Finishing a hooked rug – zig zag or not?

August 23, 2012 16 comments | Updated April 6, 2021

Written by Cindi Gay

To zig zag or not to zig zag the edge of a hooked rug?

Finishing a hooked rug: zig zagging the edgeI learned my first finishing method from Rug Hooking Magazine. I was then exposed to the fold forward finish at Sauder Village by Evelyn Lawrence. Jule Marie Smith, my teacher that year, took the method a step further and eliminated the cording because of the thicker nature of rug warp. I’ve used that method ever since.

Using a sewing machine on a hooked rug

I remember a scheduled slide show with Jessie Turbayne that turned into a very small group discussion – just three of us. One thing Jessie said that has stuck with me is how the sewing machine is very destructive. It slams into the fibers and splits them to make the stitches. To reverse machine stitches is very difficult without damaging the backing even further. Hand sewing is much more forgiving.

Conclusion: Am I perforating the edge when I so carefully zig zag?

Am I doing more harm than good by zig zagging? I think so. Once the backing is folded up and whipped, it is not going to unravel any more. Not sure how the custom of the stitching started, but I’ve been carrying it forward.

No more. I hate the process of prepping the backing. I do need and benefit from zig zagging the outer edge after I cut off the excess. I can live with doing that much. I tried to finish one of my stair risers once without a sewing machine when I was out of town. I’ll never try that again. It unraveled so fast it was all I could do to get it stitched up quickly.

No sewing machine? Here are some solutions

  1. Have a friend do it. Just ask. Offer rughooking wool if needed.
  2. Use fray check. I’ve never tried this because the stuff is just too darned expensive but I’ve been told it works. If you do use it, be sure it says acid-free on the label. You don’t want your edge decaying from the inside out.
  3. Hand stitch over the edge enough to keep the fibers from unraveling as you work with it
  4. Work fast, only cutting as you need it. I tried this and it was a dismal failure for me.

To secure the edge as you are rug hooking:

  1. Duck tape. Lenny Freeman using this on the edge of his patterns. It comes in a really cool animal prints. It looks like duct tape, but is intended for fabric and is much softer. Doesn’t matter if it is acid free or not, you’ll be cutting that part off later anyways.
  2. Fold the edge twice and stitch.

Close up of Cindi GayCan you think of any other ways to finish the edge of your rughooking so that the backing does not unravel as you sew up the edge? Leave a comment and I will add it to this list.

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