Bag It, Gladys

I think I am done. I have been weaving fabric to sew into bags for a number of years now. Probably about 15 years. That’s almost half my weaving life! And I really do enjoy designing and creating bags, but every time I try to sell one I am disappointed. Customers seem to like the style, but it’s not the right color, too big, too small, too casual, not the right strap, etc. And I’m talking about all kinds of bags from tiny, what I call “pick pockets” (TM) for storing your guitar picks to” the mother of all tote bag” humongous bags. Some are for evening, some for daily use, and others are just for fun. Once, and I am grateful it only happened once, a customer was admiring my bags and expressed her approval. But the next question she asked was  “Where do you get your fabric?” Really?

I just can’t help it, it’s a fact that I love all kinds of  purses and tote bags. But the truth is, the current market can’t support the cost that is worthy of a bag made from handwoven fabric, then carefully constructed and sewn with a lining, a pocket and often a hand-twisted strap. The bags I wove these last few weeks will be my swan song.

If you recall my post Back to The Future, there was an image of  the double weave fabric I was weaving still on the loom. This is the fabric now:

Hobo bag made from handwoven double weave fabric

Lined interior of hobo bag with magnetic closure

I have also been playing with recycled fabric and cutting narrow strips from thrift store t-shirts to make my own “yarn”. Here is a tote bag made from strips cut from a neon green t-shirt. The weave is a rep weave which I seem to be fond of!

Tote bag woven in rep weave with t-shirt strips in the weft.

Lined interior of tote bag with pocket and magnetic snap closure.

And here is a photo of the tote bag’s fabric while still on the loom with the t-shirt strips on the stick shuttle. I used a metallic thread called “holo-shimmer” as the alternating fine warp on the boat shuttle to get the rep weave effect.

Tote bag fabric still on the loom.

So now I took the t-shirt idea a step further and added recycled jeans to the mix. These two bags were woven in a rep weave and both have recycled jeans pockets in the interior.

Mini-messenger bag woven in rep weave with a hand-twisted strap.

Rep Weave hobo bag woven as one long strip.

Yes, the fabric of the hobo bag was woven in one long narrow strip, approximately 7 1/2″ wide by 96″ long. I then folded it to create a strap from part of the strip and joined the other sections to make the body of the bag. Blogger Donatella who writes doni’s delis explains it here. It’s quite ingenious.

The interiors of the last two bags were lined with denim fabric and each  has an inside pocket taken from a  pair of  recycled jeans.

Interior of hobo bag with denim lining, recycled jeans pocket and a magnet snap closure.

These bags will definitely be one of a kind, because I am not weaving them anymore.  Though I may still weave one or two just for me, or for my daughter, or for a friend… But maybe not this summer. Definitely not this summer.

Rep Gallery

The architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright has always been an inspiration to me.  And for many years I have been admiring the handwoven textiles of Kelly Marshall whose rugs and accessories for the home are a natural fit for any Prairie style or Arts and Crafts style home. Ms. Marshall who has been designing and weaving through her business, Custom Woven Interiors since 1992 has work in private residences, corporations, businesses, restaurants and galleries throughout the country. Readers of this blog would know that I lean toward the block type weaves which are prevalent in the rep weave structure which Ms. Marshall utilizes in her work.

In my last blog I described rep weave as a Swedish weave structure also called ripsmatta. It is characterized by densely threaded warp yarn on the loom. The pattern design is created through the colors and sequence of yarn ends in the warp yarn, that is the yarn threaded on the loom. Ms Marshall has just published a book for weavers based on her own creative process for her work in rep weave. The book is as beautiful as the work Ms. Marshall produces and she is extremely generous with her instructions for projects with precise details and clear photographs. I am still in the process of savoring each word and photo of this book.

Custom Woven Interiors by Kelly Marshall

I hope that my weaving will one day aspire to the many layers and complexities of Ms. Marshall’s work. My work is much simpler and certainly not as technically skillful as Ms. Marshall’s. Rep continues to be one of my favorite weaves and I will work on any challenges that will help me get to a higher level of skill. In the meantime, I will end this blog post with a short gallery of my own work in rep weave. The gallery, shall we say will be the baseline for my work so that in another year or so, we can all compare any progress that I’ve made!

Three Irises

Turkish Kilim


Bongo Fury

Curacao Sensivel

Safe as Milk



Jacob’s Ladder

Falling Waters


Vestments and Paraments

Until now, readers of this blog had only seen photographs of religious commissions I had designed and woven for Jewish worship. However, my first years of  liturgical weaving began with commissions for the Christian community. Working with church representatives, I designed and wove paraments and vestments for use in their worship service throughout the religious seasons.

Paraments refer to any fabric hangings which can be draped upon the altar, pulpit, lectern or credence table used in a church service. Most of the paraments that I wove were handwoven as a matching set of three so that one large piece was an altar cloth and two smaller pieces were used as a pulpit fall and a lectern bookmark.

Liturgical stoles are narrow strips of material worn over the shoulders of the pastor leading the church service.  In many ways these are similar to the narrow ceremonial tallitot or atarot that I recently finished weaving for the religious leaders of a Jewish congregation.

The church year encompassed many seasons with each one represented by a different color which was the main criteria for the design elements. Below are some religious textiles that I had previously been commissioned to weave by churches and members of the Christian community mostly in the Memphis area. I apologize for the quality of these photographs.

Altar cloth for Ordinary Time

The green set of paraments for Ordinary Time is visible during the time between Epiphany and Lent. The altar cloth was woven in a rep weave pattern with alternating rows of a bundle of 5/2 perle cotton strands in one row and a single strand of sewing thread in the next row.

Liturgical stole for Ordinary Time

Two liturgical stoles were woven from the same pattern.  Each stole was a slightly different value of green as they were to be worn by the two pastors leading the service.

Liturgical stole for Lent "Crown of Thorns"

This stole  for Lent, the 40 days before Easter, was woven in an 8 harness undulating twill pattern with an overshot inlay of sewing thread in the decorative gold band.

Altar cloths for Easter

The set of paraments for Easter consisted of 5 separate textiles:  the pulpit fall, lectern bookmark, altar cloth, and two separate and narrow pieces which were draped over the larger altar cloth.  The pattern bands of the two narrow cloths were woven in the traditional overshot pattern known as Mary Ann Ostrander. The “Alpha” and “Omega” symbols were ultrasuede material cut and appliqued onto the handwoven fabric.

Detail of back, special occasion ceremonial stole

I had been commissioned to weave a ceremonial stole for use at special occasions in honor of a newly ordained Episcopal priest. The pattern on the front were several bands of a repeating Mary Ann Ostrander woven design. The wearer wanted a matching design on the back of the stole as well, since during services she often had her back to the congregation.  Because there was a seam sewn at the back, I was unable to weave in the Mary Ann Ostrander pattern at this point in the fabric.  Instead I made a “patch”  from a woven sample and appliqued it over the seam. I also twisted a decorative cord incorporating the gold metallic yarns with perle cotton and sewed it all around the edges of the stole.

Altar cloth for Pentecost

Set of Pentecost paraments in the Church Sanctuary

The paraments for Pentecost, 50 days after Easter, were woven in an undulating twill. The Church representatives wanted an image of a dove to be included in the altar cloth. The shape of a dove was cut and appliqued onto the handwoven cloth. The photograph of the sanctuary includes all three textiles woven in this set.  The large tapestry hanging above the altar had been woven by Margaret Windeknecht in the 1960’s. Mrs. Windeknecht who passed away a year ago had been known for her publications on color and weave effect, twill, and rosepath weaving patterns.

Altar cloth for Advent

For Advent, the four Sundays before Christmas, I was commissioned to create a set of paraments that included an image of the 4 candles representing this season. The altar cloth was woven in sections, then pieced together. the inset is done in Theo Moorman tapestry technique.

All the religious textiles shown here are lined with dupioni silk fabric in a color matching the handwoven cloth. And so the evolution of my development as a liturgical weaver continues. No matter which denomination commissions me to design and create a textile for religious worship, I always keep in mind that my work embraces the principle of hiddur mitzvah which literally means a commandment to make things beautiful while doing good. And this is a principle that all of us should keep in mind, whether we are weavers or not!

Hot Off the Press

It’s here! Lark Books’ latest book in the 500 series, 500 Judaica, was just delivered to me yesterday. And it is just lovely. I feel honored to be included in this beautiful visual collection of works by global artists and craftspeople who  create ritual objects for Jewish worship.

500 Judaica - Innovative Contemporary Ritual Art from Lark Crafts, a division of Sterling Publishing Co.

Four of my original design handwoven prayer shawls were selected for inclusion in this book.

Kol Nidre


The design and colors of Asher were inspired by the stained glass window of the same name by Marc Chagall.  It is one of a series of windows, Jerusalem Windows, installed at the Hadassah-Hebrew Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Marc Chagall's stained glass window, Asher

Tribute to Ruth and Old Jerusalem

Tribute to Ruth on the left includes some handspun yarn that I inlaid into the atarah, or neckband. I created this tallit in honor of the Book of Ruth.  Ruth was recorded as the first convert to Judaism, and she was the great-grandmother to King David. Old Jerusalem on the right of this page had been previously selected to be included in the exhibit “Best of Tennessee Craft” at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville.

The book is extremely well done.  And certainly not because of my pieces.  The photographs are all lovely and all craft media are represented here:  wooden arks (which house the Torah scrolls), silver kiddush cups, gold mezuzot, ceramic seder plates, glass Shabbat candlestick holders, bronze and copper jewelry, paper ketubot (marriage certificate) with hand printed calligraphy, a beautifully embroidered huppah for a wedding ceremony.  One not familiar with the beauty of Jewish ritual and worship will also learn quite a bit from the handcrafted objects used not only in a Jewish congregational  service, but also in the more intimate setting of a Jewish household.

And yes, 500 Judaica is available now and can be ordered here.