Friday, March 20, 2015

The tale of a warp, Part 4: making an infinity wrap

When we left our saga of the process of handweaving, I had cut the woven cloth off the loom and was going to wet-finish (i.e., wash) it by hand before I sewed it into an infinity wrap.  The fabric is 100% 8/2 Tencel (trademark for lyocell, a sustainable plant-fiber yarn made using the same process as rayon).  Like the silk it resembles, tencel should be hand-washed and hung or laid flat to dry.

After zigzagging the cut ends to prevent raveling, I take small scissors and trim off all the hanging weft threads that are the result of ending one bobbin of weft and starting a new one. 

Then I turn under one short end of the fabric and machine stitch a 1/2" hem.

The next part is the trickiest for me; I have to double- and triple-check that I've done it right every time.  With the hemmed edge facing up on my right I take the other (short) end of the fabric and twist it once (only once!) and pin it to the top selvedge edge of the fabric, with its selvedge edge flush with the hemmed edge.  

Here's a closeup.  I pin it thoroughly and then I try on the piece and double-check in a mirror that the hem is on the inside and that there's only one twist in the fabric.  

Notice that the pinned raw edge is a generous 1/4" inside the selvedge edge of the bottom layer.  This is a shortcut to making a type of  flat-fell seam.  I machine stitch this seam, about 1/4" inside the pinned raw edge.

The next step is to take the piece to the ironing board and open it out.  The hemmed edge is now right side up (at the upper right in the photo) and the long selvedge edge of that layer is on top, covering the narrower raw edge layer of the seam.  We are looking at the right side of the garment.  I press the seam flat and closed, and pin.  I stitch another seam 1/4" in from the pinned selvedge edge, thereby enclosing the short, raw edge inside the new seam:  a kind of flat-fell seam. There are now two parallel lines of stitching along this edge. 

Here's the completed seam.  I apologize that the highly patterned fabric makes it hard to make out the stitched seams.

And here's the finished wrap.  For this one I used a black weft that really makes those colored stripes pop.

When I started this series of posts, I wanted to answer this question:  Why weave?  Why would you make fabric and garments by hand, using slow, pre-industrial processes?  Why should someone pay higher prices for these handmade garments--when it is so much easier and cheaper to buy mass-produced clothing?

Well, for me a large part of the answer is simply that I enjoy the process of weaving.  I enjoy handling threads and fabric, and I enjoy the slow, meditative act of weaving itself.  I enjoy wearing things I've made and I really love it when others enjoy wearing or giving as a gift something I have made.

But it's also an act of quiet rebellion on my part, a pushing back against disposable fashion and the troubling environments in which such fashion is made.  I'm also rebelling in my small way against the fast-paced, automated, impersonal, use-it-and-throw-it-away world we live in.  Now I am the first to confess that I am far from perfect on this score; most of my own clothes are made overseas and purchased from a chain store.  I cannot (yet) weave and make my own blue jeans, underwear or winter coat.  But by weaving a few garments I hope to remind myself and others that it is possible to be more mindful in our choices as consumers.  Just as we might choose to buy organic food from a CSA (community-supported agriculture) because we value healthy bodies, a healthy earth, and local food production, so we might choose to buy a handwoven garment that can be enjoyed for years because we know that it was made locally, in a safe environment, from sustainable materials.  We can see the hand of the maker in these things, and we know where they come from.

To see more of my recent work, click here for my website. 

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