My proudest rigid heddle loom moment yet!

The full account of how the fabric came to be is here (sampling and main fabric) and here (fabric for bottom band, sleeves and neckband trim).

I used Sarah Howard‘s excellent dress pattern n5 (no affiliation, just a very satisfied customer), and off I went!

The fabric was thick-ish, soI had to abandon pretty quickly my idea of making bias tape from the plain weave cloth. However I was able to use the selvedges as finished trim, so that I could fix the rough edges in the wrong side, and top stitch the neckband on the right side of the fabric. I used commercial fabric only for the pockets.

The fabric is lovely on the skin, fresh and soft (the yarn, Lana Grossa Landlust Sommerseide, is an equal mix of cotton and silk, with the two fibres twisted together to give the yarn a heathered look).

I shouldn’t brag I know, but honestly I can hardly believe I did this myself!

Pencil skirt from handwoven cloth

There are various first for this skirt: it is my very first sewn anything, the very first garment from my own handwoven yardage, woven on a rigid heddle loom, the very first use of my new-to-me sewing machine.

It is quite far from perfect, but I am very very pleased with it – in hindsight, I should have used a silk thread – the cotton thread I used hasn’t any give, and so the bottom hem does show. But hey, we live and learn, and considering that the patter of the two sides more or less matches, that the skirt fits, that the zipper is invisible. Indeed, fitting the zipper must have been be the highpoint of my sewing experience! I managed to fit it quite perfectly, after following this video by Aneka of Made to Sew. It is a bit long, but expecially if you are an absolute beginner like me, I think it is worth every minute!

And here is MY “perfect” invisible zipper:

The pattern I used is SK002 from Sarah Howard’s Etsy shop – really simple, and done for the rigid heddle loom, so there is minimal waste: what you see sitting on the cut pieces in the picture below are are that was left of my yardage!

I will not go into tips on sewing handwoven cloth, as I have already put them together here – however I do want to show off my perfectly opened seams – you really want to press them with a damp towel on top and a Taylor’s ham or substitute underneath. This were thick layers!

And finally, here is my pride and joy! In the meantime the weather has turned warm, but eventually I will update with modelled photos!

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.

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