Sewing with handwoven cloth

(Note: updated to add point 9 on 5th June 2020)

I really do not expect to be able to teach anything to anyone on this matter – I am an absolute beginner myself! However precisely for that reason I still have those absolute beginner questions very fresh in my mind, so I thought I’d gather here the tips/answers to my own questions (some I know now were pretty out there!) in case it is of use to someone else.

  1. Overall preparation, 1: wash and press your yardage before you do anything else. Same goes for any lining you will use.
  2. Overall preparation, 2: Make a toile/mock up of your pattern. This could also become your lining. Following Sarah Howard‘s advice, I use cotton lawn and cotton (craft) popelin.
  3. Preparing to cut 1: use iron on woven interfacing for your edges (before cutting in my case). You want it woven as it will “flow” with the fabric more than an unwoven one. However do not be tempted to attach it to the whole yardage, it does make it stiffer. You will press this, not iron it. That is, you won’t move the iron, just keep it on the interfacing so that the glue will melt and stick to your yardage. The coarse surface will face the cloth, the smooth surface will face the iron (otherwise you’ll glue the interfacing to the iron!). The strip of cloth along the cut line means that, if it overhangs the cut line, you can actually draw the pattern on it.
  4. Preparing to cut 2: another tip I’ve found: zig-zag on either side of the cut line before cutting. Reporting this, though I haven’t tried.
  5. Cutting, 1: use a dedicated pair of shears for cloth – do not use it to cut the paper pattern, this will dull the blade.
  6. Cutting, 2: cut the cloth in single layer.
  7. Tracing patterns: so far I haven’t managed to draw anything at all on my handwoven cloth, no matter what I try, no sign will stick. So I pin the paper model, that I have pre-cut on tracing paper, onto the yardage, then cut. Iron on woven interfacing does help though. It does help if you have weigths to keep the paper pattern onto the fabric.undefined
  8. Preparing to sew: serge all seams before sewing (no serger needed – just use a stitch of your sewing machine that will go “around” the edges. If your machine does not have it, just use zig-zag stitch). undefined
  9. Sewing, 1: If your sewing machine does not have it, invest in a walking pressser foot. This will make the top layer of your cloth “walk” at the same speed as the bottom layer.
  10. Sewing, 2: If your cloth allows ripping, worth (machine) basting with the longest stitch your machine has to check it all fits well. The toile will not hang the same as the handwoven cloth.
  11. Sewing, 3: use normal thread in your sewing machine – and no, you don’t need to use the same yarn you used to weave your yardage.
  12. Sewing, 4: use 80/90 sewing machine needle.
  13. Sewing, 5: set stitch length to between 2 and 3mm (the cloth is thicker than commercial yardage, so it will show)
  14. Sewing, 6: use silk thread if you can, rather than cotton thread, as it has more give.
  15. Pressing seams: if you have it, use a Tailor’s ham. The reason you want to do this is that the fabric is thick, and if you press a seam flat, you risk getting an indentation showing on the right side of the fabric. By pressing the seam on the Taylor’s ham, the fabric will fall away from the seam, and minimises this risk. If you don’t have one, you can use a rolling pin, and two towels (one around the rolling pin, one between the iron and the cloth. Also, do make this second towel damp, expecially with wool. Indeed, never press wool dry.undefined
  16. Where to find patterns? Sarah Howard and Daryl Lancaster both sell patterns. I haven’t tried the latter, as I don’t have a printer and these are downloadable patterns. Sarah’s come with the full paper pattern. These are specifically designed for narrow looms, and make efficient use of the fabric, with very little waste. I’ve bought a few of them, you’ll see two projects on these pages soon!

Finally, some links to sources I found useful:

Sewing handwoven advice from, which I found super-helpful;

Sarah Howard’s “Cutting without fears” booklet, which my eyes wished was available as electronic download for enlarging!

Finishing wearables, by the New Hampshire Weavers Guild.

Daryl Lancaster, who has some stunning designs, has a five part course, which however I haven’t tried.


Author: lovestoswatch

I used to knit as a girl, then hanged the needles for two/three decades, and now I’m back, and loving it! The photo is my version of Linda Marveng's Aki, the first proper project after "being born again". After getting back into knitting, weaving has also become my passion (with a little sewing to turn my handweaving into garments).

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