Quiet Friday: Handwoven Handbags

Is there such a thing as too many handbags, pocketbooks, tote bags, and purses? Of course not. Naturally, my favorite handbags are made from handwoven fabric. Linings made from remnants, handwoven bands used for shoulder straps, hidden zippers, and, of course pockets–these are the details that other people will seldom notice. Yet these are the details that make me smile every time I use one of these bags.

Handwoven handbags - with 1 minute video.
Nineteen handwoven handbags. Various sizes, fibers, styles, and purposes. And colors. Lots of colors!

…You know that box of handwoven bits and pieces? Those weavings from the end of the warp, and the “scraps” from various projects? Hmm… looks like I might need to make another handbag or two.

Here is my collection of handwoven handbags, divided into a few categories. Plus, a short video just for the fun of it!

Rigid Heddle Loom

Handbags from fabric woven on a rigid heddle loom.
Wool, novelty chenille yarn, crochet cotton, and narrow fabric strips are used for weft in these bags. Buttons are from my grandma’s button jar. The small rag-weave pocketbook has a permanent home in my daily handbag. The fabric for these bags was woven on my Beka 32″ rigid heddle loom.
Handwoven fabric for handbags from the rigid heddle loom.
Linings are from remnants of other sewing projects. Bag handles were woven on my inkle loom.

Travel Finds

Handwoven handbags from international travels.
Trips to The Philippines yielded interesting woven goods by artisans there. The green stripe tote bag is woven from native plant material, and the teal and burgundy purse is a beautiful example of ikat weaving. The colorful weft-faced woven shoulder bag and the purple bag with lovely weft-float patterning came from travel to Chile.

Project Carriers

Handwoven project bags.
Large tote bag, woven with 1/4″ fabric strips for weft, carries my “show and tell” when I go to my weaving study group. It’s known as the “Mary Poppins Bag.” Rag-rug bag in the center has straps, woven on the band loom, that were woven into the bag. This bag carries my portable tapestry weaving. The rag rug bag on the right carries my one-and-only crochet project.

Special Use

Handwoven handbags.
Linen bag has beads woven into the fabric. It is lined with satin. Rag-weave purse is simply a flat piece folded in half, with lining and pockets added to the inside. The blue bag is wool, woven in a weft-cord technique. The fabric was partially fulled to produce the ribbed texture.
Handwoven lining in a handwoven purse.
Lining for this bag is made from extra fabric after weaving cotton/linen fabric for cushions, and the pocket is a remnant from a two-block twill tencel scarf.

Daily Use Favorites

Favorite handwoven handbags! Karen Isenhower
Representing some of my “firsts.” The brown and blue small shoulder bag is from one of my first cottolin towel projects. This is what I did when the last piece was too short to use for a towel. The green and turquoise clutch has remnants of my first ever handwoven towel, my first rosepath rag rug, and my first big rep weave project! The blue shoulder bag is the bag I use every day. It’s a remnant from the baby wrap I wove for my daughter’s first baby. It’s lined with a remnant from an Easter dress I made for her when she was a little girl.

May you carry your handiwork with you.

Happy weaving,

Tools Day: Tapestry Weaving in Flight

This is how a weaver enjoys a long haul flight. I keep my hands busy. A direct flight from Houston to Tokyo takes about fourteen hours. And then five more hours to Manila. Add layover time, and you have almost a full day of travel. I have been wanting to try the exercises in Kathe Todd-Hooker‘s Tapestry 101. So that is how I spent my travel time to and from The Philippines on our recent visit there. I followed advice I received from Teresa Loveless when I was at Weaving Southwest in New Mexico, to warp my little tapestry loom at a sett of 8 epi, using rug wool for weft. The coarse sett made the weaving easy to see and work with, even in the dim lighting of the airplane. (This is in contrast to last year’s travel tapestry using embroidery floss.) I kept the samplers small, so I could finish by the end of the trip. I ended up with two mini samplers.

Traveling with portable tapestry loom.
Ready to travel with all tapestry weaving supplies in a soft bag that is easy to slip into my flight carry on bag.

– Travel-size tapestry loom (with tensioning device, and counter sunk rare earth magnets for holding tapestry needle)
– Warp thread (12/6 cotton seine twine), wound on a couple five-inch quills
– Wool rug yarn assortment (Jason Collingwood Rug Wool, and Borgs 25/1 Mattgarn), wound on five-inch quills
– Blunt tapestry needles (have extras in case you drop one in the dark)
– Travel snips (make sure they meet TSA regulations) on a neck strap (hand woven, of course)
– Clip-on book light (with paper napkin or thin cloth to diffuse the light, and extra batteries)
– Tape measure
– Small clips (you never know when you might need one, like to clip a napkin over the book light)
– Sewing thread and sewing needle (for stitching slits, which I did not do)
– Tapestry resource book (like Tapestry 101, by Kathe Todd-Hooker)
– Bag to hold everything (and a couple small pouches within to keep things organized)

Mini tapestry sampler.
First mini sampler was almost finished by the time we arrived in Manila.
Green tea cake roll in Tokyo.
Green tea cake roll was a yummy snack at Narita International Airport in Tokyo on the trip home. Maybe this should be a future color scheme for a weaving project?
Weaving on the airplane.
Weaving in the dark. The Starbucks napkin that I saved from Houston came in handy as a light diffuser around the too-bright reading light when other passengers were sleeping.
Mini tapestry sampler.
Second mini sampler was almost finished by the time we arrived back home in Houston.
Mini tapestry samplers.
Mini tapestry samplers show a compact view of the passage of time.

May you find something for your hands to do.

Merry Weaving,

Textiles from The Philippines

Steve and I returned this week from travels to The Philippines. We had a wonderful time celebrating Thanksgiving there with our son’s family in Makati. During our eleven-day visit, I encountered many examples of beautiful handwoven articles and other fascinating textile goods. It probably won’t surprise you that I tucked a few textile treasures in my suitcase to bring home with me. (Remember last year? Quiet Friday: Philippine Textiles)

Handwoven cotton towels from Sunday market in Makati, Philippines
Lovely cotton hand towels from Beth’s Loomweaving at the Makati Sunday Market.
Cotton towel detail shows green weft for stripes.
Detail of cotton towel shows that the darker stripes are created with green weft.
Variety of scarves and wraps from markets in The Philippines.
With an over-abundance of scarves and wraps to choose from (in bargain prices), I escaped with only these few. Some are for gifts; and some are for personal use. All are sources of design and color inspiration.
Example of backstrap weaving from Mindanao, Philippines.
Lightweight table runner or scarf was made by a weaver in Mindanao, the southernmost island of The Philippines. This exquisite example of backstrap weaving is made from very fine cotton, and is completely reversible.
Detail of backstrap weaving from Mindanao, Philippines.
Backstrap weaving detail reveals the intricacy of the tapestry-like design.
Traditional Filipino weave structure showcases pattern and color.
Pillow cover is well-planned and executed, showing striking color combinations in a traditional Filipino weave structure.
Detail of handwoven pillow cover from The Philippines.
Detail of pillow cover shows the pointillistic appearance of this weave.
Filipino bag woven from piña fibre.
Made from the leaves of a pineapple plant, piña fibre was used to weave this sturdy little open plain weave bag.
Detail of bag made from piña fibre.
Piña fibre has a natural luster.
Handwoven Elegant Filipino Table Runner
Not the expected mix of bright colors, this elegant table runner has black weft floats on a white warp of fine cotton. The traditional Filipino weave uses a multi-stranded black cotton (or cotton/poly blend) for the pattern, alternating with the fine white cotton threads for the tabby. This one-sided cloth, similar to overshot, has weft floats only on the top side.
Detail of weft pattern floats in traditional Filipino weave.
Detail of black and white table runner. The patterned black floats almost give the cloth the look and feel of cut velvet.
My very favorite treasures from our visit to The Philippines.
My very favorite treasures from our visit to The Philippines.

May you find textile treasures in your travels.

PS Two more new rag rugs from my latest run of rugs are now in the Etsy shop, if you are interested. These two may be my favorite yet!

A little jet lagged,

Quiet Friday: Philippine Textiles

You may remember that I recently returned from a visit to The Philippines. It may not surprise you that I am always on the lookout for interesting textiles, and especially handwoven fabrics. I don’t mean to do that; it just happens… Well, when I met sweet Beth at the Sunday market, I felt like I hit the jackpot! Beth and I had a common language – Handweaving! (She speaks fine English, too, of course; but you know what I mean.)

I tried to gather a few pictures of textiles that you would enjoy seeing.

If you don’t have time to look at all the textile pictures today, at least scroll down and see my little granddaughter carrying her big umbrella on the way to the market. Umbrellas are always in season in Metropolitan Manila. For the rain in the rainy season (our visit), and for shielding your skin from the sun all the rest of the time. (You can always come back later and finish looking at the rest of the pictures. Smile.)

Tie-dye scarf found in Makati, Philippines.
I am wearing a cotton tie-dye scarf I found in a Makati store. We learned interesting World War II history on our day trip to Corregidor Island.
Painted metal gate in Makati, Philippines - would be great tapestry design!
Interesting painted metal gate in Makati. I instantly saw it as a potential tapestry design.
Filipino and American handweavers meet at market in Makati.
Found a fellow handweaver at the Sunday market. Beth has ten looms in her workshop in Vigan, where she and other weavers produce beautiful cloth, mostly from cotton thread. 40/1 cotton is Beth’s most used fiber.


Textile unique to The Philippines. By handweaver Beth.
Beth identified this weave pattern as the most unique to The Philippines. I am sorry I failed to write down the Tagalog name for this and the weaves in the following pictures when Beth told me what they were.
Filipino Overshot, at Makati market.
Beth is a third-generation weaver. She has woven this pattern for many years, but just learned four years ago that it is called “Overshot” in English.
HandWoven Wonders by Beth's Loomweaving, at Makati market
HandWoven Wonders by Beth’s Loomweaving. Stunning turquoise cotton table runner is two yards long.
Tiny ikat woven coin purses from The Philippines.
Ayala Museum has fascinating displays depicting various aspects of Philippine culture and history, including a display of 1800’s handwoven and embroidered clothing (picture-taking not allowed). I found these ikat woven coin purses in the museum gift shop. The woven plaid zipper pouch is from another market vendor.
Mannequin with handwoven skirt at Manila Airport shop.
Mannequin in airport shop is dressed in a pleated handwoven skirt. The sash above the skirt is adorned with a shaped “rose,” formed from a handwoven wide band. (Click photo to enlarge)
"Ribbon rose" made from wide handwoven band to embellish sash on skirt. Manila Airport shop.
Wide handwoven band is gathered and stitched to form a “ribbon rose” that embellishes the sash.
Colorful handwovens at Manila airport shop.
Neatly folded piles of colorful handwoven items at a shop in the Manila airport. You didn’t expect me to come home empty-handed, did you?
Vibrant colorful table runner from Manila.
Vibrant multi-colored cloth with intricate design. Perfect for a Christmas table runner.
Reverse side of colorful cloth from Manila.
Notice the long thread floats and knots on the reverse side of the red cloth.
Cheerful colorful striped cloth from Manila.
Cheerful colorful stripes!
Colorful striped cloth from Manila.
Detail of the warp-faced weave of the colorful striped cloth.

May you step into a joyful journey.

Happy Weaving,