Hemming Your Rugs

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How you hem your rug depends on what it is going to be used for. If it's a wall-hanging or table decoration (that won't get a lot of wear and tear), then a simple folded-under hem is sufficient. However, if the rug is going on the floor, you must bind the edges. 

If you've read any of my books or taken any classes from me, you know how strongly I emphasize the importance of binding the edge on a floor rug. I don't know who came up with this brilliantly effective technique, but it makes a huge difference in the longevity of the rug. As you may know, I repair old rugs which were made before this technique was in common use. The first place to wear out on rugs like these is along the edge, where the backing is folded flat. Over time, the fibers of the backing material become brittle and break, and once that happens, the rug begins to unhook along the edge. 

There are very few hard and fast rules in rug hooking, but one of the most important is that when an open-weave fabric (like burlap, monk's cloth or linen) starts to come apart, nothing short of unhooking and sewing in a patch of new backing material, then rehooking through both layers, will stop that process. You'd be surprised at the many ways people try to stop this process (sewing the loops together, glueing them, putting latex on the back, sewing in hem tape in after the unraveling is already happening). None of that will work (in fact, they will make the damage worse).

(And by the way, NEVER put latex on a hooked rug. Contrary to popular belief, it won't prevent loops from pulling out if they get snagged, but it will make it impossible to fix. Plus, if that rug ever gets stained, moth eaten or chewed by a dog, it won't be fixable. If you want to prevent a rug slipping on a hardwood floor, get a rubber mat cut to size. Bottom line, don't put anything in a hooked rug that you couldn't easily take out.)

Old rugs can be repaired, but the good news is that that the most common kind of damage can easily be prevented by binding the edge on a floor rug.
Hemming a wall hanging or table decoration:

Trim away the backing, leaving 2"-3" for the hem. If the project has corners, cut off the corners in the selvege, leaving at least 1" from the hooked corner





Fold over the diagonal edge.







Tuck the two sides down and pin them in place.   






Sew the mitered corner together, then sew the folded hem to backing, making sure you connect your needle with the backing, not loops in the hooking.





If you're hemming a project with a rounded edge, first run a basting stitch along the foldline (where the pins are in the photo). Gently pull at the thread, until the gathered fabric gets pulled together nicely. Pin down and sew to the backing.

With a steam iron on the back side of the project, press the hem.


Hemming a rug for the floor:

Cut away the extra linen, leaving about 3" for the hem. Trim off the corners about 1" from the hooked corner.




Wrap the linen backing around a cotton cord (3/16") beyond the hooked edge of the rug. Tack in place with a regular needle and thread.






















Tack the cording in place around the corner.














Fold down the diagonal corner around the cording.






Tuck under one side of the mitered corner and pin down.









Fold down the other side of the mitered corner and pin down. 




Binding the edge:

With a tapestry needle and matching yarn, whip-stitch around the cord, starting in from back to front. Leave a 1" tail in back.





Holding down the tail, whip-stitch around the tail.



At some point, you will have to turn the needle around (so the final tail comes out the back). Instead of coming around with the needle and doing another stitch from back to front, come in to the front with your needle. Keep whip-stitching (now front to back) until you run out of yarn. Start a new piece of yarn on your needle, back to front, and sew over both tails. Continue stitching, and turn the needle so you're sewing front to back again.

When you come around to the starting point, run your needle through the stitching for 1". Pull it through and trim the end (now all the ends have been sewn down).


I like to sew down the hem to the backing after I've done the whip-stitching. Be sure you are taking deep stitches, so you know you're grabbing the backing, not the hooked loops.

With a steam iron on the back side of the rug, press the hem..