Monday, April 24, 2017

Turban swags

Before I had the recent shade marathon, I had a swag sort of half-marathon.  The last proper blog post was the final installment of three about an arched swag treatment.  At the same time, I was drafting a pattern for Turban swags and also some Austrian swags.  So I had a big swag immersion week or two!
Of course the first thing I did for the Turban swags was drape chain weight, following the instructions in Ann Johnson's book.  The vertical chain drop marks the specific short point at the crossover.  Turban swags are hybrids: one side of each swag is a traditional board-mounted swag, and the other side is a boxed swag.  Ann shows how to combine two styles of swag to create this and other hybrid swags.
 Draping the chain weight took a lot of experimenting.  The board and legs were set up on the edge of the table so the chains could easily be adjusted to get the right silhouette.
The Turban swags presented a challenge because the fabric was a woven vertical stripe and the designer wanted the stripes to run horizontally.  Swag patterns are not rectangles- they are weird curved trapezoids- so the stripes would've been cut at an curve at the bottom and I didn't like how that looked.  Therefore I improvised.  The swag was possible by making a more informal look.  On the sides the stripes are pleated, but because the swag wasn't cut as it should've been, it wouldn't hold its folds.  I had to allow the fabric to do what it wanted, yet guide it into pleasing gathers.   The casual gathered look worked well with this heavy woven fabric.
These swags were being mounted on a window which ran straight into a door opening on the left, so the return couldn't be the full length of the swag on the left side.  I made a short return, then a fascia board to support it and provide a surface to wrap the bottom pleats around for stapling.
 A lot of stapling and unstapling and re-stapling went into the process of pleating the swag to achieve a pleasing look.  This is one of many incarnations of the return:
 Finally the swags were pleated attractively, and the returns were finished.  We added velcro and sent along a flap of fabric that the installer could position to conceal any gap, if that proved necessary.
I was on pins and needles until the phone rang- the designer and homeowner LOVED the treatment!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Shade Apocalypse!

I'm back, people!  This past 4 weeks I've been working intensely on projects that all came in at once and were all due practically at once, including one whole house project, and one half-house.
About 80% of the work we did in-house this past month was shades- close to 60- some of them gigantic- so you can bet I've got a lot to say about shades!  Yeah, in this business, there's no such thing as "Now I've seen it all!"   Nope, there is ALWAYS more to see, more to learn, more problems to solve, and more challenges to confront.
So as much as I've talked about shades over the years, I've got even more to say, after these past 4 weeks.
No, I'm not going to say it all RIGHT now!  It'll take me some time to distill my notes and and curate the photos for the blog.
Here's just one, to give you an idea:

My incomparable husband John was priceless during this effort, and I couldn't have done all this work without his intelligence and knowledge and ability to assess, diagnose, and improvise- people, if you ever need a problem-solver extraordinaire, ask an audio engineer!
Camille flew in and out of the studio off and on, and tirelessly sewed probably a thousand rings herself.  We bartered time so I could help her make a super-cool shade for her friend.
Workroom Facebook friends Elki and Greg came to my aid late one evening when we were stuck trying to figure out something about spring roller systems.
Mike at Designer's Resource waterproofed some packages when I had to pick up after-hours and in the pouring rain a few things I had forgotten to order.
Marty picked up and delivered over-size tubes.
Josh spent 3 hours volunteering to run a few miles of lift cord through ring locks.
Tim my installer talked as he worked installing all these different shade systems, and I took notes- in the process I learned a lot more about the issues the installers face, and how in the workroom we can anticipate these issues and allow for them.
AND I managed to get to the NJ WCAA event "Windows to Success" with two fantastic presentations by Terri Booser!

In the past 5 weeks we have used 4 different lift systems- traversing clutch, tube clutch, spring roller roman, and RBS headrail. I'll tell you about them all- why we used each particular system for different circumstances; and I'll tell you what we learned about each system in the process.

Blackout.  Oh, boy, blackout.  I've gotten my new method- my 100% completely foolproof no-pinholes-of-light-absolutely-guaranteed  method- down to a sleek, well-oiled-machine sort of process- with ribs, too!  These are serious shades- serious Home Furnishings- and I'm thrilled with them.

I have discovered yet another method for making hobbled shades- I think I now know of about a dozen ways to make hobbled shades- and it keeps getting both better AND easier AND faster. 

Pattern was an important component of some of the hobbled shades, so I did a lot of pattern mocking-up, and I found a neat trick to allow us to make larger folds to accommodate a pattern repeat and still remain in compliance with safety standards!

Stationary shades- I used 4 different methods for those...........
Toppers for reverse mounted shades........
New ways to use Dofix products.........
Oh, and how I used fusible Dofix blackout lining to remedy on-site an absurd mistake I made...............

Did I mention yet the arched shade?  And how we made the frame by bending and layering wood ripped to 1/4" with our new bandsaw?

Yeah, I have a LOT to say about shades!
Stay tuned.......

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Westchester Home Design Awards

I am so happy to report that two designers with whom I work have been named finalists in the 2017 Westchester Home Design Awards!  It's a thrill to see one's work in a space that has been recognized as one of the top three in its category in the county.  I'm so fortunate to work with these (and many other) talented, driven, and committed professionals.  When they let loose their creativity, they allow the work of so many fabricators to shine. 

Katherine Stern was nominated for the category Library or Home Office.  Katherine and I brainstormed to create some of the most exciting roman shades I've ever made.  You can read about them on this blog post which details how we broke up the 54" wide fabric and re-constructed the pattern so it would fit in the space.   Click on this article link and scroll down to see the entire room after it was finished, and the brilliant way in which Katherine has used color and industrial metals to create what she calls "a dynamic tension."

 In the category Best Use of Small Spaces, designer Denise Wenacur was nominated for transforming a bonus room into this tranquil meditation space.  We fabricated the roman shades and window seat cushions.  I love how the light enhances the texture of the pale grey linen blend which was lined in a sheer.   Click on this article link and scroll down to Denise's entry, to see gorgeous photos of the whole room, completed. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Grey velvet swags, installed!

I'm happy to say that the grey velvet swags were successfully installed today!  Thanks to Danny at Fabric Factory Outlet for sending me his photo.
I've made a variety of arched treatments before, but once I began making this, I realized that I had never actually made arched SWAGS.  Thanks to the excellent instructions in Ann Johnson's books on swag fabrication, I was able to draft these swags perfectly on the first try.
The side swags were pretty tricky.  I read the instructions a dozen times before starting.  I've made asymmetrical swags, but never with an arched top.  It was fun!
The face of the board was covered in grey lining....
.....and the outward-facing part covered in white.  The horizontal board is there to help the frame stay put; it was removed after the arch was installed.
I marked the arch with masking tape in 1/2" increments so I'd have symmetrical reference points for each side.
 The reference points allowed me to go back and forth and make small adjustments evenly on each side.
The side swags were attached first, starting with the flat section.  When stapling mirror image swags, I do both together, one pleat at a time, so they can be pleated the same way.
It was pretty thrilling to see the pleats to fall into shape almost immediately!
I used cardboard tack strip to even out the center where the pleats stack up.  After the center swag was stapled, I flipped it back and filled in the gaps with little pieces of cardboard, then secured it all with hot glue. 
Actually the hot glue made a good filler too.  I wanted the top curve to be sleek.  Once the glue cooled, I trimmed it smooth with scissors.
To shape the jabots to the frame, I made a little paper mock-up of the jabot silhouette and cut the shape of the frame.
After the jabots were pleated (using my Parkhill jig), I cut them to shape, leaving a board allowance for the returns and first pleat.
Since the jabots followed the frame precisely, they were easy to attach to the face.  Only the return and part of the outermost pleats were stapled up onto the dustboard; the rest was attached to the front to reduce bulk.
It didn't seem likely that anyone would climb up and see the raw edges, but I covered them will twill tape just to be safe.
The dustboard cover was stapled just behind all the tack strip build-up which shaped the top.  It's fun to staple it on then flip it over right side up!
It's a wrap!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A busy hallway!

No matter how much workroom space you have, you always wish you had more, right?
I'm very lucky that in addition to my workroom space, I also have a L-O-N-G hallway, and I use the wall for drafting.  Recently I've been drafting those arched swags I mentioned yesterday.
I leveled the frame on a workroom stand and taped out the shape, reference points, and hung plumb lines.
 Using Ann Johnson's Anatomy of a Swag Vol. 2 as my guide, I draped chain weight to determine the shape and proportions of the swags.  This took a LOT of experimentation.  There were 3 fixed points: a center finished length of 18", a short crossover point of 15", and a finished width of 106".  Those numbers determined the shape of the swags.
As I was in the thick of it, along came two (TWO) Fed Ex drivers: one in the normal delivery truck with a big order from Rowley Company, and the other in a semi with a well-packaged 11' custom Ripplefold pole from J L Anthony!  (wait'll you see it!  it's spectacular)
We opened the box with the pole to be sure it was in perfect condition, and I went back to pattern-making.  As I perfected the chain weight draping, I recorded the measurements on the worksheets in Ann's book.
The masking tape was handy for making notes as I worked.

I taped gridded paper to the wall and traced the outlines of the swags.
All those tapes and draped chains were distracting, so I removed all but the actual swag shapes, to be sure I was satisfied with the proportions and silhouette.  Next- creating the swag pattern.......

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A break from shades

This week I'm taking a break from shades, and focusing on three different swag projects for three different clients.
My go-to source for all things swags is Ann Johnson's superb books, Anatomy of a Swag.
If you are a workroom professional and don't own these books, all I can say is, why not?!
We took a chunk of time to create the frames we'll need for the three projects.  This is not in my comfort zone, so that might have something to do with why you haven't heard from me for a few days!
Lots of sketching, cutting, ripping, labeling little pieces, covering with lining...... this part is a LOT OF WORK!
There's one arch missing: it's out with the installer to check the fit before attaching the treatment.
 Ann's books will be particularly invaluable for the arched treatment.
Not only are the swags arched, but the side swags are actually hybrids: the inner half of each is a board-mounted arched swag, and the outer half of each is boxed: i.e. the pleats go on a vertical leg.  So the pattern will be half-and-half.  Here's a boxed swag we made a few years ago:
Another of the three jobs actually is a boxed swag with flat tails.  The treatment will be an exact duplicate of this, in a new, fresh fabric:
We photographed the inside to make sure we were re-creating the frame in the same way.
The third project will be a Turban swag treatment.  This is also a hybrid, like the outer arched swags without the arch.  This is a gathered Turban swag treatment we made a few years ago:
I'll be photographing the new treatments before they leave the workroom, so stay tuned!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Exquisite Fabric-Trim Pairing

Are you familiar with Bart Halpern fabrics?  If not, just take a quick peek at the website.  This company pleats fine fabrics onto a tricot knit backing in a dozen or more different patterns.
I was lucky enough to be asked to make shades out of a sheer linen pleated into the "wide wave" pattern.
 It was paired with this delicious Osborne and Little decorative banding.
I didn't take any fabrication photos, because the process was a little nerve-wracking, and I wanted to stay focused on the work.
My biggest concern was to not shrink the linen fabric while applying the trim.  I carefully tabled the fabric, aligning the "waves" with the table grid, and hand-sewed the side hems. 
I planned the trim layout, pinned it to size into the U-shape, and machine-sewed the mitered corners.  The corner seam was clipped and pressed open.  I used Bortenfix adhesive tape from Dofix to apply the trim- after first having tested the fabric to be sure it wouldn't distort. 
As you know if you read this blog often, I do sometimes use adhesives for shade side hems, but only when the ring stitch would be on the hem section to provide backup security for the hem in case the adhesive failed. 
In this case there were several reasons for hand-sewing. 
First, I knew I was going to be applying steam when it came time to fuse the trim to the face, so I wanted to keep the steam to a minimum. 
Secondly, I wanted the fabric to lay naturally, and sometimes an adhesive will secure the grainline in an awkward way- especially with a delicate, grainy sheer.
Most importantly, I wanted the hem to not be wider than the inner edge of the trim, and I wanted the rings to not be sewn through the trim, so, therefore, because the rings would have to be placed past the hemline, I wouldn't have those ring stitches to provide backup security for the hemline.  Which is why I hand-sewed the side hems.  Whew, I hope you followed that!
There were three shades in a bay window, but sadly I was not present at the installation and do not have any photos of the shades in their new home.  We have a lot of homes in this area with double-hung windows like these, and there isn't a lot of room for an inside mount.
I was pleased to get a report back that the shades "fit like a glove"- here you can see that I notched out the back corners of the board so it would nestle into the limited space.  The shade is a 1/2" wider than the board to allow the fabric to fill in the outermost beveled edge of the window frame.
 A success story!