Saturday, January 15, 2011

Patience is a Virtue

Thank you for patiently waiting for something weaving related. My back is slowly improving and I'm able to do more, but that's the rub! I have to resist doing more and setting myself back. I'm happy to pass on vacuuming but I now seem up for other duties.

I have been asked by a friend to share my hemming techniques and so along with the final unveiling of the guest towels, there will be a step by step details of what I normally do when finishing off towels or runners.

Once the warp come off the loom, I fire up the serger. (If you don't have one, then a straight stitch on the sewing machine will do. Just adjust the stitch length so the warp ends are all caught and held in place)

In the picture above you can see the towel on the left with its white hem allowance, then there is a narrow stripe of my scrap yarn, followed by a very short section for samples. I was able to squeak out one more towel, so sampling was reduced to a brief showing  :)   It might be small but it is all you need!

Here they are all cut apart along with my four little mini samples. Next step involves the ironing board. So please excuse the nasty cover as I'm finding it difficult to get a replacement cover for the wider Rowenta board.
In addition to my Rowenta steam iron, I use a small slide ruler sold at fabric stores, straight pins. I firmly press the towel and then measure the hems at both ends to ensure they are the same length. I divide the depth of the hem by three and  make the first turn.

Then using full steam and a heavy hand, I press it *firmly*. I fold the second turn and ensure it carefully follows the bottom edge of the hem stitching and then *firmly* press again.

In the picture above you can see the folded hem (shown front side up) and ready to be stitched. It stays put after the pressing but I do add some pins to keep it in position during its move to the side table in the living room.

It took a bit of time but all twelve towels finally were turned and ready for the next phase. I was getting a lot of couch time recently  and so having these to work on was a nice break!  I really enjoyed hand sewing the hems and it seemed to help me feel useful and still working on weaving how ever thin a thread!

I like to use quilters sewing cotton. Its a bit heavier than the polyester thread and less likely to twist. I also feel that I wove a natural fibre towel, so use a natural fibre thread to finish it. Above I'm drawing the thread through the Thread Heaven to reduce twist and improve the movement of the thread through the cloth. It seems to reduce 'tug'  if that makes sense!

I always start at the side fold....

I don't like leaving the side fold open. It leaves the door open for the handwoven fabric to unravel and trail ends out the side and generally look messy.  If there is a little of the first cloth fold pushing its way out of line, then I will ease it back into line using the needle.

Once its in place, then I pinch the whole thing with my fingers and start in the end of the fold. I want this part to lay flat so I sew back and forth straight through the cloth.

Then once I get to the main part of the hem, I switch to my running blind stitch. (I think its called this)

Running the needle through the hems fold to 'hide' the thread and at very short intervals, you pop up. I make my stitches very close together as this will be a towel that will be machine washed most likely. I want it to last!
Then you slip the needle through a weft thread or two and through the leading edge of the hem and pull snugly but not so tight as to misshape the appearance  in the front. Slip the needle back into the fold and move along. That's it. When you get to the other end, you move down into the side fold and flat sew that closed as well.  The pictures above show the non-fancy hem. It works the same for the fancy hemstitched hem allowance too.
The space between the ladders is clearly where you run the thread in the hems fold.  So what do I do when the sticky out bit at the side is too large to push back into place with the end of the needle?  While I'm not sure if this is the right way, it is what I do....

I gently snip off a portion with sharp scissors, then ease into place with my needle and then flat sew it with extra small stitches to keep it firmly closed!

Sorry for the wack of photos but I feel they can show you the process better than I can explain it. It's certainly not complicated and you should have it worked out after one towel. Feel free to adapt to suit your needs and please share with newbies.

So to review:
  • press firmly into thirds with a heavy steam iron
  • use small stitches and take your time
Do I ever machine sew? yes! I use it on towels that will be tossed into the wash regularly and doesn't have fancy hemstitching. Sometimes I use hand sewing when I don't want an obvious stitch line  running across the cloth as it is visually distracting. So I started out as a new weaver wanting to machine sew everything and slowly over time I have moved more and more to finishing by hand for the obvious benefits it provides of being as secure and  less obvious. It does take time to do this work but after what you have already spent winding your warp and weaving, its not a lot of extra time.

Next step is to wet finish them!    I placed them in the washing machine and set them for delicate. When they came out I took each one in turn and worked them between  my  hands and pulled them into shape and and then lay them flat on towels  and  left them for a couple of hours to absorb moisture.

Back to the ironing board... same disclaimer as before :)    I pull and shape the towels giving particular attention to the edges near the hemstitching as it can draw in here. I carefully snip off all weft tails and fire up the iron. Since they are already damp, steam isn't required this time.

I press very firmly!  I can lower my board down a bit to make applying pressure from above easier. What we are doing here is to set the threads into their permanent position. Even if the next owner of these towels opts for pressing, they will never need to be done like this again. { Not all weave structures need this or should be ironed this way... its a case by case choice. These are woven with fine smooth threads and reversible pattern}  I'm already whispering about needing a small steam press like Lynnette has for my birthday... wish me luck!  I see the store she bought it from doesn't have them listed anymore!

Once the towel is well pressed front and back, I like to fold it into thirds lengthwise, pressing as I go.  I'm one of those weird people who actually likes ironing!   I'll have to show you my 1950's rolling press some time I scored a few years ago.

Here are the towels with 16/2 beige mushroom weft. Two with ladder stitching and the top one with trellis style. Here's a close up:

Then there's the bronze gold bamboo 8/2 weft:

I had some pumpkin mercerised 16/2 from a friend many years ago:

There were some done in a gun metal gray in 16/2 mercerised cotton:

I also tried an experiment and I'm still trying to decide if I like it. Hub says he does...

That one Maltese cross on the left looks darker than the others but that's just an optical illusion! The body of the towel was woven with mercerised 8/2 cotton for a play of light on white.  I had to be very careful when weaving not to lose my place as I would never have worked out where to unweave back to!    So they are done at last and what was 8 yards felt more like 16! The hemstitching took a lot of time but I really think these turned out nice and I would be proud to give these as a gifts.

As a bonus for reading this far, I have included here all details of the project plus a copy of the draft. The basic draft came from A Weaver's Book of 8-Shaft Patterns by Carol Strickler and I modified it slightly from there.  Click to enlarge the draft or any of the pictures in the post.

Maltese Cross Project

Warp Yarn: merc cotton
Count: 16/2
Color: cream
Cost, source: roughly $7.95 per 250 gram cone; Brassards, Quebec
Warp length: 8 yards
Warp Width: 13.42" at the reed
Set: 36 epi
Reed: 12 dent
Sley: 3 per dent
# Ends: 484 plus 2 floaters

Weft Yarn: cottons (various) bamboo
Count: 16/2 and 8/2
Colour: white, gold, navy, mushroom
Sources: mainly Brassards

Pattern is taken from " A Weaver's Book of 8 Shaft Patterns" by Carol Strickler
Page 89, 323-4

Project Length:
19" per towel (4" for hems+15" main part of towel)
x 12 towels
12" samples
15" take up
20" loom waste
275" divided by 12 = 22.92' divided by 3= 7.64 yds (rounded up to 8 yards)

Project Width
each pattern group =27 ends x two=54
54 times 8 repeats= 432 ends+ 27 1 repeat to balance+ 24 ends borders= 483
Plus 2 ends for floating selvedges.

Warp wound in two bundles of 242 ends each.
Beamed onto Louet Spring.
Various hemstitching to tart the towels up!


Cindie said...

What a wonderful post! I'm so glad your back is slowly getting back to normal and you're playing with fiber some. But you are teasing me with a working serger, mine is being very tempermental right now.

barbara said...

Hi Susan,
Glad to hear your back is feeling better; as you say, you still have to take it easy and be mindful in what you do. Thank you for the very detailed lesson on hemming, gosh what a beautiful job you did on these towels; you go to such detail. Which is a good thing! Thank you for sharing and saying to share with other new weavers. I always learn so much reading your posts. Your towels are beautiful!!! Weaverly yours ... Barbara

MarthaVA said...

The towels are really beautiful. I like the experiment and it's outcome. Beautiful. Bet that white was difficult to keep track of -kinda like black!
Glad the back is feeling better. Don't overdue.
I also like to iron - used to bug my mom to let me iron. There is something very satisfying about it, eh?

LA said...

Great tutorial on hemming. I have some placemats I did in overshot that I have to get hemmed. They are already turned up, and I may just hand-stitch them now. Glad you're feeling a little better!

Marion B. said...

I'm glad you feel a little better now. The towels are gorgeous, just beautiful. And thet hemming tutorial is great.

Have a nice sunday.

dorothylochmaben said...

Wow ! Thank you very much for doing that tutorial! It is so detailed and has answered all of my questions. The photos are wonderful and so clear along with your explanation.
I have no excuse now, professional hems from now on !
This will be an amazing resource for many weavers around the world.
How lucky am I !!
So taken up with the hemming I almost forgot the towels, they are gorgeous and will make great gifts.
Thanks again Susan

denise/deBRAT said...

I'm sure this is just the tutorial I need, but alas, I cannot read it because it is white lettering on a dark background. you must have very young eyes. mine are 53 :(

DebbieB said...

GREAT tutorial, Susan! I've saved your post for later enjoyment and instruction.

And I'm glad you're feeling a little better - easy does it!

Those towels are just gorgeous!

Anonymous said...

Susan, glad to hear your back is on the mend! Thanks so much for a great tutorial - it has everything in there! A draft, wet finishing, and hemming. I'll certainly be referring to this in the future.

Susan said...


Sorry you are having difficulty. My eyes are actually older than yours by the way at nearly 55 and I wear glasses! The pictures of the sewing are there to help too and they look clear to me :)

I was looking for a private email to write to you and so visited your blog. I found that you have a soft pink background with hummingbirds and a soft dove gray text so it would be similar in value to what I have here.

I like to change out my template from time to time and switch in new fonts, pictures and colours to keep things fresh so perhaps check back again?

If you need the info sooner, email my yahoo acount.

Thanks so much!

Melissa said...

Thank you for the tutorial. What an absolutely beautiful result!

Ellen Turner said...

Great post! I find that I mostly do the same as you, except that we do not do a lot of hemstitching over here. But I agree that when you have spent a lot of time and money and diligence on weaving something, it's worth it to do the finishing right as well!
And thank you for posting the draft. Those towels look so delicious that it is very tempting to just go ahead and do something like it :-)

Peg Cherre said...

ABSOLUTELY STUNNING towels. I like all of the colors for their own beauty. (Also impressed with your ability to get clear close-up shots.)

Thanks for the detail, and the inspiration.

Denise - You can always use your mouse, copy all the text, paste into a new document in your word processor, and then change the font color to black.

Anonymous said...

Susan, You are on the road to a full recovery! Be careful and take things slowly we need you back in fighting form. Love the towels, the bamboo is lovely, is it absorbent I have never used it and have always wondered if would work for towels? Tell Bruce I agree with him the stripe bordered towel is lovely! Hugs! Martha

Peg in South Carolina said...

Susan, I have not been following weaving blogs lately, but was so glad I read this one. What a wonderful post. And how glad I am to see handstitching being used. I've made linen placemats with the same techniques and love them. I am sorry about your back. I know the feeling of recovering and feeling good but knowing you still have to be very careful. So frustrating.

Susan said...

Clare left this message:

Hi, thanks for the photos and description of your hemming, it's really helpful and I love the towels and the ladder detailing, I'll definitely try this on my next tea towels

Clare: I moved it from the Christmas post to this one; I hope you don't mind!

Thank you to everyone for your good wishes on my back issues! Its coming along but oh, so slowly!



That's a fantastic post, I love that you take pics of the process. As a visiual learner that's is really helpful. Thanks for taking the time and effort to post the tutorial, I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your wonderful post, and sharing the detail of the draft, yarn, etc. I am inspired by these lovely towels, and have added them to my list. I was thinking the pattern would make a gorgeous silk scarf or two. This project would be just the excuse I need to buy the extra 4 shafts for the floor loom.

The hemming tutorial is great, and I've bookmarked it for future reference.

Alettesiriane said...

The finnish is so good your work is of a high quality .I am so glad I found your site.Hope your bak is even better now.

Elaine said...

I saw these on weavolution. I love seeing how you did the hem. I'm new to weaving. There are so many different styles and methods. This is one I definately like.

lindaanngonzales said...

Thank you so much for beautiful and complete instructions of finishing ends. I am a "newbie" and reading all I can to learn to weave. I am about to start my very first towel set as soon as I can get the warp yarn untangled. Yes, I am sorry to say that I learned the hard way not to untie the warp chain before sleying. But I have been working at it for three days now, and I think I am making progress. I can't wait to start my first weaving project.

Thank you for sharing, I really do appreciate.


Unknown said...

Thank you your instructions were so clear. I will be making some very soon