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Kitchen Towel Stripes and Denim

Fold-over hem

Every piece has loose ends. The fabric is woven, the threads cut, but all those warp threads have to be fastened off somehow.

The purpose often dictates how a piece is finished. Most of what I weave needs a durable finish. I don’t want my handwovens to fray away in the wash. Towels, placemats, napkins, anything that will be washed frequently calls for a folded hem.

Black and Burgundy Wool Scarf

Twisted Fringe

I can also twist the fringe. Picture handwoven scarves, shawls,and even blankets, and most often they are finished with fringe. Twisting the fringe controls it. Some yarns have so much life, they just want to tango (or is that “tangle”?) as soon as they are cut from the loom. One of my weaving friends adds beads to give her fringes a little glitz.

And then there is hemstitching. Hemstitching is a decorative finish done on the loom. It binds the warps so when you cut the piece off the loom, it is essentially finished with the exception of washing the piece. The ends can be left to form a fringe or worked with twists, loops, or knots.

When I choose to hemstitch a piece, I leave enough warp at the beginning and end for a fringe. Using weft from the shuttle, I stitch up and over, up and over, across the warp. The first part of the stitch catches the warp.

The second part is worked around the tail of the first stitch to tie the bundle.

Each stitch binds two, three, four or more warps in a bundle.

I use a very simple hemstitch, but there are some wonderfully creative techniques to dress up the hem. Virginia M. West details many hemstitching variations as well as fringes, knots, and added bands in her book Finishing Touches for the Handweaver (1988: Loveland, CO Interweave Press). I know it’s an older book, but so worth it if you can find a copy.

What is your favorite way to tie up loose ends?