Finishing Your Mat
by Brenda Clarke
So now that you have finished the hooking part of your mat it is time to decide how to make your mat suitable for the use intended. Your new piece of hooking could become a piece of art you would like to hang on a wall, make into a pillow, place on a floor or sew to a backing to make into a bag. The ideas for hooking a rug are endless as are the ideas for finishing. I will teach you a few of the most common finishing techniques.
The very first thing you do when you think your hooking is all done is turn your mat to the back side and carefully inspect the back for loose loops, areas of burlap that are large enough to put in an extra loop or two, or any tails that were left behind. If it is all just the way you want it to be then it is now time to press your mat.
Using a fairly damp cloth and a very hot iron, press (do not iron) your mat starting on the backside. If you have texture in your hooking such as natural fleece then try to avoid those areas as they should not be flattened. If desired you can also press the front. Dampen pressing cloth as necessary.
There are a variety of finishing methods the one most often used here at Deanne’s Studio is just a simple hem using a whip stitch. Trim the excess burlap about 1 1/2 inches away from the actual hooking, turn the burlap back about 1/4 inch then turn it back again right up to the hooking line.
Using upholstery or quilting thread that matches the backing and a very strong needle whip stitch the turned back hem to the back of the hooking making sure that you sew into the backing and not just the loops of the hooking.
Continue to sew all the way around four sides and then press again on the backside concentrating on pressing the hemmed edges of the mat. This method is sufficient if your piece is small enough to be hung with a couple of map pins or if you are going to place it in a frame that will be hung on the wall.
Another way to finish a rug is use the method above and then add binding tape which is a strip of webbed cotton that is about 1 1/2 inches wide to the back of the mat that will cover the hemmed over edge. This must be hand sewn on both edges of the binding tape. This finish is suitable for a mat that will be on the floor. The binding tape prevents wearing of the burlap backing. This finish also works well on a mat that will be used as a chair pad.
If your rug is slightly larger or heavier and will be hung for a long period of time then I think an inexpensive curtain rod along with a sleeve made of binding tape along the top of the mat works very well. This method carries the entire weight of the rug evenly and will not sag over time.
Other methods of finishing a rug that I use most often are using a binding tape that shows on both the front and the back with excess burlap rolled up inside of it.
Brenda’s Favorite Method….
My very favorite way to finish a mat that is called a whipped edge. When applying a whipped edge to a mat the wool yarn that will be used can either match or contrast with the mat itself. Sometimes the whipped edge is used to frame the design and other times it is just a finish that blends in with the background or design on the rug. To make a whipped edge on a mat you need 1/4 inch cotton cord, yarn, thread, needle, and binding tape. Once the rug is pressed and trimmed of excess burlap then a single strand of cotton cord is held against the back of the mat with the edge of the cord against the outer edge of the last row of hooking. Fold the burlap over the cord, encasing the cord, toward the back of the mat. With sturdy needle and thread use a running stitch to sew the burlap layers together with the cord tucked inside. At this stage it is very important to make sure that the cord is not buckling nor is it pulled to tight.
Continue all around the rug until the edges of the cord meet up, then carefully trim the cord even with the starting point , do not overlap the cord. Knot the thread, relax a bit an then get ready to start the actual whipping. Thread the sturdy needle with wool yarn, carefully tucking the loose end of the wool alongside the cord in between the layers of burlap, push the needle with wool up through one of the holes in the burlap either in the front or the back, pull the wool up snug, now with a whip stitch wrap the burlap encased cord with the yarn strands making sure they lay side by side and no burlap is showing inbetween the strands. Continue this stitch all the way around the mat making as many joins as necessary.
When the whipping is done it is time to sew binding tape to the back of the mat. As an extra tip, when sewing down the binding or leaving the burlap uncovered on the back of the mat, I generally work one side, then the bottom and then up the other side, leaving the top until last. When I sew the top I try to leave the ends open as this makes a casing for a curtain rod. I do this on all my mats and therefore at any time they are ready for the floor or hanging on the wall.
These are just a few of the finishing methods there are but these are the most common. Congratulations on the finishing of your project. If you have any questions about rug hooking or finishing just visit us at Deanne’s Studio, we are always happy to help.