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Fold Forward Finish- Zig Zagging the Edge

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Fold Forward Finish

Finishing Hooked Rug-adding straight stitching

The fold forward method is my default finish for all my hooked rugs. It is a whipped edge that is sturdy and does not require additional supplies such as cording or rug tape.  This is Step 1 – how to prepare the backing edge.

If you have time to steam the rug AND can let it sit undisturbed for several days, steam it now.  If not, you can steam it later.  I usually end up steaming at least twice.  Once before the rug gets whipped and again after the whipping is complete.

This step is necessary for most finishing methods.

1. Mark your final edge by drawing a line around the outside edge of your rug.  I use 1 1/4″ for rug warp when I’m doing a whipped edge. Use a pencil and drag it in the ditch. Use the method described in Basic Techniques: Drawing Straight Lines.

Use a ruler to measure the distance or add the Finishing Measuring Tool  to your shopping cart.  Free with any order.

Zig Zagging around the edge of a hooked rug

Initial stitching around the rug BEFORE the edge is cut.

2. Zig zag around your piece with the presser foot touching your loops. There is no need to get super close. The goal is to keep two rows of zig zagging within the area between the loops and the pencil line.

3. Run another row about ¼” from the first as shown. Be sure to stay inside the pencil line.  This picture does not show it but I now round the corners with the second row.  See step 6 below.  We will be cutting off the corner and you do not want stitching in the portion of the corner that will be cut off.

4. Stitch a row of straight stitching over each row of zig zag.  This step helps to keep the backing from stretching and is particularly important for oval or round rugs.

Finishing Hooked Rug-adding straight stitching

Adding a row of straight stitching on top of the row of zig zagging

Close up of straight stitching and zig zagging

Close up of straight stitching and zig zagging

The straight stitching is vital for round or oval rugs. Add another row just inside the edge where you will cut it off. Do the stitching BEFORE you cut it off. This will help to prevent stretching when you zig zag the edge.

5.  Now cut off the excess at the pencil line.  Zig zag the raw edge to prevent fraying.  If the rug is very large, I will cut as I go so that while handling the rug I do not stretch out the edge.

Finishing: Zig zag the cut edge of a hooked rug

Zig zag the cut edge to keep it neat.

6.  Fold the corner in so that the tip of the corner just touches your hooking.  The sides of the triangle should be in line with the rows of your hooking.  Mark the 45 degree angle made by the fold using a pencil or marker along the edge of the fold.

Finishing a hooked rug: Mark the corners to reduce bulk

7.  Unfold.  Working from the wrong side so that you can see the line you just made, zig zag just INSIDE the line.  Repeat for all corners.

Finishing a hooked rug: Corner stitching

8.  Add a row of straight stitching on top of the zig zagging.  Backstitch (go forward, then reverse, then forward again) to secure the ends.  Do this at the beginning and at the end.  This is one of the most important steps to keep your corners small and beautiful.  Be sure to stitch the corner diagonally BEFORE cutting.  If you cut first, the corner will stretch out of shape because you are stitching on the bias.

I do not cut these corners off until I absolutely need to; when I begin to fold and baste the edge in place.

If you have not steamed the rug yet, this is another good stopping place to do it.  Don’t skimp on the time it takes to let it dry.  If you don’t have the time you can continue without steaming but be aware that each step you complete without steaming puts you at a slight disadvantage.  As you stitch and baste the edge the rug cannot expand or contract along the edges as easily.

Cindi Gay Rug Hooking Newsletter


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About Cindi Gay

I always felt like an artist looking for a medium until I found rug hooking. It satisfies all my creative outlets.
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  1. How do you proceed if you either don’t have a sewing machine or a zig-zag stitch on a machine? What about using Elmer’s glue or fray-check on the lines before you cut?


  2. Thanks for posting this way of finishing a rug. I’ll tri it on my next rug. JB

  3. Trisha-If you hook with a group, ask around. There will be someone who will trade the use of their machine for something you can do. If not, I’m a purist on rugs. I’m not sure of the chemicals in the glue. Sure it will work, but will it cause accelerated wear? I would stitch by hand over the edge to hold the weave of the backing in place. I’m sure there is a name for this stitch, maybe someone can help with that. A blanket stitch may work also.

  4. Step #5…..Could a serger be used instead of cutting and sewing?? What do you consider a “large” rug? Thank you

  5. Susan-A serger can be used. I don’t own one, so I always forget to mention it. A large rug would be any rug that is going to hang off the side of the table as you are sewing. Because the rug is unsupported, the edge could get stretched out of shape. But if you are using a serger, it doesn’t get cut off until you stitch. The perfect solution!

  6. Cindi: I finish the way you do, however with one exception. I make the 3rd row of ziz-zag, then trim, for me it is easier to do that before cutting of the excess. It works for me. In request if you do not have a sewing machine, personally, I would do a running hand stitch several times then whip stitch after cutting the excess away.

  7. Rose-That’s a great idea and the edge probably would not stretch as much. I have trouble seeing up close (and as much trouble finding the glasses) so cutting it off on the pencil line and stitching what is left is easier for me than trying to cut close to the stitching but not cut the thread. Those hanging threads are one of the things about finishing that drives me crazy. Zig zagging over the cut edge captures all those straggly critters. –I really thought spell check would have trouble with straggly. I didn’t but is that really a word?

  8. Andrea Bennett says:

    Cindi, will your instructions for finishing a rug work with burlap as well? I’m about to finish my first rug and your instructions look great but I noticed your backing is not burlap.

  9. Yes, you can use this finish for burlap. You will need to add something to support the layers because burlap does not have the body that rug warp does. You can use a very small cording or even some yarn that you have chained stitched. Just tuck it into the last fold. Avoid burlap for your next project. While it is inexpensive, it can rot in as little as 15 years. Time is the killer of rugs, not foot traffic so using your piece as a wall hanging does not extend the life. In fact, the stress of hanging it vertically could shorten the life span as well.

  10. Meta Waling says:

    A friend told me about stitching and zigzagging around my rug pattern, but I did it before I ever started hooking ( I’m new at this). Will this be OK? Is it better to wait until I’ve finished a project before stitching around it? Thank you!

    • Yes, it is better to wait until the end. It is certainly easier before your rug is hooked, but it constrains you and your rug. By stitching before you begin hooking, you are not allowing your backing to adjust to your loops and to move as it needs to. This could cause cupping or curving of the edge of your rug. Once the machine stitching is in, leave it there. It often will do more damage coming out than it did going in.

      The other constraint is on your creativity. When I hook a rug, I draw it or order it with extra backing around the edge. The larger the rug, the more excess backing I want. With the extra real estate I can design whatever border the rug needs, if it needs one. If not, when I cut the excess backing off, I have something large enough that I can actually use for ATC cards, pins, or Christmas ornaments. A small 4″- 6″ piece is useless but I can do something with 12″ – 18″. If you don’t have the excess backing on board before you begin you cannot expand as needed. If you’ve stitched around the preplanned edge, you are also locked in.

      I’m a big fan of options. I like the opportunity to change my mind later. There is nothing worse than a good idea you cannot use because you don’t have enough backing.

  11. Hi….. do you also have instructions on how to finish a rug with ‘show fabric’? instead of whipping?

    • It is basically the same method that I use for pillows. Just sew on the sashing and turn it to the back. The amount that you allow to “show” is up to you. I’ve seen anywhere from 1/2′ to several inches.

      I’ve even hooked into the show finish on my piece, Southern Woman. It is hard to see in the photo, but her neck is extended into the finish. This avoided a chopped off head look and gave her neck a more graceful finish.

  12. Marsha Andrews says:

    Wonderful information here! You mention hold off on the zig zagging until after you’re finished. Does this also apply to a thin row most pre-printed patterns come with? I’ve designed a small mat to work on this summer so I’m wondering if I should zig zag around the outer edges to keep it from fraying. I’ve only been hooking 14 months so I have lots to learn. Thanks!

  13. Always zig zag around the edge of the pattern, usually 6-8″ beyond the edge of the pattern. This will be cut off when the rug is finished and is done to prevent the backing from raveling as you are hooking.

    Don’t have a sewing machine? Other methods are:

    • Elmer’s Glue at the edge, about a 1/2″ band works
    • Masking tape wrapped around the edge
    • A big overcast stitch done by hand
    • Marsha Andrews says:

      Thanks for the clarification. I figured this would be your answer but wanted to make sure. Great website!

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