A Carpet Installer's Notebook: A Tip of the (End) Cap
October 26, 2010
Well, it’s the subfloor and floor prep issue again. Last time we had one I told you it was best to let the hard surface experts deal with this. I am a fuzzy stuff guy and for the most part when it comes to carpet; knock up the staples, scrape up the crap the drywallers left (which can be considerable), and sweep the floor. I know sometimes there is a whole lot more, but like I said, it’s probably best left to the hard surface guys. Me trying to add something to those boys would be like taking sand to the beach.
So, I thought I would talk to you about end capping an oriental runner, which will also serve as a primer on hand sewing. Hand sewing is not hard, contrary to what many of you think; tedious yes, but hard no. Like any new skill, it will take some practice to become proficient.
Ok, why do end capping? People get machine-made oriental runners for their stairs and would like a runner for the hall or by the front door. The problem is that the ends have no border and look unfinished. This is where you come in with your new end capping skills, and also this is where more money comes into your pocket. How much more? Well, it’s hard to say; it depends on your market. It will take you three to four hours to cap both ends by hand sewing, especially if you are an old geezer with sore hands like me. I think $125 per side or $250 total is a fair price for the installer, but that’s me. If you can get more without people feeling gouged, God bless ya.
Ok first, how much to order? This runner was 31” wide the customer wanted a 9-foot finished runner. I told her to order 13 feet; 9 feet for the finished runner and an additional 4 feet so I could center the pattern in the area rug as well as cut off the border and have enough for a shift to center the border on the ends. You can’t match the pattern because you are quarter turning the border, but you can center it and make it look like that’s the way it’s supposed to be as you can see in Photo 14.
First determine what you are using as the pattern center of the area rug. Then measure, in this case 4’7” each way from the center, and mark the carpet. This will give you the 9 feet for the finished rug plus an inch to work with at each end. These machine-made runners are easy to mark across the weft (width); you can run a pencil down the row to easily mark it (Photo 1). The border on this runner was 5 inches (Photo 2).
Working again from your pattern center measure 4’1” from the center to each end (4’6” less the 5” border you will be adding) and mark the carpet at those points. Cut the carpet at your marks, leaving the borders on each side (Photo 3). Measure and mark from your cut on the field 5 inches on the border as shown in Photo 1. Now before you cut, measure the width of the border to the edge of the serging. On this border, it was 4 5/8 inches. Measure and mark from your field cut 4 5/8 inches. Prepare to cut your mitre using the point where the border meets the field cut and where your 4 5/8 mark meets the serging. This will give you the proper cut to where your pencil mark doesn’t show on the serging (Photo 5). Wrap a piece of scotch tape around the edge and cut through it to keep the serging fray to a minimum. Seal the cut edges.
On the piece you are going to get your end caps from, center the pattern of the border and measure 15 ¾ inches to each side. This is a 31” wide runner; your runner may vary. This is the total length of border you need for the end cap. Now measure 10 ¾ inches from the center to each side and mark. This your point to start your mitre cut. Cut your end caps (Photo 6). Seal the edges!
The way I was taught to sew is to use a thimble on my middle finger and push the needle through the carpet front to back (Photo 7). Some people push the needle from the back to the front. Not to say one is better than the other; this is just the way I was taught.
It is important to properly measure your thread or you will be fighting with it. You will be doubling your thread, so you need it to end up the length of you arm to not have any excess forcing you to make a double pull. Take the end of the thread in your left hand, the roll in your right hand. Hold your right hand by your right shoulder, extend your left arm fully to your left. Let go, grasp the thread at the roll, and repeat. Once you thread the needle putting it in the center of the thread and knotting the ends, you will have a threaded needle with enough doubled thread for one arm pull. This is a far as you can pull the needle to tighten the stitch. Don’t pull too tight or you will pucker the seam. Sorry, no picture; Janet took one of me, but I looked too fat and sweaty; I was working. You didn’t want to see that anyway.
It is generally recommended with woven carpet to keep your stitches at least four rows or ½ inch from the edge. When you are first starting to sew, you will find it easier to keep your stitches straight if you mark the carpet with pencil lines (Photo 8).
After you have finished sewing on the end caps, smear some of the latex you used to seal the seams across the finished stitches. This will protect, strengthen and lock the thread in place (Photo 8a).
You are almost done. The serging at the tips of the mitre will have frayed a bit so now you will need to hand serge them. Oh hush; it’s not that bad. To get the serging thread you need, cut the clear thread at the bottom of the serging on the back of the carpet (Photo 9). Not the serging thread, just the clear thread then you can unravel it (Photo 10).
The serging thread is thicker and I like to at least double it to make the work go faster, so to make threading the needle easier, I use a piece of my sewing thread for a makeshift needle threader (Photo 11).
Run the doubled thread through the eye of the needle, leaving a loop. Feed the serging thread through the loop and then use the doubled thread to pull the serging thread through the eye of the needle. For hand serging, I will use an upholstery needle with a larger eye than the ones I use for sewing.
You will be able to direct the serging loops to cover the area you want with your finger (Photos 12 &13).
The finished serged corner is shown in Photo 14. The finished runner is shown in Photo 15.
As with any new skill, practice a bit to get the feel. Don’t run out tomorrow saying, “Hot diggity! Mike showed me yesterday.” Practice a bit first. End capping is not hard, but you do need to be precise.