Sewing and weaving go hand in hand. Even if you have never sewn any handwoven fabrics before, you have probably sewn commercially woven fabrics!
Utilizing your handwoven fabrics in this way is a really great way to showcase and appreciate your hard work on a daily basis (depending on what you make.)
That being said, just the idea of using your fabric this way might be incredibly scary. I will go more into that in a bit, but just know that there are things that you can do to help get over the scary parts and make something amazing.
Before you can sew up your fabric, though, you have to first make it! So we are going to start by talking about a little something (really a long something) called yardage.
What is yardage
Not everyone wants to weave wall hangings, tapestries, and rugs.
Sometimes you just want to weave and weave and weave.
Yardage is a really great way to do that! The goal of weaving yardage is to create long and consistent weaving to be utilized in another way. Essentially it is meant to be a step in your project and not the final piece. Once woven, these yardage weavings get turned into something else (in this case – something sewn!)
Yardage is best woven on large floor looms since they will have the capacity to hold the amount of warp and finished weaving that yardage requires. That being said, there is not a specific amount of weaving that makes yardage… yardage.
You can also weave yardage on a rigid heddle loom if yours is wide enough to do so. The biggest issue with this is that the fabric beam does not have the same capacity as a floor loom. So while you can weave yardage, your yardage will probably be shorter. Keep this in mind when planning your weaving project.
Regardless of what loom you use, I recommend starting and ending your yardage with hemstitch. This will make it so it is very stable once it is off the loom. A little later on I will go over options for stabilization while sewing, but this is a good first step!
If you need to learn how to hemstitch then make sure to check out my simple tutorial!
It is also important to wash your fabric before attempting to do any cuts or sewing!
If you do not do this first, then your fabric could shrink which could mean that either you will not have enough fabric or your pattern could be altered. This simple step could help to keep you from wasting the handwoven fabric that you spent so much time on.
Do not skip it!
You can simply wash your fabric in the sink with a mild detergent and let it dry flat. If it is something that will eventually be washed in a washing machine then it is best to go through the effort of washing it and drying it as it will be used in the future. This will make sure that it does not continue to change after you have already made what you want with it.
Do not forget that when weaving plain weave the space between your warp and weft will shrink after washing. You do not have to beat really hard when weaving! Beat evenly and consistently and it should bloom and fill in after it is washed.
Beyond yardage, an example of a time that you may want to sew your handwoven fabric is when you are making samples.
If you weave a bunch of samples on one warp then you can sew the fabric before cutting them apart. To do this, make sure to leave space between each sample.
Sew a straight stitch at the top and bottom of each sample. You do not have to do anything special to the fabric in order to be able to do this! Once each sample is secure you can cut them apart.
If you want to see some handwoven fabric being sewn with a sewing machine make sure to get to the end of this post!
Also check out:
Why you might have woven panels
If you want to create large weavings but do not have a loom with that capability then you still have options! Weaving in panels is a great way to expand on your weaving options without purchasing a new and larger loom.
Panels could be created for either wider or longer weavings (or both) depending on what you are working with. Even if you just have a small simple frame loom you can create larger pieces by connecting small squares or rectangles.
You can even take advantage of this and work it into your design! You do not have to hide the fact that you are combining multiple weavings. Instead, embrace it!
Tools needed for sewing your handwoven fabric
Depending on the type of sewing you want to do – you will need different tools. Hand sewing is the simplest and requires the least amount of supplies. There will be a list at the end of this post with links to the specific tools that I used so make sure to check that out!
Sewing and/or tapestry needles (All About Tapestry Needles)
Yarn or thread
Sewing machine if doing anything other than attaching panels
Muslin (to make a mock-up of your project)
How to attach woven panels (hand sew)
When attaching panels you will do a simple figure 8 stitch.
One of the best things to do is use an extra length of warp yarn so that it can blend in easily. If you choose a different yarn or thread then your attachments will be more obvious. For the examples above and below, I used a different color so that it is easier to see.
First, thread your tapestry needle with warp yarn.
Lay your two panels next to each other and find your first loop of weft yarn on one of the panels.
Bring your tapestry needle through that loop and then zig-zag over to the first loop on the adjacent panel.
Continue this zig-zag motion to the end of your panels.
Tie it off and you are done!
Sew patterns (machine sew)
There are a few main steps when it comes to sewing your handwoven fabric with a sewing machine. When it comes to actually sewing the fabric, though, it really is not much different from sewing any other fabric. As long as you can get over the fear of messing it up.
Getting over the scary factor
Sewing your handwoven fabric on a sewing machine can be a little more daunting than just hand sewing two panels together. This is partially because more than likely this means that you will have to cut your fabric to make whatever you are planning.
I get it, you spent all that time weaving your beautiful fabric only to have to cut it up? What if you mess up?
Then you just weave more. (Not ideal, right?)
It is scary, but you made the fabric for a reason, and keeping it untouched forever is doing it a disservice. So it is time to cut it up and start sewing!
That being said, I recommend doing a practice project on regular non-handwoven fabric. Muslin is the go-to fabric for project mock-ups since it is inexpensive. If you are going to do any sewing at all then I recommend keeping muslin in your fabric stash for this reason.
Stabilizing your fabric
When it comes to sewing your real deal woven fabric then you have a few options that basically come down to giving your fabric a bit more stability.
If you have a pattern you are planning to use then your first step is to cut out your pattern pieces and lay it on your fabric. Just like weaving with any fabric you will want to try to utilize your handwoven textiles the best you can. Keep your pattern in mind first, but then make sure to lay your pattern out so that you can get the most out of the least amount of fabric.
You do not want to waste all your hard work by spreading your pattern out too much!
Once your pattern is set you will want to pin it to your fabric just like normal. You can then either mark your handwoven fabric with a water soluble marker or keep the pattern attached for the next step.
In order to get your stability, you basically have to create individually shaped woven pieces by sewing around the pattern or marked areas. The sewing itself is not really that different from sewing normal fabric, but I recommend going slow and maybe practicing on a sample or area that will not be used.
This can be a bit difficult, but it will allow you to use only the handwoven fabric and nothing else to stabilize it. This is ideal if you want the handwoven fabric and only the handwoven fabric in your finished piece.
For a more stable option, you can use fusible interfacing.
Interfacing is a type of fabric that will get attached to the back of your fabric through the use of heat (usually your iron.) This fabric will make it so your handwoven fabric will behave just like any commercial fabric!
Once you attach your fusible interfacing you can cut your handwoven fabric without fear of it falling apart. You do not even have to sew it first!
I like to use cotton interfacing as opposed to the more common poly because I weave solely with non-synthetic yarns. If you are weaving with synthetic yarn then using poly-based interfacing should not be an issue.
To use your interfacing make sure to follow the directions on the specific fabric you bought.
Generally speaking, you will be ironing on your interfacing so make sure to have your iron, a cover fabric*, and your handwoven fabric. You will want to turn your handwoven fabric so that the front is facing down. Place your interfacing down on top of your fabric with the adhesive side facing the fabric. Cover this with a cover fabric and iron on medium to high heat depending on the interfacing you have.
*Your cover fabric is important because it is possible for the adhesive of your interfacing to seep through and get onto your iron. This has not happened to me, but it is an easy step to take to protect your iron just in case.
What can you make with handwoven fabric?
What can’t you make?
If you can make it with commercial fabric then you can make it with your handwoven fabric!
Remember that sewing yardage is just sewing fabric.
That being said, you will want to utilize your handwoven fabric effectively and really have it be the star of the show. I recommend utilizing commercial fabrics to supplement your handwoven fabrics where applicable. No sense in using up precious yardage for the underside of something!
It is that simple!
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