Directions for a handwoven tote bag



 This fabric is based on a well-known huck lace pattern that is available in a number of places.  It is included in the The Best of Weaver’s Huck Lace, edited by Madelyn van der Hoogt, on page 12 in the pattern section (by Ruth Morrison), and in the project section starting on page 51.  This pattern is also used as the end plate on the right-facing page at the beginning and end of the book.

 You can also consult Madelyn van der Hoogt’s informative digital workshop on lace weaves which you can preview here:

Here is my version of this project:

Warp:  16/2 linen (Bockens Lingarn) in five colors:  1 spool each, 125 grams
# 522 black
# 485 purple
# 4060 dark green
# 40 bright turquoise
# 2030 lemon yellow

The tote fabric requires about a yard of fabric, and each napkin requires ½ yard of fabric, so plan your warp length accordingly.  I wove one yard for the tote and 2 ½ yards for five napkins.  I put on a 5 yard warp to allow some sampling and loom waste.

Weft:  16/2 linen in #522 black, 2 spools (in addition to the one used for warp)

Sett:  20 epi, width in the reed about 17.5” (finished width about 16.5”)

Threading:  There are 7 repeats of the huck pattern with 4 extra plain weave threads in black at each selvedge.  I also threaded two threads together for the first thread at each selvedge.  Total warp threads:  365 ends

Weaving:  to balance at 20 epi

The full pattern repeat is 50 threads.  Each color stripe is 45 threads with 5 black threads at the beginning of each pattern. I placed a stripe of five black threads at the beginning of each repeat to emphasize only one column of the flower motif, as in reality there are two columns of staggered flowers.  (Unfortunately, all huck looks geometric until it is wet finished.  So my flowers look like diamonds in the drawdown.  Consult the detail photo at the end for what happens after wet finishing.)  By having a small black stripe of 5 threads, I minimized the appearance of the staggered flowers so that one straight column of flowers would stand out.  I chose to do this in order to better coordinate with the mug I was using as inspiration for the tote.  At finer setts the staggered floral motif shows up well, but not at the sett I needed for fabric that would be sturdy enough for a tote bag.

Finishing: Off the loom, I machine washed the entire length of fabric in the washing machine on ‘normal’ setting, warm water.  After smoothing the fabric by hand, I let the fabric air dry and then steam pressed it before serging the edges between all the cuts.

Huck Lace Lunch tote final as woven (this link will bring up the pdf file)

Screenshot huck lace tote bag final as woven

In this drawdown I have also included 4 extra plain weave threads at each end of the warp. You might add even more. Huck lace gives a lovely scalloped edge to fabric when it is not bordered by plain weave; however, at such a loose sett of 20 epi I found that the scallops look rather clumsy.  They are lovely at finer setts, but for this project I wish I had used a plain weave border, so I’ve included that here.

The drawdown should be followed until the end of the yellow stripe, then worked in reverse color order back through the blue, green, and purple.

The mug that inspired the tote bag:

Weaving mug exchange


 Materials Needed:

 Tote bag fabric:  15” x 27” plus extra for straps if using this fabric
Lining fabric:  15” x 27” plus more for pockets and possible straps
Pockets from lining:  2 pieces, 7” x 15”
Light Weight fusible interfacing:  14” x 22”
Fusible Fleece:  14” x 22”
Cotton webbing straps if you don’t wish to use handwoven or lining fabric for this

  1. Cut pieces to size.
  2. Fuse the light weight interfacing to the wrong side of your handwoven tote fabric, centering the interfacing so that there is ½” margin on each long end, and 2 ½” margins at the short ends.
  3. Fuse the fleece to the wrong side of your lining fabric, centering the fleece as you did with interfacing on the main fabric.
  4. Sew the pockets:  place right sides together and sew around pieces leaving one short edge open.  Turn right sides out and press, pressing under ½” seam allowance that did not get sewn.  Top stitch around all 4 sides, which will close and finish the edge that was left open for turning. Place the pocket on the right side of the lining fabric about 4” down from the raw edge of one of the short sides.  Sew along the outer edges and bottom of the pocket, attaching it to the lining.
  5. Then top stitch a pocket divider, either by sewing directly down the center of your pocket, or by sewing 1/3 in the distance on the long side.  I opted for the 2nd choice so that one pocket would be larger than the other.
  6. Fold the lining (with attached pocket) in half along the long edge, right sides together, and sew the side seams.
  7. Make a flat bottom for the lining as follows:  with the wrong side of lining facing out, position one side seam so that it is in the center of the fabric, and so that the end of the seam forms a triangle at the bottom of the tote:

tote bag square bottom Measure 2 ½” up from the point and draw a sewing line across the bag that should be 4” across.  Sew across this line.  Repeat this on the other side seam.

8.  Repeat this process of folding the long edges of the main fabric in half (right side together) and sewing the side seam.  Then repeat the process for making a flat bottom for the main fabric.

9.  Put the lining inside the bag, with the right side of the lining facing inward and the right side of the main fabric facing outward.  Turn the triangle flaps on both lining and main fabric so that they face into the bottom of the bag.

10. Fold down the top edges of the lining and main fabric toward the inside of the bag, and so that each fabric is now folded along the edge of either the interfacing or the fleece.  Match the edges and pin.

11. Make your handles.  If you are using the handwoven fabric your handles will only be about 16” long.  Take the hand fabric and press ½” in on the long sides.  Fold in half and top stitch along the pressed edge and then around the entire handle to finish.

12. Insert the handles into the pinned top edge of the tote bag so that each end of each handle is about 1/3 in from the end of the bag.  The finished bag is about 13” wide.  Divided in thirds (4 1/3”), you would place your handles to center on 4” and 8 ½” roughly.  Pin the handles in place with at least 1 ½” down in the seam.  Top stitch around the top of the bag.


I wove 18” of huck lace pattern with 2” of plain weave at the end of each napkin.  I wove two picks of a contrasting color of weft in plain weave between each napkin. I turned under a hem at each end so that the plain weave was not showing on the face of the napkin, and hemmed the napkins by hand with black thread.


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Summer on Narragansett Bay

What a beautiful place to be this summer, especially by boat…..a coastline of bridges and windmills everywhere you look!  I spent almost a week in Providence during July, and now we are floating by many of the other wonderful towns along this coast.

So here is my vignette of sights.  No surprise that it is mostly gardens and doors! Here is a colorful door in Bristol.  There are numerous streets in Bristol with lovely, old homes.



Lots of historic houses with beautiful gardens…


And then there is Blithewold, the fairest of them all.

Blithewold slide1

Not only is it an amazing house that can still boast its original furnishings, the gardens are superb……and most with a view of the bay!


Here is Bob walking under the garden arch toward the house.



When you’re not admiring the bayviews from the gardens, you can admire a different kind of water view.


We passed this last gem of a house on our way back to the dinghy after finishing up at Blithewold….although you can never really ‘finish up’… can only force yourself to leave with a promise to come back and spend more time.


On our way back to the dinghy at the Herreschoff Museum docks, we stopped for lunch at The Lobster Pot.  We had a great view from our table!


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Finished Lunch Tote!

In spite of the bad lighting at the Rhode Island Convention, and perhaps because of the smaller exhibitions of HGA events, I came back quite inspired to get down to work.  I had the much-awaited black 16/2 linen spool in hand to finish weaving the napkins on my lunch tote warp, and I got right down to it!


This was really a fun project!  Yes, there were comprises.  I needed to design a fabric that would be sturdy enough for the exterior of a tote bag, but also be soft enough for a napkin.  I thought I had struck a middle range by adding interfacing to the wrong side of the tote bag fabric for a little sturdiness.  Well, that worked out quite well…..but the napkin is a bit firmer than I’d like to use myself.  Hmmm…. they do say that linen softens over time with repeated washings, and the napkin will get washed a LOT more than the tote bag.  I guess that’s what I’ll mention to the recipient.  I am pretty certain she’ll like the tote, but maybe not so much the napkin!  I now have a set of four napkins myself, and I’m not sure what to do with them!

IMG_1477 Once again, here is the mug that this project was designed for:

Weaving mug exchange

I promised the 8-shaft group on Facebook that I’d share what the draft for this project was and how the bag was sewn.  Here goes!

Huck Fabric for Mug Lunch bag napkin 2

IMG_1480 At the moment, I am writing this while onboard Pandora in Narragansett Bay.  To say that there have been distractions does not begin to describe it!  First, we are having the mildest summer of my entire life!  Beautiful weather greets us everyday with cool breezes and deep blue  skies with giant cumulus clouds.  Then there are all the beautiful sights along this bay…. I plan to do a post in a few days that will have a smattering of the lovely sights we’ve seen.

I will try to post the actual wif file for the drawdown when I return home in another week, as well as some info on making a tote bag with a flat bottom.  Wordpress doesn’t like .wif files!

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And the Fun Continues!…

It’s a month later, and the summer has only gotten better!  I have been to Convergence in Providence, RI;  I have finished weaving and sewing the lunch tote and napkin for my guild project, and I have started a tapestry class for some of the members in my state guild.  All good!

Unfortunately, I have very few photos of Convergence.  Photos weren’t allowed at the HGA exhibits.  The photo I regret NOT getting most is me standing in front of my tapestry in the gallery exhibit.  In hindsight I’m certain the powers-that-be would have let someone take a photo of me in front of my own work, but I didn’t ask.  Sigh…

Here is my favorite piece from the gallery exhibit:  ”She Can’t See the Forest for the Trees”  No, I did not take this photo since photos were not allowed.  But I can usually find images online, and this image is from Jenny Schu’s blog, where you can read about the processes she used to make this incredible wall hanging! (Wed. grouper’s first reaction being:  ”after all these years of weaving on copper looms, why didn’t any of us think of hanging our tapestries from copper pipe???”)

Weaving She cant see the forest for the trees

Along with the HGA sponsored exhibits in the Rhode Island Convention Center, there were numerous outside exhibits to see throughout Providence.  The Complex Weavers’ exhibit at Brown University was quite a highlight for me.  And the best exhibit of the whole conference for me was the ATA sponsored “Small Format/Unjuried” show on the Feinstein Campus of URI.  Such wonderful small tapestries that covered the gamut of every subject imaginable!  Pure fun….there were small tapestries of bugs, small self portraits, small landscapes….if you can imagine it, it was probably there!

Small Format Unjuried 2014

Two friends from the Wednesday Group came to stay with me during Convergence and we made the daily drive to Providence.  On the last day we drove to Brockton, MA, to the Fuller Craft Museum to see the two shows on display there.  First was “Game Changers:  Fiber Art Masters and Innovators.”  What an impressive list of well known fiber artists were on display.  It was a brilliant show!  And so was the other exhibit on display, “Small Expressions.”

Archie Brennan’s “The Lady and the Gypsy” greets you at the entrance to the “Game Changers” exhibit.

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Susan Martin Maffei’s Silk Worm tapestry actually has golden silk cocoons woven into it and is embellished with crocheted caterpillars.  …so naturally, the weft is silk.

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I have some great photos from “Small Expressions” as well, but I neglected to get the names of some of the artists!  So I will just share Barbara Heller’s recent work, which has a very interesting mix of techniques.

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All in all, Covergence was quite an inspirational event.  There are always hitches to having a conference setting in a convention center, but I would still say the outcome of this year’s event was positive!


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The BEST Thing about Summer Weaving….

Well, there are lots of good things about weaving at any time….but in the summer here, when the middle of the day is a bit steamy, and the nights are cool and breezy, we often don’t turn on the air conditioning.  That’s not necessarily my choice, but for the sake of marital harmony I conceed that it’s only a few hours in the afternoon that are too hot, so we have yet to turn on the AC.  And besides, I can go hang out in my almost-too-cold studio.

My studio is in the basement, and unlike my last house, this is a nice basement.  The whole back of my studio is above ground and even has a terrace, which Bob made last summer, for sitting outside.  The light is wonderful through the windows and the glass door.  When it’s too hot to be tempted outside I can enjoy the views of my gardens and the nature preserve while getting some productive work done.  It’s a win-win situation!

During this first hot spell of summer, I am making good progress on the huck fabric for the lunch tote.  This photo was taken a few days ago, when I reached the end of the yard of fabric for the tote.  Now I’ve woven two of the five napkins that are also on this warp.

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And I’ve finally had a space of time (without visitors!) when I could concentrate on my chopstick portrait.  This is a recent idea of Archie Brennan.  At our monthly Wednesday Group meetings we get Chinese take out after class on the first day.  Over the years this has added up to a lot of chopsticks.  He and Susan have washed and saved all the chopsticks, and Archie was wondering how they could be re-purposed.  He ended up making little chopstick looms for each member of our group, and he set an assignement to weave a portrait.

I decided to attempt a face from ancient Greek red figure pottery.  This particular face happens to be Artemis.  In the image of her on a 5th century BC, lekythos, she has drawn her bow and is focused on her target.

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The main reason I chose this portrait was to have fun with the hair! So I put in Ghiordes knots every pass and a half which allowed for the knots to be on alternating warps.  Then I braided the long strands and played around putting her hair up in various ways.  I did not want to sew her hair in place, but that may become necessary.

Tapestry Red Figure Artemis on Chopsticks

This project was so much fun I want to make another…..another Greek subject in honor of Archie…. wait and see!

Yesterday I spent the day sewing a mock up of the lunch tote so I’ll be ready to sew when I finish this fabric….the fabric is on hiatus until after Convergence where I’ll pick up one more spool of 16/2 linen for weft from Lone Star Looms.  That’s a story not worth repeating….but suffice it to say that I have made three attempts from two different sources to get enough weft for this project!

Naturally, I could not find any fabric that was a spot-on equivalent to my handwoven linen.  I opted for a heavy cotton duck fabric.  It’s considerably more tightly woven than my huck fabric, but it should be pretty similar after I fuse interfacing to the back of my fabric.  Hope so, anyway!

This is the lining, with pockets…..turned right side out for a better view.

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And here is the almost finished bag.  I’m still hunting for the purse snaps that are well hidden somewhere in my stash of notions, before I stitch the final top of bag together….

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Now that I’ve worked out how the bag will be sewn (and hopefully made all my mistakes!) I am looking forward to making the ‘real’ tote out of these fabrics.

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These days, when I’m not weaving (or sewing), I am working on the “Merle” sweater with Jared Flood’s “Brooklyn Tweed” yarn that I bought at Harrisville on our recent trip.  At this point it’s just miles of stockinette, so I haven’t taken a photo.  ….Or I am in the garden!

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Glorious June

June has flown by in a series of glorious days filled with gardening, weaving, and even a little jaunt to Harrisville, New Hampshire where I did get to touch the wool and see the colors of Jared Flood’s Brooklyn Tweed yarn.  (I bought the color “Button Jar” and have started the sweater design called “Merle.”)

I’m not sure I have ever had such a wonderfully long spring.  It is the last day of the month, a full 10 days since the solstice and the start of summer, but the weather is still very spring-like.  Since spring is my favorite season, and this year it has lasted its full three months, I am about as happy as can be!

2014-06-27 18.16.23The roses along my stone wall are certainly happy this year.  You cannot see how many yellow roses are in the border; for some reason these bright pink landscape knock outs are stealing the show with the camera!  There is a pale pink  miniature rose just below the camera lens…

2014-06-27 18.23.14The garden and the lovely weather has been quite distracting to working in my studio!  And so was our trip to Brattleboro and Harrisville.

June 2014 VT covered bridge

June 2014 Harrisville NH

June has brought a lot of visitors to our house, so that I feel like I’ve been running a B&B most of the month.  In fact my oldest friend calls my house “B&B’s B&B.”  It was certainly true this month, and the guests continue until the end of the July 4th celebratory weekend.  After that I intend to be very selfish with my time.

So, I haven’t gotten much work done on either the colorful huck weave fabric or my large tapestry of the Flax Spinner.  But on the tapestry front, two issues of VAV arrived in the mail today (issue 1 and 2 that were forwarded elsewhere while I was away).  Both issues were wonderful, and, better late than never, I have learned about this book!

tradens gang i billedvaevI don’t know how I missed hearing about it when it came out a year ago, but I’m very glad to know about it now!  Hopefully it will arrive in time to share with my newly formed tapestry study group which will meet at the end of July.

Convergence in two weeks!  Lots to celebrate this summer!





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A Trip along the Hudson River and Huck Weaving

This week was a beautiful time to be along the Hudson River Valley.  I drove up to participate in the Wednesday Group monthly class.  It was a stunning drive there and back, and it was beyond wonderful to be back in class after being away for several months.

I took my spool tapestry, hoping to finish it or at least draw the finishing line across the top.  After everyone took a look at it, the general consensus was to have a shaped ending.  I really liked that solution, mostly because it meant I only had one more spool to weave!  So….it is done!…well, except for all the finishing work.

2014-06-09 13.45.22 Now I can get back to my medieval spinner and an intriguing idea that has been on my mind for a while.

In the mornings before class, and in the evenings, I was so lucky to stay in place with magnificent views of the Hudson…..and to be in the company of two wonderful friends.  There is a lot of big ship traffic on the river, all day and through the night.  Very impressive!  And now that it is approaching summer there is plenty of pleasure boat traffic as well.

Alta view hudson river

On Friday my friends and I took a trip to the eastern side of the river to visit the OMI Sculpture Park, in Ghent.  First we made a quick stop at Frederick Church’s “Olana.” The Turkish inspired tile work is phenomenal, and I don’t know how all this tile work survives the climate here in upstate New York.

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The views of the river and the Catskills were as compelling as the views of the house and grounds.

2014-06-06 10.31.14And there were gardens, bursting with poppies, peonies, and iris…

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At OMI there was quite a bit of construction going on as they began installation of some new pieces.  The older pieces mostly looked really dated to me.  But in spite of the big equipment digging holes and moving artwork, and the noise, we managed to have a great time.  The weather was perfect June….

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Then, back at home, Bob and I took a walk along our own Connecticut River and enjoyed the beautiful gardens that are full of peonies.

2014-06-08 11.13.31My own deep red “Blaze” peonies have opened, right next to my “Knock Out Julia Child” yellow rose.  It’s a glorious time in the garden these days!

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While I’ve been writing this a sample of my huck lace fabric has been going through my washing machine.  It has fulled nicely in the wet finishing (no dryer).  I blotted it in a towel and have just ironed it. I’m happy to see that the pattern is square!  Three yards to weave to make a lunch bag with matching napkin as a gift, and four napkins for me!

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Here is the mug that inspired the fabric.

Weaving mug exchange

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Pegging Dobby Bars….

It’s been a good, productive day.  I actually posted on Archie’s blog for the first time in longer than I will admit (although the dates are there for everyone to see….to my shame!).  He and I have been working on things all along….just not posting.  If you love tapestry check it out!

And I wove some plain weave on my huck threading to look for threading or sleying errors.  All is well so it was time to peg up 50 bars for my pattern.

2014-05-31 15.20.01Notice anything wrong with this picture?  I certainly didn’t…..until I’d gotten about the 2/3 through the pegging and ran out of pegs.  So I went scavenging through my bars to undo some pegs.  And that’s when I noticed that the pegs go in the flat side, not the angled side.  So….out with the bad and in the the good.  Almost twice the work, but at least it’s done now….

Just started to weave and the bars are not advancing well on the dobby arm.  I’ll have my devoted handyman Bob take a look at it.  Be back shortly…

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Now it’s Monday…  Bob got the dobby arm to work in one direction, but not both.  The manual says not to fiddle with adjusting the dobby arm, but to call AVL for advice.  Well, they are in California and I’m on the East Coast, so I could not call over the weekend, and cannot call until this afternoon.  So, moving forward only, I tried the pattern.  There were lots of misfires with the bars, but I managed to get two pattern repeats by going forward only.  After wet finishing these diamonds will soften into rounded flowers.  I am happy!  Now, hopefully I can get the dobby arm to work properly so I can speed up a bit!


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Thinking about Knitting…

The crazy, colorful huck lace fabric is almost ready for weaving!  All I have to do is tie on the warp threads to the front beam.

2014-05-29 11.07.58In fact, it would have been done already, if I could just remember how to get the cloth bar back on the loom!  Actually I can’t even remember which way the bolts go in to secure the breast beam.  It’s been too long since I’ve used this loom (since before I left New Jersey, two years ago).  A quick search for the gigantic manual that comes with AVLs didn’t work.  (Yes, I know the manual is online, but it’s so cumbersome to use.)  I think I’ll wait ’til Handyman Bob returns home in a few hours.

There is plenty to do down here until that time.  The place is more disorganized than it’s ever been, considering I have only lived here for two years!

Meanwhile, I can’t get my mind off the new pattern book from Jared Flood, Wool People 7.  There are some gorgeous designs in this book!  ….very classic, very chic.  I might have escaped knowing about it, except that my knitting sister Lesley, who has such exquisite taste, couldn’t resist the urge to tell me she had seen it and is know knitting “Pente.”

I am in love with Merle…

….and with Arabella.

Wow!  Right?  I bought both patterns which are downloads so I had instant gratification.  Then I began looking at the beautiful colors of Brooklyn Tweed “Loft” which is the yarn used for each of the Wool People 7 designs.

I am always looking for a soft wool yarn that I can wear right next to my skin.  I have yet to find one.  Models are always shown wearing sweaters right against their skin, and I wonder how they do it.  Are these sweaters photographed in colder climates (like north of the Arctic Circle) where where everyone is so cold they can’t feel how itchy the sweaters are? I don’t know….but I’m hoping I find a good candidate for softness in “Loft.”  I’m planning a trip to Harrisville in a couple of weeks so I  look forward to seeing and handling “Loft” in person.

Meanwhile I might cheat and use a Phildar yarn that is 50% lambswool and 50% acrylic. Hopefully in just this color.

Which brings me to another question:  Why is it so hard to find Phildar in the US these days?  I used to see it all the time in the 80s and 90s.  I date myself… Are Americans too in love with natural fibers these days?  I know I am, but sometimes I also need just the right yarn to make a beautiful sweater that doesn’t require a turtleneck to protect me from the itchy wool.

I have so many unfinished sweaters, I’d be horrified if I counted them, so I know I am a fool to be dreaming about making Merle and Arabella right now.  Still, I am the type of person who dreams about knitting while I’m weaving, and then dreams about weaving while I’m knitting.  Go figure.

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So, How Old Is Your House?

Well, you knew (didn’t you?) that I’d have to find those two Connecticut houses that are older than the house at Bushnell Farm….

The oldest house (and it’s magnificent!) is the Henry Whitfield House in Guilford.  That’s just down the road a bit so I am looking forward to a visit! According to Wikipedia, it is not only the oldest house in Connecticut, built in 1639 right near the town green in what would shortly become Guildford, it is also the oldest stone house in New England.  This house was opened to the public as a museum in 1899.

Maybe my dear friend, who loves old houses and lives in a 1795 house on the river about an hour north of here, will join me for the visit.  Well, I’ve done a bit more ‘googling’ to find the 2nd oldest house, and instead of getting an answer I’ve just become confused.  If this sort of thing interests you, take a look at this.  So, who knows…. there are several houses on that list even older than the Henry Whitfield house, and more than two that are older than the Bushnell house.

Back to weaving!  Here are a couple of photos of my linen warp in progress. This is one section of warp (2″ width) wound on my AVL warping wheel.  I had no idea how much this section would look like the Bahamian flag!

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Ask me if I’m a bit nervous about these bright colors!  (yes!)  But…. I forge ahead.  Hopefully the black linen weft will tone it down a bit. Here, I’m winding on section 4 out of 9 sections that will make up my 18″ wide fabric.

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Right now my studio is about as messy as it’s ever been, so I was careful to exclude as much of the mess as possible when I took these.  Normally I make a huge mess when I start a project…..all kinds of materials are out for consideration, lots of things get tossed about.  But by the time I get down to work I need everything back in its place so I can work in visual peace.  Whew, boy!  Not this time!  I’m feeling such time pressure to get going on this that I’m just trying to wear virtual blinders while I’m here.  I’ll get to straigtening things up as soon as I can!

The sections are all different since the number of threads per inch does not match the number of threads for a repeat of the huck pattern.  I had to be more careful than usual with my counting to make sure that each stripe has 45 threads in it no matter how it fits into the 2″ warp sections.  Now I’m ready to start threading!

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