Monday, February 13, 2012

Sewing A Bedspread

In preparation for my trip to California, I'm tying up one more loose project. A friend in San Francisco let me use his truck for my first cloth delivery and beam retrieval of my year and a half internship. In payment for using the truck and letting me take so long repaying him, I've offered to weave and sew him a custom bedspread.

I've put it off, partly because I want to be there in person to fit it, and partly because it's terrifying to work with such a large piece of cloth.

This friend likes color, and lots of it! He requested a bedspread that has as many colors as I could stand to put into it. I like cloth made from very similar colors, excruciatingly composed, so his request had me at a little bit of a loss. Here's the cloth that we wove for him.

You can see weft colors from yellow to purple, with everything in between and no similar stripes near each other. When the side panels are sewn on, the stripes will not match up at all, lending even more liveliness to the design. I think it's exactly what he will like. His other request was to make sure that any required seams are not further than 12" or so from the edge of the bed. He does not want to lie on seams.

In my design, I was able to get the seams to lie about 6" from the edges, definitely not in a place where one would lie without rolling off the bed. This will make the main surface of the bed a simple set of stripes with a contrasting set of stripes, matching each other, on each side.

You can see that I designed it to be "fitted", but that's not what I'm going to do, at least at first. I'll bring it down without the corners cut out and see how he likes it. If there is too much bulk on the corners, I'll bring it home and modify it.

Since we had woven just the right length, including seam allowances, the first task was to cut this piece of cloth in half. First, I folded it to find the middle, then employed my favorite trick to cut handwoven cloth in a straight line.

It's a simple trick, too. You pull a thread, starting at one edge and going to the other. At the far edge, you snip the thread that's pulling and pull it all the way out. Then, hang the cloth over a curtain rod and clamp it in place to keep it from sliding off. Climb between the two layers of cloth and the cut line is standing there, plain as day.

The next challenge was to get the two side panels attached to the main body of the cloth. I decided that the best way was to attach the two full-width pieces of cloth together before cutting one lengthwise.

See the 1 1/2" overlap? That will be used in a little while to give me a flat-felled seam. I want both sides of the bedspread to have finished seams, just like everything that I sew. No raw edges anywhere, thankyouverymuch!

After pinning every 8", I have to gather the whole thing, carry it to the studio, and place it on my lap to sew with as little manipulation as possible.

I use homemade beanbags as tailor's weights to keep the rest of the cloth from moving around on the sewing table while I work.

Only after that seam is done do I cut the side panel lengthwise. At any time until I make that cut, I can change my mind about what I'm doing and rip out the seam, no harm done. I don't expect to, obviously, but I like to give myself as much time as possible to catch mistakes before making irreversible actions like cutting 3 yards of cloth down the middle.

One of the choices I made in laying out this design was to butt the selvedges together in the flat-felled seams. I did this on purpose so that I could make those seams as thin as possible. Instead of my usual approach, to fold a good-sized flap into the seam, I chose to fold the wider edge of the flat-fell so that it's just catching about 1/2" from the selvedge. This makes the seam itself only two layers thick instead of three, and more comfortable for someone who's sensitive to laying on texture.

It meant pinning every 2" for 100" of length, but it was worth the extra work to get a beautiful finished seam.

After the panels were attached, the last step was to add the hem all the way around.

There was a choice to make about the corners. Conventional sewing wisdom says that I should miter the corner, snipping it off at a 45 degree angle that grazes the line where the folded hem would end. This reduces the bulk of the corners. I didn't do that. I decided that I wanted the extra weight.

See how many layers of cloth are going into that corner? Nine of them altogether.

This would not be OK for a garment, but it's fine for a bedspread. I carefully tuck the innermost layer that would be visible at the edge so that only two layers are visible there. See? It's a little thick, but not bad at all.

The last step was to topstitch all the way around the edge. I put in a fresh bobbin to make sure I could get all the way around without stopping.

Then it gets washed and dried to "settle" all the sewing, and here's the final result.


Dianne said...

Bedspread looks wonderful. Another option if the corners are a problem would be to round them. More difficult to hem of course.

Sandrine said...

B E A U T I F U L !!!!

Blossom Merz said...

Yeah, I had considered that. The recipient was very concerned about too much cloth sitting on the floor at the corners. When we saw it in person, though, it looked great to both of us.