Hemstitching on the loom
This is one of the hand manipulated weaves in my new book, “Weaving for Beginners”
This hand sewing is done while the cloth is still on the loom and is easy to do while the warp is under tension. Many weavers prefer to do it then because they don’t have to hand- or machine-stitch the cut ends after the cloth is off the loom (and before finishing the cloth). They may or may not cut off the stitches later, depending on what the edge is to look like when the fabric is complete. It’s a big time saver when you want to have fringe on the edge because there is no knotting of the fringe needed-all you need to do is to leave enough unwoven for the fringe(s). Note: The instructions for hemstitching at the beginning of the cloth are a little different from those for the stitching at the end of the cloth.
When you are weaving several pieces, hemstitching the edges to be cut later saves a lot of time because neither hems nor additional stitching needs to be done. Placemats, for example, can be hemstitched on the loom and then cut apart and finished right after they are off the loom. Hemstitching the edges of your samples on the loom can save time too.
Use a size thread that will be unobtrusive for the hemstitching. Often, the weft thread is all right to use, but I’ve seen hemstitching that was too bulky because the thread for the stitches was too heavy.
How to hemstitch
Many stitches are called “hemstitches.” Besides different ways to do the stitching, the stitches themselves can be different. Here is one that does the job of holding in the wefts and is quick and easy. See Figures.
The process is only slightly different at the beginning of the fabric and at the end of it. The instructions are given for right-handed people who will always work starting at the left selvedge and work toward the right. Work from the right toward the left if you are left-handed.
At the Beginning
To hemstitch the beginning of a fabric, on the first weft of the fabric, leave a long tail of weft hanging from the left edge of the cloth. The tail should be 2½ to 3 times the width of the warp. It will be threaded into a tapestry needle and used to do the stitching after a few more rows of weaving are completed. See Figure 1a.
After weaving an inch or a bit more, thread the weft tail into a tapestry needle. The blunt point on the needle prevents you from pricking your finger and piercing the threads. Some methods prefer to pierce the threads to make the stitching more secure. See Figure B.
Begin stitching by holding the weft taut at the selvedge with the left hand. With the needle in the right hand, hover over 1/4″-3/8″ worth of warp threads, then go straight down between the warps and come out at the selvedge. Tug this stitch so that it wraps around the warps and cinches them up into a bundle.
Point the needle straight up (away from you) along the selvedge for 3 wefts, take the needle down through the cloth there, and come out again through the opening you just made by cinching up the warp bundle. Read below for what to do with slippery threads.
Continue on with the next stitch. Hold the weft in the left hand taut and go around the next group of warps (coming out again in the previous opening), tug the stitch to make a bundle, go straight up three wefts, poke the needle down through the cloth, and come out at the opening you just made by cinching up the bundle. Repeat until you reach the right selvedge.
My left hand holds the weft taut and does the tugging. It is engaged at all times while the right hand works the needle.
At the right selvedge, darn (needle weave) the tail into the cloth 1/2″, so it doesn’t show, and cut off the remainder of the tail flush with the cloth.
At the end
At the end of the fabric, make the last weft come out at the left selvedge. Leave a long tail on the last weft (2½ to 3 times the width of the warp) and thread it through the tapestry needle. (Figure F.)
Begin stitching by holding the weft thread tail taut in the left hand, and with the right hand, go around 1/4″- 3/8″ worth of warps, coming out at the selvedge as you did at the beginning of the fabric.
Point the needle straight toward you, for 3 wefts into the cloth; then poke the needle down through the cloth and come up in the space just made when you cinched up the bundle of warps. Notice that now you’ll be poking your needle into cloth, which will be toward you. When you were stitching into the cloth at the beginning of the fabric, the cloth was away from you. See Figures.
|For slippery threads, stagger where you dig in your needle, to make the stitches more secure. If they always go in after the third weft, the whole hemstitched edge could fall off during finishing. You can dig your needle in alternating between the third and fourth wefts-it looks deliberate, and the stitching doesn’t pull out.|
The above tip is an excerpt from Book 3: “Weaving and Drafting Your Own Cloth” and “Weaving for Beginners”