Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hemming Handwoven Fabrics

By Leigh

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

Related Posts:
How Do You Hem Your Handwovens?


skiingweaver said...

Wow, this is an amazing compendium of hemming techniques, how fabulous! If it's ok, I think I'll link to it in my blog...

Leigh said...

Absolutely! I just hope it's as helpful for others as it is for me.

bspinner said...

This is a great discussion. Thanks so much for allowing it to publish it on your blog and taking the time to sort out all the information.
I sure have learned alot!

Bonnie said...

I was too busy to toss my comment into the ring, but everyone seemed to cover all the bases. (except what I do) Since I usually forget to measure, I weave the entire warp making color changes whenever the mood strikes. I knot fringe at both ends of the warp, wash and dry in hot, and cut the towels apart. (Keep in mind I only make 2 -4 towels in a warp)I hem them by hand. I know I could get a less bulky hem if I planned ahead and followed the wonderful suggestions listed in the blog. I am inspired to do so on my next towel warp. This is the quality kind of post I love to see! Thanks Leigh for enriching us all.

Susan B. said...

I will link to this from my blog!
I read it a few times today as I got ready to do my first hemstitching on my very own handwovens. You all helped! Thank you, Leigh, for pulling this all together!

Kristi aka Fiber Fool said...

LOL! Thanks Leigh! I probably will jump in at some point, though at the moment time and space prove to be a bit of a challenge. Though DH is mumbling about rigid heddle weaving from time to time...

Beryl Moody said...

I loved this post and passed on the link to my local group of weavers.

I hemstitch scarves and shawls and then do twisted fringes. It almost seems like doing double duty, but the hemstitching looks better, IMHO, than twisted fringes without it.

On towels, I use plain weave hems and use a finer thread for the hems than I have used on the body of the towel. I have found that if I use the weft thread from the towel body, the plain weave will be wider than the towel. Sometimes it isn't a perfect solution, but it usually works well enough.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Leigh. This is a lot of good information that you compiled.

Kathy said...

Oodles of great ideas here, Leigh! Thanks so much for taking the time to share them. I was glad to know I'm not the only one who hemstitches anymore. :)

Hope the house hunting is going OK...I've been away from blog-reading lately getting the house back together again after the ice/snow/ice dam weather damage. I may just get my kitchen back this week! WaHoo!

giuseppe said...

Hi there! Thank you for sending your response to my blog. Unfortunately it seems like most of Mabel Ross's books are hard to get a hold of--they seem quite old. I found the Encylopedia of Handspinning by her at our college library, and I'm going to check that tomorrow.
I was glad that the other libraries around here have a copy of Spinning Designer Yarns and I'm just waiting for it now to arrive. Quite looking forward to it! :) Thank you for your help and I'm glad you found my blog informative. It helps keep me inspired and working on new projects

I like this post of yours here, about hemming. I have my own issues with it too, and I'm not a fan of finishes. In my next piece I'll definitely try one of the methods mentioned here and I'll add credits to your blog in my post :D

giuseppe said...

Oops I mean I'm not a fan of *fringes* :D

Tracy said...

Thanks for gathering all the hemming info. I learned a lot.

Keit said...

What a tremendous help this is! I'm a new weaver and am trying to remain inspired instead of intimidated by all there is to learn. I inherited a Macomber loom from my great aunt and finally have the space to use it. I'm weaving placemats (or maybe towels, the edges aren't too great) and have fringe on the first. I was looking for ideas for hems and love all the great advice. Thank you!! I'll be back!

Kelly Casanova said...

Very helpful information (even all these years later, the beauty of blogging!)
Thank you :)

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for compiling all of this information in one spot. I used it today hemming my first dish towels. I used fusible thread to weave the beginnings and in between the towels. I ironed them when they came off the loom, and they held in place beautifully. Next time, I'll use some finer weft where the hems will be, though, as they were kind of thick.