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Color-and-Weave Towels Weave-Along: Finishing Work

It is such a great feeling unrolling the cloth beam to reveal a set of freshly woven towels! Now it is time to finish them off. I often save my handwork for car trips or when I’m visiting with family and friends. You may be doing a little of both this holiday weekend.

As we enter the finishing stage of the Color-and-Weave Towel Weave-Along we have had a discussion in the Facebook Group about doing your finishing work and then washing, or washing and then doing the finishing work. Conventional sewing wisdom says to wash them hem.

There really isn’t a wrong way to hem. The goal is to secure the ends by encasing the fringe in a fold and then sewing that fold in place to form a hem. This makes the fabric easier to wash and the fringe won’t fray over time.

I almost always handsew my hems. I love the slow steady work of handwork. By sewing your hems by hand, you can lay neat, not too tight, stitches that provide a lovely clean look.

Hand Hemming

Machine sewing is a totally legit way to go, although my skills in that department are not great. My machine sewn hems tend to call attention to themselves. In other people’s hands, they are hardly noticeable. Go with your comfort level and available tools. (Any machine sewers out there feel free to comment with tips!)

The key to either method is tidy stitches—whether by hand or by machine. If your stitches pucker as you work they are going to stay puckered and perhaps get worse in the wash. Don’t fret to much though, a little wonkiness reflects the work of the hand. Whatever works for you is the right thing to do.

The pattern includes instructions for how to pin and hem your fabric by hand. Here are a few thoughts on the wash, then sew vs. sew, than wash chicken and egg thinking.

Wash, Then Machine Sew

I find it easier to machine sew the fabric when it’s washed and the fabric has fulled and shrunk. Pin your fabric with the pins in line with the warp, as opposed to lined up with the weft, so you can easily remove them as you work. Adjust your machine’s tension appropriately for the fabric thickness and style.

The reason for the embroidery stitch called for at the beginning and end of each towel, is to keep the weft secure as you do the finishing work. It will never been seen. I use the embroidery stitch because it is faster than hemstitching.

If you are going to sew by machine you can skip the stitching and use the zig zag stitch to secure the ends before washing. It just depends on where you want to spend your time, stitching on the loom or zigzagging on the machine.

Handsew, Then Wash

I have almost come to the conclusion that doing your handwork first and then washing is a bit easier. I recommend this for all other forms of finishing. With handsewing hems, I don’t think it changes the results, but the open weave makes it easier to read the cloth and lay even stitches. Because I like to experiment, I’m going to wash two of my towels and then sew, and for the other two, I’m going to sew and then wash. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I can’t wait to see all your towels. I know some of you are ready to show them off on your Thanksgiving table. I’m thankful to have all of your good company these past few months, and for the unexpected friendships and opportunities that have come my way because of it. You just never know where the threads will take you.

Happy Hemming!



Liz Gipson Widgets
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