Quiet Friday: Handwoven Skirt

I just crossed an item off my weaving bucket list! Make a ‘cello skirt from handwoven fabric. A ‘cello skirt must be long, and full, and pretty. And if I can wear boots with it, so much the better. A favorite tiered skirt that I made a couple years ago from commercial fabric became the pattern for designing the handwoven fabric for a new skirt. This project included weaving a printed design by stamping the warp on the loom before it was woven. (To see this project develop, check out Related Posts in the sidebar.)

Printed fabric collects on the cloth beam.

Printed fabric collects on the cloth beam. One last round of warping slats is seen on the back beam.

I needed five lengthwise tiers, so I planned it out so that each tier would have a different stamped pattern. This is light blue 8/2 cotton in plain weave, with a dense sett of 30 epi, making a medium-weight fabric. I softened the fabric as much as possible by washing and drying it on hot settings. By strategically placing selvedges at the top and at the bottom of the skirt, I was able to minimize thickness at the waist, and eliminate the need for a hem at the bottom. The finished tiered skirt is long, and full, and has a subtle pretty printed pattern that mildly resembles ikat. And this skirt is made for wearing with boots!

Printed fabric just off the loom - for making a 5-tiered skirt.

Just off the loom, cloth is rolled out on the floor. Five-tiered skirt was made from lengthwise rows of printed fabric.

Layout for handwoven tiered skirt.

Tiers are cut and raw edges serged. Each tier seam is sewn. Floor layout helps to plan placement of seams and printed patterns.

Grosgrain ribbon for elastic casing in handwoven skirt waistband, reducing bulk.

Bulk is reduced at elastic waistband by adding pretty grosgrain ribbon for the casing, right next to the handwoven fabric’s selvedge.

Warp-stamped fabric for skirt. Selvedge at bottom, so no hem needed.

Selvedge forms the bottom edge of skirt, so no hem is needed. Warp-stamped fabric appears as a subtle print.

Handwoven printed tiered skirt. Karen Isenhower

Happy ‘celllist.

May your heart be enriched with thankfulness.

Happy Thanks Giving,


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Warp Stamping Is Over

If I could do it over, I would put on a shorter warp for this experimental project. I enjoyed weaving plain weave, with the simplicity of one shuttle and one color. I did not enjoy, however, stopping every six inches to stamp the warp with paint. Clearly, I am not a paint person.

End of the warp is a happy sight!

Bare warp beam, with the end of the warp inches away from coming over the back beam for the final stretch of weaving.

You can guess that I was overjoyed to see the tie-on bar come over the back beam! That hope of finishing propelled me to the end. Of course, I still have work to do–fixing a few floats, wet finishing, and then sewing a tiered skirt. The root of my problem was not that this was long and slow. The root was my uncertainty. Isn’t that always the case? Is all this effort and mess going to be worth it? Will this fabric even work for the skirt I want to make?

Warp was stamped on the loom, using fabric paint, before it was woven.

Printed woven cloth, just off the loom, awaits finishing and sewing. The print was made by stamping the warp on the loom, using fabric paint, before it was woven.

When we are stumbling in the dark, we long for light. It can be discouraging when you are not sure where your decisions will take you. The light of God shines in the darkness, bringing hope. Hope dispels darkness. Much like the tie-on bar at the end of a long warp, when we see hope rounding the corner we know we can make it.

May your path be lit with hope.

By the way, if you are a paint person, I have a set of gently used hand-carved wooden stamps I will send to the first person in the continental U.S. who asks for them. Postage is on me!
Get in Touch to let me know you’d like them.
The stamps have been spoken for! Sandy O. is going to use them to experiment on her rigid heddle loom!

Happy plain weaving,


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Tools Day: Hand-Carved Stamps

I need only a few simple shapes to stamp the warp. Fortunately, my woodcarver husband agreed to make the wooden stamps for me. Steve asked me to draw the shapes on white paper, and said he would take care of the rest. The result? Superb wooden stamps for making painted designs on the warp while it is on the loom.

Carving wooden stamps for warp stamping.

Carving wooden stamps for warp stamping.

Supplies for stamping the warp on the loom.

Stamped warp.

May you be the recipient of hand-crafted love.



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Weave in the Midst of Beautiful

Thread on a carefully wound quill comes off effortlessly. I love the feel of the boat shuttle chasing back and forth between my hands, with no resistance whatsoever from the unwinding thread. I wind a few quills at a time and drop them in the loom basket that hangs on my bench. Then, when I empty a quill, I simply reach into the basket and quickly replace the thread in my shuttle, and continue weaving. It is satisfying to do something as enjoyable as weaving, and have it end up as lovely cloth.

Stamped warp on the loom.

Freshly-wound quill in the boat shuttle replaces an emptied quill. The new weft thread will overlap the end of the former thread, and be secured with the swing of the beater, and changing of the shed.

I do hope to make beautiful things, but it’s more than that. The weaving procedure, itself, seems beautiful to me. Such strategy. Such alignment of movement and function. There is a deeper satisfaction than merely being pleased with the final results.

Beauty serves a purpose. Beauty points us to our Maker. Yes, purple mountain majesties and intricate iridescent hummingbird feathers do point to a masterful creator. But I am also talking about the beauty of how things work, and how people are responsive to love, and how everything in our solar system fits together. It’s amazing. It’s beautiful. What a Grand Weaver we have!

May you find yourself surrounded with beauty.

With amazement,


  • Kris says:

    Thank you for this blog, Karen. I am a new subscriber and I so enjoy your description and photos of your weaving! I am a new band weaver which is what guided me to your blog. I am doubly Blessed by the way you connect what we do with our hands to the Great Creator! Thank you, Kris

    • Karen says:

      Kris, I am so happy to hear your thoughts! Thank you for letting me know you find meaning in things that I write.

      I plan to do a post on band weaving in about a week. Stay tuned…


  • Fran says:

    Thanks Karen; I really think your blog has kept me interested in weaving during periods when I wasn’t well. Rag rugs are my favourite, and I am halfway through one now. I love the reminder that God is the Creator, and, since we are made in His image, we are most like him when we create something as well. I know that weaving makes me feel light and happy.
    Of course the ultimate (and most challenging) creation is a gentle, grateful heart in the midst of life’s circumstances; wouldn’t you agree??

    • Karen says:

      Hi Fran, I absolutely agree! A gentle, grateful heart is a very beautiful thing.
      I’m sorry you’ve gone through difficult times. I’m glad you have weaving to give you something for your hands to do – therapy for sure.
      You’re a woman after my heart – rag rugs – 🙂

      Happy weaving,

  • Cindie says:

    You’re making me want to do some painting on the loom again – I put the idea aside due to having to wait for it to dry and worrying about mess while applying it but seeing your weaving is making me move it back on the to-do list for the future.

    • Karen says:

      Cindie, I found that I don’t have to wait very long for the paint to dry. At least with this Tulip fabric paint, which says to let dry for 4 hours, it is dry enough to continue weaving after just a few minutes. After stamping, I press the treadles to separate the threads, so they won’t stick together, and then I use a blow dryer over the painted warp, again separating the threads with the treadles. After that, the warp is dry to the touch and I continue weaving. I haven’t had any paint get on the reed at all. (I do, however, have a few colorful texsolv heddles after a couple of oopsies 🙂 And for the mess–I do have tarps and old sheets covering everything, but I haven’t had any spills at all…so far…


  • I so understand what you are saying. I have a really old shuttle that a friend got me on ebay. It was hand carved and you can only use quills with it. When I weave with it I feel the grooves in the wood and think of the maker and the women who used it before me. It’s such a beautiful experience.


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What If it Is Not as You Expected?

The stamped fabric print is subtle and ethereal. The print goes through to the reverse side, too, which shows that the color is saturating the threads. Thankfully, there is more than just surface color, which means I can expect the woven-in print to last for the life of the fabric.

Printed warp on the loom.

View from below the woven fabric. The face of the fabric is seen rolling onto the cloth beam.

I had hoped for brighter colors, but with this fabric paint the intensity of color fades as the paint dries. And then, when the weft crosses the print it reduces the brightness even more, of course. That said, I am not disappointed. It is different from what I expected, but it will still make a pretty tiered skirt.

Stamped warp on the loom.

Stamped warp is transformed as it crosses the fell line.

Prayer can be different from what we expect, too. Believing and praying brings amazing results. It’s not always the results we had in mind, though. The truly amazing thing is this: The prayers of believing people are somehow combined with the power of God to bring about his will. It’s his good will that gets printed deep into the fabric of our lives. Disappointment gives way to thankfulness as we see results over time that are more than just color on the surface.

May your disappointments be few.

With you,


  • Cindie says:

    It’s quite beautiful. Have you thought about weaving a bit more warp faced if you want to keep the color more saturated? Not totally warp faced but a bit, using a very thin weft so you keep the drape of the finished fabric.

  • Liberty says:

    Hi Karen!

    This is just beautiful, I love the fact that it is subtle flowers. I wasn’t sure how it would look from your first post about it but came out great! Can’t wait to see your skirt!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks, Liberty! I still have quite a bit of yardage to weave, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it works for the skirt I have in mind.


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