Weaving Christmas

If it weren’t for Christmas, this would be one of those times I would wish for a longer warp. Why is this halvdräll so enjoyable to weave? Simplicity and complexity, cottolin and linen, two shuttles, and interesting treadling. This peppermint red and white is striking and cheerful, and makes the weaving studio feel like Christmas!

Halvdräll on the loom. Christmas table square.
Red cutting line separates the sample piece from the first table square.

I may have it off the loom by Christmas. I am going to try, because I would love to have this festive cloth on the table Christmas Day as my gift to our family. Our children and their spouses, and the four grandchildren, and one on the way!… All will be here with us to celebrate together. That’s a beautiful gift. Family.

Christmas table square in halvdräll on the loom. Karen Isenhower
Red linen forms the pattern in two blocks.

The most extravagant Christmas gift is the Son given to us. The majestic choral and instrumental lines in Handel’s Messiah have familiarized an ancient prophecy. Can you hear the singing as you read these lyrics?

For unto us a child is born,

unto us

a son is given,

and the government shall be upon his shoulder;

and his name shall be called



Almighty God,

the Everlasting Father,

the Prince of Peace.

May you be surrounded with beautiful gifts.

Weaving Christmas,

Choosing Rag Rug Fabric is Like Song Writing

Choosing fabric for a rag rug reminds me of song writing. I like to start with a pretty melody. Add some harmony. Write a good accompaniment to finish the song. Be sure to include a good balance of harmony and dissonance to make the music exciting. That’s a good description of my thought process for selecting fabric for a rag rug design.

  1. Start with a melody–a fabric in the color(s) that you want to use in your design.
  2. Add harmony–one other fabric that compliments the first one.
  3. Write the accompaniment–with the chosen pair of fabrics on the table (or in the shopping cart at the fabric store), lay other fabrics beside them, one at a time. Select compatible colors that enhance the “melody” and “harmony.” Eliminate fabrics that “sing a different tune;” but don’t be afraid of unusual combinations. Some dissonance can work in your favor to add interest and excitement to the mix.

Here are a few examples of fabric combinations I am playing around with as I plan my next double binding rag rug design.

Fabric combinations for rag rug planning. Simple tutorial.
Starting with the blue fabric at the top, I added the bold multi-color print as harmony. The black acts as contrast. The two remaining pieces could be used as accents.
Choosing fabric for double binding rag rug.
Bold multicolor print takes the melody line, and the red batik adds harmony. Two more selections bring out the yellow-green and the reds and oranges in the melody piece.
How to select fabrics for weaving rag rugs.
Dark print with green as the base color is complemented with the reddish brown. Other fabrics are included to add contrast and interest.
Process for choosing rag rug fabrics. Short tutorial.
Summer print is enhanced with the harmonizing light pink. Dark pink in small portions makes a good contrast. White serves as a unifying backdrop. Two more prints, used sparingly, could be added for interest.

You can view my double binding rag rugs on Etsy to examine some of the fabric choices I have made for previous rugs.

Classic Check; Autumn Clouds; Improvisation; Woodland Walk; Black and Red SquaresForest at Dawn; Opportunity in Disguise; Painting Sunsets.

May you find a good balance of harmony and dissonance.

With a song in my heart,

Goose Eyes

Do you see a goose looking at you? This goose-eye twill is aptly named, as seen in the diamond motif that is woven in the fabric. You can see the motif best where the warp and weft are in contrasting colors. But even where there is little or no contrast, the goose-eye is still there. It’s in the structure.

Cotton towels in goose-eye twill on four shafts.
Beginning of the third towel on this warp. The hem is woven in a smaller goose-eye pattern in a stone color. A narrow gold stripe within a wide brown stripe begins an overall checked design for this towel.

I find it fascinating that one simple repeated geometric shape can set the tone for the whole cloth. It reminds me of what the great classical composers could do with a single musical motif. Think of what Beethoven did with just four notes in his famous Fifth Symphony! Bah-bah-bah Baahm... Joy is that kind of repeated motif that sets the tone for our days.

Joy is the urge to sing on the inside. And it shows up in your countenance on the outside. God loves to see a glad, singing heart. He knows that joy is good for your soul. Sometimes the motif is less visible because of the threads that are crossing your life at the moment. But abiding joy in your structure keeps the melody line alive.

May joy be woven in your fabric.

With love,

Best Kind of Music You Have Ever Seen

Do you have a melody? Being a musician at heart, it’s fun to think of my weaving loom as a musical instrument. This is an instrument that produces fabric instead of harmonies. Throwing a shuttle takes practiced precision, as does gliding my bow across the strings of my ‘cello. When I step on treadles to change sheds on the loom, I imagine myself on the bench of a majestic pipe organ, playing the low notes with my feet. Every pass of the shuttle brings the formation of a melody in color and pattern. Rosepath is the prettiest melody of all. And rhythm, of course, is felt and heard as I play the loom instrument.

Rosepath rag rug on the loom.
Rosepath rag rugs on the loom. Doing my favorite thing again.

I make textural melodies on my weaving loom. I am certain my maker takes note of the music I make here. Whatever you do with a thankful heart becomes a song. And that song is your gift to your maker. When you turn what you do into an instrument of praise you experience the smile of God.

I have a melody, and I have a Melody, whose birthday is today, and whose wedding is eleven days away. Maybe she needs a new rug as a housewarming gift…

May you sing your melody out loud.

With a thankful heart,

You Need a Boat Shuttle for This

A boat shuttle is clearly the best way to send weft thread across a 45-inch (114 cm) warp. The pleasing rhythm of weaving is possible because of this very simple tool. Even so, the shuttle is merely a vehicle for the thread. Music is another kind of vehicle.

Alpaca/Tencel throw on the loom. Plain weave, with lace weave squares.
Plain weave, with evenly-spaced lace weave squares. The alpaca/Tencel yarn is soft, yet very easy to work with.

I doubt there is a more effective vehicle for carrying a message than music. Surely you have noticed how ideas spread across the culture via songs, and how easily we retain words that are attached to a tune. Boat shuttles were invented because handweavers needed a way to send weft thread across a distance. Maybe music was invented because we needed a way to send messages that matter.

I would like to send a message across time and space. I’ll wrap the words around a quill, and insert it in the boat shuttle. And then, momentarily holding the shuttle just so, I’ll release the song with a flick of my wrist, sending the message to the one who means the most to me. A joyful pronouncement of my creator’s goodness and love, set to musical expression. Brings a smile from heaven, don’t you think? And as that shuttle continues, in the rhythm of the weaving, the thread of the simple song ends up leaving a pattern in the cloth.

May you have a reason to sing.

Making melody,