Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Joining Widths with Pattern Matching

Of all the skills involved in sewing home furnishings, one of the most difficult to master is pattern matching at the seams that join together widths of fabrics.
It seems obvious that all you have to do is "just" align the pattern, and sewn down the fabric length in the exact spot where the pattern motifs match up,  right?  However, accomplishing that quickly AND accurately is not easy.
Years ago I learned a technique from a professional sewer, as I watched her reel off width after width and join them speedily and perfectly without pinning.   It takes a lot of repetition to become proficient, so I take every opportunity to practice.
The other day I faced a stack of orders all requiring widths to be joined, so I decided to cut and join all of them in one afternoon, to keep in the swing of the process.
I started with the easiest, a cotton gemetric print.
It only needs one photo to illustrate this technique.  One width is laid right sides together atop another width.  The top width is folded back 1/4" and laid down along the underneath fabric, aligning the pattern.  Then before sewing the fold is nudged over to the right about 1/8".  The stitch line is about 1/16" from the folded edge. 
This is done by eye, perhaps pinning 5" ahead.  Some pattern details, like the center of the V below, make good "marks" to look out for, as well as the selvedge markings.
Yeah, this can be done!
Afterward you trim the selvedges, and press from the right side.
When the fabric is opened up, voila, the pattern is joined!
The next fabric was a woven silk.  I had to take into account the holes along the selvedge left from the loom and sew outside of them so they wouldn't show, which meant losing a tiny bit of the pattern. 
 This fabric was for drapery panels so the slight pattern loss wasn't important.
 The third fabric was much more difficult.  At the center of each embroidered motif was a sort of "tuffet" of thread which was bulky.  You can see my purple-pen reference points because there are multiple shades out of this fabric.
Every time I got to one of those "tuffets", the needle slipped off its line.  I tried different presser feet but it kept happening.  I re-sewed some of them five or six times- and still I'll need to go to each one and add a few hand stitches to pull the tuffets together.  This fabric is for a flat roman shade- no place to hide the seam, so it'll need tweaking.

The last fabric, a geometric matelass√©, had me worried.  Lo and behold- it turned out to be the easiest!  I didn't need to use the fold-back method.  Instead I chose a little diamond to follow, one set in a bit again to avoid the loom holes.  I made a mental note of my marks, and the ease built into the weave allowed me to align these little shapes perfectly as I went, without pinning.   

Friday, August 25, 2017

Lining a sheer shade

I often line sheer shades with a plain sheer voile or batiste.  The sheer lining adds body and depth, but most importantly it protects the often delicate face fabric from the ring stitching.
Every once in awhile a client asks for regular lining behind sheer fabric.  (I've even lined sheers with blackout....)
This mesh fabric was used in a bedroom and the client wanted it lined.    We experimented with many lining options, but any natural/ivory/linen color just washed out the mesh pattern.  When we tried grey sateen, the mesh pattern showed up beautifully.  The grey also provided needed privacy.
The mesh is 120" wide so it didn't require seaming, thank goodness.  But at 85" wide and 57" long, we had to join widths of lining.  Since the mesh is totally transparent, I didn't want vertical seams.  I decided to railroad the lining and seam it at the weight bar pocket.  As you can see, I left the selvedge on.  Since the bottom hem isn't sewn except at the rings, I didn't want a raw edge to be visible in case anyone peeked down into the hem, and I didn't want the additional bulk from a French seam or serging.
The mesh had no substance to lend support to the structure of the shade, so I let the lining double up to provide a place for the weight bar pocket.  The weight bar tubing (from Rowley Co) is "basted" to the fabric with Jewel tape.  Later the ring stitches will secure it to the fabric layers.
Excess face fabric is trimmed out of the side hem.
Except for the seam that joins the lining widths, all sewing is by hand.
The bottom hem aligns perfectly with the lining seam.
The lining and face were basted together at the board line before sewing on the rings.  The basting not only holds the layers securely, but also shows exactly where to staple.
I forgot to take pictures of the back.  We used clear rings and ring locks from Safe-T-Shade, and grey lift cord from Rowley.  The lift
The mesh behaves beautifully as a shade.  (By the way, the "moire" look is just an illusion from the camera.)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Top Down Bottom Up Adventure

I said I'd come back to this shade- and this is the day!  Top down bottom up (TDBU) shades, with two independent lift systems, are cool but tricky.  There are a couple of steps that used to stump me, but between reading up and experimenting I learned a few things that really helped both the fabrication and the end product. 
Fabricated for Crosstown Shade and Glass
I started by making a shade as I always do, but I also added ribs both at the rings and at the folds, to give maximum structure and support.  (I was hoping that the ribs would eliminate the need for interior lift lines.  More on that coming up.)
Something I wasn't sure about was ring spacing.  I wanted to let the shade fold to pattern and approached spacing as if it were a regular shade- but then I wound up with too much at the top, which would made the top fold different from the rest- duh!  I re-positioned the rings and ribs a couple of times and thereby learned a key piece of information: the ring spacing must be determined by dividing the finished length into precisely equal spaces.  I ignored the repeat in the end; with this trailing-vine pattern, it didn't matter much.
If I work with pattern again on TDBU I will be better armed to crunch numbers.  Workrooms often must work with specifications given without consideration for the fabric.  If I had control of the specs, I'd manipulate the finished length and topper length to achieve ring spacing to fold to pattern.   In this case, a longer topper would've cut down the shade finished length enough that the ring spacing could have followed the pattern.
The top of the shade was always the step that caused me much trouble.  I knew that it needs an insert that is rigid and inflexible and can be drilled through.  Photos posted by Elki Horn offered some great ideas for the top.  I happened to have a piece of drapery rod that wasn't needed, and it worked perfectly.  John drilled a hole through the pole for the lift lines that operate the top-down function of the shade.  An orb made it easy later to level the top.
When I made TDBU shades in the past, I followed directions that had me putting grommets in the top pocket.  That was always a big pain.  The fabric layers are thick, and it's hard to position the grommet precisely, and the whole thing looked messy.  I used Elki's suggestion and ran the line through the fabric with a big needle.
In the past I machine-sewed a top pocket, and I always hated seeing that stitching line.  This time I folded the top down over the pole and hand-sewed it in place.   This works but the sewing has to be tight and secure and occasional stitches must pick through to the front to hold the layers together.  I'm sorry I didn't take more photos as I went- sometimes when working on a less-familiar product it's easy to forget to document- even though that's exactly when I want them!
TDBU shades need a topper to conceal the two lift systems.  In this case the topper specified was a shallow, simple upholstered cornice.  There wasn't a lot of mounting space available, so the dustboard was only 2.5".  In the future, I'd want a wider dustboard for a hard topper, or, alternatively, a soft topper.  The two clutches fit, but were awfully cramped, and the wood topper made access difficult.
The shade was about 40" wide and I wasn't sure if the bottom-up function would require more than 2 lift lines.  We tried it with just 2 but the folds sagged dreadfully, even with all the rib support.  So I added one center line and three lines were plenty.  The top down only had the two end lift lines.
The shade was leveled so that the top tucked up under the topper.  The orbs really helped with this.  (I know, in this photo the topper is tilting forward- the shallow dustboard didn't allow the workroom valet to hold it straight.) 
I was very happy with the way this shade turned out, and I'll be confident about making more.
The last shade photographed in the old workroom!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Like riding a bike?.... first job in new workroom

The first job fabricated in the new workroom was installed!........... 6 stationary flat romans used as valances,  lined and interlined, for Nature's Window.
We have been in the process of moving the workroom since mid-June, so after more than a month without a normal schedule or normal workplace, it isn't easy to get back into the swing of fabrication.
Before vacation, the last job was a top down bottom up shade for Crosstown Shade and Glass, which was also the last shade to be photographed in the hallway in the old workroom.  I documented the fabrication of this shade so as soon as the dust settles, I'll do a post about it. 
After vacation we made one last job in the old workroom: a pair of ripplefold panels for Suite Dream.  I'll do a blog post on these, too, as soon as I receive photos of them installed.  I did a lot of research and planning for this project and I want to write about what I learned.
So after the ripplefold, we knuckled down in earnest to get the workroom moved.   I have occasionally posted photos on our Facebook page and will eventually do a blog post about the way we set up the new space.
Last week, before we were really fully set up, I was ready to make the 6 shades, after more than a month of disruption.  I wish I could say it was like riding a bike, but really, I was nervous and exceedingly cautious.
The client added a shade to the order with the same yardage, so I had to work differently than I had originally planned, and I spent way more time than usual checking and double-checking my cuts to make sure that the pattern was aligned on all.
Also two shades were wider than the width of the fabric and needed widths joined- a challenge at any time with appliqued or embroidered fabric, but especially after weeks away from a sewing machine.
 I might as well say right here: to do this work, you sometimes need nerves of steel.  It takes a lot of confidence to cut into thousands of dollars' worth of fabric that belongs to someone else!
After a month hiatus, you can bet I was nervous!  I had to draw on all the confidence and experience I had stored up.  In addition, I was trying to find my way around an unfamiliar space, my tools and materials put away logically but unfamiliarly!  At least a dozen times I had to search to find a simple tool.
Once I got into it, it was comforting to wield a needle and thread again.  Hand-sewing side hems and rings is a repetitive but soothing process.  John had speakers set up by then so I put on some music and got into the sewing rhythm.
The added shade required a shorter finished length, so I had to choose between making the pattern pleat the same on all 6 valances but have the top different on the short one, or, make the top the same and have the pattern pleat differently.
Since this shade was in a different space, I decided to make the folds the same on all. 
Now this week I am working on a variety of products: draperies, shades, valances, bedding and pillows- enough to get me back into the groove, I hope; stay tuned!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Stationary wool shades

Susan Marocco chose beautiful Holland and Sherry wools for two stationary Roman shade valances in the same home as the wool ripplefold draperies I wrote about in June.
Both shades were trimmed around the perimeter with Samuel and Sons tapes.  We mitered the corners, and the blue shade featured two layered tapes.
From past experience with wool shades I knew the layers needed to be interlocked internally to support the wool and keep it from sagging. 
First the interlining was interlocked to the wool face.  We used the seam in the face fabric and then interlocked in alignment with where the rings would eventually be sewn.

Ribs were sewn to the interlining to provide additional structure.
Above the board line, the interlining was serge stitched to the face fabric.
The lining was interlocked at the board line.
The ribs were secured to the lining, then the rings sewn in between the ribs.  These little tack stitches are visible on the back, but they lie on the column line with the rings so they're not noticeable.
The side hems were sewn by hand, and the bottom finished as per my usual method, with buckram in the hem.
To miter the trim corners, we first basted by hand to make sure the pattern was well aligned.   The corners were then sewn by machine, cut, clipped, pressed, and the little fiber ends stabilized with some tight little stitches and a dot of glue.
The mitered trim was sewn by hand to the outer edges with a ladder stitch.  How the pattern falls on a pattern like the Greek key is a matter of math and luck; for this shade, we had pretty good luck!
Because in both rooms the underside of the boards are not easily visible, we did not need to make returns, but we did use a bit of trim to cover the ends of the boards.
The time we spent on steps to support and stabilize the wool were well spent.