Remember those shopping bags I bought a while ago? I have now picked out some projects from my completed project folders with which to embellish them, among them Wedgwood (the blue version), Coral Cross, Windmills, Horizon and Spring Romance. But before I attach them to the bags, they need to be hemmed.
Well, I suppose strictly speaking they don’t. I could just attach them straight to the bag with nun’s stitch or something similar, and then fray up to the edges. But there are a few drawbacks to that, although I will readily admit that most of them are to do with my personal preferences. For one thing, I dislike stitching on bags because it’s awkward working with one hand inside the bag, and pre-hemming means the attaching can be done with fewer stitches. For another thing, I don’t really like a frayed finish on a bag. Don’t ask me why – it’s not about things catching when the bag is in use, because you can just as easily catch the edge of a hemmed piece once it’s attached to the bag, especially when it’s attached in the way I generally use. Nor is it about securing the fabric edge; a frayed edge may be a little more likely to start fraying more, but really, if it’s attached with some solid stitching it should be fine. No, it’s just the look of the thing. It’s just me.
Hemming it is then, and I use the word in its very broadest sense to mean anything that will neaten the edge of the fabric and secure it. One of my favourite methods of hemming something that will be handled a lot, like bookmarks, is four-sided edging. Unfortunately I haven’t yet found a book that actually describes how you turn a corner with this type of edging, so I rather had to work this out for myself, but now I’m so familiar with this method of finishing that I can do it almost automatically. And the finish is secure. I mean really secure. Pull it about as much as you will, it’ll stay put. Besides that, it looks attractive, and you can trim the back very close indeed.
On the other hand, it is extremely labour intensive – and that’s in spite of cheating by starting out with a single line of backstitch rather than a double line. Even then, it takes a long time, however much you get a rhythm going. Also, for something that is going to be secured to a bag by yet another line of stitching, and which is not going to be handled a lot (the bag will, but the stitching itself won’t be that much), it’s overkill. So the blue Wedgwood will be the only one of this lot to be finished using four-sided edging.
What other methods are there? Well, there is buttonhole stitch. I could buttonhole all around the stitching, then cut very close to the buttonholing. Again a good secure finish, and quite attractive (see the Windows on the World bookmarks below), but like four-sided edging it takes a lot of time. And you can charge only so much for the finished bag. So the quest is on for quicker methods which are still secure enough to ensure a usable bag.
So far I’ve decided on three methods, one of which I’ve used before (on a bag with two versions of Delft on it), and two of which are experimental. The first one, shown below, is a relatively widely spaced (4 fabric threads) blanket stitch all around, attaching the patch to the bag by backstitch along the bottom edge of the blanket stitching, which creates a look a little like four-sided edging (though without the scalloped looking edge). The two experiments involve folding over the edge of the fabric and working stitches along the edge through both layers of fabric, but a little way away (only one or two fabric threads) from the fold. This should create a slightly “puffed” edge, especially if I don’t iron or finger-press the fold first. I’ll probably use cross stitch on one, and surface hem stitch on the other, although herringbone stitch may work as well. The biggest problem is going to be turning the corners, which I’ll have to work out from scratch. I’ll let you know how I get on!