SO.........WHAT ARE WE WORKING ON TODAY??

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sewing loop braid to wool sheers

Applying heavy trims to lightweight sheers requires special handling.  The weight alone can pull on the fabric, and the stitching can create puckering.  When I was asked to apply this loop braid to 10 lead edges of this wool sheer, I knew it would take some painstaking sewing to achieve an impeccable look.
 At the proposal stage of this project, designer Christopher Matson asked me, "Can you REALLY sew this trim to this fabric and make it look fantastic?  Or are you just saying yes to make me happy?"  I said Yes I Can!  because a few years ago I had made these wool blend curtains with this loop braid, and had used this method.

The first step was to cut the fabric true to the grain.  To do that, you pull a thread of the weave across the width and cut following that line.  For the length, I carefully removed the selvedges to let the weave of the fabric relax.  Such a fine fabric as this is always woven to perfection, so once the cuts were made, I was confident that the grainline was a reliable reference point.
Next I laid out the fabric and trim to see how much I needed to fold over the side borders in order to fully cover the stitching.
Pressing the side borders ahead of time gave me the line for applying the trim.  Pressing was easy because the gridded table cover shows through the sheer.  It was critical to keep the vertical line neat and true, so that there would be no little hairs of threads showing at the lead edge when the light shone through.
After pressing, I flipped the panel over right sides up and laid out the trim.
I tried sewing at that point, but it was impossible: the fabric was too shifty and the trim too rigid.  I decided to glue baste it with tiny dots of Rowley's fringe adhesive.  It needed only a few minutes to set up so the fabric could be moved.
Now it was ready for the painstaking process of sewing.
We tried various ways to sew invisibly.  The most efficient and secure was to pick the needle up in one of the points and back down on the other side of a cord.  That made stitches that were about 1/2".  We made sure to keep them quite loose on the back to eliminate puckering.
After awhile we realized we could hold the fabric in one hand rather than keep it flat on the table.  That speeded up the sewing significantly.  We did two rows of stitching on each lead edge.
At the ends, we had this mess to deal with.
When the hem was turned up, the trim wanted to crimp the fabric.
We solved that by cinching the loops on the back as necessary, to remove their pressure on the delicate fabric.
It was all covered up with the side hem.  The bottoms were neat and flat.
The last step was to sew the already pressed side borders, being careful to conceal the stitching behind the trim so it wouldn't show on the front.  Here's the back.












Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ethereal wool sheer

I won't understate the case, this project, designed by Christopher Robert Matson, was a LOT OF WORK.   Thanks to his amazing vision as well as the talent and determination of my team of you-know-who-you-are hand-sewers, this project is as sublime as I had hoped.  Of course, I only "see" the window treatments, but they are but one element of the space Christopher has created.
Iron rodding from ONA Hardware wraps around this U-shaped space totaling 461".  The Rogers & Goffigon sheer wool draperies are trimmed with a loop braid trim from Samuel and Sons. 
The stationary draperies are made to 2.5x fullness, and are meant to cover only the wall spaces, so in addition to the 2.5x pleating fullness, I added 50% to the area width so they would look as if they'd been drawn open.  So relative to the space covered, the fabric is about 5x full.
The available space at the ends is constrained by a built-in at the far right.  The French pole return allowed us to maintain fullness even wrapping around.
The loop braid was sewn on by hand, the stitches hiddedn in between the little cords.  Thank you to you-know-who-you-are!
The lead edge side hem is doubled over to reach the far edge of the trim, so the stitching from sewing the trim is completely covered.
I joined the widths with French seams that made my heart skip a beat :) after they were pressed.
What can I say about these impossibly perfect hand-tacked pleats.  These pleats make me swoon.  Thank you, to another you-know-who-you-are!
There's so much to say about all the different steps of this project- and for a change I remembered to take plenty of photos.  I'll continue writing about this project, focusing on the fabrication, hardware, and installation as the week progresses. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Another crazy fabric

Does anyone even use the term "casement fabric" anymore?  Fabric like this one probably would've been characterized as a casement fabric back when I was learning window treatments, but I don't think fabric like this didn't even exist back then.
At any rate, this super-expensive, polyester, open-weave, mesh-like fabric needed to be made into 2.5 width pleated panels. 
My first inkling of the challenges to come was with the very first cut.  Cutting along the grainline, if you can call it that, the fabric was 2" longer on one side than on the other.  At the other end of this photo, the grain is lined up with the grid, and weighted down.  At this near end, it's off by 2", and every single cut was like that.
Luckily, these curtains were going under cornices, so the important end was the hemline.  I explained the difficulty and everyone agreed that the bottom should be straight, and at the top, the grain would go where it would. 
I tried four or five ways to sew the widths together; I could not discover a way to sew and eliminate the selvedge.  I needed to use a zipper foot because the bumps were too high for a regular foot to sew alongside.
Pressing the seam to one side, the selvedge is visible but not objectionably so.  We made sure to place the seams alongside a pleat and to the return side of the panels. 
This fabric was unexpectedly heavy, but the designer requested chain weight, so I poured 1/2 bottle of black Rit dye into a bowl, added water and white vinegar, and left the white chain weight in it overnight.  In the morning it rinsed out to a perfectly matching grey.
The easiest part was the hand-sewing of the bottom and side borders- a pleasure, actually!
Seeing that grey chain weight through the fabric made me very happy.
3" translucent buckram was folded into the header and secured with fusible webbing, which melted to invisible.  The tops are doubled, and the pleating was 2.5" full, meaning 6" in the pleat, 4" in the space.  The fabric was too bulky for a three-finger pleat.  Under a cornice, the important consideration is pleating for the best drape-ability, and the two-finger pleat achieved that.  I had intended to tack the pleats by hand, but it actually was easy enough to tack by machine.  The designer called to say the panels look gorgeous!




Friday, May 15, 2015

Wide sheer balloons

Often the fabric for oversize treatments is both wider and longer than the work table.  For two tailored balloon shades, for Fabric Factory Outlet, 115" wide and 44" long, the 120" double-wide fabric needed to be cut 70" long and about 215" wide. 

I was not looking forward to cutting the fabric, hemming it, then tabling it to sew the rings on- every time the fabric is moved or manipulated, it has the chance to distort and get out of square.  That's why I like to make shades entirely on the table from start to finish.

 So- I decided to make the shade before cutting and hemming the fabric.  And I did!-  the fabric did not leave the table until the shade was 90% complete.  It's kind of backwards, but it ensured that the grain remained straight and eliminated distortion from hemming.

My awesome gridded fabric table cover made this possible.

The first step was to get the grain straight by pulling a thread across the entire width and beginning the cut there.
I rolled the fabric to the end of the table, smoothed it, and lined the selvedge up on one side and lined the fold up with the 60" grid line on the other side.
I was able to see the printed lines through the two layers, so I cut the top layer at 10" to create the 70" cut.  I cut all the way to the end of the table and removed the leftover, keeping the fabric well weighted throughout.  That gave me about 144" of my 215" and I left the roll intact at the far end.
At the near end, I folded and pressed the side hems.  I did not see any upside to actually hemming the sides.  With the rings securing the hemline, the fabric stayed in place and there was no stitching or take-up to mar the sides.
I used the selvedge as the top of the shade to ensure that the board line was straight on the grain.  I moved across the table marking every 23" for the vertical ring rows.  I was able to mark 7 of the eventual 10 rows with the fabric that was on the table.
At the bottom folded edge, I marked for the second to last ring, and the lowest ring which was 3" from the edge to allow for a double 1.5" bottom hem.
I didn't have to mark for any other rings because I could see the grid through the sheer.  I weighted the shade down and got to work sewing rings.
At the far end I was able to sew most of the rings on that 7th row.
The rings provided reference points for shifting the fabric to get the last of the fabric on the table and cut.  I pulled a thread to get the straight grain, and I was happy to note that even after shifting 6 yds of fabric, it remained straight within 1/2".   I placed the rings on their marks, weighted down the fabric, and finished cutting and hemming the far edge.  
After all the rings were on, I pressed in the bottom hem, blindstitched it, and sewed on the bottom row of rings.
We used Ring Locks from Safe-T-Shade for these sheer shades.







Friday, May 8, 2015

The Big Pink Monster

I like to launch project stories with a dramatic "after" shot, but in this case, I don't have one.  I will someday, but I want to write about this project now.   I'm going to tell this story sort of backwards.
I was asked to fabricate a treatment for a 10' high space in a rather grand 19th century home.
The space was measured previously and the dustboard assembled, for a five-sided bay area.  The frame I was given  was pretty big- about 4' high when standing on end, and about 12' wide at the front.  My job was to make a Kingston valance out of rose-colored velvet with jabots, self-decking on the back, and tassel trim sewn IN.
 I started making a bunch of sketches, because the biggest design issue was what to do with the outermost sides which were only 13" wide.  With half a horn in the corner and a full horn and jabot on the end, the remaining 6" would leave room for only a tiny, weird swag.
I thought it would be better to put a half swag on that short outer leg, and eliminate the usual horn, letting a jabot finish the end.  The designer asked for a jabot that could have some pleating on the return edge since that would be facing out into the hallway.  I suggested the beautiful Bordeaux jabot- my FAVORITE jabot!
I had thought a leg might be necessary to support the half-swag, but after the pleats were tacked by hand, the vertical edge stayed plumb.
Have you ever cut a dark velvet on a fabric-topped table?  Last time I did that it was red velvet and it was a year ago and there are still red fibers in the fabric table cover.  This time, I used a rotary cutter on a plastic-topped gridded table.  That kept the lint to a minimum and away from the fabric table!  I used an M'Fay Kingston pattern, lengthening it for a 22" long point.  And I was able to stack-cut, keeping the stress on my hands to a minimum.
The designer wanted only the tassels to show, not the trim's tape.  I really fretted over sewing the trim INTO the seam with velvet on both sides.  I considered basting it on by hand but then I tried glue-basting, not expecting it to work- surprise, what a breeze that was!  The glue bonded almost immediately.  I glue-basted both layers with the trim in between, then took it to the machine, where it sewed up smoothly and did not walk or pucker at all.
Time to staple the valance, and I was so grateful it was a Kingston and not an Empire.  With a Kingston, all the hard work is done before stapling: joining the pieces, turning, securing the folds and forming the horns- when the valance is large and heavy, it's an arduous process, but then it's relatively easy to staple.  With an Empire, the sewing is pretty simple, then all the hard work goes into stapling.  I covered the boards and marked them, then worked my way around, moving the valance as I went to get the area I was working on into the open space so it could hang freely.
The installer worked his way around the valances, dressing swags as he went.  It was a big success!
I was reminded of a sweet Kingston valance I made about 5 years ago- out of a rose-colored taffeta- which I loved then and still do.