Tools Day: Narrow Hems

Hems shouldn’t be noticed. At least, not at first glance. I don’t want the stitching of the hem to detract from the overall handwoven quality. Decorative items, like this table runner, deserve a hand-stitched hem. But for functional pieces, like these tea towels, I stitch the hems on my trusty old Bernina sewing machine. This ensures the durability I want for something that will be thrown in the washer and dryer again and again.

Long M's and O's table runner is hemmed by hand.

Long M’s and O’s table runner is hemmed by hand using an invisible hem stitch.

Last year I purchased a Bernina walking foot through my local Bernina repairman. It was one of the best sewing investments I have made. (Don’t be fooled by off-brand “Bernina compatible” products.) The advantage of a walking foot is that it evenly feeds layers of fabric, which is especially useful for sewing handwoven fabric. And for the towel hem, it means the top of the hem won’t become skewed and slanted as you sew, like it might with a regular sewing machine foot.

Bernina Walking Foot - good investment!

Bernina Three Sole Walking Foot with Seam Guide. The walking foot stays on my Bernina sewing machine almost all the time.

One of the three sole plates that comes with the Bernina walking foot is a sole for edge stitching. This works beautifully for stitching a narrow hem on lighter-weight fabric, like these airy cotton and linen towels.

My process for a machine-stitched narrow hem

  • Turn and press the 1/4″ hem twice. Hold the folded edge in place with small fabric clips.
Sewing narrow hems on handwoven towels.

Small fabric clips hold the folded and pressed towel hem in place, in preparation for stitching the hem.

  • At the sewing machine, attach the edge-stitching sole plate to the walking foot. Align the fold of the hem with the edge-stitching guide.
Bernina walking foot with stitch guide.

Sole with stitch guide. The metal plate that extends below the foot is a steady guide that works for sewing a narrow hem, as well as for top-stitching, or “stitch-in-the-ditch” techniques.

  • Adjust the sewing machine needle to the right, so that it catches the fabric just inside the edge of the fold.
Sewing hems on handwoven towels.

Sewing the narrow hem. Needle is positioned so that it is to the right of the hem fold.

Slowly sew a narrow hem, keeping the folded edge next to the walking foot’s edge-stitching guide. Remove fabric clips before they come to the needle.

Hemming handwoven towels.

Front and back of the hem have consistent, straight stitching. The narrow hem (not yet pressed) will be barely visible.

May your hems be a suitable frame for your handiwork.

Finishing,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Cate says:

    I’m going to have to visit a Bernina dealer soon and get one of these for my machine. I really love that little stitch guide! Brilliant!

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Really pretty project! I inherited a Bernina last Summer but I have yet to play. My Elna sits in a cabinet making the sewing surface larger and at a much better level. I need a cabinet (and more floor space) for the Bernina. Sewing with my arms raised above cabinet height causes me too much shoulder/neck pain. Any suggestions would be welcome, Karen. The walking foot lives on the Elna most of the time.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, It’s not worth it to get shoulder/neck pain! I have never had a sewing machine cabinet, but my Bernina sits on a small lower-height table that Steve made for me eons ago. Table and chair height make a huge difference. Maybe you can find a lower table or an adjustable chair that you can raise to sit a little higher. I use an adjustable swivel desk chair at mine.

      I’ve always heard that an Elna is a great machine. So maybe just stick with that. 🙂 (but I do love my trusty old Bernina…ha)

      Happy pain-free sewing,
      Karen

  • D'Anne Craft says:

    The M’s and O’s fabric turned out beautifully, just like all your weaving. I’m a Bernina gal, too.

    • Karen says:

      Hi D’Anne, I’m very happy with the way the M’s and O’s turned out! I got started with Bernina many years ago. It’s the only sewing machine I’ve owned. I don’t think it will ever wear out.

      Karen

  • Mary says:

    I too recently invested in a walking foot and what a difference it makes in my hems.j I no longer dread this part of finishing. Do you like those hem clips better than straight pinning.? Where do you find the clips?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mary, I do prefer the fabric clips over pins for simple stitching like this. It’s quick and easy, and there is no distortion of the fabric. Also, there is no threat of snagging the fabric with a rough pin. Of course, I do use straight pins for sewing that requires more detail.

      I got my clips at Hobby Lobby, but I think you can find them at most places that have quilting supplies.

      Karen

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Quiet Friday: Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug

My introduction to rosepath rag rugs was on a room-size loom in Joanne Hall’s magical Montana studio. I was so happy at that moment that I actually cried. It’s no surprise, then, that I relish every opportunity to weave a rosepath rag rug. And even better, to share the joy with other handweavers who may not have tried it yet. Look what came in the mail this week! The March/April 2017 issue of Handwoven, with a project by yours truly–Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug!

Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug, as seen in March/April 2017 Handwoven.

Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug, as seen in March/April 2017 Handwoven.

Not everyone loves weaving rag rugs. That’s fine. But if you’re a weaver, there is probably something that draws your interest and brings delight. A certain weave structure, silky fibers, fine threads, complex patterns, bold colors. Something. And if you’re not a weaver, there is something else that triggers your pursued interest. Find that spark that ignites joy in you!

Beginning a rag rug.

Besides using a pre-measured tape, taking a picture at the beginning of the rug, with the yellow tape measure in view, makes it easy to replicate the hem at the end of the rug.

Temple in place, weaving Swedish rosepath rag rug.

Temple is in place, keeping the rugs a consistent width. Metal rug temples are good, but I still prefer a regular wooden GlimĂĄkra temple for weaving rag rugs.

Weaving rosepath rag rugs. Fun!

Many rosepath variations are possible. The rug on the cloth beam uses a similar design, with different colors.

Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug. Karen Isenhower

Making paths of roses. Rosepath.

Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug.

Progress!

Seeing the reverse side of the rosepath rag rug on the loom.

Reverse side of the rug has a subtly different pattern.

Swedish rosepath rag rug on the loom. Rug in March/April 2017 Handwoven.

Cloth beam fills up with rag rugs. Pleasant sight for a rag rug weaver!

Ending the rosepath rag rug on the loom.

Ending the rug on the loom. Following the markings removes guesswork.

Keep a song in your heart. Sing. Sing for joy. Sing praise to the Grand Weaver who put the seed of searching in you. A seed that bursts open with joy when ignited with a spark, and flourishes into something distinguishable. Trust the Lord with all your heart. Your heart will find its melody.

Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug as seen in March/April 2017 Handwoven.

Published in March/April 2017 Handwoven.

May your heart sing a joyful tune.

ATTENTION: The draft for the  Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug from Handwoven is written for a sinking shed loom. Therefore, for a jack loom, you must tie up the “white” empty squares instead of the numbered squares for the pattern to show right side up as you weave.

If you are interested in weaving rag rugs, take a look at Rag Rug Tips, a new tab at the top of the page.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

20 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Congratulations, Karen, on another beautiful article!

  • Maggie Ackerman says:

    I’ve just done my first rose path rug and I loved doing it. Used tee shirt yarn from my stash. Yours is gorgeous and I can’t wait to try it. You also have some great suggestions — I love the photo idea for the hem. Much better than my notes.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Maggie, Rosepath is so much fun. I’m glad to hear you have enjoyed it, too. Yes, the photo has saved me many times. My memory and my notes are not that great.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Fran says:

    I downloaded Handwoven yesterday, and was pleasantly surprised to see your rug! Congratulations !

  • Janet says:

    Congrats Karen!! I have always loved your rugs and will be trying this out shortly:)
    Janet

  • Sandy says:

    I’ve recently returned home from a trip, then going through several days of mail found my Mar/April issue of Handwoven. I was so excited to see your Rosepath Rug article, and was happily anticipating this blog post. Congratulations! Once again thank you for your weaving & life encouragements. 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sandy, Sounds like you have me figured out. 🙂 Isn’t it exciting to get a weaving magazine in a pile of mail? Everything else has to stand still while I flip through the pages. And then, later, I sit down with it and read every page.

      Thank you for your wonderful encouragement to me. It means so much!
      Karen

  • Mary Scott says:

    Don’t you just love her!! Beautiful job on your rug!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Mary

  • Carol says:

    BEAUTIFUL !!
    Congrats. Need to run out and get a copy of Handwoven.

    Carol

  • Sandy says:

    My issue of Handwoven arrived yesterday and I was thrilled to see your article! Beautiful rug and I’m so looking forward to trying this. And checking out your tab of tips – I’ve never woven a rag rug before (I’m a fairly new weaver), though I’ve dreamed about it. I can use all the help I can get!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sandy, You’re in for a treat. Weaving a rag rug is different than other types of weaving. You get to use some muscle! 🙂 Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can help you in any way.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nanette says:

    Congratulations on the article! Also, the photo reminded me I didn’t thank you after I tried your ribbon-measuring system. It works great and I really appreciated your detailed instructions. Nanette

    • Karen says:

      Nanette, I’m happy the measuring ribbon works for you! One of the places I learned about using a ribbon for measuring was at Vavstuga. So many little things can make a big difference.

      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

  • Bonnie Wilker says:

    Karen, it was wonderful to see your work recognized in Handwoven! What a well deserved honor! Your work is beautifully striking and so is your testimony to our Lord. May He who is the master weaver continue to bless your endeavors as you continue to serve Him.
    Bonnie Wilker

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Quiet Friday: Plattväv Towels and Thanksgiving Prayer

Start to finish, the plattväv towels have been a handweaver’s joy. Narrow stripes on the warp beam are strangely invigorating. Does it take extra effort to wind a warp with many stripes? Yes–cut off one color and tie on a new color, over and over. But when the loom is dressed and ready to go, the weaving is a breeze. Being cottolin, the warp is fully compliant; and with a little care, the linen weft becomes a weaver’s friend. Plattväv, the icing on the cake, gives me a simple pattern weft that dresses up these plain weave towels. (And, yes, I am in the process of developing a kit for these plattväv towels.)

Planning handwoven towels.

Cottolin warp with counting cord.

Striped warp for plattväv towels.

Threading the loom for plattväv towels.

Tying up treadles the easy way.

Weft auditions for plattväv towels.

Plattväv towels on the loom, with linen weft.

Plattväv towels on the loom. Karen Isenhower

Blue linen pattern weft.

Beautiful blue linen pattern weft.

Plattväv towels coming off the loom!

Off the loom and ready for trimming threads.

Band loom weaving.

Plattväv towels ready to roll!

Plattväv towels. Karen Isenhower

The joy of weaving is a blessing, as is the joy of friendships across the miles. Thank you for walking this journey with me.

Thanksgiving prayer: Thank you, Lord, for everything.

May you overflow with blessings and reasons for giving thanks.

Thankful for you,
Karen

10 Comments

  • Liberty Stickney says:

    Hi Karen,
    These towels are just beautiful. Thank you for all the work you do to help us with our weaving. Happy Thanksgiving my friend!

  • Martha says:

    Love the photo of the towels rolled up- very interesting to view. Beautiful work as always.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Martha, The linen is predominant in these towels, and linen begs to be rolled. I had fun playing around with them to take pictures.
      Thanks for your kind words!

      Happy Thanksgiving,
      Karen

  • Anne says:

    I will definitely be interested win the kit! Beautiful!

  • Theresa says:

    The towels are lovely. I too will be watching out for kit information.
    I’m wondering if hemp would be worth a whirl in place of linen?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Theresa, I’m excited about putting the kit together. It’s good to know you are keeping an eye on it.
      I have never woven with hemp. From what I’ve heard, it weaves much like linen. So I’m certain it would work for this.
      I love the Bockens and the Borgs Swedish linen, so I haven’t branched out much in that regard.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

    • Karen says:

      Hi Christine, Thank you so much!

      If you’re interested, there are a couple of these towels in my Etsy shop, as well as “Workshop in a Box” kits, where you can weave these towels for yourself.

      All the best,
      Karen

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Almost Forgot the Hanging Tabs…Again

I was ready to hem the plattväv towels. But then, I thought of one more thing–I need a woven band for the hanging tabs! Since the towels have black borders, I decided to weave a simple band in black cottolin, with a single white dotted line down the center. I measured the little warp, put it on the band loom, and quickly wove it up.

Black woven band with dotted white line. Glimakra band loom.

Single white thread produces dotted white line in the woven band.

I love the classy black band with the white dotted line. However, I don’t love it with these towels… Too wide, and too… black. It’s going into my band stash box. Someday, when I least expect it, I’ll find this band in the box; and it will be exactly what I need at the time. So, I started over at the band loom this morning, and wove a new band.

White dotted line on handwoven band. GlimĂĄkra band loom.

Second chances are possible with a GlimĂĄkra two-treadle band loom. It doesn’t take long to weave a second band if the first one doesn’t work out.

Woven band, ready to be cut into hanging tabs for towels.

Ready to be cut into hanging tabs for the plattväv towels.

Ready to hem towels, with hanging tabs included. Karen Isenhower

Hem, turned twice to the back of the towel, is pressed and ready to be stitched. The ends of a coordinating hanging tab will be stitched in the seam. The black woven band is stashed away for future use. The narrower gray band fits the style of the towels.

Joy is ignited by giving thanks. Gratitude changes your outlook. Instead of seeing the black band as a setback, it’s a gift for the future. The gray band is a reminder to be thankful for second chances. To whom will we give our thanks? To our looms? No. To each other? Yes. And to our Maker who gave himself for us? A resounding, joyful yes.

May you continuously be thankful.

Thankful for you,
Karen

9 Comments

  • ellen santana says:

    beautiful towels. i recently read an article about antique handwovens that she found that towels that had a hanging tab on them were quite worn on the opposite end of the tab. maybe if you put tabs on both sides they would get won equally. es

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ellen, I never would have thought of that! That’s very interesting and good to know. I’ve seen some towels with the tab on the side – maybe that would help with the wear, too.

      I will have to give this some more thought…

      Karen

  • Ruth says:

    Thank you for your beautiful post. Quick question: do you finish your hems by hand or machine? Happy weaving, Ruth

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ruth, I like to hem my towels with the sewing machine. To me, that seems the most reliable way for the hems to stay in place through years and years of washings. I did hem the table square (not shown) by hand. I don’t expect it to go through many washings, and I wanted the hem stitches to be invisible.

      I love the look of hand-hemmed towels, and the craftsmanship it shows. And I have friends who always hand hem their handwoven towels. I admire them for it.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Nanette Mosher says:

    Could you post a photo of your whole band loom, with heddles and maybe a warp with something to show its relative size? I have a couple of looms for bands, one very antique and the other an inkle, but neither seems as quick and easy as yours seems to be. I’m really impressed that you didn’t just “make do” with the black; certainly the grey is an improvement and perfect. Will be interested in your answers to the other questions also. N.

  • Sherri says:

    Curious about the bobbin/shuttle you’re using with the band loom. Where do you get them?

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Three Rosepath Rag Rugs For Now

There are three completed rosepath rag rugs on the loom, with warp remaining for at least one more rug. Since I don’t know how soon I will be able to weave the remainder, cutting off the completed rugs makes sense. After hemming, I will have three new rugs for Etsy. (Don’t miss the new Quick Tip video at the end of this post!)

Cutting off rosepath rag rugs, with some warp remaining to be woven.

As the warp ends are cut, they are tied into one-inch groupings to simplify tying back on to the tie-on bar.

Unrolling some new rosepath rag rugs!

Warping slats are used as spacers between rugs. Some of my slats are barely wide enough for this warp.

I look forward to full weaving days again, with both looms dressed, and shuttles zooming. That rag rug warp still on the loom will be a reward worth waiting for.

Rosepath rag rug ready to be hemmed. Karen Isenhower

One rug has warp end knots, and is ready for pressing and hemming.

Two rosepath rag rugs just off the loom. Karen Isenhower

Rosepath in two variations.

Rosepath rag rug ready to be hemmed. Karen Isenhower

Broad rosepath pattern lends elegance to this rag rug.

Last week, when I awoke from surgery, the relentless pain I had been experiencing in my left leg and lower back was gone. Completely gone! It made me think of heaven. Ancient writings tell us that the lame will leap like a deer, and that sorrow and sighing will flee away. There’s no place for pain in heaven. All the people there have been healed and restored. That’s a reward worth waiting for. And I won’t be surprised if there are at least a few in heaven who are weaving away to their heart’s content.

May you know what to do while waiting.

Wishing you well,
Karen

10 Comments

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