Tools Day: Needles

Even though there are dozens of needles in and around my weaving and sewing spaces, nine stand out from the rest. These go-to needles have earned special favor. As essential tools, these needles have specific holders and permanent homes.

The 9 needles I use most for handweaving.

  • Sharp needles: hand-hemming, hand-sewing, stitching on labels, and stitching a tapestry to a linen mat for mounting (curved needle)
    HOLDER: Pincushion I made in 1980
    HOME: Sewing supply closet, “Needles and Pins” drawer

Sharp needles for hand-hemming. 1980 pin cushion.

Stitching labels onto handwoven towels.

Hand hemming handwoven table runner.

  • Blunt tapestry needles, small and medium: hemstitching, stitching a thread mark to the right side of the fabric, sewing in tapestry weft tails, finishing work—needle-weaving for corrections and repairs
    HOLDER: Remnant of cotton handwoven plain weave fabric
    HOME: Loom-side cart, top drawer

Handy needles to keep by the loom.

Blunt needles by the loom.
Steve sanded and rounded the tips of the needles to make them blunt. A needle with a rounded tip won’t pierce and split the threads.

Hemstitching at the loom.

Sewing in weft tails in the back of a tapestry.

  • Blunt tapestry needles, large: hemstitching, hand-hemming rugs, weaving small tapestries
    HOLDER: Felted inkle-woven tape
    HOME: cutting/work table, Grandma’s old sewing tin

Felted inkle-woven needle holder.

Rag rug hemming by hand.

Hemming a handwoven rag rug.

  • Sacking needles: pulling rag rug warp ends out of scrap weft, threading warp ends back into a wool rug (I did this…once)
    HOLDER: straw-woven pouch from a trip to The Philippines
    HOME: weaving supply closet, top drawer on the left

Woven pouch from The Philippines.

Tying warp ends into knots. Rag rug finishing.

May you find the needle you need when you need a needle.

All the best,

Quiet Friday: Cotton Scarves

One thing I learned is the scarf with the longest warp floats has the greatest shrinkage rate. Another thing I learned – again – is to plan a longer warp than what I think I need. The third scarf is significantly shorter than the first two because I ran out of warp. Table runner, anyone? I always include length for sampling, but I need to include more, more, more. Still, I am very happy with the finished results. And, you have a new video to watch! (Scroll down to see it.)

Cotton warp for scarves is tied on.
Warp of 8/2 cotton is tied on in 1-inch/2.5 cm sections. The leveling string evens out the warp for immediate weaving.
Cotton lace weave scarf on the loom. Fringe twister video.
First scarf, with dark green weft, has the longest warp floats. This scarf ended up shorter than the second scarf, even though the first scarf’s length on the loom was longer than the second scarf.
Cotton lace weave scarves on the loom. Fringe twisting info, too.
Second scarf, with citrine weft, has a border element created with light green weft (same as the warp), including warp floats. The plain weave before and after the border element helps create a natural ruffle at each end of the finished scarf.
Cotton lace weave scarves on the loom. Springtime colors!
Saving the best for last, I used a series of springtime colors to create this scarf. The varied lengths of the floats give an illusion of colored ribbons crossing the scarf.

I wet finished the scarves in the washing machine, adding a small amount of Eucalan, on the gentle cycle, with warm wash and warm rinse, and very short spin. They went in the dryer on low heat until damp, and then hung to dry the rest of the way. The scarves came out lightly puckered, which is exactly what I had hoped for. I could have washed them in hot water and left them in for a longer amount of time if I had wanted the scarves more dramatically puckered.

Twisting fringe using a fringe twister tool.
Two scarves with fringes twisted. One waiting to be a film star in “Using a Fringe Twister.” This is before wet finishing.
Three cotton lace weave scarves, and fringe twisting video. Karen Isenhower
Wet finishing happens after the fringe has been twisted. These scarves have done it all. They are finished.
My favorite scarf. For now...
First seen on Instagram @celloweaver #warpedforgood

There’s nothing like finishing a fun project! Clearly, I know what to do next… Dress the big loom and keeping on weaving.

May you learn something new every day.

Happy Weaving,

Bold Hemstitching

An embroidered trim is what I have in mind for this scarf. Hemstitching is just that. Instead of the usual single strand, I am using two strands of the 8/2 cotton weft in a contrasting color to accentuate the embroidered look. The hemstitching marks the beginning and the end. You can make hemstitching barely noticeable if you want, or you can make it so bold it can’t be missed, like I am doing with this one.

Hemstitching, with Contrasting Color:


  • Weave an inch/2.5 cm or more of fabric for a header.
  • Thread a blunt tapestry needle with a single or doubled strand of weft thread four times the weaving width.
  • Starting an inch/2.5 cm away from the right-hand selvedge, weave the needle over and under, next to the first weft thread in the weaving, going toward the selvedge.

Begin contrast hemstitching.

  • Pull the stitching thread almost all the way, leaving the end woven into the selvedge. Capture the woven end within the first several stitches of the hemstitching.

Thread secured at beginning of hemstitching. Hemstitching how-to.

First step of hemstitching. Tutorial.

Step 1

  • From right to left, take the needle under several warp ends. In this example, the needle goes under six ends.

Hemstitching in four easy steps!

Step 2

  • Pull the thread all the way through, keeping it taut at the woven edge.

Hemstitching step two.

Step 3

  • Take the needle back over the same (six) warp ends, and go under the same (six) warp ends, bringing the point of the needle back up between wefts, two or more rows away from the woven edge. In this example, the needle comes up between the third and fourth rows of weft.

Hemstitching in 4 easy steps. How-to with pics.

Step 4

  • Pull the thread all the way through, keeping it taut at the woven edge.

Hemstitching instructions.


  • Repeat Steps 1 – 4 across the entire width.
  • Finish by needle weaving the stitching thread back into the selvedge for an inch/2.5 cm. Trim off the remaining stitching thread end.

Continue hemstitching, back to step one.

Hemstitching as embroidery.  How-to with pics.

Hemstitching at the end of the woven fabric:

Starting on the right-hand side, secure the end of the stitching thread as before, and follow Steps 1 – 4 for hemstitching across the width. The only difference is that the needle comes toward you under the cloth in Step 3, instead of away from you.

Bold hemstitching at end of cotton lace weave scarf. Karen Isenhower
Cotton lace-weave scarf in springtime colors. Bold hemstitching at the end.

Everything that has a beginning has an end. Since the beginning of time, and through the ages, our Maker has been unfolding His mystery of life and love. There will come a day, though, when the mystery is finished. Certainly, there will be bold hemstitching at the end of the cloth as the Maker, the Grand Weaver himself, brings time as we know it to a close.

May your days begin and end with an embroidered edging of love.

By hand,

Practice Weaving Like a Musician

As a classically trained musician, I tend to approach my time at the loom as practice. This means being mentally alert–for every little gesture, the synchronization of movements, and the quality being produced. Little by little, with this mindfulness, I see improvement in releasing and catching the shuttle, treading my feet on the treadles, and efficiency of movement overall. I still struggle with getting an even beat and with keeping my place in the treadling pattern. My pace of weaving is increasing, though.

Hemstitching at the beginning of another cotton scarf.
Hemstitching begins another cotton lace scarf. The ease of weaving with only one shuttle allows ample opportunity to focus on improvement of weaving technique.

Will I ever reach perfection in these skills? I don’t think so. I have come a long way, but have you noticed that learning never ends? My practice won’t make me perfect, but it does provide a way for me to grow as a weaver.

Faith is more than a belief, it is a practice. Faith in Jesus is always the entrance door into the Kingdom of heaven. And don’t think of heaven simply as a destination. Think of heaven as a Kingdom where everything is right. The day will come when that Kingdom is no longer a mystery. In the meantime, let’s practice weaving worthwhile cloth.

May you practice what you believe.

With you,

Weave What You Wish For

I am looking forward to the end product–soft and squishy scarves! I have finished weaving the first scarf, and hemstitched both ends at the loom. The long warp floats don’t worry me, because I know that wet finishing will give me what I wish for–soft, puckered cloth. (You can see how the sample turned out in Puckered Sample.)

Cotton lace weave scarf as it rolls onto the cloth beam below the weaving surface.
Warping slats on the cloth beam, the first time around, give the fabric a smooth surface to roll onto. Hemstitching separates the fringe area from the woven cloth that will become a scarf.

Some things you wish for are simply out of your control. That is how I felt two weeks ago when my mother went to the hospital with life-threatening illness. Wishful thinking is nice, but it doesn’t actually change anything. Prayer does change things. I’m not saying that prayer will necessarily keep someone alive if their body has worn out. I am saying that prayer makes a difference in how things play out in any circumstance.

Things happen when you pray. In this case, my mother beat the odds and left the hospital. Alive! You and I need each other. When we humble ourselves and ask for help, help comes. When we pray and ask God for help, sometimes sick people get better, and weak people get stronger. Our prayers for each other are heard and answered. This is better than wishes come true.

May you have the benefit of someone else’s prayers.