Monday, October 16, 2017

Hobbled shades: ribs, no pockets

Several designers I know really love hobbled shades, so I've been making them regularly for years.
I used to dislike making them because the old way required sewing horizontal rib pockets.  The stitching lines had to be heavily pinned for the pockets to turn out well, and that meant ending the work day with scratches, stab wounds, and gouges in our arms and abdomens.  Right?
Also, it's not easy to sew straight lines.  More often than not, the lines want to distort during sewing; and later the ends have to be closed tightly to keep the ribs in.
There are other annoying steps to making a hobbled shade the old way, but the real clincher is, I think they just look cluttered, like this:
So...... over the past 2 years I've been experimenting with ways to eliminate the pockets and other unnecessary steps, and improve the look of the shade.  I have several methods I like now.  In my favorite version, I place ribs inside the shade, and with a three-step process I simultaneously tack in the rib, attach the tape, and sew the ring.
As I work, the shade piles up on my lap, but the pins are gone at that point, so I don't go home with wounds!
The result is a perfectly neat shade without those tightly stitched pocket ends I used to hate making so much.  If you're wondering about the safety standards, this shade was shrouded with ring locks during the stringing phase.
The side view reveals a sleek silhouette with no pinched pockets.
Hey, I wanted to point out something else.  For the arched part of the window, we made a wood frame and stretched a single layer of batiste over it to provide a little privacy and light filtering.  The shape was somewhat uneven, so a microcord of ivory fabric helped fill in any small gaps.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Wrapping up a long project

The past three months have been pretty overwhelming!  Not only did we move the workroom, but we also took on a long-planned project that took two full weeks of non-stop fabrication.  The moment that was complete, I took off for Susan Woodcock and Rodger Walker's new school, Custom Workroom Technical Center, to co-teach a Roman Shade Master Class with Rosemarie Garner, then came home to a satisfyingly hefty workload.  Somewhere in there I took a day to tour the Garment District in New York City with a group hosted by The Trim Queen aka Jana Platina Phipps, and Kim's Upholstery.

So for my first blog post in over a month, I wanted to show you how we wrapped up a project you've seen before, earlier in the year.
You might remember a few posts about this project with Susan Marocco InteriorsThis post featured these pale blue wool ripplefold panels in the master bedroom:
Well, for the living room window- 202" wide- we originally fabricated 5.5 widths each side of heavy silk draperies, but the homeowner immediately decided that the look of these panels were too heavy for her, and asked us to cut them down to create these side panels:
The orange trim was selected to blend the drapery with the adjacent artwork and pillows:
Here's how we got there.
The original draperies were quite heavy, both visually and literally.  5.5 widths each side of lined and interlined wide-striped silk, hand-sewn, with inverted pleat header and breaking hemline, weighing 35 pounds each side, were a real feat to pull off,  but the result felt like too much for this homeowner.
The stripe layout didn't allow for both motifs to be featured, so the textured part went to the front, and the solid satin part was pleated to the back.
It worked beautifully, but the homeowner wanted to see both motifs if possible.
For the remake, we carefully picked apart all of those pleats and stitches-in-the-ditches, and then I had to figure out a way to feature both stripe motifs AND hide the original stitching holes in the satin.
To create a look similar to the ripplefold in the master bedroom, which the homeowner loves, I decided to make a sort of flat cartridge pleat, and instead of positioning the pleats on the centers of the stripes, I off-set them, to keep the stitching holes away from the fronts of the pleats.  The new stitching pretty much ran right over the old stitching. 
I liked the flattened cartridge pleat, but thought that they would imitate a wave or ripplefold look better with some stuffing to round out the fronts, and after experimenting, chose medium jumbo welt to make an understated oval cartridge pleat.
A linen sheer was hand-sewn and inverted-pleated to cover most of the window, and the new side panels stacked down to about 24" each side.
The hand-sewn rusty orange tape with sequined chrysanthemums, from Samuel and Sons, gives the drapery side of the room a bridge to the beautiful glass and art collection.

The pillow fabrics selected by Susan Marocco masterfully blended the room elements.
This is the same home, if you remember from this previous post, with wool stationary roman shade valances in the office and den....
...with more lovely pillows:
And with that, I think, this job is a wrap!

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!