More hemming

I’m still patiently (well, reasonably patiently; for me) hemming old projects preparatory to them being attached to shopping bags. My aim was to find a method that looks good, and is both secure and quick to work. Four-sided edging scores well on two out of three – quick it is not. Also, with most of its stitches being double, and the backstitch used to attach it to the bag doubling the single bottom line, it is a bit bulky. Better keep this for bookmarks and other items that are frequently handled.

Four-sided edging, front Four-sided edging, back

Blanket stitch looks a little less “finished” but is a lot quicker to work, and the attaching backstitch will fill in the gaps at the bottom to make it look like a less bulky four-sided stitch. This is definitely one to keep on the list.

Blanket stitch, front Blanket stitch, back

The next one was a bit of an experiment – cross stitch through both layers of the folded edge, but slightly away from the edge. By working this in two rounds the back gets a cross stitch pattern too, although of course this will be invisible once the fabric is attached to the shopping bag. This one will probably be attached with running stitch in the gaps between the crosses, worked in the middle of the line. it’s a bit difficult to explain in words, but it should look a bit like this: x-x-x-x-x-x

Cross stitch edging, first round, front Cross stitch edging, first round, back Cross stitch edging, second round, front Cross stitch edging, second round, back

Finally I tried combination of surface hem stitch and nun stitch. It’s not quite hemstitch, as the “teeth” are pointing outwards and it’s worked away from the edge, and it’s not quite nun stitch, as all the lines are single, not double, but it works, and will be attached by means of backstitch along the open top of the stitches. This means the attaching stitches are closer to the edge than in any of the other methods, so there will be less of a rim to catch on things. The third picture shows a change of direction only noticeable on the back – this stitch can be worked in two different ways, and the one I started out with made turning the corners very difficult if not impossible, so I changed horses mid-stream. It made the corners nice and secure, and will be invisible once the patch has been attached to the bag.

Surface hem stitch edging, front Surface hem stitch edging, back Surface hem stitch edging, back

The cross stitch version was quite fiddly to work so I don’t think I’ll use that one again; the hem/nun stitch is a bit more fiddly than the blanket stitch, but I like the look of the folded edge and the fact that it can be quite securely attached. Probably, then, future hemming projects for bags will use blanket stitch or hem/nun stitch as the fancy takes me. And with a bit of luck I’ll soon have some pictures of finished bags to show you!

Starting some finishing

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.

Working on four-sided edging for Wedgwood Matchbook kit bookmark

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.

Buttonhole edging on Windows of the World bookmarks

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!

Blanket stitch edging on Delft

Border control

One way of finishing pieces of stitching, whether they become bookmarks or table mats or bell pulls or patches, is to give them a decorative and sturdy border (“hem” would probably be a better word, but “Hem control” wouldn’t have been such a good title smiley). The emphasis is on “sturdy” – it’s easy enough to work a line of running stitch and fray the fabric up to it, and I recently saw a finish where the fabric was frayed up to a border of Kloster blocks, but although that would probably be fine for projects that get stuck on cards, or the tops of boxes, they probably wouldn’t stand up to a lot of handling.

At the moment I’m working on several sets of small and even smaller designs specifically intended to be used with foam items like the notebooks and purses I showed you last week, and also with smaller foam shapes to make ornaments. Some will use the frayed-edge finish, some will be attached with buttons, and some will have a more use-proof finish. But as I am stitching the models, I am reminded why I use these first-class, grade A borders so little. They are very time-consuming! On the other hand, they do produce pieces which will stand up to handling, and which can be displayed as they are, or easily attached to a background (for example a cushion or a bag). Below are a few examples of long-lasting borders: hem stitch (not used in the pieces I’m working on at the moment), four-sided edging (shown here on Percival, used as part of the design on Faith Hope & Love and the Guildhouse needlebook) and buttonhole edging (progress picture for Art of the Needle; not cut out of the surrounding fabric yet).

Hem stitch border Four-sided edging Buttonhole border