This tutorial assumes a basic knowledge of backstrap weaving…confidence with winding a figure-of-eight warp, string heddle making and the use of a shed loop.
Narrow plain weave bands can be used to edge finished woven pieces either as a decorative accent or perhaps to hide less-than-perfect selvedges. Here in the Bolivian highlands weavers use them to edge their chuspas (coca leaf bags) and other woven pieces of fabric. I have read that the bands applied to edges can stop the problem of curling that can occur when high twist yarn is used to weave. My Guarani weaver friend in lowland Bolivia where I live also uses these bands to cover and stabilize the raw edges of a woven piece.
My Guarani friend edges the entire cell phone pouch with a tubular band rather than just the flap as I have done. Her band is used to decorate and strengthen the edges.
Above you can see the warp with its heddles and shed loop which is the set up that is typically used in Bolivia. The picture on the right shows a tubular band on the edge of my woven eye glass case. The band is generally woven in the same colors as the edge of the woven piece
The items that I have edged have been woven with 35 wpi cotton thread or wool of similar weight and I have used this same thread for the tubular band. I have used 16, 18 and 24 ends and find that 16 ends make the nicest band. Experiment with your yarn and see what you like best
I recommend using a 24 wpi thread or heavier for your first attempts at this technique. These bands need to be sewn to STURDY material.
These instructions are based on the way I was taught in Potosi Bolivia.
Wind a warp of 16 ends. I have made a single color warp for this tutorial. You could make your band more decorative by adding stripes. Make your string heddles and add the shed loop either on the warping board itself or with the warp tensioned on your backstrap loom.. Thread your needle with a length of weft. Pass the needle from the inside of your woven bag to the outside emerging at the point at which you wish your band to start.
The most important thing to note is that your weft will not be passing back and forth across the warp as it normally would when weaving a band. The weft will always pass in one direction only. The weft is carried on a needle (I use a long tapestry needle) through the shed from left to right as shown below.
Have the far end of your warp attached to a fixed point. The near end will be held under tension with the forefinger of your left hand in the open shed and the rest of your left hand gripping the fabric. You will not be using your backstrap.
Pass the needle with its weft through the end loops of your warp from left to right and secure the warp to your woven piece with a stitch. Pass the weft through the same shed again and secure with another stitch. Leave the forefinger of your left hand in the shed along with the weft. End with your needle ready to pass from left to right through the next shed.
With all this in mind, take a look at the first weaver in this video as she opens her shed and passes the needle. The other parts of this video are not relevant to this tutorial.
Here are the steps:
I am using 24wpi thread for this tutorial.
After having secured the band to the fabric, open the shed loop, draw the warps down to the weaving line and beat using your finger/s. Pass the weft on the needle from left to right through the shed. Pull it tight.
LEFT: Leaving your forefinger in the shed, with the weft, pierce the fabric with the needle directly below the point where the weft emerges from the shed. Leave the needle “parked’ in this position and your forefinger in the shed. Anchor the weft with your thumb. (It takes a bit of practice to find just the right place to pass the needle through the fabric and the right spacing between stitches.)
RIGHT: Open the heddle shed and draw the warps down to the weaving line. I use two fingers of my right hand as my sword and beater.
RIGHT: Reach through the shed as shown above and pull the needle and its weft through the fabric and then through the shed from left to right.
RIGHT: Leaving your forefinger in the shed, pierce the fabric with the needle once again “parking” it in this position so that you can open the next shed. Anchor the weft with your thumb.
Now take a look at all these moves together in this video.
As for length of warp and weft….I have only ever edged small pieces. I wind my standard 36″ warp and use a weft a bit longer than that. I always have both warp and weft left over but better to have extra than not enough, right? You need to get creative when you have reached the end of your edging. You will have a raw woven edge to deal with and my teacher would just sew over and over in a way to have the ends well secured and then she would cut the warp. The finish would look like a kind of knob. There was no science or technique to it! To see how my Guarani friend finishes, read the tips below.
In the second part of the video which starts with the Bolivian weaver, you will see a Peruvian weaver weaving and sewing a tubular band which is patterned with picked and diverted warps. Her band is secured to her waist by way of a string that was passed through the end loops of her band’s warp. You can see that she clearly needs two free hands to make the patterning manipulations on her warp.
You might feel that you would like to have your band secured to your waist as well. That’s a matter of personal preference.
- I recommend practicing this band many times on pieces of scrap sturdy fabric using 24 wpi thread or heavier before attempting it on your woven pieces. Become completely proficient at edging selvedges before attemtping to use this to stabilize a raw edge. I always dab a raw edge with diluted white glue or a stop fray product, allowing it to completely dry, before attempting to attach a tubular band.
- The tubular band will seem weird at first because the warp end is not secured to your body. You are used to having it on a loom bar or tied to you. If you are not comfortable with tensioning the warp with your finger, you can always pass string through the end loops and tie that around your waist.
- For the first few weft passes on your fabric edge you may have to pull and adjust individual warps into line to give you a clean fell line.
- Decide exactly where you are going to pierce the fabric with the needle and try to stick to that, for example three warps in from the edge. Check both sides of the fabric to make sure that the band is sitting well on the edge and not too much to just one side. Make sure your needle is passing straight though the cloth and not down at an angle. Keep an eye out for buckling fabric. This is a sign that you may be piercing the fabric too far forward.
- A tip for finishing: My Guarani friend edges small bags. She finishes the tubular band at the top of the body of the bag. Once she can’t sew any further, she weaves the band flat, passing the weft back and forth for about 5 passes as for a normal woven band without sewing. She then folds this flat piece of band over the edge of the bag to the inside and sews it there. Then she cuts the warp ends and they remain inside the bag out of sight.
- If you just want to weave a tubular band and not sew it to fabric, you will need to use more warp ends. I suggest around 24 ends.