Friday, December 14, 2007

Hemstitching

Time to hemstitch, which translates to being almost finished with one pillowcase. Here's one of my favorite weaving books: Finishing Touches for the Handweaver by Virginia West, posing on the loom. Step one of hemstitching: bring a darning needle threaded with a length of matching weft yarn (3 times the width of the warp, or length-wise threads) under a bundle of warp threads. In this case, six threads per bundle, which will give me an even 70 bundles across the warp.
Step 2: bring the needle up between the complete bundle and the next warp thread.
Step 3: dive down between the first thread and the previous bundle, then bring the needle out a few rows beneath the edge of the fabric. Basically, you've created a tie around the six threads, then come out a few rows below in order to secure the tie. And it creates a lovely effect of narrowing the warp, then inserting a diagonal line onto the body of the fabric.
Step 4: tighten the tension on the tie, so that you emphasize the contrast between the area that is hemstitched and the looser threads above and below the stitching.
Finished. What you can see the main body of the pillowcase, which is woven in a pattern called Six-Fold Basketweave (from Davison's Handweaver's Pattern Book, which is the Barbara Walker Treasury for weavers); the plain-woven fabric at the border of the case, interrupted by hemstitching. Weaving is more dramatic in the difference between the fabric on the loom and the dressed, or in knitting terms, blocked, fabric, so this may not look like much.Once washed and dried, everything will tighten up and become more textured and shadowed by slight differences in the way that the light hits the fabric. At this point, I'm missing the color that I seek in my knitting. But the end result will be satisfying: there's something simple and reassuring about a handwoven, cotton pillowcase.

I'm already thinking that I could weave a Mitered Square Blanket from Mason-Dixon Knitting much faster than I could knit the gazillion squares needed. And the seaming, while still daunting, will be a bit more manageable. My loom is wide enough to do a 35" width, so I'd need to do three or four long strips to make a full-size blanket, then seam the strips together and add a border. And I could order the equivalent of Tahki Cotton Classic from a weaving website, such as Cotton Clouds or Halcyon Yarns. I haven't checked prices yet, but it might even save me some money to go with yarn in bulk instead of in skeins. I'm sitting on my hands until I finish this warp. My standard weaving speed is four napkins per year, so I am trying not to get too far ahead of myself here.


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