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All About Hemstitch!


Depending on who you talk to, finishing their weaving is probably tied with setting up their loom for their least favorite part of the weaving process. Don’t stop reading though! Knowing how to correctly finish your weaving is important to not only the look, but also the longevity of your finished piece. 

You may even enjoy finishing because it’s when things start to really seem… finished.

Hemstitch is probably one of the most common ways to finish up your balanced or pattern weaving when it’s time to take it off the loom. 


What is hemstitch?


Hemstitch is a finishing technique that secures your warp in place so that when you take it off the loom and it is no longer under tension the weft doesn’t slide around and un-weave. It is created by either using leftover weft yarn in the same color as the weaving or a brand new yarn that you attach. Depending on the option you choose you can give this stitch a different look. Either blend it in or make it BOLD.

While you can use the same finishing methods on tapestry and balanced weave – methods like hemstitch are done most often on functional work like towels, scarves, and table runners. This is because it is a visual technique that bleeds onto the front of your weaving. This may not lend itself well to your tapestry, especially if your tapestry is image based. For the purpose of this post, I will be showing you how to do hemstitch on a tapestry because I already had one! (Work smarter, not harder!) Also, it is very easy to see when on the surface of a tapestry. When it comes down to it, though, hemstitch on balanced weave and on tapestry are done the exact same way.

So you can use it for tapestry if you want.

You do you.


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Most weavers use only hemstitch to finish their weavings. On it’s own – if done correctly – it should keep your weft in place without the addition of anything else.

Paranoia usually makes me use it as a step in the finishing process. I like to make sure things are really secure. I also like the look of a knotted fringe on my scarves and other functional work so I use them together. One great thing about hemstitch is that you can easily combine it with other finishing techniques like knots and macrame if that’s your thing.

Another note: if you are only using it as a part of your process and not your sole finishing technique then you have the option of taking out the hemstitch after it has served its purpose! Once you add in your other technique of choice just carefully cut out the hemstitch and you should be good to go. If this is the route you want to take then you should choose a different colored yarn. This will make it easier to differentiate from your weaving and cut off.



When should you use hemstitch?


If you are worried about your weft moving after taking off the tension then hemstitch is a great option. It is very secure and simple to do. You have to like the look of it though, because even if you use the same color as your weft it will be visible on the surface of your weaving. So basically, use it if you like it!

One of the other great things about this technique is that is is great for transporting weavings. When you won’t be finishing up the weaving right away, but it still needs to be taken off the loom then you can use the hemstitch to keep everything in place until you are ready to finish it fully. You can confidently move and travel with your unfinished weaving like this!


When would you not want to use hemstitch?


If you are short on time and plan to finish up your selvedges right away then you can get away with simple ties on your warp. Ties are not a great option if you won’t be finishing right away because they are not the most secure, but can work for something quick and dirty. When using these simple ties I recommend only cutting a few warps at a time as it comes off the loom. This will keep the rest of the weaving under tension until it’s ready to be secured.

Another time that hemstitch might not be a great finishing option is when you want the cleanest edge possible. In this case, you might want to consider some other options like Half-Damascus, the Philippine edge, or a simple selvedge fold. These options are often used on tapestries and create a cleaner and/or decorative edge.


hemstitch options on tapestry
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How to hemstitch


Hemstitch is easiest when your weaving is still under tension. Due to this, you will need to know how you want to finish your weaving when you are still planning your weaving. This is because when you are first starting your weaving you will want to do your hemstitch after weaving only your first few inches. While you can wait and do this after it is off the loom, it will be harder this way. Hemstitch is easiest when your weaving is still under tension.

This means you have to think about your finishing when you are just starting!

You will want yarn that is at least 3 times the width of your weaving to make sure you have enough without having to stop. This may be overkill, but it’s better to have extra than not enough. If you are using yarn that isn’t already attached (the remainder of your weft) then you will have to leave a tail on the back of the weaving to tuck in later.


hemstitch tutorial
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First, come up through the back of the weaving at least 2 wefts down to make sure it will be secure. Go down more if you want a more dramatic look.

  1. Take your hemstitch yarn and float it vertically on the surface of the weaving just to the side of the warp you plan to wrap around. Make sure you don’t pierce your weft yarn and instead go between your weft rows.
  2. Go under at least two warps and around those same two warps so that your yarn ends on the back of the weaving.
  3. Come back up through the back of the weaving a few warps over and down.
  4. Repeat all the way across!
  5. When you get to the end – wrap your yarn around your last two warps and instead of coming back up – tuck your yarn down a warp channel. Cut any excess on the back (just like your yarn tail from the beginning.)

The number of warps that you bundle together depends on your EPI and your desired look. If you go around too many warps, though, it loses some of it’s effectiveness in the long term. I wouldn’t go around more than 4 warp yarns at a time unless your have a very dense warp sett. If you plan to take your hemstitch out later then going around more warps should be fine as long as it’s not getting handled a lot.


hemstitch tutorial
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Variations – Fun Ways To Add Emphasis


  • Use a different color for the hemstitch that is either contrasting or complimentary. Think bold colors against neutrals or black against white.
  • You can change up how many weft yarns you capture in your hemstitch. Try doing different patterns like 1 long, 1 short, repeat or vary it in a graduated pattern to create triangles!

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Complementary Finishing Options


The simplest method to finish off your warp ends is to use overhand knots that sit flush with your weaving. This is often used for scarves or anything that requires a fringe made from your warp. When using knots by themselves and not with a hemstitch, you can use the same method as the simple ties I talked about above. Cut only a few warps at a time to keep the weaving under tension. When using them with the hemstitch – just follow the knot instructions!

Other decorative options for your fringe are macrame or braids. Macrame would be best done with hemstitch as a precursor so that it keeps everything in place.

Do you have a favorite finishing method? Let me know in the comments!


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