August 20, 2020

Intro to weaving: Finishing your fabric

This is the final installment in our three part series about getting into weaving. In this little guide we will show you how to remove your handwoven piece of fabric from the loom, how to secure the edges and how to prepare it for sewing. If you want to go back to the beginning, find our tutorial for making a simple frame loom and our guide to the basic weaving techniques.

Cleaning all the loose bits of yarn

Once you have finished weaving your piece, it is time to get it off the frame. Usually weaving gets difficult, once you are about 5 cm away from the top of your frame. The warp gets really tight and it is hard to pull the yarn through. At this point, simply finish your weave with a nice neat edge, just like at the start, with some thin yarn. I like to do about 10 rows.

Turn your frame around and knot any loose strings and pieces of yarn together and trim the excess. You may have these little ends, if you for example ran out of yarn in the middle of a row. You might also have yarn ends at the sides. In this case, we will leave the sides unfinished, as we will secure them later by sewing over them. If you are planning to use your weave as a wall hanging, simply tuck those ends in neatly into the back. You can use the same tapestry needle you used for weaving to do this.

Finishing the top edge

The finishing method for the top and bottom edges can be again done in different ways. If you want to use your weaving as a wall hanging, start by cutting the warp strings one by one. Always knot the two pieces next to each other together, then cut the next pair. This way you can make sure that no string gets overlooked and that the tension is kept even. If you are planning to sew your fabric into any kind of shape, you can simply cut all the way and leave the warp at the top edge unfinished for now.

Finishing the bottom edge

Once the top has been cut, you should be able to simply take the whole piece off the loom. You may have to cut the warp string at the start and the end, if those points are on the bottom side. Next you can remove your cardboard spacer. Again, if you are planning to sew, leave the edge as is for now.

If you want to finish your piece neatly, for example to use as a decorative rug, table runner or wall hanging, knot always two of the loops next to each other together, just like on the top edge. You can use your tapestry needle to tuck the excess warp strings into the back of your weaving.

Preparing the fabric for sewing

Whenever I want to use my handwoven fabric to make home textiles, like pillow cases or baskets, I go for the quick finishing option. When taking the piece off the loom, I simply leave all edges unfinished. This is not only faster but it reduces a lot of bulk in any future seams.

To secure all the edges of the fabric, I simply go around the whole piece with a zig-zag stitch. On the bottom and top I go along the base rows and use a stitch as wide as those are. On the sides, I go over where the outermost warp string is, so that it is exactly in the middle of the zig-zag (you can see this on the next image). If your fabric is getting stuck in the machine, try to lower the foot pressure. Be careful with all the warp strings, as they tangle easily. It's best to go slow and keep pushing all the excess yarn out of the way.

Finally you can safely trim all the excess yarn on all four sides. Now the piece is ready to be sewn into any shape. Because we didn't knot the top and bottom or tucked in the sides, the piece is quite flat and equally thick and much nicer to work with on the sewing machine.

What can you make?

Of course there are endless possibilites for things you can make with your handwoven fabric. A wall hanging or rug is the easiest one, as you don't need any additional tools to make it. Here you should use the more neat way of finishing the edges by knotting and tucking them into the back. You can also leave the ends of the warp untucked, as they make the nice tassels you can typically find on many handmade rugs.

If you however, have access to a sewing machine, you can make all kinds of items for your home or yourself. Our favorites are baskets and pillow cases, but you could also make yourself a tote bag or zipper pouch or even a sleeve for your laptop.

We made a little plant basket with the example piece from these weaving tutorials. Whatever project you make, you should always use some form of lining as a protective layer, just to make sure that none of the yarn of your handwoven piece gets pulled through. Other than that, most generic sewing tutorials can be used with your finished handmade fabric, as long as they are made for generally woven or non-stretchy materials. Happy sewing!

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