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How To Wet Finish Your Handwovens

How To Wet Finish Your Handwovens

One of the most frequently asked questions we get is: How do I care for the piece I just wove?  The answer varies based on the fiber content, so we will share based on each of our yarn types below. But first a few general tips and observations:

1. All of the yarn in our shop is dyed with high quality dyes that are meant to be as washfast as possible--we have few complaints about dyes bleeding with the first wash. However, sometimes dark colors do still bleed into light colors - dark blues and dark reds are the most likely culprits for this. We recommend doing an initial wash in cold water to avoid bleeding. Using a color catcher (looks like a dryer sheet, found in the laundry aisle of your grocery store) in the washer can also help arrest bleeding issues.

2. Most of the yarn in our shop is dyed with wash-fastness as a priority over light-fastness, as weavers typically make garments of home textiles that need to be able to stand up to repeated washing. This means that if you create a piece of art, you want to avoid hanging it in direct sunlight/using it as a curtain etc., unless some amount of fading is acceptable to you.

3. All fibers will change from their loom state once they have been washed, so what you see on the loom and how it feels off the loom will likely be very different—most often softer and lovelier after washing than before!

Wet Finishing Handwoven Cotton

Our 100% cotton yarn is quite sturdy. This includes Mallo, Beam, 8/2 cotton, 8/4 cotton, and 8/8 cotton

You can machine wash and machine dry with regular laundry soap and it will hold up very well through repeated washings. Because of its thick, slubby nature, Mallo does shrink quite a bit in the first wash. This makes your finished piece even softer and more sumptuous, but make sure to plan for shrinkage when you are designing your piece. Please see our blog post on Sampling for Takeup and Shrinkage.

Wet Finishing Handwoven Cotton Linen Blends

Our cotton/linen blends (including Duet and our Italian Cotton Linen) are also suitable for machine washing. You can wash them with regular laundry soap on delicate in cold water, or by hand. They can also go in the dryer, however the lifetime of a linen piece is preserved longer if it is line dried and then ironed. Which direction you choose is entirely up to you. Personally, I machine dry my pieces because I find it much simpler. Linen often comes out of the dryer a bit wrinkly, but a quick steam iron makes it soft and smooth. Repeated use and washing makes linen softer and softer over time.

Wet Finishing Handwoven 100% Linen

Our 100% linen yarn can be machine or handwashed on a delicate setting, and choose whether you would like to machine dry or line dry. A quick dash under the iron really does bring out the softness and beauty of linen.

Wet Finishing Handwoven Alpaca

Some of the darker colors of our alpaca yarn can occasionally bleed, so I recommend making sure to do your first washing in cool water. Because alpaca is a more delicate, animal fiber, I recommend handwashing in the sink with some gentle soap suitable for wool garments. Let the alpaca piece soak in the soapy water for a while, and gently rinse it until the water runs clear.  Squeeze the excess water out, or roll the item in a very absorbent towel and press to remove the excess moisture—never twist or wring. Lay flat on a towel to dry. You can use a warm iron if you’d like. Our alpaca comes out so delightfully soft and scrumptious after it is wet finished. 

Wet Finishing Handwoven Wool

With wool, you need to be most careful to avoid felting. Felting happens with sudden changes in temperature (ie: plunging into hot water), changes in PH (which can happen with soap), and agitation. For our Suffolk wool, we recommend hand washing gently with a soap that is suitable for wool, gently rinsing, and laying flat to dry. Unless, of course, you’re trying to felt your piece! In that case, hot soapy water and lots of agitation will be the name of the game.

Wet Finishing Handwoven Silk

Our silk noil yarn shouldn't be machine washed. Handwash with a gentle soap, and lay flat to dry. A warm iron once it is dry will bring out the shine.

November 16, 2020 — Sarah Resnick
How To Hemstitch on the loom

How to Hemstitch

How to Hemstitch on the Loom

Of the many ways to finish handwoven textiles, I love the look the look of hemstitching the best of all. Today we’re going to show you how to hemstitch on the loom, a simple and easy process that results in a clean, neatly finished cloth. If you’ve ever felt stressed about your projects unravelling or if you don’t have a sewing machine or serger to finish edges, hemstitching secures your raw edge into tidy little groups while it’s still on the loom. Once you’ve cut your cloth off, it can be left as is, used to twist fringes, or folded under a hem. Best of all, it requires no fancy tools -  all you need to hemstitch is a darning needle (which you should probably have to fix broken warp threads anyway!). Read on for our hemstitching tutorial and learn how to do it on your next project!

Part I - Starting with Hemstitch

1. Weave three picks. The first pick should have a tail coming out of the right hand selvedge that’s approximately 3x longer than the width of your cloth - IE the width at the reed is 10”, your tail should measure 30”. Your hemstitch will be traveling from right to left.
 

2. Thread the tail onto your darning needle and bring it over 4 ends and then down between those ends and the rest of the warp. Pass your needle behind these 4 warp ends and through the loop that’s been created by the start of the tail. Pull tight.
 

Step 1

Step 2

3. Moving to the left, your needle passes behind three weft picks in the space between the first group of stitched warp ends and the rest of your warp. The needle goes from the top to the bottom. 

4. Pass your needle over the front of the next 4 ends and then down between those ends and the rest of the warp. Pass your needle behind these four ends and bring it to the front of your work in the space between this group and the last group. Pull tight. Note that you are not making a loop or a knot - just wrapping this bundle with your tail.

Step 3

Step 4

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 across the length of your warp until you reach the final bundle of four. 

6. You will secure the last group of warp threads by passing your needle through the loop created by the tail. Tuck the remaining tail into your warp with your next pick of weft, and continue weaving!

Step 5

Step 6

Part II - Finishing with Hemstitch

1. When you reach the end of your weaving, you’ll want to finish with your tail at the left selvedge edge - you’ll be travelling from left to right this time! Trim the tail so that you have approximately 3x the width of the cloth. 

2. Thread the tail onto your darning needle and bring it over 4 ends and then down between those ends and the rest of the warp. Pass your needle behind these 4 warp ends and through the loop that’s been created by the start of the tail. Pull tight.

Step 1

Step 2

3. Moving to the right, your needle passes behind three weft picks in the space between the first group of stitched warp ends and the rest of your warp. The needle goes from the bottom to the top. 

4. Pass your needle over the front of the next 4 ends and then down between those ends and the rest of the warp. Pass your needle behind these four ends and bring it to the front of your work in the space between this group and the last group. Pull tight. Note that you are not making a loop or a knot - just wrapping this bundle with your tail.

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Washed and finished!

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 across the length of your warp until you reach the final bundle of four. You will secure the last group of warp threads by passing your needle through the loop created by the tail. To secure your hemstitching, needle weave the tail into your warp - I usually like to go to the selvedge and then return towards the middle of the cloth for a few picks. 

6. Cut your project off - you’re all done!

Tips for Hemstitching

- Before you start hemstitching you’ll want to do a little math and figure out how many ends you have in total and how it might evenly divide into groups. My sample warp has 32 ends, which neatly divided into 4 - so I used that number to write this hemstitching tutorial. Depending on the end use of your cloth and the thickness of your ends, 3-6 threads per group is usually a good place to start. 

- Some warps just don’t want to divide evenly - when this happens, I like to put extra ends in the selvedge groups - it’s usually only one or two extra, and isn’t noticeable in the finished cloth. You could also spread them out evenly over the total width. 

- The number of picks that you pass your needle around can be greater than 3 - it simply creates a longer looking stitch. 

- I used a green thread for this tutorial so that you could see what I was doing, but of course you can do your hemstitching in your main weft colour too. I made a second sample and washed both so that you can see how seamless it looks when it’s done in a matching weft.

About Amanda Rataj

Amanda Rataj is an artist and weaver living and working in Hamilton, Ontario. She studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design University and has developed her contemporary craft practice through research-based projects, artist residencies, professional exhibitions, and lectures. Her textile focus of the material and conceptual nature of vernacular, everyday objects used for the home and body; her work (and weaving patterns) are available at her website, and at Guildworks, or by commission. 

October 13, 2020 — Amanda Rataj