Quiet Friday: Handwoven Handbags

Is there such a thing as too many handbags, pocketbooks, tote bags, and purses? Of course not. Naturally, my favorite handbags are made from handwoven fabric. Linings made from remnants, handwoven bands used for shoulder straps, hidden zippers, and, of course pockets–these are the details that other people will seldom notice. Yet these are the details that make me smile every time I use one of these bags.

Handwoven handbags - with 1 minute video.
Nineteen handwoven handbags. Various sizes, fibers, styles, and purposes. And colors. Lots of colors!

…You know that box of handwoven bits and pieces? Those weavings from the end of the warp, and the “scraps” from various projects? Hmm… looks like I might need to make another handbag or two.

Here is my collection of handwoven handbags, divided into a few categories. Plus, a short video just for the fun of it!

Rigid Heddle Loom

Handbags from fabric woven on a rigid heddle loom.
Wool, novelty chenille yarn, crochet cotton, and narrow fabric strips are used for weft in these bags. Buttons are from my grandma’s button jar. The small rag-weave pocketbook has a permanent home in my daily handbag. The fabric for these bags was woven on my Beka 32″ rigid heddle loom.
Handwoven fabric for handbags from the rigid heddle loom.
Linings are from remnants of other sewing projects. Bag handles were woven on my inkle loom.

Travel Finds

Handwoven handbags from international travels.
Trips to The Philippines yielded interesting woven goods by artisans there. The green stripe tote bag is woven from native plant material, and the teal and burgundy purse is a beautiful example of ikat weaving. The colorful weft-faced woven shoulder bag and the purple bag with lovely weft-float patterning came from travel to Chile.

Project Carriers

Handwoven project bags.
Large tote bag, woven with 1/4″ fabric strips for weft, carries my “show and tell” when I go to my weaving study group. It’s known as the “Mary Poppins Bag.” Rag-rug bag in the center has straps, woven on the band loom, that were woven into the bag. This bag carries my portable tapestry weaving. The rag rug bag on the right carries my one-and-only crochet project.

Special Use

Handwoven handbags.
Linen bag has beads woven into the fabric. It is lined with satin. Rag-weave purse is simply a flat piece folded in half, with lining and pockets added to the inside. The blue bag is wool, woven in a weft-cord technique. The fabric was partially fulled to produce the ribbed texture.
Handwoven lining in a handwoven purse.
Lining for this bag is made from extra fabric after weaving cotton/linen fabric for cushions, and the pocket is a remnant from a two-block twill tencel scarf.

Daily Use Favorites

Favorite handwoven handbags! Karen Isenhower
Representing some of my “firsts.” The brown and blue small shoulder bag is from one of my first cottolin towel projects. This is what I did when the last piece was too short to use for a towel. The green and turquoise clutch has remnants of my first ever handwoven towel, my first rosepath rag rug, and my first big rep weave project! The blue shoulder bag is the bag I use every day. It’s a remnant from the baby wrap I wove for my daughter’s first baby. It’s lined with a remnant from an Easter dress I made for her when she was a little girl.

May you carry your handiwork with you.

Happy weaving,
Karen

Linen Butterflies

This project has been on my mind for a long time. But I purposely waited to begin until I could weave it on my new sweet little loom with a view. Four Decorative Sample Strips, it’s called in The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell. It includes four-shaft tapestry, as well as weft inlay techniques. Each of the four strips will be a sampling of 8-12 different patterns or techniques. The weft is all linen, in various colors and sizes. Several strands are bundled together and made into butterflies. I have the sections mapped out, but the actual designing is happening at the loom.

Box of colorful linen for a tapestry project!
Box of linen! A variety of 16/2 line linen, 6/1 tow linen, and 8/1 tow linen.
Weft inlay with linen butterflies.
First sample strip starts with some weft inlay.
Linen butterflies.
Linen butterflies.

The box of vibrant shades of linen that sits by the loom makes me think of the wonderful colors in creation. The Grand Weaver puts an assortment of strands together, making something as only He can. The world belongs to its Maker. We are His. Sometimes we forget that it is not that He is in our universe, it is that we are in His. I love the way He puts an assortment of us together to put a splash of color on His tapestry.

May you enjoy the colors around you.

Happy weaving,
Karen

Odds and Ends Rag Rug

What can you do with odds and ends? Plenty. I do use new cotton fabric for my rag rugs. But I refrain from buying new fabric until I absolutely have to. It’s a good challenge to combine available colors from previous rag rug projects to make a new design. There are two piles of color for this double binding rag rug. The blue pile and the brown/black pile. The color blocks switch places in the rug about every seventeen centimeters, with a three-pick white chain pattern in between.

Double binding rag rug. Red warp shows up as little red spots.
Collection of blue fabric, and a collection of brown and black fabric form the basis of this double binding rag rug.

I enjoy combining multiple shades of a color, such as the blue in this rug, to add character. Every odd fabric strip finds a place to belong. It ends up looking cozy and friendly. All the mismatched pieces somehow fit together.

Double binding rag rug.
Chain motif draws a line where the colors switch. Three picks form the chain. Print, white, print (the center section shows the reverse.)

We belong to somebody. We belong to the one who made us–the Creator of everything. He weaves the fabric strips together to make his beautiful design. Scraps become useful, and colors are mixed and rearranged in interesting ways. Together, the woven mixture has a purpose. A rag rug, made from odds and ends like us, puts the creativity of our Maker on display.

May you know where you belong.

Love,
Karen

Ability Is Not Enough

I love a challenging project! It is marvelous to have something on the loom that takes effort, concentration, and problem-solving skills (as long as there aren’t too many problems to solve). This inlay rag rug project includes all of the above, and it’s on the big loom–my favorite. This is handweaving at its best!

Rya rag rug on the loom. Karen Isenhower
Rya knots slow the weaving process. Fabric strips are cut to a specific length and the cut pieces are hand-tied around pairs of warp ends.

I am constantly evaluating the pattern, and making needed adjustments with color in the background and with the rya, and spacing the rya knots. Is this working? Or not? Take out a few rows, try putting something different in, step back for a better overall view. Moving and thinking, and beating it in hard, like it should be for a rug. The momentum of the hanging beater makes the hard work easy. And fun.

Rug rug with rya knots on the loom.
Weft is firmly beaten in. The momentum of the hanging beater provides the strength I need to be able to tightly pack in the weft.

Ability by itself is not enough. Wisdom works with ability to produce craftsmanship of highest quality. Our Creator gives us insight that enhances our natural talents and learned skills. When wisdom partners with ability, creativity flourishes. And what a joy it is to be in the middle of that process.

May you excel in joyful creativity.

Very happy weaving,
Karen

These Sensational Towels!

What can compare to the thrill of unrolling freshly-woven cloth? Pulling, and pulling, and pulling until you get to the very beginning of the warp. As every towel unwinds, I do a micro evaluation, knowing that complete scrutiny comes later. I could not be happier with these towels! They are every bit as sensational off the loom as they were to weave. What a joy to be a weaver!

Towels galore just coming off the loom!
Back to the beginning! Cottolin thick and thin handtowels are coming off the loom.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was winding lopsided quills, dropping the shuttle more than occasionally, and struggling to understand weaving drafts. Desire and a willingness to learn have pushed me through these and other barriers.

Handwoven towels ready to be hemmed.
Ready for hemming.
Black and white and a little red. Handwoven towels.
Black and white and a little red, ready for hemming.
Photo shoot for new handwoven towels. Karen Isenhower
Getting set up for a photo shoot. Photos are used in Etsy listings.

Willingness is more important than capability. Being willing sets the stage for learning. We all start incapable. God doesn’t expect us to be capable. He does expect us to be willing. God weaves His purposes on earth, not through the capable people, but through the willing. In weaving, and in life overall, I want to embrace and preserve the willingness factor that keeps me learning.

Thick and thin structure is a handweaver's playground. Karen Isenhower
Thick and thin structure is a playground for a handweaver to imagine and develop designs. Cottolin handtowels and table runner. Designer kitchen, anyone?

And as we yield our will to our Creator, what joy is ours as we learn how to truly live!

May you never stop learning.

(You can see a few of these items now in the Warped for Good Etsy Shop.)

Happy Weaving,
Karen