Quiet Friday: Linen Dice Weave Pillows

The linen on my loom last spring was a secret project. I only showed hints of what I was doing. Now that the “secret” linen project is published, let’s go back to see some of the process. Complete instructions for weaving and sewing these Linen Dice Weave pillows are in the January/February 2015 issue of Handwoven magazine. Read how it all came about in Caught by Surprise – in a Good Way.

Linen arrives!

Linen arrives!

Ready to pre-sley the reed with linen.

Ready to pre-sley the reed.

Warping trapeze in action to beam linen warp.

Warping trapeze in action to beam the linen warp.

Linen, ready to be threaded in the heddles.

Ready to thread the heddles.

Linen dice weave on the loom.

First pillow.

Linen dice weave as seen through the warp.

Linen dice weave as seen through the warp.

Linen dice weave coming around the cloth beam. Karen Isenhower

Coming around the cloth beam.

Linen dice weave on the loom.

Ending the pattern.

Dice weave in linen on the loom.

Dice weave.

Cutting off celebration!

Cutting off celebration!

Assembling handwoven linen pillows.

Assembling pillows.

Two sets of handwoven linen dice weave pillows

Two sets of linen dice weave pillows.

Linen dice weave pillows. Karen Isenhower

Linen dice weave pillows ready to send.

May you and those you love make meaningful memories on this Christmas day.

Merry Weaving Christmas,


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Caught by Surprise – in a Good Way

I’ve been published! The new issue of Handwoven magazine (January/February 2016) is out. Have you seen it? Sarah Jackson, the weaving editor, had noticed my blue dice weave pillows on Pinterest. When she contacted me to ask if I would consider submitting a project for the linen issue, I was caught by surprise. Who, me?! I simply enjoy weaving. I never thought about having something published. But here we are! The dice weave linen pillows project is in print. This is a milestone in my weaving journey; and an opportunity for which I am immensely grateful! (See the blue dice weave pillows in Invisible Zipper.)

Linen dice weave pillows. Karen Isenhower

Finished linen dice weave pillows are shipped off to Fort Collins, Colorado to meet the Handwoven editorial team.

Linen dice weave pillow project.

Linen issue of Handwoven has good information and interesting projects, including instructions for linen dice weave pillows.

Project in print!

In print!

We think everything is going according to our plans, and then we run into surprises. Even a good surprise involves challenges, stretching us out of our comfort zones. God is completely faithful. He has certainly been faithful to me. I find relief in knowing the Grand Weaver is overseeing the fabric of my life. What seems like a surprise to me is actually part of his carefully designed plan.

May you be caught in the act of making something good.

With gratitude,


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Linen Gets Wet

It is time for wet finishing. As curious as I am to see how the linen fabric will emerge through the process, I still hesitate when it is time to put the fabric in the water. Fresh off the loom, the fabric is coarse and stiff, but it looks good! I know that the water, mild soap, and gentle washing machine agitation will absolutely change the character of the cloth. Wet finishing should change the cloth for the better… Finally, I look at my notes again from the wet finished sample piece, and gain the courage to put the linen fabric in the water…

Wet finishing linen. Before and after.

Linen dice weave transforms from rigid squares on a stiff open mesh to gently flowing squares on softened cloth, where the threads blossom together to close the mesh. Oh, how the beauty of linen is revealed through washing.

Don’t hesitate to pray. Seek God when things are calm. Today is the best time to pray, when things are going well. Oh yes, there may be changes as a result of your prayers, but the changes are all good.

May you see the positive changes you hope for.

With anticipation,


  • Fran says:

    I like the dice weave; so clean! Was the linen really difficult, or have you used it before. I used cottolin once; it seemed too stay quite stiff.

    • Karen says:

      Fran, Yes, that’s one thing I like about the dice weave, too – it is clean and uncluttered. Linen does require some extra attention for weaving, but I wouldn’t say it’s difficult. I have used linen before, and each time it seems to get easier. Now, I really enjoy weaving with linen, and I love the results. My cottolin towels get softer and softer with use and repeated laundering. They are my favorite towels.


  • maggie says:

    can you share the threading instructions for the dice weave? it’s fascinating. in my mind i’d put on a supplementary warp. it appears you do the dice as wefts. please share.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Maggie,

      Dice weave is actually a simplified monk’s belt weave. I used the draft in “The Big Book of Weaving,” by Laila Lundell, p.128. This is pattern weft on a plain weave background, and uses only three treadles–two treadles for the plain weave and one treadle for the pattern. There are two blocks, with block 1 threaded on the first 2 shafts – 1212, and block 2 threaded on the remaining 2 shafts – 3434. It’s that simple. If you look at the draft in the book, you will see how minimal it is.

      Happy Weaving,

  • linda says:

    may we see the back? are the floats longer? do they tie into the salvage on the sides or do you actually turn at the last dot on the rt and Lt? If you added a 4th harness the purple dot weft could be carried without floats on the back. plain weave on 1&2, dots on #3 and #4 would be the tiedown paired up with 1 or 2, but then the background would have a speckled effect. let me think on this. The best part of weaving is the puzzle of making it work. PLJ, linda

    • Karen says:

      Linda, the floats are a little longer on the back; and the pattern weft does enter and exit through a plain weave shed at the selvedge. Here’s a picture of the back of the blue and brown dice weave that I did previously. It’s not a great picture, but it allows you to see the back.

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Who Says Plain Weave Must Be Plain?

Do you see the lengthwise raised ridges in this linen fabric? Don’t be fooled. The plain weave panel of this fabric is as flat as can be. Optical illusion. I have two slightly different colors of linen in the warp, unbleached and golden bleached. Instead of strictly alternating the colors, I threaded the warp ends “as they came,” to bring depth and interest to the plain weave fabric.

Dice weave on the loom. View from under the weaving.

View from under the weaving, the cloth is seen going over the knee beam. This dice weave, with 16/2 linen, has colorful squares of weft pattern floats. A panel of plain weave follows the patterned cloth.

We can be fooled by what we see. Lines and colors work together to create a false impression. Coming close enough to touch and examine is the best way to help the eyes see what is real. How many things do we misunderstand because we fail to come near enough to truly examine the evidence? We assume that a distant view is reliable.

Humility sets the stage for learning. It removes distance between us and what we need to learn. Instead of trusting only what we see, we step nearer to touch and examine the real thing. The humble are teachable. They know there are things they don’t know, and they are on a quest to learn. With weaving, and with matters of greater importance, like faith and truth, we must come close enough to touch and to learn.

May you hold valued fabric in your hands.

With much to learn,


  • Ruth says:

    Great advice. Thanks.

  • linda says:

    this is from a weaving perspective only. It looks like your floats are over about 5 threads? You may find the floats pull out because there are no tie down threads. If this does happen consider putting in a couple of tie down threads with the floats, they can be evenly spaced or scattered. I’d like to know how this works when it’s off the loom. peace, love and joy, linda
    ps love the effect of the two colors of linen.

    • Karen says:

      Linda, you are correct, this weave has floats that are longer than usual. Dice weave is a simplified Monk’s belt, and the floats are part of the desired look. The floats are actually over 10 threads on the front and 14 threads on the back. I have a special way to secure the beginning and ending of the pattern weft so it won’t pull out. When the fabric is wet-finished it all pulls together beautifully. I have already wet-finished my sample, and I’m ready now to do the rest. I’ll show more in a later post.

      I’m glad you like the effect of mixing the colors in the warp. I’m pleased with how it came out.


  • Beautiful view of the fabric!

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Linen Is Special

Linen is special. This is nothing new. Even in biblical history, linen is mentioned as fabric for sacred purposes. But weaving with linen requires attentiveness. The inelasticity of linen means extra care is needed in every stage of dressing the loom and weaving. Of first importance is an even warp tension.

Getting ready to weave with linen. Tying on.

Tying on linen in small 1-inch/2.5 cm increments is one thing that helps contribute to an even warp tension.

This method of tying on* is perfect for weaving rag rugs. The 12/6 cotton rug warp stays snugly in place. Not so with linen. The even warp tension that I have been so careful to maintain can be lost in a moment. The sneaky linen is smooth and slick enough to tie on easily, and then loosen up just as easily. So I take the double precaution of tying an additional overhand knot, AND moistening that knot with a dab of water which helps the linen grip itself. I never have to worry about these knots slipping loose.

Beginning dice weave in linen.

Additional overhand knot, with a dab of water, secures the tie-on threads. I am using sample space to try weft colors and work on getting optimum weft density.

What do you worry about? I have bigger things I worry about, too. But my heavenly Father assures me that He has secured all the knots that concern me. “Don’t worry,” he tells me. “Your Father knows your needs.” Be attentive to keep first things first. Put yourself in the Father’s care, and find that he takes care of you. Special you.

May you forget your worries.

With you,

* I learned this method of tying on from Becky Ashenden. You can see it fully explained by Becky, with pictures, in Dress Your Loom the Vävstuga Way: A Benchside Photo-guide.

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