Friday, August 15, 2014

Extreme blackout; or, where are the pinholes of light?

"Extreme blackout"- this blog post title could actually apply also to my blog in general- I having been out of sight since early July!  I've checked the blog stats and am shocked (but delighted) to see that people are still reading this blog every day even though it's been 6 weeks since my last post..... 
Ever since returning from vacation, I have been swamped with very intense production deadlines.  It's hard to remember to take photos when working so hard, but I do have some, and a few stories to tell.
Here's one of them.

"Extreme blackout" is what I call this homeowner's request for her bedrooms.  We created three-layer treatments that came as close as one could get to total blackout, without fully covering the windows with draperies, which she did not want.
We installed phase one of her renovated home on July 31, the family moved in on August 1, and on August 4 their baby boy was born.  He came home the next day to his own very, very dark bedroom.
Now that is DARK!
Here's what you see by daylight:

More on the toppers in a future post- meanwhile, thanks to Joanna Braxton for her instructional DVD on making these sleek cornices....

Now, you might be wondering, where are the pinholes of light that are the inherent drawback to blackout shades, the thorn in the side for shade fabricators, and the bane of our existence?

Yeah, we solved that problem.

A double-sided shade with multiple layers of linings made it possible.  Here's what the back looks like (this photo is of a similar shade in another room.)   These are serious shades, folks, more like furniture than curtains! 
Before going into detail, I want to acknowledge that my train of thought about those pesky pinholes of light began during an enlightening webinar by Susan Woodcock (Home Dec Gal) which I attended in the spring.  She developed her own clever way of dealing with the pinholes, which over a couple of months percolated through my brain and evolved into this method for this particular job.

First we made the shade using three layers of lining.  Next to the face, Bella Notte Silky Blackout.  Then interlining, and finally regular cotton sateen.
The shade is strung, using ladder tape on the outer two rows.
Another layer of Silky Blackout is tacked over each ring, one tack on each side of the ring.  So one layer of blackout hides the hole(s) in the other layer.  No pinholes of light!
Coming up next: more on the double-sided blackout; more rooms with variations on the three-layer treatment; more on the slender cornices; more on box pleated draperies.  No more 6-week hiatus for me.  Thanks for hanging in there, and coming back!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Just before leaving for vacation, we completed this project: cutting out appliqued motifs from one linen fabric and re-appliqueing them to a linen sheer.  Here's a workroom shot.
I'll take more photos after vacation when we return to tweak the treatments, but for now, here's a first shot of one window with drapery over a London shade.
Meanwhile, here's where we are:
See ya next week!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Wool and grosgrain draperies

Oh, my poor blog and blog readers, I've been so neglectful.......
Well,  I have this project to show off: hand-sewn interlined wool top tack draperies with grosgrain trim, for Christopher Robert Matson.  Did I take even a single photo during fabrication?- No!  I did not.  This was a tricky job and all my concentration went into making it, not documenting it.  Now I'm sorry.
Wool from Elizabeth Dow was a dream to sew with its thick, forgiving weave.  With additional layers of lining and interlining we chose to use a low-bulk header so the pudgy 3" 3-finger top tack pleats would not have too much bulk.
I wish there were a perfect method for applying grosgrain ribbon.  Unfortunately it's usually a choice between less than optimal techniques.  Applying anything to wool is a real challenge.  In this case the first step after joining widths was to fuse the ribbon to the wool with Sealah tape, which came to just below the top of the trim to give a teeny tiny space for the hem stitches.  Blue painters' tape marked the side and bottom hemlines, thanks, Scot Robbins! 
Christopher asked us to duplicate the style of the original sheer, unlined curtains, including the cutouts which accommodate the molding.

On installation day we were excited to be delivering these luxurious draperies to this Upper East Side flat in our new pink garment bags from Wawak!  Thanks, Merlyn.....
We took down the original curtains and hung the new ones on the existing rods.
A minimal amount of steaming was all this amazing wool required and the pleats dressed wonderfully.
In another room, a similar wool and trim were used for side panels and a scalloped kick pleated valance.  The beautiful cotton batiste sheers disguised the asymmetry of the space.

Friday, May 30, 2014

One way to make a ribbed shade

Ribs give a bit of support to flat romans, helping them fold neatly.
Ribs aren't foolproof; there are some fabrics that they just don't help at all; but they were great in these 3 linen shades with napped sateen lining.
There are different rib materials: plastic, metal, fiberglass; and many ways of using them. 
This is one way. 
The shade begins with the lining: pockets are sewn into the back side of napped sateen.  Since these shades are 86" long, we spaced the rows 8" apart.  The default spacing of 6" would've made way too many folds, all stacked up on top of each other.
The pockets are pressed downward, and the lining laid onto the prepared face fabric.  The gridded tabletop is indispensable for producing these shades. 
No matter how meticulously the pockets are sewn, you still need to go along each row with a straightedge and make sure the seams are as straight as possible.  The side hems are folded over the lining, but not yet sewn.
At the bottom, the hem is basted in place.  Yes, it could be pinned, but basting is better.
The vertical rows are marked for rings with purple disappearing pen, and ladder tape is run.  At the bottom, the row of rings above the hem are sewn, and the ladder tape pinned in place above the hem.  Note that the side rows of rings are not placed over the side hems, but just past the edge of the hems.
At the top, the topmost row of rings are sewn.  These are reverse mounted, so the grommet placement is marked with pencil.  The board line is marked allowing an extra 1/4".  The cutting line is marked, and the word "REVERSE" is lightly penciled in to help me remember not to staple the shade the regular way!!!  This step has saved me a lot of time :)  The ladder tape is stapled to the excess fabric for safekeeping.
Now for the Zen portion of the fabrication: sewing on the rings.  If the seams did not absolutely perfectly follow a straight line, it's ok, as long as you've marked perfectly for the rings.  The ring can go a smidgen above the seam or a hair into the pocket area.  The ribs will keep straight inside the pockets. 
When all rings are sewn, the shade goes to the sewing machine for the weight bar pocket- several steps that I forgot to photograph.  The shade is laid back out onto the table, the side hems opened up, and the ribs inserted into the pockets.
The side hems are folded back over, pressed lightly, and hand-sewn to the lining.  The weight bar is inserted and the pocket tacked shut.

All it needs now are the grommets, and it's ready for the board!  After the lift mechanism is secured, the shade is strung and leveled; lastly the valance is attached and it's ready for packing up.

Monday, May 26, 2014

More special touches for sheer shades

We enjoy giving a little extra attention to sheer fabrics, whether for shades or panels.
We were pleased to admire this shade, for Nicole Gray of Suite Dream, for the week before installation day.
Ladder tape was not available in a color that blended with the fabric, so we dyed some ourselves.
To hide the weight bar pocket, one permanent fold is created at the bottom.  Everything else is hand-sewn.
  For this embroidered linen semi-sheer, also for Suite Dream, we created the matching weight bar tube pocket out of the selvedge.
The selvedge also make a perfect non-bulky board cover.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Double-sided ribbed roman shade- at last!

I've been wanting to try making one of these for years.  A double-sided shade lifts from cords sandwiched in between two shades which fold up independently of each other.

At last the perfect opportunity arose: for Denise Wenacur's client, a basement space with a playroom and a gym, with a window between so the adults can see the children.  They wanted two shades, one in each room, but I thought I had an even better idea.
It worked perfectly.
From the gym you can operate the shade and see into the playroom.
 On the playroom side, you can see through the window the valance that hides the clutch and the grommets that allow the strings to lead up to the headrail.  The pleats fold up neatly thanks to the ribs inside.

Before making the client's shade, I needed to make more than a mockup- rather, a full size sample.  As I made it I thought of better ways to do it, so the final product isn't made quite like this one was.
Both shades have this in common: the ribs are secured in the side hems.  For the mockup, the ribs were tucked into the side hem which was secured with Sealah tape.  For the customer's shade, the side hems were hand-sewn.

 Twin stitches were made through both layers and provided a channel for the lift cord.
The actual shade was lined, with a sheer, to keep bulk to a minimum.  The lift cord was secured at the bottom, inside where the weight bar will be sewn.   An X-shaped stitch on the front side only created the channel for the lift cord, and when it was all assembled and hung, stab-stitches were made to hold the layers together.
On the playroom side the valance hides all the workings, and at the ends small flaps keep the underside of the board out of view.