Sunday, February 24, 2008

How Do You Hem Your Handwovens?

By Leigh

In the comments to my "M's And O's Dishtowels" post, Bspinner asked how I hemmed my handspun dishtowels. I was very interested in how she did hers, and, being the sort of person who loves new ways and methods, thought I would ask you all the same. How do you hem a dishtowel? Or a handtowel? Or blankets? Or place mats and table runners? Or anything handwoven?

I have to admit that it took quite a few years before I could build up the nerve to actually cut my handwoven cloth, let alone sew it. In fact, I still have several lengths of yardage from years ago. These remain packed away in a trunk, because I couldn't bring myself to cut and sew them. It was quite an occasion when I finally did it. In fact, it wasn't all that long ago; it was when I made the log cabin necktie for my DH.

I admit it was several posts ago that Bspinner first asked this question. Hopefully it hasn't been forgotten by now but, being a visual person myself, I wanted to wait until I could get the last M's & O's dishtowel off the loom, so I could take photos of what I'm doing.

Probably most of you do something similar, but I would be interested in your feedback and comments. I'm always looking for either confirmation or better ways to do things.

My current method is to start by running a quick zig zag stitch over both ends of the fabric right after I take it off the loom. Then it is wet finished in whatever manner I intend for the finished item to be laundered. In the case of cotton dishtowels, I wash in cold water and laundry detergent.......

Curious Catzee, "helping" with the washing...... and then dry in the dryer on medium. If it's too wrinkly after that, then I iron it.

To prepare them to cut apart, I run two more zig zag rows on either side of the cutting line.

2 not-so-straight cutting lines.I used white thread here so you could actually see the stitches. Usually I use a color that matches.

I'm not sure why I prefer a zig zag stitch. Perhaps because it offers a little "give" to the fabric. Does anyone like a straight stitch better?

Then I cut them apart and prepare to sew the hems.

I do a double fold hem, and I find that it's neater if I press the first fold and then pin for sewing.

Pressing the 1st fold of the hem.I say "press" rather than "iron" because they aren't the same thing and I have found that which one I do makes a difference. Ironing is the act of sliding the hot iron back and forth over fabric to remove wrinkles. Pressing involves setting the hot iron straight down on the fabric, holding it there, and then lifting it up again. I found that when I ironed, I somehow pushed or stretched the cut edge of the fabric so that it ended up a tad wider than the rest of it. This didn't make for nice square corners!

Sewing the hem.After folding and pinning, I either hem by hand (because I enjoy hand work) or use a zig zag stitch. I do prefer to pin them so that I can remove the pins as I get to them. (I've broken too many needles running over pins.)

The label sewn into the hem is an idea I got from my friend Ann in England. Awhile back, I purchased 50 labels from Heirloom Woven Labels. However, I was rather dismayed at how long they turned out to be.....

Label for my handwovens.
Close up of the label as a loop for hanging.This has been okay for some projects, like my afghans, but the labels are a little too long for smaller projects. I thought Ann's idea was a clever way to both attach a label, as well as create a loop to hang the dishtowel up with.

So that's how I've been hemming my handwoven dishtowels. Now it's your turn. I'd love to know how you hem handwoven fabric, as well as any other tips, experiences, or ideas for sewing it. If I get a good response, I'll put all your ideas and suggestions into another post. (Click here for that post.)

Posted 24 Feb. 2008 at

Related Posts:
Hemming Handwoven Fabrics


Unknown said...

I serge the ends and frequently just leave that as the hem. If I'm feeling fancier, I press the serged edge over and sew it down either by hand or machine.

Laritza said...

I use the serger too. The idea for the labels is great.

bspinner said...

Thanks so much for sharing your time and pictures. I do the same as you but hand stitch the final hem. I'm going to machine hem the towels I have on the loom now. I love your labels. What a great idea.

Kathy said...

I always hemstitch everything on the loom. That way, I can cut apart at my will without losing any of the handweaving. After I hemstitch, I will weave a good plain weave seciton on items such as dishtowels, rugs, - well, the utility pieces anyway. I've gotten so fast at the hemstitching I always have to double-check to make sure I did it correctly. LOL! After I cut, say, placemats, apart, I will put them in their place to see if I want to keep the fringe, or do I want hems? Yes, it does waste some warp, but I use this technique on items where the warp is not that expensive. For clothing pieces, I usually have a good idea when I start as to how I want to finish them.

ladyoftheloom said...

Hey, is that my former washer??? and my first cat Spice????

I hem my towels exactly the same way that you do. I weave about 1 inch of solid color tabby to use for the hem. I have a serger, but I need to get it fixed. When that happens I may use it.

skiingweaver said...

Hi Leigh! I have a tortie cat, too! :)

As for hemming - I have a serger, but it's still in the box. I'm scared of it. LOL. And I definitely don't have the patience for hemstitching on the loom...

I hem basically the same way as you. The only thing I do is I plan out how much I need to make the hem, and throw a pick of a thicker white thread (e.g. bamboo, if I'm using a fine cotton) and then another a 1/4 inch or so later, leaving ends sticking out at both sides. Then I pull those threads out when I'm ready to turn the hem. Makes a nice straight fold line. Make sense? Hope so!

Anonymous said...

I have handsewn all of the hems in my towels, but that is mostly because I didn't have a sewing machine.

Since the weft in my towels are pretty well packed in there, I just cut the towels apart along the waste weft (a shot or two of a different color so that I can easily tell where one towel starts and another ends.) Usually, I do a double fold, with the first fold (being the fold that gets stitched) having two shots of weft, making it easier to fold and pick up warp threads for sewing. I general run a stitch every 5 or 6 warp ends, depending on the sett.

I also do a few overcast stitches on the sides of the hems to totally encase the raw edge.

Now that I have a sewing machine, I might not be going through all of this.

I do love the towels!

Christine said...

I love those labels -- mine are so generic. A bit blah and ho-hum, but yours have a va-va-voom to them!

As for my hems I do what you do but I've been taught to use a thinner weight of yarn when I weave my hems.

If I'm weaving with 5/2 cotton, I will use 10/2 at the hems so when I fold it over it's not as bulky to sew. I also weave a band of plain weave at the hems, it just helps me manhandle them into place a bit better.

I'm still working on sewing a straight line and fixing the darn tension on my sewing machine. Nothing like having to surgically remove your handwovens from your footplate because it's all jammed up under there with gobs of thread. Argh! I'm still having nightmares over that one.

Marie said...

For dishtowels, I weave 1-2" using sewing thread. After weaving all my towels I zig zag at each end of every towel and cut apart. I then fold twice and sew a straight stitch using cotton thread. THEN I put them into washer with hot water, put through the entire cycle and throw into a hot dryer. The towels have now been sufficiently beaten up and ready for their job in the kitchen.
Wool is differnet. I always hem stitch on the loom (unless its double weave). If there is not going to be fringe I usually weave a hem of about 3 inches using a thinner yarn like with the dishtowels, except I use wool. But I still hem stitch because of pure fear!

Sayward said...

It depends on the piece, but if I want an even, simple edge I'll use a serger. For special pieces, I've used hem-stitching too, or my fringe winder.

Susan B. said...

I love the timeliness of this posting and comments as I commence my first hem-stitching ever! I got my sewing machine all serviced so that should be fine. Now with all of these tips I have to figure out what method to use to sew them and cut them apart. I will be reporting on that in my blog by the weekend!

Anonymous said...

Love the labels! And of course your great descriptions.

I hemstich by towels using a technique my mother showed me years ago. I found a good description of something similar in one of the Weavers's craft magazine (issue 17 I think
Also, I separate my towels on the loom with thick mop cotton and I use the zipper foot to sew one row of stiches on either side before I remove the mop cotton and cut between the towels. I'm inept with a sewing machine and that seemed the only way I could prevent my sewing machine from eating the towels. Isabelle

Kristi aka Fiber Fool said...

With posts like these you're gonna turn me into a weaver one of these days... ;-)

Annie said...

Most has been said already, but here my views on finishing dishtowels. On the loom:
hems woven in a thinner yarn give a thinner hem and don't look like 'cut-off cloth', but more like a planned towel of a planned size.
When you use zig zag your hem may stretch. This could be why your towel got wider. Straight sewing doesn't have this problem so much. I mostly use two straight lines.
Then I fold the hem twice, baste (no pinpricks in my fingers!) and hem by hand.
Wash hot. Cotton and linen need that to take up water (for which towels are meant) You may even need a few washes before you like using them. But after that: they are great! I don't like dryers, so don't use them. Put them outside in the wind!

Anonymous said...

I love the pics, being a visual learner myself this really helps out. I have committed (shakes head in shame) hemming murder on my woven items, but I am terrified of cutting them. I always think they fall apart and then what??!! I know I'll get over that stage sooner or later. Thanks for the explanation and pics. The labels rock!!

suzette said...

I like that idea.