Saturday, January 26, 2019

"Comments" malfunctioning!

Sorry to those who have posted comments that have gone unpublished or unanswered.  "Comments" is having a hissy fit.  You can always email me at with your comments or questions.  This has happened before, and I'm at a loss to explain it.  Then all of a sudden it works again! 
Here are two I remember:

To Anonymous: the grosgrain is 2".  The designer provided it so I don't know its source.  However, I do love French grosgrain from Samuel and Sons.

To Unknown:  I use the M'Fay Kingston pattern, which you can purchase from The Workroom Channel.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Pleat, ripple, wave, and grommet to pattern- our workroom standard

What used to be a rarity has become a workroom standard: pleating to pattern.  Whether pleated, rippled, waved, or grommeted to pattern, many workrooms like ours have come to  consider this high-end detail their default standard.
My very kind installer Tim made sure to point this detail out to the homeowner when we installed these grommet draperies designed by Denise Wenacur. 
Pleating to pattern requires a level of expertise and experience that not all workrooms achieve.  It requires a significant investment in time to plan and test the plan.  Some factory workrooms are capable of this detail, but it incurs an upcharge since the project must be taken out of the normal work flow.  In our workroom, we start every project assuming we're going to pleat to pattern if it's possible.
Grommet panels are, you know, scary to make.  It's definitely unnerving to spend hours sewing beautiful panels then cut huge holes in them.  You really need to know you've got it right!  Because of the heavy embroidery, we planned the panels from the top down, to take advantage of the one clear space in the motif that would accommodate a #15 grommet.  Lead edges and returns must be planned from the center of the hole to assure perfect fit.  Because a shade was outside-mounted behind the panels, the lead edge had to be small enough to allow the shade fabric to stack up.  Seams must be planned to fall inside the folds, not at the front.  All that attention to detail is worth it for the striking results!
Since adjustments can't be made at installation, because of those huge holes in the fabric that are a DONE DEAL and can't be changed, we hung the panels overnight in the workroom to let them stretch out to their maximum length.  I'm so grateful to have plenty of room to do this.  Yes, I know, the pole is angling down from the weight of the drapery, making them look lopsided- but I know they aren't.
We bought a second grommet press to streamline the setting process.  John rigged up a dual-purpose table and I covered it with retro oilcloth.  In the center is the cutter for 3/8" weight bars, which can be removed when the table is being used for grommets.
With two presses, we can cut and set without having to cut all holes first and then re-calibrate the press for the setter.  This streamlines the grommet setting process.  Thank you, John.
We've had more grommet drapery jobs in the past year than in the past decade- it's a clean, modern look that is increasing in popularity, and I'm glad we've become proficient in fabricating this style.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Grosgrain ribbon binding as banding for shades

When banding is intended to go right at the edge of a shade, rather than inset, I do love the look of it wrapped around the edges, for a super clean look.
This does present challenges for inserting a weight bar, if you like your weight bar at the bottommost ring, as I do.
Here are two similar shades which were fabricated with different methods.  Yes, I know I'm showing them out of order.  That's because I like Method B better and want to show the better way first :)
For both of these shades, grosgrain ribbon was used as the wrapped binding, but the same methods would apply if the binding were a contrast fabric.
You can see that the results are pretty much the same from the front:

For this three-sided shade, we sewed a pocket in the lining for a flat weight bar.
The grosgrain binding was sewn to the shade face and pressed finished.
 A pocket was sewn in the lining to accommodate a weight bar.  The prepared lining was layered on and the bar inserted.  We used a flat bar to avoid the bulk of a heavier round bar. 
We added a second flat bar to stabilize the bottom and keep it square.  It also helps by adding a bit more weight.
The binding was hand-sewn.
The miters on the front were ladder-stitched by hand.
This was an aesthetic improvement over a previous similar shade, where we chose to tack the weight bar pocket  to the outside back of the shade.  However, the exterior pocket method does allow us to use a heavier weight bar, which helps when raising the shade, and this shade was much longer than the one I just showed.  We covered the ends of the pocket with the contrast ribbon, in case it showed from the side.  We also added a second flat weight bar at the bottom to keep the bottom edge straight.
In this case the ribbon was applied with Dofix fusible Bortenfix.  At the lowest fold you can see the bit of navy ribbon covering the ends of the weight bar pocket.  It's set in enough that it isn't visible from the front.
The results from the front are basically the same, but the pocket version is so much better on the back.  Also I think the sewn ribbon folds better than the fused ribbon.
P. S. I like to cover the ends of the boards with a bit of binding material, whether it is grosgrain or fabric.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Happy New Bean Bag Year!

I have a half-a-year's worth of stuff to share with you (you know I haven't been posting as often as I'd like), and I want to start with the Most Fun Project of All-
BEANBAG CHAIRS for our great-nieces, aged 8 and 10.
It was all they wanted for Christmas, really and truly, they said.  We spent several evenings together looking at options on Amazon and elsewhere, but when I remembered that my friend and workroom owner Michele Fugazy had recently made custom beanbag chairs, I called her for recommendations.
Michele told me that Lands End carried bean bag inserts, and she very kindly lent me the pattern she had made.  By now I was totally psyched to make these!
We also picked the girls' brains to get ideas of what they'd like.  We first thought we'd have them go with us to pick out fabric, but we really wanted to surprise them.  They wanted soft and furry.  So - - - - John and I went to Joann Fabrics and chose a variety of faux furs.  By the time I finished cutting all the pieces, the workroom looked like a slaughterhouse.  (the photo does not begin to show the mess)
Beanbags are made like globes, or basketballs, except this one also had a round, flat top.   After assembling, all the edges were overlocked to help keep the fabric from shedding.  Faux fur looks like it would be hard to work with, but in my experience, it makes up really easily. 
It's hard to imagine assembled basketball pillow pieces becoming a sphere, but, it does happen!  Here's one I made in orange velvet a few years ago:
We chose two different colors for one panel per chair so they could tell whose was whose.  Maisie got green....
And Cleo got blue.
There was enough left over for pillows, and Maisie used hers as a footstool.
The color panel is zippered so the cover can be removed for cleaning.  They loved the tassels too.
It was a kind of epic Christmas!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Exercise in efficiency: one dozen bay window valances

Here's what has been keeping the workroom occupied!- a dozen bay window valances.  The woven medallion patterned fabric is fire-retardant with Silky Diablo fire-retardant blackout lining.
I pulled out every efficiency process, method, and technique I've ever developed, to streamline getting these valances cut, sewn, and mounted.   A full bolt of fabric was sliced into 65 cuts, and another full bolt of lining was sliced into railroaded strips.   Then each section was trimmed to size and the valances assembled.  Of course none of the windows were exactly the same size!  The new walking foot machine eliminated the walking and puckering that would otherwise result from sewing cross-cut face fabric to railroaded lining.
I think I spent 8 hours just ironing. 
Creating a mounting space is the biggest challenge, so we wanted to get all of them stapled in one go, so we could get the workroom back to normal asap.
We used a combination of stands to create a stable space.
 I was lucky in that all the boards were cut and delivered to me!  John assembled them then covered the undersides with lining, in preparation for stapling the valances..
These all were hinged in the center to make them easy to transport.

We asked Merrill Y. Landis to fabricate the 206 single width panels.  They're a great company to partner with!  Here's about 10% of the panels, ready to be loaded.  This was an adventure!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Dressing Room Curtain with Attached Valance

Here's something different from what we usually do around here!
A retail store needed curtains for a dressing room and a storage area.
 They chose an awning-striped outdoor fabric, for durability and to help keep it clean.  It was heavy fabric, and I was glad I had my new walking foot machine to handle it. 
With limited yardage, I had to find a way to make everything work with what was available.  A flip-over valance was the most efficient way to use the fabric.
I decided to use shirring tape for the panels- there was less than 1.5x fullness, so tape seemed the best way to manage minimal shirring with an unusually heavy fabric.
The valance shape was sewn before cutting.  This method helps keep the curves from stretching on the bias.  The fabric and lining were laid out, right sides together, and I drew the shape with disappearing pen. 
 I backstitched on each side of the V to reinforce the fabric.  Careful clipping right up to the point makes a clean turn.
The panel and valance were joined wrong sides together- backwards from how we normally think of joining fabrics.  Then the valance was flipped over, pressed, and sewn 2" down to form a pocket.
It was kind of bulky inside that pocket so we tested it to make sure the pole would fit through!  Because the dressing area pole was curved, there was a little more take-up than usual, going around the curves. 
We added a loop on the lead edge so the curtain can be held back when the dressing room is not in use.  With some creative piecing, we eked out enough to self-line this panel so it would be pretty when tied back!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Outside Mount Hobbled Shade

For outside mounted hobbled shades, I often like to eliminate the top fold and replace it with a flat topper, the same size as a fold, and wrap it around the ends of the board.
Without the topper, the length of the top of the shade is the equivalent of two folds.
There is still a row of rings for the top fold, even though it's imaginary.
When the shade is fully raised, the top fold looks nearly continuous with the other folds.  Because the stack of folds kicks forward, I do not strive to make them tuck under the topper- the bulk of the fold stack would just distort the topper.
If you prefer a "picture area" you could leave the top this way, and have a deeper flat section.  This could be perfect when there is a large motif.
The pattern repeat was 15", so we multiplied by 2 and divided by 3 to make every third fold match.  I think this attention to detail gives the shade a subtle orderliness.
I recently added a walking foot machine to my collection.
This type of machine feeds the fabric layers at different rates, so when you come to the end of your seam, the layers have remained aligned.  With a straight stitch machine, the top layer of many fabrics will "walk" forward as the seam is sewn, resulting in layers that are out of alignment with each other.  Velvet is one such fabric.  The shade fabric is a sort-of velvet- it has a pile, though it isn't high, and the layers did not slide with my new machine.
For the weight bar pocket, I was especially grateful for the walking foot machine.
When I got to the end of the pocket, everything was perfectly aligned!  With a straight stitch machine, it would've been a struggle to get them somewhat even.  Those days are over!  More on the walking foot in future posts.