Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I love surprises

Here is a color, fabric, and trim combination you're not going to see every day!
The decorator who designed this has a fabulous sense of color.  I wish I had a photo of the whole dining room, completed, but I don't at this point. 
These draperies pull together elements in the room and make them all work together, including an antique painted Chinese screen with soft blues and corals, and framed antique wallpaper samples with the same color palette.
The embroidered fabric is a heavy cotton, interlined; it's all hand-sewn, including the yummy fat pleats, which are pleated on pattern.
  The orange fabric is not a banding- it's a separate panel, meant to look like a second drape peeking out from behind, but it's not really a full drape.
The blue striped trim hints at the hardware, which was hand-made wrought iron by a local iron-worker, with a distressed finish to coordinate with the lighting fixture which I'm sorry you can't see.
Seen on its own one might it is a little wacky, but in context, it's brilliant!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tussah tussah!

Tussah silk.  Hand-sewn braid.

And now for something fun.....

Here is my solution to a bizarre window treatment challenge- in my own bathroom.
The house is an early 20th century Craftsman house in a Hudson River town.  There is an addition on the back which resembles nothing so much as a shed- however, it is a bedroom.
The bathroom wall used to be the back wall, but now it looks right into the bedroom!  Nice.
I didn't want to cover up the window entirely, because it would have felt too closed in, yet I didn't want anyone in the bedroom to be able to look right into the bathroom, obviously.
So I dug out an OLD fabric, printed with Van Gogh's Starry Night, and covered a board 2/3 the window length on the bathroom side, and a different fabric on the bedroom side; wedged it into the window frame on the bedroom side; and put a shade in the bathroom that is usually raised but could be lowered if someone in the bedroom is sleeping and doesn't want light shining in from the bathroom. 
Or if the bathroom person wants total privacy.
In the bedroom, there is only one place the bed can go, and that is right under this window, so the covered board acts as a headboard so one does not have to lean back against a window.  

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Making and Creativity

Check this out.
Make and meaning  explores issues pertaining to the crafting world, but many of these issues are relevant on a wider scale to people who make all kinds of things. 
I am SO lucky to be able to sew for a living- but while I'm sewing window treatments all day, my mind is exploding with all the zillion ideas for other textile journeys that I never have enough time to take.
I wish I knew why I feel so consumed by these ideas.  They never stop even though I make such slow progress in making them become reality. 
Soon I hope I'll begin mixing into this blog some of these ideas, projects, and dreams, because these are what fill up my inner life while I'm busy working.
Working as I do, fabricating custom products on a wholesale basis to the trade only, I appear to be in a creative business, but since I'm making what someone else has envisioned, it doesn't feel very creative much of the time.  Although there are projects on which I have more design input than on other projects, still, I am not the principal "imaginer" in most cases.
My dream, as far as window treatments go, is to be able to design and sell fabulous treatments that people will want to own as art pieces, and will go to the trouble of decorating around!
I think this must become a goal for me.

Two little cuties

Here are two little cuties before heading out to their desitinations.  I was in a hurry to get a picture before they were picked up,  so I didn't have time to dress them, which is why they were a little disheveled as they sat for their photos.  The returns need fixing, and I wanted to raise the striped shade but forgot; also I can see one tassel on the hobbled shade needs adjusting.  And the gathers on that funny little topper desperately need attention.
Dressing is such an important part of window treatments!  Here in the studio we usually don't see the treatment at its best because there's not much point in fully dressing it when it's just going to be wrapped up and put in a truck anyhow.  We dress enough to make sure everything is cool, then the installer or decorator re-dresses at the installation.
Window treatments look so much better in their homes than they do here, on speaker stands!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Osborne & Little shades

Osborne and Little is one of my favorite fabric vendors.  I am lucky enough to live near one of their warehouses, and when they have a sale, it is irresistable!
I picked up a few fabrics for myself at the last warehouse sale, and I'm thinking I should get a good photo of the sofa and chair I had upholstered with O & L fabrics and show them off.
Meantime, here is one of the 3 shades just finished.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


One of the best perks of owning a workroom is- all the scraps that are left from cutting.
Here are two sides of a width of fabric after the shade was cut from the center.
There were 3 shades, but for this one shade the cut just happened to go through the centers of the flowers, leaving a row of half-flowers on each side.  How cool is that?
What if I re-joined them with a sunny orange band, a scrap from some drapery banding; and maybe bordered with another drapery cutoff, or perhaps with some of my ubiquitous ancient Waverly star fabric?
Table runner?
Something from nothing!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Through a sheer, darkly

The only way you'll ever see what's on the other side of this shade is for you to come here and see it in person!  If it gets into a photo it's only by accident.  This section is the real work area, where reside all the spools of welt, buckram, zipper tape, shirring tapes, threads, velcro, and all that other stuff.  Current projects being sewed, scraps and threads thereof, pieces of things people bring me to look at, or take apart, or hold onto til they come back, or stuff, or fix, or whatever; all kinds of junk; they all sit back in this area.   I wish I could hide most of the workroom behind shades like this.  This is the silk sheer with jute rope, twill tape banding, and linen sheer lining, from yesterday.  It looks spectacular.

I think I'll just leave at this for today- I have more pictures of today's work but I think I'll save them til the projects are done.  
Tonight on the Olympic broadcast is Apolo Ohno and Shawn White- I brought hand-sewing work home with me to do in front of the TV. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Another Sheer Shade challenge

Here is a sheer shade challenge for which I needed to find a fabrication method.
The face fabric is a silk sheer with jute rope woven in horizontally.
The lining is a loosely woven yet stiff linen sheer.
In the first photo you can see both fabrics laying next to the tabled shade which is being prepared.
Around the sides and bottom is a twill tape 1 3/16" wide to be folded in half and wrapped around to the back.
First I used fusible adhesive webbing to fuse the edges of the 3 sides- it is narrower than the twill tape and won't show.  I wanted to do this to keep the edges from fraying.
Then I laid the tape on the back and fused it, then wrapped to the front and fused again, mitering the corners as I went.
From the front I topstitched close to the edge.
The rings are sewn on by hand, into the jute rope so no stitches show from the front.
I wrapped the weight bar with the twill tape- it just exactly made it around the weight rod and I whip-stitched it shut, then sewed it to the shade at the rings, so the rings are mostly bearing the weight.
The last picture shows the shade from the wrong side, the rod sewn to the rings.  It might need more securing but I'll wait til it's hanging to determine whether or not that will be necessary.
That's as far as I've gotten- it's now ready to be stapled and strung- and I'll add those pictures later.
I love sheer shade challenges!  They're my favorite shades to make, and nearly every one presents a unique challenge.  Finding the solution is my favorite part of my work.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Weird fabric karma

Can you believe that all these fabrics, which together create a beautiful palette, are for SEVEN different customers?
And that they are all for shades, and that they are all being worked on together as a group?
This is one of the weird things that happens in this studio all the time.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Dream-Catcher

What is this pocketbook doing here?...........
I know that I am supposed to be writing about "what are we working on today?"..... but, hey, this has NOT been a great week for completing photogenic work.
We had a storm, which ate up a whole day; I did spend it viewing webinars about work, but that's nothing you want to read about.
One whole day was a trip to the city, and another whole day was spent just driving and running errands.
We did manage to sew those lovely rose Kingston valances, a tableskirt, an ottoman slipcover; we altered some shades, wrote up a bunch of orders, prepped some fabric to be hand-sewn, and prepared an encouraging bunch of estimates (yay).  We went to Home Depot.  The rose valances were installed and the decorator loved them.  We ordered supplies, paid some bills, vacuumed, and did some picking up and dropping off.
Yeah, we've been very busy, but there are no pictures to show for it.  Sometimes that is what a custom window treatment business is like for a few days. 
So I wanted to show you something wonderful- something that epitomizes the kind of meandering, longing imagination that seizes me as the weekend approaches- something that symbolizes the kind of fantastic project I am working on in my mind!- a dream-catcher you might call it- and there it is, a pocketbook that I got from the Stormville Flea Market in Dutchess County, New York.
I say I got it, but actually I didn't buy it.  My sister did.  I was so envious!  She saw it first, so she had first dibs, and she bought it.
Imagine my joyous surprise when it turned out to be my Christmas present!
I wish we had gotten the name of the young woman who made it.  She had a lot of very cool re-purposed items like this which she had embellished, but she did not have a card, and I have no idea who she was or where she came from.
So now it's late enough on Friday that I really don't see myself doing anything useful here at the studio, yet early enough on Friday that I can leave and enjoy the most lovely winter afternoon outdoors- and I think that's exactly what I'll do, meander a bit with my mind full of that fanciful pocketbook carrying all my re-purposing and embellishing dreams.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rose Taffeta Kingston Valance

Just in time for Valentine's Day, a sleek, shiny, slippery deep rose poly taffeta.
It looks the same from the right side and the wrong side, up or down, and the valance is self-lined; confusion reigned.

If you've ever made a Kingston valance, you know what I mean.  If you never have and want to know, just ask!
Graceful as Kingston valances are, it's astonishing how ungainly they are before they're done.  They seem to endure a prolonged adolescence, limbs askew, awkward contortions, before metamorphosing into a mature valance.
We make Kingstons with M'Fay's pattern- old school- and once you get the process locked into your head, it's not difficult, just cumbersome.  Really cumbersome and confusing! Luckily this had only 2 swag sections.
mbs askew, awkward contortions, before metamorphosing into something mature.
There have been many Kingstons I've had to sew twice because the first time around I sewed the swags to themselves, instead of to each other!
We tried to treat this fabric politely: reduced the bulk at the swag seams; pressed carefully on low temperature; hand-sewed the pleats.  The trim is sewn by machine- I know, I know- but really there wasn't much choice.  The fabric was so slippery that the layers kept bagging at the bottom seam, so an adhesive would only worsen the sagging.  It was almost impossible to even PIN this fabric, so trying to hand-sew the trim- with a NEEDLE!- was out of the question.  In the end, the stitching is not visible since there are no cascading jabots; and it keeps the layers under control.
And guess what, there are TWO of them aaarrrrgggghhhhhhh

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fab Fabric Friday, and other stuff

This gorgeous silk is our Fab Fabric Friday pick this week.  The photo does NOT do it justice!  This pattern is woven so delicately that it looks stenciled.  That's unusual because more often printed fabrics attempt to look woven.  I think this pattern resembles in appearance the Japanese printing technique called katazome, a stenciling technique using rice paste resist.  I've just discovered a textile artist, Kit Eastman, who creates some beautiful work this way- click here to see her work.  

  The customer who owns our Fab Fabric Friday silk had us make it into draperies a couple of years ago, and now she's moved and has re-purposed the fabric- we've made a coverlet/throw for the bottom of the bed, self-lined with Domette interlining inside, and re-using the delicate tassel trim.

The new draperies are this striped silk.  The stripe is sort of pressed in, so too much ironing flattens it out; we had to be careful with it.  The pleats are tacked at the top rather than the bottom, a Euro-style pleat rather than the traditional French pinch pleat.  It looks great with the stripes.
Here are the draperies and the coverlet together.

This customer also had us make a valance for the kitchen.  The floral is an English cotton print, with solid silk banding.
We have a nice "OOPS" situation to share with you.  Can you see, in the picture on the left, what is "OOPS" about it?
Well, look at the black flowers (you remember this fabric, right?)- not until the shade was all done and strung and everything did I realize that somehow the flowers weren't centered- OUCH!
So we unstrung and unstapled,  and re-fitted, re-stapled, and re-strung, and now feel a whole lot better.
And now it's Friday afternoon, snow's coming, and we're ready to go home!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Pattern Matching Trick

 When a treatment is wider than a width of fabric, ususally 54", the fabric cuts must be joined together.
 Sometimes a really perfectly exact pattern match isn't critical, but when the treatment is flat, any imperfections in the joining will be obvious.
 An experienced seamstress can zoom through joining widths with just a few pins, or even none, and they'll always come out perfect.  Not many can do that!  I try, but it doesn't always turn out great, so  I keep practicing.
 However, some patterns challenge even the most experienced sewer, such as this one, where the pattern match varied by about 1/8", and the fabric had to be eased in to match.
Also there is a skinny little stem that grows from one width of fabric onto the other width.
I need help with this one!....................

 So, here's a trick for perfect matching.

 Most printed patterns match about 1/4" in from the edge.  On one width, press about 1/4" from the printed edge.
 Line it up with the second width and lay it out so it matches all the way up.
 Use a narrow strip of fusible webbing and press the folded edge into place, not quite at the fold but just out from it.
 Take the fabric to the sewing machine, unfold it, and carefully sew along the pressed fold.
 Trim the selvedges, press the seam open, and turn it over.  Press it again from the right side, being sure to fully open the seam with the iron.
 If there are any unmatched spots, it's easy to pick out a few stitches and re-sew them.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What if, and why not?

I've been wandering around the studio with the camera, looking for something to photograph for today.  But we've got a bunch of stuff in a state of not-quite-completedness, and nothing struck me as very photogenic just yet.
Except this London shade.  You may remember this Fab Fabric Friday pick from a couple of weeks ago.  
The black flowers are appliqued on with stitching just in the middle so the edges are loose.  This is the second fabric of this type we've worked with recently, and it has me wondering: what if we made our own flowers and appliqued them onto a ground fabric with embroidery in the centers, then made it into shades?  Why not?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

When Work is Not So Fab

The catch about doing custom work for a living is, I don't always love the treatment I'm being commissioned to make.  Maybe I don't care for the fabric.  Maybe I don't like the treatment.  Maybe the treatment is not the best way to use a fabric that I do like.  And so on.
Sometimes the job is REALLY HARD and the result of all the hard work is just not as great as all that work would warrant.
Sometimes you work really hard on a job that you really love, and when it's done you see that you've made a dumb mistake, like didn't center the motif as well as you could have, or, well, there are a hundred thousand dumb mistakes I could make.
Sometimes you work really hard on a job that you like, then get the dreaded phone call from the decorator who tells you the customer didn't like the fabric she chose, or the treatment she thought she loved.  Sometimes the customer- *gasp!*- doesn't like my workmanship!!
Yes, it happens.
Sometimes you open a fabric that you really loathe, and then once the work is completed it turns out that the fabric is wonderful after all.
Sometimes you deliver a job that you really didn't like, then get the dreaded phone call from the decorator who tells you that the customer LOVES it!
Sometimes you have a run of fabulously wonderful gorgeous fabrics to work with, and sometimes you get a run of fabrics that are a big yawn.
Well, so, you can see that it's an emotional see-saw, because I really care about making a job that is beautiful and well-made.

I guess recently I've had one of those runs of fabrics and treatments I'm not personally wild about, which, I suppose, is why I haven't been photographing them.
So I thought I'd post a picture or two of some treatments that I've made that make me smile.

I don't think my sisters and niece will mind if their kitchen window treatments are featured today.
I'm really thrilled with these, because I made everything with scraps and cheap trims I found at Walmart.
The light colorway was leftover from a lot of different batches, jobs over the years out a wildly popular fabric that I must have made a hundred pillows out of.  When I realized I didn't have enough for my design, I found scraps of the red colorway and had enough to complete the toppers.

On the valances I used several ribbons, some tassels, beads, and bias welting out of a little plaid.  There was just enough of a beautiful braid with little pompoms for the bottom of the roman shades.

This kitchen always makes me smile!

Fab Fabric Friday Four Days Late!

You know how sometimes stuff just happens.  So it's Tuesday and I missed Fab Fabric Friday, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen.
Here is a fabulous Scottish lace, with a Garden of Eden motif.  There are Adam and Eve in the foreground, sitting under a tree, presumably the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because it appears to be laden with fruit, and they are surrounded by all kinds of creatures.
There are elephants, camels, deer, foxes, tons of birds, including an ostrich; monkeys, unicorns, squirrels, and something that seems like a bear; even little piggies.  Horses, lions, lizards, and bunnies; a dog; and of course a snake.  There are a lot of wonderful trees, bushes, and flowers.
I'm not sure what Adam is handing Eve, but I bet it's something he wants her to sew.