Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sewing With Handwovens (???)

By Leigh

For two weeks I've been wanting to tell you about this month's Western North Carolina Fibers/Handweaver's Guild meeting. The program for April was "Sewing With Handwovens" with Liz Spear. What an inspiration!

Liz started by telling us about her own journey into the world of weaving, creating, and marketing her own designer clothing. Then she shared many of the garment making tips she learned through her own experience, and answered all our questions. She also brought an entire garment rack of her own designs which we were able to see, touch, try on, and take a close look at.

Sewing was my introduction into the world of textiles. I learned how to sew in a mandatory home ec class in junior high, and absolutely loved it. I loved looking at fabrics, at threads, and at patterns. I loved creating my own designs and was forever combining sewing patterns to get what I wanted. All through high school I "designed" and made my own clothes. In fact, my mother encouraged me to apply to the Art Institute of Chicago to study clothing design. In those days however, I wasn't one to follow my mother's advice, but on this I sometimes wish I had.

Gradually I became interested in other fiber arts, going next to quilting and embroidery. Later, I sewed most of my daughter's clothing when she was little, doing a lot of smocking and embroidery on them. Spinning and weaving didn't come until she was in high school. Now, I occasionally sew for myself with commercial fabrics, but most of my time seems to go to weaving, spinning, knitting, and blogging. Of my own handwoven fabrics, I can pull out one vest (no photo), one necktie (that post here), and a few bags (click here to see those). But that's it.

Liz's program has made me think about why I've been reluctant to do more sewing with my handwovens. It's not as though I haven't woven yardage with the intention of sewing with it.....

Photo of some matching fabrics I wove about 5 years ago.
2 matching cottons fabrics of log cabinOr that I don't have plenty of oddments and scraps to create with.....

Assorted samples and leftovers.Somehow I just don't feel confident enough to tackle it. One reason is knowledge, or rather lack of it. I've assumed that working with handwoven fabric requires special techniques. Another reason is that I've not always been satisfied with what I've created. Too often, the finished item didn't match the idea in my head. That's bad enough with boughten fabric, but with handwoven fabric?? It breaks my heart just to think about it. Then too, I'm reluctant because I never learned anything about fine sewing or tailoring. I can do basic garment construction from a pattern, with barely passable zippers and button holes. But that's about it. My inner sense tells me that handwoven cloth deserves the very best of all the details.

What I'm trying to get around to saying, is that Liz's program has equipped me with a new resolve to actually start sewing with my own fabrics. Like everything else, I realize that I'll never get started if I continue to think of reasons why I can't do it. Like everything else, it starts with a decision and a first step. So, I've made the decision and am ready to take that first step. I've been researching sergers and am going to get one(!)

Please don't expect too many posts about my actually doing this. I may have found the resolve to take that first step, but I still have to get up the nerve to take the second one.

Posted 26 April 2008 at

Related Posts:
Hemming Handwoven Fabrics
How Do You Hem Your Handwovens?
Serger Research & Decision


Anonymous said...

I liked this post and I hope you'll sew some beautiful garments, but don't feel any pressure!
When I weave it's usually with the intention to sew a garment from it, and it's not that difficult as I thought before I had done it. Of course I wouldn't like something to go wrong, so I always try to plan the project thoroughly before I start. I make test garments and don't stop until they are great. I cut with wide seam allowances cause then I feel more secure and I don't take any short cuts with the sewing.

Woolly Bits said...

I think it's like most things in life that we would like to do, think about doing - but never give ourselves the last little push to try! I wouldn't try to do this in an effort to make all my clothes myself - there'd never be enough time! but maybe with extra special bits here and there? and the "fine sewing" will come with more practise? and maybe you'd need to set aside that need for total perfection?:)) look who's talking - I've been meaning to start to weave for at least 2 years or so:)) but I know one day (soon?) I will start it.....

Peg in South Carolina said...

You do NOT need a serger to sew with handwovens. First, you will either be using some kind of interfacing on all the pattern pieces, very likely extremely light. This will help seal the seam allowances, which will be further sealed by either hand overcasting or zigzagging on the regular sewing machine. Either one makes a smoother finish less visible on the outside. If you do not interface the whole thing, you can interface the seam allowances with strips of interfacing and then zigzag. Sewing with your handwoven is, to me, the equivalent of creating a couture garment, and so I try to use couture techniques as much as possible (within reason).

Peg in South Carolina said...

P.S. I'm so glad Liz Spear gave you the courage to start sewing! With your experience you should have no problems. It is just getting over the fear----like cutting steeks! Whew, did I ever sweat out my first steek!

Gertieanne said...

My mother is/was always sewing and taking me to material stores since I can remember. When I was little I loved to go over and touch the velvet Bolts, I have been sewing since I was around 8 years old. I started with Barbie doll cloths. My Home Economics teachers always said I should become a tailor and sometimes I wish I had, but that didn't happen. I have not sewn for quite a few years. I don't know but one day I just stopped and have not been in the mood to sew. But I do agree about cutting up your woven fabric it is a scary thing to attempt for the first time. Let me know what Serger you decide on, I am curious.


Charleen said...

I agree with Peg about the serger. In fact, I find with mine that it sometimes weakens the fabric. My serger is old, probably 15 years, so maybe the differential feed on the new ones are easier on handwoven fabric. I have not done much sewing with handwovens but I am planning fabric for an unstructured jacket. I took a class with Daryl Lancaster at Creative Strands and she said she always uses a lightweight fusible knit interfacing. I would have thought it would take away the handwoven feel but she swears by it. It's sure worth a try!

Sharon said...

I've sewn as long as you, starting with $h, then on through Home Ec. I expect one day to sew with my hand woven but I will practice first with muslin, and I will cut - hear that?! - cut into my fabric to make a garment that fits. My biggest beef with garments sewn from handwoven is that the seamstress quails at the notion of cutting into that hand woven cloth, and therefore is content to walk around in something that Kimosabe would be comfortable in - How. Not that I have woven anything big enough to cut, but when I do, it will fit.

Sorry, I was taken hostage by my soap box. I look forward to seeing what you create - you have a lot of already woven cloth to chose from!

Cathy said...

Lots of good advice in the comments - but I am reminded of using the first skeins of handspun - and before that - actually spinning that perfect fleece/roving/top.

1000 mile journey starts with the first step.

You took the first step with this post. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Being a newbie with the sewing machine, I am just working my way up to sewing with the really good fabrics, to someday sew with my handwoven. After the first cut, I am fine (basically because I am committed at that point.)

Tracy said...

I've always been terrified at the thougth of cutting and sewing my handwovens. When I was making a living off my handwovens and knits, I made table linens, rugs and blankets. When I get the new loom up and running, I'm definitely going to try to make a shirt or something that has little shaping. Good luck to you on your adventure with it.