Saturday, January 30, 2010

Installation Day.... or... Insulation Day

As promised several weeks ago-- here are my friend's shades, installed!  Just in time for our current cold spell- it was 5 degrees at 7am.  These are insulated with interlining and Thermasuede. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Snow Day

            We woke up this morning to an unexpected flurry of snow.  The forecast was for a dusting.  Traffic in the tri-state area was congested for hours, so I decided to go to work later in the day.  It was a perfect time to take out my crochet project.
I haven't crocheted for a LONG time so I picked up this book, "Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs" by Edie Eckman and decided to tackle one motif a day.  That hasn't worked out quite that way; some days I do none, and other days I do three or four.
My goal is to make a throw with no two motifs the same- a freeform crochet project.  When I have enough, I'll join them- somehow.  
Since I'm at home, I can't upload any photos of the wool or my dozen or so completed motifs, because the little wire for my camera is at work.
I have a wonderful palette of yarns, mostly bought at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival, held every October in Rhinebeck NY.  Two of the merino wools are from sheep I actually met!- sadly I misplaced the paper on which I wrote their names.  They each are the natural brown of the animal. 
Besides the browns, I have several reds, one cotton and one merino; a pea green; a deep teal mohair/silk blend; a variegated brown-red-rose; some green-blue-violet silk ribbon; a variegated red nubby cotton; and a few novelty ribbony yarns.
My motifs are not coming out quite like the ones in the book's photos- but they're getting better.  If there is a step I don't understand, I just alter it to something simpler that I can do.
And THAT is why I chose a free-form project!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A whole lot of l-o-n-g shades

I see I haven't posted since last Friday- but not because we haven't been working- au contraire!- it was Long Shade Week as you can see from the picture of a bunch of shades in various stages of readiness for delivery.  Three are balloon shade valances the longest of which is 103"; one is hobbled with Rollease 90" x 80"; and two are flat blackout romans with reverse mount Rollease 100" x 80". 
On Monday the storm knocked the power out here at the studio for much of the afternoon.  The blackout shade rings are all sewn on by hand, so we really didn't lose too much time thanks to the long wall of windows here- there was enough light to sew by hand.   Hurray for (s)low-tech!
There are a number of techniques for creating custom blackout window treatments; the technique chosen for the two blackout shades is Bella Notte Classico blackout lining, hand-sewn rings to make the smallest and fewest needle holes, and "goop" painted onto the holes to minimize light bleeding through the holes.  Yes, "goop" is the official industry name for the gloppy blackout paint that is supposed to fill in the needle holes!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fab Fabric Friday!

Look what arrived today, just in time to become the Fab Fabric Friday pick of the week.  This warm, lovely silk will become window treatments one day soon.

The red draperies and shades were installed today, and much to my disappointment, I did not have time to get to the installation and see them myself.
These were a LOT of work and a lot of fussing, as well as a lot of decision-making.
The bullion trim on the lead edges AND the hem is the reason for all the indecision, plus the fact that the fabric is a pretty heavy upholstery fabric, meant to go on a sofa.
The hem had to be faced as well as the lead edges, and because they were being tied back, I wanted to be sure the white lining would not show.
In the end, I chose to put a 6" false hem of the red fabric at the bottom of the lining, rather than encase the lining in a hem facing.  I was afraid that one or the other of the fabrics might sag or shrink, causing the panels to not hang freely.
The top picture shows the lead edge trim and facing, the lining with the false hem, and the bottom trim with the hem facing tucked under everything.  The middle shot is the beautiful lead edge corner.  And at the bottom, the two-finger French pleats.
There are two windows with hobbled shades, as well.
Perhaps I'll have a picture from the decorator to post later.

Look Ma, no foot!

A lot of our sewing is done by hand, but certainly not all.  Rings for shades are sometimes sewn by hand and sometimes by machine, depending on the fabric, whether the style of the shade will hide the stitches, and how much our backs and hands hurt that day.  And sometimes a project just must get finished, and the sewing machine speeds up the process somewhat, though less than you might think.
Anyhow, today's shade rings are being sewn by machine, and for some reason I haven't gotten to the bottom of yet, the needle keeps hitting the foot.  After fiddling and testing and altering and fussing, I decided to try sewing without the foot - - - -  it worked!  another AHA moment!  The foot just gets in the way and slows things down.  It's completely unnecessary for sewing rings.  Who knew.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Winter Trees shades

While packing these shades up for delivery this morning, I remembered that I hadn't ever photographed them finished.  I love this shot, taken at the front door of my hallway, for the 4 winter tree images- the fabric with sun shining through it, the fabric without sun shining through, its shadow on the wall, and real winter trees outdoors.
You can see that this fabric is quite sheer yet an effective screen.  It seems so delicate but is really pretty tough- it's a blend of viscose, linen, and poly.
Hand-sewing it is kind of like trying to sew a tree, it's that tough.  The only machine stitching on these shades are the two rows forming the pocket for the weight bar.  
This is the first shade we've made using the new EZ-Release rings by Rowley.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


This fabric was definitely in the running last week for Fab Fabric Friday pick of the week.
The photo captures neither its fluidity nor its brilliant hue.  It's a deep crimson ottoman fabric, that is, a horizontal-ribbed plain weave, with ribbing of two different colors and textures: the flat rib is rust and the raised rib is crimson chenille.
The effect of the two colors interacting is entrancing- the color changes with every viewing angle and it looks molten.
It sheds a gruesome blood-red dust all over everything and I'm afraid the lint is embedded in the canvas table top.  Every time I look at my hands I think I'm bleeding.
I've been laboring over this fabric for hours, paralyzed with indecision about how to construct the project.  If there were a soundtrack to my day it would be a loop of The Clash singing "this indecision's bugging me."
Someday if y'all keep reading this I'll figure out how to add a button you can click on so you can hear the theme song of my work day.
A couple of weeks ago I was making a bunch of hobbled shades.  The way we make them here requires a lot (LOT) of pinning.  If you went to summer camp you might have learned a song called "Swimming swimming in the swimming pool."  Well, I spent that day singing to myself, over and over, "Pinning pinning in the pinning pool" til I thought I'd drown.
On Sunday I was crocheting, attempting something I had no business thinking about making due to the disparity between its complexity and my woeful skill level, and one step required picking up a stitch which I dropped every time.  Yeah, you know my theme song for that day- "you got to pick up every stitch- must be the season of the witch-" ricocheted around my brain til I went to sleep.
Anyhow, I have one more decision to make about this project in order to proceed tomorrow. 
I can't bear to bore myself, or you, with the details today!  But if you're a D and D Pro Forum member you might have read about my dilemma on the forum.  Sorry I've imposed on you in two venues today.  The decorator for this project is heartily sick of my indecision and calling with every new fabrication idea.  Everybody else, be thankful you don't have to hear about it at all!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day off

What could be more fun than sitting on the floor, sorting your button collection?
(P. S. that lace- it's about 75 years old- my great-grandmother Leatherwood made it- see previous post, below.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Meet Wilda Corinne Leatherwood Foster

Here is the person after whom I named my business, my maternal grandmother, Wilda Corinne Leatherwood Foster.
In this picture she was probably about 20 and about to be married.
She was an accomplished seamstress, and taught me to sew beginning when I was 5 years old.
She put me on her lap and I guided the fabric while her feet worked the treadle.
Every time she came up from Fort Worth to visit, she'd take me to buy "material" (we NEVER called it fabric) and helped me lay out a pattern and cut and sew it.
By the time I was a young teen I was sewing many of my own clothes.
Even after she retired and lived in a small apartment, she kept a"machine" (we never had to specify "sewing" machine!) and altered and repaired clothing for herself and her neighbors and friends.
They say sewing skips a generation, and while my mother certainly could sew, she rarely did so, and why not since I was there to whip up stuff.
My mother, however was a "maker"- she could and did make anything.  But she left the sewing for her mother and me.  More on her another time.
Anyhow, when it came time to choose a name for my business, I wanted to honor my grandmother and acknowledge the debt I owe her.  I chose her maiden name rather than her married name because, for one thing, it's a cool name, and also because her mother, my great-grandmother Leatherwood, was a great seamstress also.  I am fortunate to have some of the things she made, stored in my mother's cedar chest.
I think my grandmother would be astonished if she were alive to see where her influence has led me!  I have spent my entire life sewing one thing or another, and it constantly amazes me that this basic skill I learned literally at my grandmother's knee is now I make my living now.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What goes around comes around.....

.....or, making a round tableskirt with shirred jumbo welt.
I took a lot of pictures thinking I'd sort of practice writing a tutorial.  But that turned out to be really tedious!.... blogs are just not the place for that.  It would take forever just to get the pictures where I want them.  (If ever)

So here are a few pictures of the process.

I always cut welting strips using a rotary cutter and mat.  That's because I taught myself pillow-making right around when I was doing strip-piece quilting.  I transferred techniques I learned in the quiltmaking process to my custom pillow business, which was my breaking-in to becoming a custom window treatment workroom.  I think I made probably 5 or 6 thousand pillows in those 10 years..... not to mention a couple thousand boxed and welted cushions.... and that was my part-time job!..... I had to get good at it, and fast.
The fabric is shirred up on the jumbo cording 12" at a time.  It's fun to do.  For this tableskirt I need 9 yards of finished cording, so I cut about 24 yards of 5"-wide bias fabric strip and  I wound up using every inch of it.
And that is just about all I'm going to say today about shirred jumbo welting!

Friday, January 15, 2010


The most fabulous fabric in the world today!
Well, this week I have three, so I have to choose one.
It's only fair to choose the one I raved about on Monday. This is for a girl's room, a very groovy girl I think, and it's got black applique flowers and black embroidery on a white ground. (Oh, I wish I had been allowed to have black and white when I was young! sigh.... Well I shouldn't complain because they did let me paint my room lavender.)
The treatment is a London shade with a clever black and white trim at the bottom. There are a bunch of shades for this client, for 4 different rooms, but right now they're all WIPs. Next week we'll have a little gallery of completed work.
In the overall picture you can't really see the embroidery in the middle of the flowers which you can easily see in real life. Below is a close-up with the color less saturated so the star shape shows up a little bit.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Picture of brain thinking

How do you show a picture of a brain thinking?
This has been a "breather" day- busy thinking and calculating and cutting new work.
Naturally this has not gone so well- the gorgeous job we're about to start had a few changes which means we're just a little short on fabric and trim. There's more trim available, but the fabric is nearly gone.
(I know, I know)
The search is on for more- that's not my department- but at the same time I'm busy here trying to determine the alternatives in case more is not available.
This takes a lot of brain work! I took a picture of my notes on the job. It's 2 hobbled shades, and 2 pair drapery with bullion fringe in the lead edges and hemlines. I've figured both out several ways, depending on how much (if any) extra yardage the decorator can find. I'm just waiting for that phone call.
Why scribbles on plain paper???
I'm too old to do things differently- I learned to figure with a pencil, paper, brain, and calculator- work order forms just don't work for me, though I've tried. I always come back to scribbling by hand and calculating by brain with a little help from the same calculator I've had for 20 years.
You gotta enjoy numbers and manipulating them to enjoy this job.
And that's what we're working on today.
So since I can't take a photo of my brain thinking, I've put up a very very old picture of one of my favorite window treatments ever. It's so old that the picture was taken with (GASP!) FILM. The photo was scanned into, like, 3 computers ago, and keeps getting transferred with each new computer. It's a bad photo- grainy- but the treatment is SO lovely!
The Bordeaux valance (pattern from M'Fay) is one of my all-time favorites. It can be modified in a million ways to meet all kinds of window treatment challenges.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New EZ-Release Shade Rings

I'm about to set out on my other job- driving. I do lots of driving.
But before I go- just so you don't wonder "what are we working on today" and think we've been lazy-
here's the Winter Trees fabric again.

Who could ever get tired of looking at this fabric, anyhow?
The sheer fabric is laying flat on a black ground.
It's been hemmed all around by hand (the machine stitching you see here is the weight bar pocket) and all the rings have been sewn on by hand.
This is not a quick-sewing fabric! It is mostly viscose, a fiber made from cellulose which comes from trees amongst other things, and it takes the needle just about as well as a piece of tree would.

What's different about these shades is that we've used the new EZ-Release shade rings from Rowley Co., designed for improved shade safety.
Here they are before stringing, so you can really see them up close.
More on these rings later, or tomorrow, and pics of the completed shades.

Empire Swag Valance

I'm taking a quick little break to show you the Empire valance, as well as the hinged treatment all folded up and easy to transport.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bay Window Hinge

When I started making window treatments and heard about "hinges" for bay window treatments, I took that literally, not realizing that the hinges were not actual hardware.................
Now I know that the hinges are made of fabric; however, I still use actual hardware hinges for bay windows. I like to be able to fold the treatment compactly and securely. I like seeing them. I like that the installer can lift the treatment easily and unfold it on the ladder if necessary. I like that if the homeowner climbs up on a ladder and looks at the top of her treatment she'll see real brass hardware up there, unlikely though that may be.
Some people have told me it's a waste to bother with actual hinges that cost money instead of a little strip of fabric that's free, but really, how much do they cost- I don't mind spending two dollars on them, and I like them.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Glue basting and reducing bulk in Empire swags

Today we worked on an Empire valance, which is interlined and trimmed at the bottom with bullion fringe sewn in.
To keep the bulk of all the fabric layers from building up on the board when the treatment is stapled, we've applied several techniques.
Here is the interlining being sewn to the swag lining and trimmed far enough away from the board line to keep the bulk off the board. At the bottom edge, we basted the interlining to the lining and trimmed the interlining, then glue basted the face side, trim, and lining side so that the layers would not shift when being sewn. I never did glue basting before this job- but I'm a convert now! We also made drapery panels from this fabric with the bullion fringe on the lead edges: I knew there was no way I could sew that heavy fringe to that silk without puckering, so I plunged in with glue basting and it worked beautifully- no puckers, and I'm a believer.

Didn't I say earlier that I'd be cutting a new wave of shades today? Yes I did, and yes I did. But I'm holding out on photographing them because one of them I can already tell, even though it's only Monday, that it is going to be the Fab Fabric Friday most beautiful fabric in the world Pick of the Week.
But look at this- I don't mind showing you this embroidered faux silk that looks like it was totally made for the striped Empire valance silk- but it is for a different client, different decorator. That happens a lot around here- a whole day of projects that are color coordinated, by chance. This gold embroidered silk is on its way to becoming a tableskirt with shirred jumbo welting. Oh boy!

The Studio- clean for a moment!

Okay here goes! This is about as cleaned up as my workroom ever gets, so I though I'd take a couple of pictures before the next storm rolls through, in about 10 minutes when I start cutting a new batch of shades.
We have two 12' tables, one with a grid & plastic for rotary cutting and one with a gridded canvas cover. 7' two-sided rack for linings. Not very pretty and no window treatments on the windows, just blinds because I can't stand the distraction of fabrics and colors around me when I'm working on so many different fabrics all the time.
However, I've made some awesome samples which I must hang, somewhere, sometime soon. So I'll have to get over that aversion to color in the studio. I can't wait to post photos of those samples!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Banded shades- another stage complete

One of the 4 banded shades!- all the hard work has been done- now just a lot of rings to be sewn on- 77 per shade- then ready for stapling & stringing.
These are thermal lined and interlined- too bad they can't be hung today: it was 6 degrees out at 7am! Well, it'll be a long winter and soon they'll be keeping the room warm and beautiful.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Do we work 7 days a week???....

......Well, no! But sometime we work odd times.
Sometimes early in the morning, or late at night, or the weekend.
You know how if you work for yourself you can make your own hours..... ha. More like, you can work every hour and never be done.
It is not a hardship when you really love what you do, and I love sewing, and I love sewing window treatments. If I weren't doing that, I'd be sewing anyhow, in my spare time.
In fact while cleaning up today I gathered a little stash of fabrics I'll be using in my kitchen. I made Roman shades from the animal print and have a couple of little things to make that I'll piece using this collection.

My friend is back today sewing 4 Roman shades for her home. She's a great seamstress and we enjoy working together on our own projects helping each other out.
She's working on a gorgeous Nina Campbell print- banded on 3 sides with (naturally!) mitered corners.
But here she is taking a break. She wore shoes today that match her project.
While she's been sewing, I've been continuing the cleaning process. Does this look clean and organized? Ha, maybe not to you, but it's awesomely clean and organized compared to yesterday!
This side of the studio is where I cut fabric, and do all the stapling of the sewn treatments. These shelves hold all the tools- measuring & cutting fabric, as well as all the power tools. You can't see the cutting table to the right and until I finish cleaning up, you're not gonna. Under that table is the compressor for the staple gun.

Believe it or not, we'll probably be back tomorrow- Sunday- to keep this flow going............................

Friday, January 8, 2010

FAB FABRIC FRIDAY- The Most Fabulous Fabric In The World!

This burnout sheer, Larsen's "Winter Trees," is by far the most beautiful fabric in the world today! Our client has asked us to make Roman shades from this fabric, and oddly enough, just two weeks ago we made 4 flat drapery panels from the same fabric for a different client.
Can't get too much of this!
A fabric like this is sewn entirely by hand except for the pocket for the weight bar, and will have clear rings that we'll attach by hand as well.
This is the sort of fabric that is a joy to work with! Actually I should say we work FOR this fabric, not with it. A nice stable cotton print is pleasant to work with in a different way- one that is well behaved and knows its place. This sheer, however, is a star and demands luxury treatment, and we're glad to pamper it.

Today began the dreaded studio clean-up. Lots of little things to go through, sort out, and re-organize. The window of opportunity is small for this kind of re-arranging- it must be done between projects, when all the fabrics can be put into hiding while we storm through. A January event, or not til next year!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A No-Sew Day

A day of driving- measuring, taking down, delivering, picking up, consultation, figuring, writing up, admiring, commiserating, loading, unloading, and showing off samples.
A day of relying on the GPS only to find I put in the wrong address, going the wrong direction on a familiar road, forgetting the ladder and the drill, blood sugar plummeting, finally pizza on the run and at last a cup of coffee back at the studio.

Here is my beautiful Hudson River photographed from Croton Point.
I thought it would be clean-up day but things turned out differently! Tomorrow's another day.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Reverse Mount Rollease Flat Romans

Whew! finally done.
We tried to find a way to photograph the shades with their valances attached but the only way I could find was for wonderful friend CG to hold them up. That's her new shoes at the bottom of the shade.
She was in the studio today to work on 5 shades of her own, interlined and thermal lined, with mitered banding on 3 sides out of a check. Crazy, mind-blowing stuff.
I did photograph the front and back of one Reverse Mount shade before the valance was on, while it could still be on the stand. Grommets guide the lift cord to the front of the shade. Putting in grommets is fun because it means you can bang with a hammer.
The shades are in the hallway, packed, looking a little forlorn and not quite as fab as they really are. That big girl is the 110" shade- nothing to sneeze at! The Rollease had to be spliced and that was fun by myself- usually DH comes to lend his expertise with that technical/mechanical stuff.

And will you look at that yummy red stripe!

Now thanks to aforementioned wonderful friend, I have a borrowed David Sedaris CD to listen to- 75 minutes- long enough to get me and the 7 shades over the Tappan Zee bridge to my client and back laughing my ass off the whole way. A stop at Starbucks first and I'm gonna have a nice ride this afternoon.

No attempt has been made to arrange these pics- I can't wait to see the post and see how they arrange themselves. I haven't figured that part out yet and it's driving me nuts so I'm going to let them find their own way onto the page.