Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ladder Hemstitching with Photos

I was looking for instructions for ladder hemstitching a couple days ago, because I can't seem to remember which side I should start the stitching. I did the first end of the towel without instructions, starting from the left, and it felt awkward, especially the second row. I could find directions for the first half of the two rows in some of my books, but not the second row.
I decided to try it again, from the right side (I'm right handed), and snap some photos as I did the steps. Now I can refer to my own directions in the future.
My towel started with a plain weave hem.  I wanted a hem about one inch wide, so I wove about 2 1/2" before starting the hemstitching.  I cut a tail from the weft, about 3-4 widths long. Thread a tapestry needle (which has a blunt tip) with the tail.

Starting at the right side, take the thread under the first bundle and up between the first and second group of threads. (Wrapping the first group is not shown, but is done like this photo.) 

Holding the thread taut, put the needle under the bundle again, and bring it up between the first and second bundle, two threads below the edge.  Tighten thread. 

Holding thread taut, the needle goes under the next bundle, up between bundles, and around bundle.  The needle exits two threads below. Repeat, as in the two photos, across the row.

Some of the first row. The spacing will look neat and even, if the thread is kept taut while stitching.

This shows two spacer rows woven in with a smooth, heavier yarn.  Make sure the heavy yarn is in the correct shed if it matters which direction your plain weave needs to be woven. Leave four widths of yarn at the right side, and weave several picks of plain weave.

Start the second hemstitching like the first, threading a tapestry needle with the tail.  Start with the needle under the first bundle, up and around the bundle, coming up between the bundles, two threads above the row.

Hold the thread taut, needle under the next bundle,

around the bundle, exiting two threads above.  Repeat across the towel.  

Finished ladder hemstitching.  The spacer yarn is pulled out after wet-finishing the piece.  Turn the hem.  Finish by hand, or as I did, by using matching thread and the zig-zag stitch on the sewing machine.  Adjust the stitch length, so each zig goes into a hole, and each zag catches the hem.

Zig-zag hemstitching can also be done using the same directions, with one difference in the second row.  Instead of using the whole first bundle, wrap around half of it.  Each successive group will be half of two groups from row one.

Although I was doing ladder hemstitching for these instructions, a single row can also be used to anchor the warp threads in bundles for fringe, instead of tying them in a knot.  It looks nicer, and doesn't take much more time, and your piece doesn't have hard lumps from knots.


  1. I had never thought about that second row of hem stitching. I'm a huge fan of it for baby blankets but hadn't thought of it as a design element.

  2. Great post, great pictures, love the new blog look! I'm eager to try this lovely hemstiching! Thanks for sharing!