaving industry can tie the weaver’s knot very quickly, but unless I need the tiny knot, I find it is quicker to put the two ends together and tie an overhand knot.

    I did find some instructions quite a few years ago that I was actually able to remember without looking up instructions, and made a pictorial blog post here: https://jennybellairs.blogspot.com/search?q=Weaver’s+knot

    It doesn’t seem to work well on all weights of yarn though, especially thick firm yarns.

    Karen, I enjoy your blog posts and look forward to learning something new, especially since getting my Glimakra Standard 10 shaft loom last summer.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jenny, Thank you so much for posting your pictorial blog post on tying this knot–Super! I definitely want to try that out. And yes, an overhand knot would have served me better in this instance. Maybe I’ll think of that next time! Thanks!

      I hope you are enjoying your Glimakra Standard 10 shaft loom as much as I enjoy mine!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

    • Nannette says:

      Thank you Jenny,

      The knot looks so easy to be such a challenge. Thank you for sharing your blog. Besides Karen’s blog I have been binging on the vlog Curmudeon66 out of DePere Wisconsin. Content driven by a retired guy with the heart of a teacher.

      My Blog is all over the place. The latest weaving posting is linked below. My work is primitive at best. Hoping to improve with each project.
      http://piasinitimes.blogspot.com/2018/04/plarn-mat-for-homeless.html

      When I have time I will have to put in a few more posts of my spring projects.

      Kind regards,

      Nannette

  • Rachel Lohman says:

    Maybe take the trums and tie together and knit or crochet a washcloth?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rachel, I like that idea. I’m not a knitter or crocheter, but I have friends who are. Maybe they would like to use my thrums.

      I do have plans to use my saved linen thrums for weft in washcloths. I hope to do that sometime this year.

      Thanks,
      Karen

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Weaving Some Simple Borders

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 of the Vavstuga towel kit.
Simple border stripe in first towel. Straight twill.
Cottolin warp and 8/1 tow linen weft.
Cottolin warp and 8/1 tow linen weft.
Point twill on four shafts.
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.

Loom with a view. Texas Hill Country.
Three colors of 8/1 tow linen sit on the little blue table as choices for weft. Half-bleached, Unbleached, and Bronze.
Broken twill for a cottolin towel.
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.
Color-blocked towel uses three neutral weft colors.
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.
Cottolin towels with 8/1 tow linen weft.
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.

May you be set apart.

Happy weaving,
Karen

9 Comments

  • Joanna says:

    What a timely post this is! I have a long striped towel warp on that I was getting seriously bored with after only two towels. Right now it’s 4S/2T in a straight draw, but I was mulling over putting more treadles on and fiddling with the tie-up. Thanks for helping me decide (I’m prone to dithering). Bless you, Karen.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, I tend to thrive on variety. Maybe you’re like me in that regard? I have changed the tie-up three times on this warp so far. With only four shafts, it’s an easy way to change things up. The instructions that came with the Vavstuga towel kit gave different tie-up options, so I thought – why not do them all? 🙂

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kristin Martzall says:

    Your posts are so inspiring! How do you use the grosgrain ribbon? as a measuring device? Like a cash register tape bit not as bulky and fragile.?
    Thanks ,in advance ,for your help in explaining that process!

    Kris

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kristin, Welcome!
      The marked grosgrain ribbon came with the Vavstuga towel kit. I normally use twill tape for the same purpose – to pre-measure the desired length of what I am weaving. Here’s a blog post I wrote about it: Tools Day: Measured Weaving

      Happy weaving!
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    Welcome home, Karen! I am sure that you missed your looms! Were you able to finish the tapestry from Big Bend?
    I also like to try different tie ups or striping when I make towels. I like the combination of striping and pattern you have with those colors.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, I made some good progress on my Big Bend tapestry while away. But my floor looms have a louder voice in calling me than the portable frame loom does. I guess I better set aside some quiet evening time to finish the tapestry.

      Thanks!
      Karen

  • Linda Cornell says:

    Five sentences, so precious, choose the narrow path!

    Thank you and Blessings.

    Linda

  • Pam Cauchon says:

    Thank you, Karen, for such wise words. I had been questioning my decision to simplify my life. While simplification is good for contemplation it can be a bit lonely. Weaving provides those moments for contemplation and it is encouraging to hear from someone who is like-minded. To know Christ’s narrow path is well worth it. Then I realize I’m not so lonely after all. Indeed, thank you for the encouraging words.

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All the Looms

The plan to keep every loom dressed is easy when there is only one loom. Now that I have four floor looms, it’s a tough plan to follow. The drawloomcheck. The Glimåkra Standard, dressed in Tuna wool—check. The two smaller looms are threaded, and just need tying on and tying up. So, I’m well on my way! The end of the first warp on the drawloom is in view, however. That means the drawloom will soon be back in the queue. And so it goes.

Winding a warp for rosepath rag rugs. 12/6 cotton. Spring colors.
Winding a warp for rosepath rag rugs. 12/6 cotton. Spring colors.
Warp for cottolin towels.
Warp for cottolin towels is threaded on the little hand-built loom.
Opphämta on the drawloom.
Opphämta on the drawloom. Pattern weft is 6/1 Fårö wool. The right side of the fabric is seen underneath, as it comes around the breast beam.
Threading heddles on the Glimåkra Ideal.
Threading heddles on the Glimåkra Ideal.
Blue and Almond Tuna wool warp.
Blue and Almond Tuna wool warp is tied on in 1″ sections.

I like to stay a step ahead of my looms. I’m ready to wind a new warp as soon as I finish cutting off. It’s the cycle of weaving. But I have trouble staying ahead.

Tying up treadles on the Glimakra countermarch.
Twelve shafts. Twelve upper lamms. Twelve lower lamms. Twelve treadles. This is an amazing system.
Warp is tied on. Ready for rag rugs!
Warp is tied on. Ready to add the leveling string.
Loom is dressed for small wool double weave blanket.
Loom is dressed. Treadle cords are adjusted. Ready for weaving!
End of warp on the drawloom.
End of warp comes near the pattern heddles. This is my first drawloom warp, so I’m waiting to see how far I can weave until I lose a good shed. So far, so good.
My first drawloom warp.
Closing chapter of my first drawloom warp. I’ll keep “turning pages” until the shed disappears.

We have good plans for our lives. But often, it’s tough to follow those plans. Too many things happen at once, and we don’t know how to stay ahead of it all. The thing to remember is that our plans stem from our inner commitments. When we commit our ways to the Lord, trusting him, he leads us through our days. Trust turns plans into achievements. And those are the plans worth pursuing.

May your best plans succeed.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

17 Comments

  • Robin says:

    I love your posts. You are such an inspiration. And it is so evident you went to vavstuga, using the techniques she taught. Going there for the basics class was a little retirement gift to myself last year.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Robin, Going to Vavstuga Basics was one of my best moves. I learned things from Becky Ashenden that I use every day. I’m glad you’ve had the Vavstuga experience, too!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Beth says:

    Robin is right, you are an inspiration! Your work is impeccable and motivating. I have only two looms and can’t seem to get them going at the same time.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, The truth about multiple looms is that you can only weave on one loom at a time.

      Now that all the looms are threaded I may focus on one loom at a time and weave it off. …unless I get distracted by another loom and decide to weave a little on it…

      Thank you for your kind words,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Good morning Karen,

    About this time last year I warped up my homemade loom at the top of my skill set in rosepatth, then life got in the way. Last week I started a 6 week class at the Fiberwood studio near by. Chosen pattern is rosepath, to get my skills where they need to be (and girls night out with a friend).

    Such joy to know you have also chosen rosepath to show on your blog.

    God does provide to the ready student.

    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, I’m happy to hear you are interested in rosepath. Rosepath rag rugs are at the top of my list of favorite things to weave. It’s been way too long since I’ve had them on the loom.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Maria says:

    I just finished my first “ throw” . It was 46 wide in the reed. I had a terrible time keeping the edges and the floater broke a few times. Not my best weaving to say the least. How wide do you do your blankets and do you have any tips for weaving wide pieces? I would love to try the Tuna wool- what epi do you use for it?
    Thanks Karen!
    Maria Navarra

    • Karen says:

      Hi Maria, I know what you mean about facing challenges with a wide weave. I don’t use floating selvedges, so I can’t answer to that. I do use a temple. I find the temple helps me get consistent selvedges with wider widths. The weaving width of my biggest loom is 47″, and I have woven nearly that full width. Getting just the right tension on the warp is necessary, so that it’s just tight enough. If it’s a bit too loose, my shuttle wants to fall through.

      Here’s a page from Vavstuga’s website with a “recipe” for a Tuna wool blanket. I would go with that for a first time Tuna wool throw. It makes a terrific throw. http://store.vavstuga.com/product/yarn-borg-woo-tuna.html

      The one I have on the loom right now is double weave, and the sett is pretty dense, so it takes some patience and practice to make the wool open up with a decent shed.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Karen says:

    The last time I got both of my looms warped at the same time I took a photo….so I could prove I did it and so I could remember it….ha. Thank you for your encouragemment and inspiration, including a journey of faith.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Karen, Don’t forget it has taken me about 3 months to finally get all the looms (almost) dressed. Haha. There’s never a chance to get bored around here.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    Good morning, Karen. Thank you for the inspiration regarding best laid plans.

    And the inspiration for weaving. I purchased a Megado recently and I am struggling with the follow through and putting it into use. Life does try to side track. However, I need to remember to hang onto the plan and trust in God.

    Hopefully, I will get to the Hill Country one day to visit.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, We would be delighted to have you come for a visit!

      There are many things in life more important than dressing looms. I’m sure those are the things you are attending to.

      I have found that I can make it a practice to go to the drawloom every morning after breakfast, even if for a short time. And, it surprises me how those minutes add up over time and now I’m almost at the end of the warp. I think, How did that happen?

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Liz says:

    I am so blown away with how prolific you are with weaving! It takes me all day to dress my little Schacht! I am inspired watching your work! Thank You!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Liz, It’s all one step at a time, little by little, day after day. It adds up. I think you’re doing quite well to dress your loom in a day!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Charlotte Reid says:

    Is it possible to do opphamta designs on a standard four harness loom (drawdown)? I’ve been trying to figure this out after being in Sweden and visiting some weavers. I have obtained what looks like two shed blades for my floor looms ( they came with the used looms). C. Reid

    • Karen says:

      Hi Charlotte, What an interesting visit to Sweden you must have had! It is most certainly possible to do opphamta designs on a regular four-shaft loom. One book with a good description, including pictures, of the process is “Damask and Opphämta,” by Lillemor Johansson. I was able to find a copy through a used book seller. You could also check with your local handweavers guild to see if they have a copy you could borrow.

      Besides a pick-up stick and weaving sword, you will need long-eye heddles. And for repeating patterns, some sticks with holes in the ends and some regular heddles to use as half-heddle sticks.

      I think you are going to have a wonderful time with this beautiful weaving technique!
      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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