These Sensational Towels!

What can compare to the thrill of unrolling freshly-woven cloth? Pulling, and pulling, and pulling until you get to the very beginning of the warp. As every towel unwinds, I do a micro evaluation, knowing that complete scrutiny comes later. I could not be happier with these towels! They are every bit as sensational off the loom as they were to weave. What a joy to be a weaver!

Towels galore just coming off the loom!
Back to the beginning! Cottolin thick and thin handtowels are coming off the loom.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was winding lopsided quills, dropping the shuttle more than occasionally, and struggling to understand weaving drafts. Desire and a willingness to learn have pushed me through these and other barriers.

Handwoven towels ready to be hemmed.
Ready for hemming.
Black and white and a little red. Handwoven towels.
Black and white and a little red, ready for hemming.
Photo shoot for new handwoven towels. Karen Isenhower
Getting set up for a photo shoot. Photos are used in Etsy listings.

Willingness is more important than capability. Being willing sets the stage for learning. We all start incapable. God doesn’t expect us to be capable. He does expect us to be willing. God weaves His purposes on earth, not through the capable people, but through the willing. In weaving, and in life overall, I want to embrace and preserve the willingness factor that keeps me learning.

Thick and thin structure is a handweaver's playground. Karen Isenhower
Thick and thin structure is a playground for a handweaver to imagine and develop designs. Cottolin handtowels and table runner. Designer kitchen, anyone?

And as we yield our will to our Creator, what joy is ours as we learn how to truly live!

May you never stop learning.

(You can see a few of these items now in the Warped for Good Etsy Shop.)

Happy Weaving,

Even Better After

Many, many hours of work have gone into making these handwoven towels. Their stunning capacity as beautiful, absorbant, and useful things isn’t realized, however, until the cloth is subjected to the finishing process. Wet finishing never ceases to amaze me. These towels! They are transformed from special to spectacular!

Cottolin tea towels just off the loom. Ready for wet finishing!
Towels have been cut apart, ends secured with the serger, and weaving errors repaired. It is time to throw them into the washing machine. Towels with red weft threads go in a separate load — just in case…
Handwoven cottolin handtowels just washed. Ready for one-time pressing.
Towels are removed from the dryer while they are still slightly damp. Now they are ready for pressing. If only I could hand them to you to touch…

I may be intimidated at the thought of wet finishing other items (as I talked about in Weaving Experience), but not towels. Especially cottolin handtowels like these. They are made for a lifetime of everyday use. I do not hesitate to throw them in the washer and dryer, because I know the towels will improve with the washing. And after the washing and drying, they’ll be ready for pressing (the only pressing they will likely ever require).

Handwoven cottolin towel - wet finishing.
Out of the wash, the towels have a delightful texture that is slightly puckered. Pressing will flatten the towel, but subsequent washings will renew the desired textural element.
Wet finishing and pressing of new handwoven cottolin towels. Karen Isenhower
Normal people do not press their handtowels, right? This is a one-time occurrence. Pressing after the first washing helps set the threads into place (or so I’ve been told). Happily, there is no color bleeding of the black or red threads!

When I drop the towels into the wash, I am making an exchange. I give up the unwashed, rough cloth, and get a softened, fulled fabric in its place. I lay down a burden, and receive a blessing in return. Jesus takes our soul’s heavy burden, a lifetime of self-imposed work, and exchanges it for his light load. You can put your heavy load down. And receive in return a softened fabric, washed, pressed, and ready for daily use.

May your load become lighter.


Diminishing Shed

This table runner is the last item on the zebra warp; and I am pausing before I tackle the ending. I like how the woven checkerboard underneath shows when you look through the warp! With the end of the warp just ahead I am wondering, “How many more centimeters can I weave?” (Read about the Zebra Warp.)

Checkerboard above and beneath. Cottolin table runner on the loom.
Checkerboard above and beneath.
Finishing up black and white cottolin table runner.
I decided to weave the last item as a table runner instead of a handtowel after conferring with Instagram friends. (Join me on Instagram! @celloweaver)

There is a potential hazard at the end of the warp. I want the final border of this table runner to match the border at the beginning. If I start the border too soon, good warp goes to waste, unwoven at the end. But if I start the border too late, I may have trouble finishing it. The shed height begins to diminish as the warp nears the end, until the shed finally becomes too short for a regular boat shuttle to pass through. (I have been known to gingerly “squeeze” and jiggle the shuttle through for the last few picks.)

Diminishing shed at the end of the warp. Cottolin table runner at the hem.
Starting the final hem. Barely enough height in the shed for the double-bobbin shuttle. The three centimeters I need for the hem seems like a long way to go at this point.
Ten towels and a table runner! Karen Isenhower
Woven all the way! Ten towels and a table runner!

Long before I start weaving the border, I am committed to finish, no matter how tight a shed I face at the end. I made that decision when I dressed the loom with this zebra warp way back when. Following Jesus is like that. It’s more than tagging along. It’s total commitment all the way to the end.

May you see where you’ve been as you look ahead.

Happy weaving,

Barely Seen Thin Threads

Though barely seen, they are a deciding factor in the success of this fabric. Skinny little threads. There is a big contrast between the thick and the thin threads in this fascinating two-treadle weave. The thread size difference creates abundant pattern possibilities. Very thin 30/2 cotton almost disappears while it outlines the thick threads, doubled 22/2 cottolin. I change blocks by simply throwing two thin picks in a row.

Towels in thick and thin. Karen Isenhower
Towels in thick and thin. Weft is white with navy blue stripes in a chain pattern. Warp is white with black stripes.

Most of my errors have to do with the thin thread. Either omitting a pick, or forgetting the second pick to change blocks. After weaving a bit further, the error becomes apparent. I go back, take the error out, and weave it over. All because that barely seen thin thread didn’t get put in place.

Forgiveness, an act of humility, is an essential element of each day. Thin threads that take their place in our daily interactions. Not necessarily spoken, but something in your heart that turns your attitude in the right direction. The forgiven forgive. Those who have been forgiven know how to forgive others. So, maybe a chain reaction starts when we forgive. We can hope so.

May your thin threads be strong.


Happy Weaving New Year!

January 1st is more than just another day, isn’t it? It’s a time to review the past year and bring new dreams into the year ahead. This pivot point calls for gratitude. I am especially grateful for friends like you who walk with me on this weaving journey!

Thick and thin cottolin towels on this warp. One towel to go!
Thick and thin cottolin towels on this warp. One towel to go!
The end is near! The end of the warp, that is. Halvdräll on the loom.
The end is near! The end of the warp, that is. Almost ready for the final border of the halvdräll table square. There will be just enough warp left for a short sample piece.

First up in the new year I have thick and thin towels to finish, and the halvdräll is oh so close to the end of the warp (didn’t quite make it for Christmas). And one little girl is off the small tapestry loom, waiting for final finishing, mounting, and framing.

Little girl small tapestry.
Little girl small tapestry. After finishing the ends, the piece will be mounted on linen-covered foam board and placed in a frame.

Thank you for walking with me through 2015!

May you bring big dreams into the new year!

Joyful New Year,