How I finish a hemmed hand woven towel

22 November 2014

I have been teaching  Brocade Classes, supplementary weft, this year.  At first I was making just samples, 2 warps,  then decided they should be pieces , towels for simplicity, to show more about composition for the whole piece.  This is the third warp with samples woven as towels.  All this work has been done on rigid heddle looms, as they are easy to cart around and we are working on plain weave ground.

Four towels with brocade being removed from a warp with a piece still in process and warp for 3-2 more towels.

Four towels with brocade being removed from a warp with a piece still in process and warp for 3-2 more towels.

The towels are from front to back:

  • pink zigzag
  • pumpkins and turkeys
  • Russian red
  • fishes in the sea

The fish design I adapted a while ago from some Andean textiles, I can’t remember what I was looking at when I made the graph. [Edit: The source of the fish design is a Feb.1945 HANDWEAVING NEWS, “Peruvian Brocades from my Own Collection” by Nellie S. Johnson that you can find here.]    It is a small design appropriate for the coarse sett of this cloth and simple enough for my students. It is discontinuous brocading wefts , overlay/underlay done on a closed shed. (This terminology is from Harriet Tidball in her monograph, Brocade.)

I am going to hem the one with the fish in the sea. Here are the fish on the loom:

On the loom. discontinuous overlay/underlay brocade.

On the loom. discontinuous overlay/underlay brocade.

Besides the colorful brocade I added bands of leno in alternating blocks to make wavy lines  for the sea.

This warp is natural 8/2 cotton.  The rigid heddle (RH) is a 10 dent and the warp is double.  There are thicker stripes every inch made of 4 strands of the same cotton.  The warp is 16 wide and 250″ long. The weft is the same 8/2 cotton doubled.  The brocade is 6 strand DMC embroidery floss double for a total of 12 strands.

The  first warp towels were hemstitched and left with a short fringe of warp.  The fringe drives me crazy, I am forever trying to straighten it out.  So the towels on the last  two warps have had hems.  I wove the hem part with a thinner weft, one strand of 8/2 cotton instead of two, to reduce the bulk of the hem which will be 3 layers at some point.

No hem stitching, just a couple of rows of waste yarn, red here, to mark where one towel ends and the next begins.


Brocade.hem separatorYou can also see where the body of the towels begins, it is woven with a double stranded weft. I remove the waste yarn and use the gap to guide my serger.

Brocade. space between pieces

scrap yarn removed, gap to guide serger

 

 

The ends of the warp must be stabilized in some manner; I either sew on 1/4″ seam tape or serge the edges. Since I had the right color thread on the serger that is what I’m using today.  The serger cuts and overcasts the edge in one pass.  I have two spools of ecru wooly nylon in the loopers and cotton thread in the needles.

serged edge

serged edge

So here is the back of the whole piece now cut and serged.

The towel has been cut and serged and is ready for mending.  The ends of the brocading wefts have not been trimmed yet either.

The towel has been cut and serged and is ready for mending. The ends of the brocading wefts have not been trimmed yet either.

Next is mending any weaving errors and dealing with the ends of the brocading weft. The brocading wefts are NOT structural, i.e., not essential for the integrity of the cloth.  The are sometimes just trimmed but since the back of a towel is somewhat visible I thread them into a needle and hide the ends then trim.  There are two ends for each color, so twelve ends here.  A needle threader is very helpful here, I wouldn’t mend without one.  It is still a one-sided design but tidier.

Once it is mended I proceed to the hems.  Sometimes the serger stretches the cloth out.  My esthetics say that the hem should be the same width as the rest on the cloth.  Or  sometimes the sewing machine puckers the edge and it is shorter. Anyhow  by turning the serged edge under and basting by hand I can adjust the edge to width of the cloth. Just watch that the warps line up, in this case that is easy just match the heavier stripes.

the serged edge is turned up and basted in place

Steam press.  Then the hem is turned up to where the double weft begins and pin basted in place.  Steam press again making sure it is the proper width.  Then I stitch in place with cotton ecru sewing thread. I make the needle take small bites of the main body of cloth but big bites into the hem.  I don’t want those ends of warp threads to pull out so getting more than one thread in the stitch  is important.  I pull the thread snug but not tight enough to make dimples on the right side.

Brocade.fish hemming

 

The towel in now ready for wet finishing.

Fish in the Sea towel mended, hemmed ready for wet finishing.

Fish in the Sea towel mended, hemmed ready for wet finishing.

Then into the washing machine on a regular cycle. The wefts in the wavy bands may move more or not.  Into the dryer and out while still damp for a final inspection and press.

The backside of the brocade is fine after going through both the washing machine, regular cycle and the dyer.  The ground cloth is tighter holding on to the brocade weft.

 

The finished towel, back side of brocaded fish

The finished towel, back side of brocaded fish

The finished towel is much softer, tighter in the weave structure.  The shortening of the warps brings the brocading wefts closer together and the fish look more solid than before.  The embroidery floss is designed to  spread and cover the ground  and it does.  The leno bands seem to be about the same wavyness as before washing.

The  Fish in the Sea brocaded cotton towel is ready for duty, drying glassware.

Finished towel ready for drying glassware.

Finished towel ready for drying glassware.

 

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One Response to “How I finish a hemmed hand woven towel”

  1. nisaanne Says:

    What beautiful work!

    Like


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