Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hemming and Hawing

In April, I attended a color workshop taught by Ruby Leslie.

In June, I wove the leftover warp and decided to make it into napkins.

In July, I finally hemmed them!!!

Time for me to go on at great length about hemming. I've had trouble perfecting my technique. Feel free to just look at pictures or skip this post all together! I'm just trying to record the things I've tried as I converge on my favorite hemming techniques.


I've had trouble perfecting my hemming technique.

My machine hems are somewhat crooked and wiggly, but they hold up great to everyday use and laundering.

My hand hems look beautiful, but are time-consuming. Plus, one of the huck towels that I hand-hemmed this winter, had problems with a bit of the hem coming loose within a few uses.

I want to move back toward machine hemming, but I want the hems to look good.

Cutting the ends of my cloth with a rotary cutter to square it up is easier and more accurate than using scissors.

Ways to secure the ends of the cloth:
  • straight stitch
  • zigzag stitch
  • multi-stitch zigzag
  • serging
For this project, I used the multi-stitch zigzag feature of my sewing machine. If my machine has it, yours probably does too!

I switched over to the multi-stitch zigzag disk. I've never used any of these mysterious disks before.

It didn't distort my fabric the way a normal zigzag stitch often does. I think it secures the threads in the fabric better than straight stitching because with a straight stitch not as many of the weft stitches are involved.

Regular zigzag on the left is puckering up a little. Multi-stitch zigzag on the right isn't as puckered. A few other tests are on this same scrap.

Here's my first multi-stitch zigzag on a scrap of the napkin fabric. Good thing it was a practice piece....I was all over the place!

I haven't tried serging yet because of the mixed reviews that weavers I know give their serged edges. Plus, I don't have a serger and don't really want to have to deal with another machine. I know some people swear by it though!

Ways to hold hems in place for sewing:
  • pins
  • Steam a Seam

I am a convert to Steam a Seam for holding fiddly pieces together. I've got the napkin hems secured and folded over ready to sew the hem.

Ways to sew hem:
  • straight stitch by machine
  • stitch by hand
  • straight stitch by machine with walking foot

When I straight stitch by machine, my hems don't come out as even and beautiful as I wish they would. Several people recommended that I try a walking foot for my machine. I bought a general purpose walking foot at Joann Fabrics so I could give it a try.

The walking foot replaces the regular foot on your sewing machine, and has a prong that fits around the screw that holds the needle in place. That prong makes the walking foot advance the top of the fabric, just like the mechanism of your sewing machine advances the bottom of the fabric.

While my hems aren't perfect with the walking foot, they are better. It's easier to get the cloth to behave when the top advances along with the bottom.

The jury is still out as far as I'm concerned with the best way for me to secure the rough ends of my cloth. But the combination of Steam a Seam and the walking foot seem like they'll be great for many sewing jobs, especially with handwoven fabric.

In Summary:

My preferred method for hemming something that will be used heavily and machine washed and dried is to:
  1. Multi-stitch zigzag to secure the fabric
  2. Hold hem in position with Steam-a-Seam
  3. Hem using a walking foot
Told you I was going to go on at length!!


Susan B. said...

This was actually very helpful to me and I am going to look into a walking foot for my machine. I have been ok with my hems but there's always room for improvement - thanks!

Theresa said...

Oh thank you! I have a walking foot and never even thought to use it for my woven goods! I've never tried Steam a seam either but I did get to use a serger at my parents during the visit. I liked the trimming part as I was sergering. I used it on the towels I made there and have been keeping my eyes open for a good deal on one.

Delighted Hands said...

Thanks for the info-I need to make some towels so I can put your tutorial to use!

Life Looms Large said...

Susan, Thanks for stopping by and commenting!! Always good to know when my ramblings are helpful to some one!!

Another west-coast serger fan in the making....I know it's not regional really, but I seem to weave with a group of anti-sergers!!

Good luck with your towels, Delighted Hands!!


Jennifer said...

Have you considered publishing? You work very hard in your desciptions - people would likely pay for them. If weaving is not the subject, a travelogue could be...

charlotte said...

Thank you for a very interesting post! I have never used the multi-stitch zigzag, but I sure will try it next time I have to secure the end of a cloth, the same goes for the steam-a seam.
I had practically given up on machine hemming, because also my hems got bulky and often uneven. I discovered though in the last months that my hemming by hand is now considerably faster than a year ago, and it is not so time consuming anymore.

Life Looms Large said...

Jennifer - Thanks for the huge compliment!! When I was in second grade I wanted to be a poet. When I was in high school I wanted to be a doctor and a novelist - also sometimes a teacher. Maybe that's why I like being a blogger now!!!

I'm really glad to see that other people have hemming difficulties too. (Not glad you have difficulties of course, but glad that I'm not the only one.) I'm still trying to come up with my magic combo. My hand-hemming looks so much better than machine....and I hand-hemming isn't really any slower than knitting. (At least that's what I tell myself!) But for things that need machine hems, I think this method will be OK. (I will still try a serger sometime this year just to see!!)

Thanks for visiting and commenting!


Theresa said...

What Jennifer said, I second it!

bspinner said...

Thanks for this interesting tutorial. I've never heard of Steam A Seam but will look for it and give it a try next time I have towels to hem. Also try to get my hands on a walking foot for my sewing machine. I usually hand hem and it takes forever and I hate hand sewing.

Life Looms Large said...

Theresa, Thanks for the compliment! Made my day!

B, It really does help to know that many other talented weavers aren't totally happy with their hems either!! Hand hemming does take forever....and it's just not as fun as knitting!


weaver said...

I have a serger, but I don't like the bulk that overcasting adds to the hem. Other than that, it works fine as long as you can catch at least three picks of weft into the overlock.

What I do most times is just one row of straight sewing, sewn very carefully between a pair of warp threads, before wet finishing. Then I trim a couple of threads past the sewn line and ravel out the extra threads.

I've never been satisfied with the way my machine hems look, so I carefully blind hem by hand. I like to use cotton quilting thread with cotton or linen, and silk with wool or silk, because these are sturdy threads and they glide through the fabric easily.

I have been fortunate that my hems stay in. I take a backstitch or two every inch (as insurance) and make sure that all the threads are completely hidden in the seam.

I'm tempted to give machining another try, since you have given so many good tips to explore.

Sharon said...

Wow - stuff I struggle with as well. I'm not sure about the walking foot but will keep that in mind. I'm months away from more towels - I hope I can remember this information!