I want to thank everyone who responded to last Sunday's post, How Do You Hem Your Handwovens. I received both encouragement as well as good ideas. As promised, here is what I learned from you all. I've tried to organize everything in a logical manner, and have tried to paraphrase as best I could. Hopefully, this will help it all "sink in." If anything needs further clarification, please let me know!
I was able to organize your information with two basic categories, "still on the loom" and "once off the loom."
Preparation for hemming starts in the planning for a piece. While it is on the loom, the fabric needs to be prepared for the type of hem desired.
To make a less bulky hem, quite a few of you, such as Annie, recommended a finer weft for the hem folds. Beryl reminded me that a finer weft for the hem will keep the plain weave section from weaving wider than the body of the towel. Marie uses an inch or two of sewing thread for the weft for the hem. I have to admit that I have actually tried this, but used a polyester thread on a piece woven in cotton. Unfortunately, these didn't shrink the same, so I wasn't happy with the result. I am making a note to purchase some cotton sewing thread! Christine weaves plain weave with a lighter weight yarn of the same fiber content. For example, 10/2s for the hems if the project weft is 5/2s. I really like this idea as it means I can give myself permission to buy more yarn! (To have a supply of lighter weight, you see. :)
Alice weaves about and inch of a solid colored tabby for the hem, and Kristin has a clever idea for making a neat, straight fold line for the hem. She shoots in a couple of picks of a thicker white yarn, leaving the ends stick out of the fabric selvedges. These are pulled out when the hem is ready to be turned, making a nice fold line.
Kathy hemstitches everything while it's on the loom. On her utility pieces, she then weaves a section of plain weave. Once the piece is off the loom, she then has the flexibility of deciding whether she wants to leave it fringed, or sew a hem after all. Marie always hemstitches for wool. If she doesn't want fringe, then she adds a short plain weave section for the hem, using in a lighter weight wool weft. Isabelle also hemstitches towels, using a technique her mother taught her. She references Weaver's Craft Magazine. If you have a copy of issue 17, check it for information on hemstitching. (Thanks to Valerie, I have several back issues of Weaver's Craft, but not that particular one.) Isabelle also weaves in a thick mop cotton to separate her towels. Once off the loom, she uses a zipper foot to sew one row of stitches on either side of th emop cotton, before removing it and cutting between the towels.
Bonnie, on the other hand, has a more free spirited approach. She warps for 2 to 4 towels at a time and then makes color changes in the weft as the mood strikes her. Measuring for cutting only comes after the towels are off the loom, warp ends are knotted, and the entire length given a hot wash and dry. One advantage I can see to this is that it would be easy to ensure that all the towels are the same length. (Some of you may recall how I finally worked out measuring weaving length with a twill tape.) I often fret over length, so this method would definitely solve that.
Bonnie also told me that her elderly aunt enjoys handwork, so they work together when it comes to the sewing part. Bonnie bastes or pins the hems, and her aunt does the handsewing. It's a happy cooperation for both of them!
Many others of you, such as Bspinner, also handsew hems. Textillian packs his weft in securely enough to be able to cut and fold over the waste weft (a shot or two of a different color) for the first fold of the hem. This is folded again, and he then runs his stitches about every 4 or 5 warp ends, depending on the sett. He also finishes the edges of the hem with a few overcast stitches. I really like this idea as it encases the raw edges. I'm going to have to start doing this too.
For machine sewing, Marie uses a zig zag stitch like I do before cutting the towels apart. Then she uses a straight stitch for the actual hemming. Annie suggests that the straight stitch is preferable, as the fabric can stretch with zig zag. She also hems by hand, but bastes first, instead of using pins.
Laritza and quite a few others use a serger for hemming. Catherine sometimes leaves the serged edge as the hem, or presses the serged edge over and hems by hand. Sayward also like serging for a simple hem, but also likes hemstitching and fringing for fancier pieces.
Last but not least is washing them! It's pretty scary to put one's precious handwoven fabric in water for the first time, but wow, what a wonderful difference wet finishing makes.
Annie recommends a hot wash for both cotton and linen. This increases their absorbency, which is what towels are made for! She prefers wind drying to machine drying. Marie puts them through a full hot water cycle and then drys them in a hot dryer after sewing.
Hopefully, I've covered all the comments and suggestions. More are welcome! This is by no means comprehensive.
Susan and CreativeTextiles (aka Deep End of the Loom), I was very interested in both of your comments. Please let me know how you get on with this!
And Kristi, about that possibility of being turned into a weaver one of these days, jump on in, the water's fine! ;)
Posted 1 March 2008 at http://leighsfiberjournal.blogspot.com
How Do You Hem Your Handwovens?