Understanding Linen

What is your experience with linen? I know weavers who love it, and others who completely avoid it. Linen has remarkable qualities. Strength, durability, natural beauty. It took me several attempts, though, to become comfortable using linen as warp. Linen has indeed given me more than my share of broken warp ends! But truly, those struggles have been part of the learning process. The more I weave with linen, the more I love this natural fiber. I am beginning to understand how to work with it, instead of against it. In fact, weaving these lace-weave scarves with single-ply linen warp and weft has been a joy. And only two broken selvedge ends this time!

Linen lace weave scarves as they wind onto the cloth beam.
Linen lace-weave scarves as seen on the cloth beam. Fringe between the scarves is left unwoven. The separated stripes are caused by the hemstitching at the end of one scarf and at the beginning of the next one.

It takes effort and experience to understand some things. The love of Christ is like that. The love of Christ is extraordinary. It takes inner determination to discover the beauty of this unconditional love. Some things are simply worth the effort.

May your understanding increase.

Happy Weaving,

Quiet Friday: Weaving Linen Air

Linen lace weaving. It’s like weaving air. 16/1 linen warp and weft, with uneven sleying and careful weaving. Beating is not the right word this time; let’s call it “placing the weft.” Gentle, gentle, gentle, easy does it. No temple needed. Indeed, what would you hook the temple into? There is almost nothing there.

Linen on the warping reel.
Winding the 16/1 linen warp on the warping reel.
Linen warp chain, ready to dress the loom.
Wound warp is chained and placed over the breast beam and through the beater in preparation for dressing the loom.
Lease sticks with linen.
Lease sticks.
Dressing the loom with linen singles.
Ends are counted and grouped before threading.
Uneven sleying of the reed with linen singles.
Reed is sleyed unevenly, sometimes called “crammed and spaced.”

I did weave a sample, trying out different colors and sizes of weft. The weave is so airy; honestly, I was not sure if the fabric would hold its shape off the loom. To wet finish, I first soaked the sample for 20 minutes in hot water with mild soap. Then, I washed it by hand, lifting and lowering the net-like cloth repeatedly in the water. I rolled it in a towel and gently squeezed to remove moisture. Lastly, I laid it out flat to dry.

Half bow keeps linen from slipping, while allowing adjustments.
Half bow-tie makes sure the linen will not slip. Adjustments are easy, if necessary, after weaving a few inches.
Tying up treadles in the "playhouse" under the warp.
Treadle tie-up happens in the “playhouse” under the warp in the back. Sunlight through the linen reveals “invisible” hairy fibers.
Sample weaving. Linen lace.
Linen sample, not yet wet finished.
Sample, not yet wet finished.
Linen sample in black and white.
Black and white view shows cloth structure.

Result? It came through beautifully, with the lace weave intact. Linen, there is something about you that is exquisite and delightful, yet a bit mischievous and sly. I like you.

Linen sample after wet finishing. Karen Isenhower
After wet finishing and drying, the linen sample shows a glimpse of scarves to come.
Weaving linen air. Karen Isenhower
Weaving linen air.

May all your concerns be as light as air.

Happy Linen Weaving,

Dressed with Colors in Linen

Are you wondering which color arrangement I chose for the linen lace scarves? It wasn’t an easy decision. After weighing all the opinions and advice, color-wrapped card #7 won. I added a neutral stripe on both sides to frame the color sequence, and I varied the width of the stripes, thanks to Fibonacci. The result is that you can hardly distinguish where each stripe begins and ends. The stripes blend into each other, with the magenta stripes grabbing the most attention. (Visit Tools Day: Color Wrapping and Color Wrapping Take Two to follow the discussion about choosing the color arrangement for this warp.)

Dressing the loom with linen.
Linen on the warp beam. The colors blend from one end to the other, framed by bands of unbleached and golden bleached threads on each side. Lease sticks, tied to the back beam, maintain the order of the threads.

It makes sense to think things through before committing a linen warp to the loom. My excitement builds as the loom is dressed. We will soon see the woven results when I experiment with weft options. I am secretly hoping for iridescence. I can imagine it, but I won’t see it until the weaving happens, and the light catches the airy interlaced threads.

Threading the loom with linen.
Each thread is inserted through the eye of a heddle.

Color choices are inconsequential compared to other choices we make, but commitment is something many decisions have in common. We are invited into a personal walk with Jesus Christ. It is no small thing to consider an agreement with the Master. Like dressing a loom, it is a commitment. The excitement comes when you realize that iridescence and other mysteries may come true before your very eyes.

May you have a life filled with the glow of iridescence.

For good,

Color Wrapping Take Two

As always, one idea leads to another. I am planning warp colors for linen lace weave scarves, and color wrapping helps unleash ideas. And your comments helped “stir the pot.” You asked for my thought process. Here goes. (If you missed Tools Day: Color Wrapping, you’ll want to read it first.)

16/1 linen in six colors.
Six 16/1 linen colors.

I started with the idea of making a smooth transition from one color to the next. That was card #1. Then, I made more distinct stripes on card #2. For #3, I aimed for a mirrored arrangement. #4 blends colors in a different order.

Color wrapping to plan linen warp.
First six color wrapping cards.

Of those first four cards, #1 was close to my ideal. But the magenta and green stripe seemed out of sync. So I made adjustments, and card #5 became my favorite.

Next, I arranged the six colors of thread from light to dark, and paired each color with its best partner. For example, starting with cream, “With which other color does cream look best?” With enough samples to see all the options, I concluded that light blue suits cream the best. I did that kind of pairing with each color to make card #6. Now #6 became my runaway favorite! And, card #6 received the most votes in the comments from you, too.

More color wrapping to plan linen warp.
Three color wrapping cards that are in the finals. Slightly varied arrangement of stripes on each card. (Click on picture to enlarge.)

I color wrapped two more cards, trying to improve the color gradation. #7 and #8 have the same composition of stripes as #6, but in different arrangements. The “winning” color arrangement will become stripes spread across the warp in a Fibonacci sequence.

Now… Which one of these three would you choose: #6, #7, or #8? (I’d love to hear from you if you left your opinion the first time, and if you didn’t.)

May you see options by thinking things through.

Happy Coloring,

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,