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Working with Handwoven Fabrics

fashionlizard | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

Hi Everyone,

I am new to the forum and I hope there isn’t a thread already running on this, but I would like to start a discussion about using handwoven fabric to sew garments. I have been weaving my own fabric, but have never used it to make a garment before (other than a scarf 😉 ).
I weave fine linen, silk, cotton, primarily ….(and wool, just occasionally). If you have tips, preparations or techniques that you feel make working with handwoven yardage easier, please join in! Or…if you have specific problems or questions… step right up and see if someone can help!


  1. Josefly | | #1

    I can't give you any tips, but I remember going to a workshop,many years ago, offered by the Chattahoochee Handweaver's Guild (chgweb.com) on just this topic. It seems the focus was more on design, though, since handwoven fabrics are so precious to the weaver that to waste or cut off a square inch is a hard thing to do. So there were a lot of garments shown made out of rectangles of fabric! But I can imagine there must be techniques for managing the loose weave, and other sewing requirements. I'll be interested to see what answers you get, and meanwhile, I'll bet some of those guild members would have tips for you.

    I was glad to see your posting about indigo-dying on this forum, as well.

    1. User avater
      fashionlizard | | #2

      Thanks Josefly, We'll see what comes up on this topic. I know there are weavers who sew garments out there somewhere!

  2. mem | | #3

    Well Chanel used alot of very loose woven fabrics and she quilted them to silk organza or the lineing of the garment as discussed in the current issue . I would imagine that it would be important to keep the design lines as simple as possible . I have always disliked the idea of fusing anything to hand made fabrics .

    1. User avater
      fashionlizard | | #5

      Yes, I was just reading in Claire Shaeffer's book about Chanelisms and she did mention the quilting technique. I just bought a skirt that would be absolutely wonderful for a handwoven. This season has some very hand-woven looking fabrics used with the edges fringed as part of the design. This new skirt has a shaped close-fitting on-grain yoke where the raw edge of the highly textured multi-colored weave where it meets the lower part of the skirt has just been stitched down. It is nearly invisible with just the barest hint of the fuzzy ends showing. The yoke is shorter in the front (about crotch level at CF, and about 3" more at the side seams, gracefully curving to cover the butt in the back ending around middle of the back of my thigh. The bottom part of the skirt is on the bias and flares out nicely. The skirt is lined (but not interfaced) and drapes and moves with a lovely grace. The front part of the bias section is about 16.5" long from where it meets the yoke to the end of the fringe at the hem. All along the fringed hem (to keep it from getting any more fringed)it is stitched. I'm not sure what to call the stitch, it something I see on RTW clothes all the time. Description: you see two lines of stitching 3/8's inch apart on the right side (invisible in this case due to the multicolor weave and texture), and on the wrong side you see the threads crossing between the two rows of side stitching. Not zig zag, but more like a loose overcast. Someone please tell me what this is called!Anyway, I think the width of the pieces would be just right for a handwoven fabric. SueB and I have both agreed that we are most comfortable weaving about 20-25" wide and this design may lend itself to narrower fabric because of the way it is cut and pieced. Now... what would be the best way to copy this? I think perhaps putting it on a dress form and using muslin to drape over the skirt. What do y'all think?

      1. sueb | | #8

        Hi Fashionlizard,

        I think that stitching technique is done on a straight stitch machine using a double needle. 

        To copy the skirt I would lay it out flat and make either muslin templates or paper templates of the pieces and then do a test version in a inexpensive fabric with the same amount of drape that you're expecting your fashion fabric to have. 



  3. lovemycottons | | #4

    Hello, I am also new to the forum.

    Even tho I have not sewn garments from my handwoven frabrics, I have made quite a few purses and bags. I usually treat the handwoven fabric the same as purchased fabric EXCEPT I do not cut out the pieces till I am ready to sew it. I also try to handle the cut piece as little as possible. This seems to help control excessive fraying.

    1. User avater
      fashionlizard | | #6

      Do you stay stitch around the pieces before cutting them out? That is one of the techniques we used when making samples in a weaving course. We stay stitched just on either side of the cut line to prevent fraying.

      1. lovemycottons | | #10

        No, I do not staystitch around the pieces before I cut them out.  I use to, but I did not like the end result.  Sometimes the staystitching distorted the cutting lines.

      2. lovemycottons | | #11

        I am sorry, I should clarify my answer.  When I am making a bag or purse, I do not staystich around the cut edges for the reasons given above. The ends are secured during the construction of the bags.

        When I cut out samples, yes I staystitch around the samples like you described.

    2. sueb | | #9

      Hi Lovemycottons,

      I've done a lot of bags with my handwoven fabrics and I typically use a fusible interfacing on them before I do any cutting.  Depending on how much stiffness I want the bag to have I'll use either a lightweight or heavy duty fusible.  I find that the fusible helps the seam integrity.  On the rare occasions when I don't use a fusible I'll use my serger.  I don't usually staystitch my fabric edges unless I am prewashing the fabric after it's woven before I use it.  I agree with you on not handling the fabrics too much during the construction process.  I also try to cut as many seams as possible with my rotary cutter - I think that using the rotary cutter is gentler on the fabrics then the scissors since the fabric remains flat the whole time during the cutting process.

      1. lovemycottons | | #12


        I apply the fusible interfacing after cutting out the pieces. I do like the idea of using the rotary cutter. I never thought of it.

        1. sueb | | #13

          I found that if you stabilize before cutting the cut edges are much more stable and the risk of them falling apart or shifting on the way to the sewing machine are minimized.

          1. lovemycottons | | #14

            Thank you for the input.  I think I will try out your techniques on my next bag. Who knows when that will be, since I am in the scarf mode now.

            Went on your web sight. Awesome.

          2. sueb | | #15

            Thank you for your most kind feedback on my site !

          3. User avater
            fashionlizard | | #16

            Sorry about all of the deleted messages. That was me trying to embed a picture in my signature. Sheeesh! An HTML guru I am *NOT*!! If this one isn't successful, perhaps someone can direct me to non fabric help.

  4. katina | | #7

    I seem to remember a book by Anita Luvera Mayer which had much information on working with handwoven fabric.  This might help

    Good luck!

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