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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