At our March Scandinavian Weavers Study Group meeting, the talk began with a comment by Veronna Capone, whose craftsmanship is impeccable. She’d struggled with a monksbelt runner; the edges had the slightest waviness, no matter how hard she struggled. (See the photo below.) So she solved that by taking a step that many weavers consider a sacrilege. She sewed a straight stitch down the selvedge edges, about three threads in from the edge, and then cut the edge, perfectly evenly, next to the stitching. (I don’t have a photo of that one.) She said that she owned a lovely Irish handwoven scarf with the same edge finish, and that gave her the permission to mimic it on her runner. My photo of the edge of Veronna’s monksbelt doesn’t show the really successful and interesting total effect of the piece, woven with pearl cotton. One really nice effect was the contrast in sheen between the background plain weave and the monksbelt blocks done in the same color, very textural.
Veronna is not afraid to break rules. Her additional ‘confession’ was that sometime when making a runner that was quite thick, she sewed a straight stitch across the end of it, turned it down once, and stitched it. Uh-oh. But really, how many people with real textile knowledge would turn over a lovely runner on Veronna’s table and note that a raw edge was visible? This led to further discussion of hems and right sides/wrong sides and rules.
It felt like a discussion that could have been held by my husband’s psychoanalytic colleagues. What do people keep hidden in order to show their best faces to the world? What everyday parts of life – the messy parts, the parts you might not be proud of – are best put away when you worry about being judged? What do people choose to reveal? What do they keep secret? But here we are talking about textiles.
Patty Kuebker-Johnson talked of her late Swedish mother-in-law, a wonderful weaving mentor. Hems were important to fine Swedish weavers. When planning a woven piece with hems, you should have a hem that is turned over twice and sewn by hand. Ideally, the pattern should be taken into account when planning the blocks of the pattern blocks of the turned-over hem. Once hemmed, the piece should appear the same on the front and the back.
Displaying pristine textiles for guests was a mark of skill and prestige. Sometimes a runner was used on a table, or a towel was hung on a rack, hemmed-side-up, for everyday family use. It could be quickly changed to the best side.
A double towel rack could be used. When guests arrived, the lovely towel was put in front.
When you are not trying to show a perfect face, then perhaps this stained towel displays the messy craziness of life.