Ask Madelyn: Stitching Two Panels Together
I wove two panels on my rigid-heddle loom and want to stitch them together. I did not hemstitch while they were on the loom because I wasn’t sure they would be exactly the same length. One panel is about one inch longer than the other. Should I unweave the longer one, then hemstitch raw edges, then stitch together? Should I wet finish before any unweaving, hemstitching, and stitching panels together? Are there any instructions or tutorials on stitching two panels together? Thank you for any advice you can give me.
Some of these choices may depend on the materials you are using, the weave structure, and the sizes of the panels. I’m assuming that since you wove the panels on a rigid-heddle loom, the weave structure is plain weave and your weft is all the same color. (If you have to match a pattern, as for block weaves or twills, or there are weft stripes you have to match, you would probably not be able to eliminate any picks in the longer panel to make them match.)
Weaving two matching pieces is always a bit tricky. You have to measure as you go, either by picks per inch or by inches per pattern repeat, and work hard to weave the second panel exactly the same as the first. I usually do all of my measuring under tension, since when you relax the tension, the measurements change as the piece draws up a bit (and it can draw up a bit more the longer the tension is relaxed). Measurements under tension tend to be more consistent.
If the piece is not very large, I would sew the panels together before washing. That way, you can block the entire piece before it dries. If, when you place the two pieces side by side, there is any reason that the weft threads should sort of match (that is, if your difference in length is not in the number of picks but in the weft sett) and/or you do have weft stripes, I would sew the pieces together before washing using a figure-eight stitch (as shown here) and gently ease in the difference as you sew, matching the weft stripes. Then wash, then block, then press to smooth the join, gently stretching the shorter piece if necessary. If, however, the two panels are woven with the same weft density and they would look identical with that extra inch of weft removed, I would remove it, hemstitch or tie the fringe, sew the panels together, wash, lay flat to dry blocking gently, and press.
My usual preference is to finish the edges and sew the panels together before washing unless the total piece would be so large that washing would be unwieldy (bedspread size, say). I don’t know of a tutorial specifically about sewing panels together, but there are several different “joining” stitches in the Compendium of Finishing Techniques by Naomi McEneely (Interweave 2003), pp. 68–77.
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