Quiet Friday: Serenity Towels

The neutral colors and the quiet elegance of these towels say “serenity.” What a pleasure to weave M’s and O’s. This was mostly single-shuttle weaving! Uncomplicated, luxurious, and serene. Five towels, plus one very long table runner that I made specifically for our dining room table. The fine 20/1 line linen weft increases the visual and tactile elegance for me.

M's and O's handwoven towels.
M’s and O’s towels.

I’m still amazed when I see the results that come from threads and a weaving loom. And thrilled that I get to be a part of that experience. Enjoy this short slide-show video of the process.

May serenity be woven into your days.

All the best,
Karen

Tools Day: Narrow Hems

Hems shouldn’t be noticed. At least, not at first glance. I don’t want the stitching of the hem to detract from the overall handwoven quality. Decorative items, like this table runner, deserve a hand-stitched hem. But for functional pieces, like these tea towels, I stitch the hems on my trusty old Bernina sewing machine. This ensures the durability I want for something that will be thrown in the washer and dryer again and again.

Long M's and O's table runner is hemmed by hand.
Long M’s and O’s table runner is hemmed by hand using an invisible hem stitch.

Last year I purchased a Bernina walking foot through my local Bernina repairman. It was one of the best sewing investments I have made. (Don’t be fooled by off-brand “Bernina compatible” products.) The advantage of a walking foot is that it evenly feeds layers of fabric, which is especially useful for sewing handwoven fabric. And for the towel hem, it means the top of the hem won’t become skewed and slanted as you sew, like it might with a regular sewing machine foot.

Bernina Walking Foot - good investment!
Bernina Three Sole Walking Foot with Seam Guide. The walking foot stays on my Bernina sewing machine almost all the time.

One of the three sole plates that comes with the Bernina walking foot is a sole for edge stitching. This works beautifully for stitching a narrow hem on lighter-weight fabric, like these airy cotton and linen towels.

My process for a machine-stitched narrow hem

  • Turn and press the 1/4″ hem twice. Hold the folded edge in place with small fabric clips.
Sewing narrow hems on handwoven towels.
Small fabric clips hold the folded and pressed towel hem in place, in preparation for stitching the hem.
  • At the sewing machine, attach the edge-stitching sole plate to the walking foot. Align the fold of the hem with the edge-stitching guide.
Bernina walking foot with stitch guide.
Sole with stitch guide. The metal plate that extends below the foot is a steady guide that works for sewing a narrow hem, as well as for top-stitching, or “stitch-in-the-ditch” techniques.
  • Adjust the sewing machine needle to the right, so that it catches the fabric just inside the edge of the fold.
Sewing hems on handwoven towels.
Sewing the narrow hem. Needle is positioned so that it is to the right of the hem fold.

Slowly sew a narrow hem, keeping the folded edge next to the walking foot’s edge-stitching guide. Remove fabric clips before they come to the needle.

Hemming handwoven towels.
Front and back of the hem have consistent, straight stitching. The narrow hem (not yet pressed) will be barely visible.

May your hems be a suitable frame for your handiwork.

Finishing,
Karen

Cutting Off Celebration!

Is there anything as exciting as cutting off? Oh sure, there will be some errors to mend. And only wet finishing will reveal the true nature of the cloth. But after investing hours and hours at the loom, cutting the fabric off is a celebration. This is the moment when the work of this weaver’s hands is finally revealed!

While admiring and examining the fabric as it comes off the loom, I am already moving onto the next step–finishing. Here are a few of my regular practices.

  • Thread-mark the right side of the fabric on each sample and individual piece before completely removing the fabric from the loom. This removes guesswork later. Thread a blunt-tip needle with 6 – 8″ of warp or weft thread, and make a 1/2″ stitch through the fabric. Leaving a loose loop, tie the ends of the thread together in a square knot on the right side of the fabric.
Weaving tip: Thread-mark the fabric.
Knot in the thread tells me that this is the right side of the fabric. Thread marks are sewn onto each piece before removing the fabric from the loom if the difference between the right and wrong side of the fabric is less than obvious. Thread marks remain until hems are turned under.
  • Tie sequential knots in the thread marks. e.g., First towel has one knot, second towel has 2 knots, etc. This enables accurate record-keeping measurements before and after wet finishing for individual items.
Weaving tip: How I number the towels on a warp.
After washing, I count the number of knots in the thread to know which towel is which. Before and after measurements enable me to calculate the amount of shrinkage that occurs, which helps for planning future projects.
  • Cut pieces apart before washing.

1. Two weft picks have been woven for each cutting line. The two threads make an easy guide path for the scissors.

Cutting line between woven items.
Cutting line for separating the woven pieces. Cut between the two red weft threads.

2. Use the same cutting-line color for every project (I use red, unless red is one of the weft colors in the project). This helps prevent accidental cutting at weft design stripes in the piece (which I did once –Oops!– before establishing this rule).

3. Pull out the cutting-line threads. Any remaining thread residue is easily removed with a lint roller.

Pulling out the cutting line.
Red cutting line thread pulls off, leaving a straight woven edge for finishing.
  • Finish the cut edges with an overlock stitch on a serger or with a zigzag stitch (preferably a three-stitch zigzag, according to my friend, Elisabeth) on a sewing machine.
Getting ready to wet finish these M's and O's towels!
All items are prepared for washing. Errors have been mended, and cut edges have been finished with the serger.
M's and O's (Sålldräll) after washing. Karen Isenhower
Lovely texture of the M’s and O’s (Sålldräll) structure is revealed after washing. A few more finishing steps remain: pressing, adding handwoven hanging tabs, and hemming.

Humans are not finished until they are loved. Love is patience and kindness at the core. We want to be on the receiving end of that, don’t we? We all need someone to love us–to carry our burdens, to believe us, to hope the best for us, to endure with us. It’s in the finishing that we discover the value, the corrections needed, and the beauty that has been woven in. This is the love of God to us. This is the finishing work of Jesus Christ, and his love in us.

May you have many cutting-off celebrations.

With love,
Karen

PS It’s good to be back with you! I hope you had a pleasant and weaving-full July.

Breezy Easy Weaving

Let’s take M’s and O’s beyond the ordinary. Treadling variations bring out interesting patterns. And a little bit of color in the right places makes a unique border stripe. What other designs will emerge on the remaining towels, I wonder?

Treadling variations in M's and O's.
Treadling variations produce an interesting pattern in this M’s and O’s fabric.
M's and O's with inventive border pattern.
Border pattern uses one of my favorite techniques, the two-pick stripe, to draw a fine line. The center “ribbon” of the border pattern uses two shuttles to alternate the weft colors.

Some projects on the loom are complicated and tedious. This one isn’t. With primarily one shuttle and simple treadling, this is breezy easy weaving. The hard work was in the hours of preparation, dressing the loom. Threading and sleying 896 ends is no small achievement. But now, because of that work, it’s pure enjoyment to sit here and weave.

M's and O's on the loom.
Ready for the next M’s and O’s design.
Sister comes to visit and gets her first weaving lesson.
My sister came to visit, so, of course, she is persuaded to try her hand at weaving. Lookin’ good, Sis!

Forgiveness is hard work, too. It takes effort to put away bitterness and anger. But we must. It paves the way for unhindered kindness, which our world desperately needs. Forgiveness changes you. If you’ve been forgiven, you know that. A forgiven person becomes a forgiving person. And when we forgive, which is never easy, we are threading heddles and sleying the reed. Our efforts make way for the pure enjoyment of dispensing kindness. And we discover that the fabric of our life is being made into something beyond the ordinary.

May you be on the receiving end of forgiveness.

Love,
Karen

The Discovery Towels workshop in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, August 24-26, is filling up! If you’d like to join us, call Debbie (at the number below) right away. I would love to see you there!

https://www.facebook.com/1509042016009851/photos/a.1519556898291696.1073741829.1509042016009851/1933085693605479/?type=3&theater

Little Experiments on the Loom

This is my attempt to add a fascinating detail. I alternated white and brass-colored ends in the warp stripe. In a similar fashion, I alternated colors in the weft stripe, too. It’s an experiment. The short columns that emerge in the weft stripe are a result of this thread arrangement. The outcome looks promising. Wet finishing will reveal the final effects of this low-risk exploration.

M's and O's on the loom. Experiment in progress.
M’s and O’s (Sålldräll) with a warp stripe and weft stripe that have alternating light and dark threads.

I like to do experiments on the loom. Little risks open up possibilities and ideas for future projects. Every learning experience is a step that leads to insight for future learning. And I have so much more to learn!

Weaving the border of the long table runner. M's and O's.
Weft stripe signals the beginning of the end border for this long table runner.
M's and O's on the loom.
Short vertical columns take shape in the brass-colored weft stripe.

Step-by-step learning has some common ground with finding a good path for life. Walking the right path is like walking in the early morning. The dim light of dawn gradually increases and the pathway becomes more and more clear as the sun rises to the full light of day. Our Creator gave us a lighted path. The learning experiences from our experiments and explorations in life help us discover the path of the Lord, where the light beckons us. Walk in the light. It’s where we can see the next good step.

Happy weaving,
Karen