Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gillette Castle

I have been very irresponsible this week- I have not taken a single picture of any work I've been doing.  

So I've pulled out some pictures of a trip to Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam, CT, on the serene and majestic Connecticut River.

This is one of my favorite places. The vision that gave birth to this crazy, fabulous place awes me, and inspires me to keep my eye on my own vision.  It also humbles me- it is the quality of the workmanship that gives substance to the dream.  This place makes me want to go home and to my studio and do my best.  At everything. 

If you cherish fine craftsmanship, you'll be in total awe of what you find here.

Click on the link above and read all about it.  If you're ever in south central Connecticut, I urge you to swing by here and have a little visit.  The tour is only $5, and admission to the park grounds is free.

I'm going to let Wikipedia tell you about Gillette Castle; I will say, however, that every single thing in this amazing castle has been hand-made, from the fabulous doors with their crazy lock systems, to the textiles, the glass, carpets, furniture, everything.  Every piece of lumber, every stone, was hand-hewn.

Maybe tomorrow I'll have time to add some captions, but in the meantime, I'll leave you with these photos which were taken with my iphone in very dim light.  Sorry they're not any better than they are.  I hope they give you some sense of how wonderful this place is.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Tools my grandmother didn't have!

Does this fabric look familiar?  Back in the winter I posted pictures of a small shade out of this fabric.  It was fun using twill tape to band the edges and the shade turned out great.

The decorator wanted to use it again for this shade which is wider than the width of the fabric.  We needed to find a way to join the widths.

The face fabric is a very sheer silk, with a 1/4" hemp rope woven in horizontally.  The rope is very bulky, making it impossible to sew the widths, so we thought of using the twill tape to hold the widths together and at the same time hiding the join line.  The twill tape is topstitched down each side, through all the layers.

This is where some modern workroom tools really made it possible to fabricate this shade with confidence.

The shade was made almost entirely on the table.  Since you can see through the sheer silk and the sheer linen lining, I used the gridded canvas table to press and lay out the fabric and keep the rope lines and the lining grain line straight.

Adhesive tape was used as a basting tool.  Once the half widths were positioned next to the full center width, I ran adhesive tape down the join line and pressed the twill tape into place.  I also used the tape to position the twill tape used for the banding.  The tapes were also pinned to keep the layers together.

Fabric staples across the top kept the fabrics from shifting while the shade went off to the machine for topstitching.

Back to the table, wrong side up, the grid again assisted in marking for the rings.  As a matter of fact, I didn't even mark- I just followed the rope lines and the vertical grid lines and sewed the rings on by hand right on the table.  The clear plastic rings and tan lift cord are nearly unnoticeable from the front.

The twill tape in folded in half and made a pocket for the weight bar which I sewed right behind the bottom band, following the topstitching line.

I've had my gridded canvas table for 4 or 5 years now and can't imagine going back to fabricating anything without it.  

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Return Visit

I recently went to measure the master bedroom in a house where we installed shades about 6 or 7 years ago.
The children of the house were little then, but the whimsical banded shades are still adorable.
The cat, at least, has not outgrown a snooze on the pink window seat!
Over the years we've made treatments for nearly the entire house. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Whole House

This jobsite under renovation is slated to be habitable by mid-September!
Overlooking the Long Island Sound, the four-story house has been gutted and is being put back together.

The decorator, homeowner, and I did a walk-through the other day so I could begin to get a sense of the project. 
Fabrics and styles have been chosen for perhaps 19 of the approximately 48 windows.
This is where I stand in awe of the decorator who can visualize and plan a finished room while standing in the middle of all this mess!

When I say 48 windows, what I mean is 48 separate spaces to get window treatments.  Those spaces range from single dormer windows to double windows, 10 sets of French doors, and a bay window.

Not all these will be fabricated and installed at one time, and some of them will have woven woods or blinds, but on the other hand some will have layered treatments like a shade with panels.

Some of the treatments being planned or considered include panels- grommeted, rouched top, Italian strung, among others; shades- flat and relaxed Romans, and fabric roller shades; several top treatment; swing arm curtains for basement windows; stretch panels for some of the French doors.

I was happy to see that the homeowner's present house is filled with gorgeous, traditional window treatments- a promising sign of a wonderful client!

Monday, June 14, 2010

More pillows....

A long-time customer of ours loves to have pillows made from silk Hermes scarves.
Here are the latest......

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Totally Satisfying Installation

Top tack unlined sheers
The first fold is basted to keep it from drooping since it's so wide
Today's installation was one of the rare ones that I could walk away from totally satisfied that there is nothing I would have done differently!

These unlined semi-sheer striped draperies are all hand-sewn, with top tack pleats and just a little break at the floor.

The light and dark sections are equal in width at 4 7/8".  We debated how to lay out the stripes, finally choosing to keep the darker stripe in the back and on the lead and return edges, and the lighter stripe to the front, pleated; this made the fullness 2x.

I thought the lead edges and return edges should be hemmed along the edge of the full stripe, as opposed to a regular 1 1/2" side hem.  That meant doubling 4 7/8" and I was worried the first fold would droop inside the side hem, unless it was secured.  So before making the second turn, the fabric was basted with long stitches on the inside and just 1/4" to the front, which is pretty much invisible.

The little narrow shiny white woven stripe dividing the wide stripe provided the perfect place to secure the hem stitching so that it's not visible at all.

The effect is a totally smooth lead edge with no stitching showing, and a nice soft padded feel thanks to the wide, doubled side hem.

And the best part of the lead edges is that the little white woven line is at the very edge.  I love how that looks!

Translucent buckram in the heading gives a clean but fluid line.

The second fold is hand-hemamed along the little woven line.
The shades were sewn by hand, too.  I love how on their 1" boards they just fit under the rough-hewn beam that serves as a sort of cornice.

The fabric is 118" wide, railroaded.
For the 74" long shades, all 118" was used, which means that there is more than 36" extra in length, tied up with 7 rings.  That is a lot of bottom fullness!- but for this drapey fabric, it's perfect.

The room pictures, below, show the three walls of draperies and shades.
The relaxed Roman shades are very full at the bottom.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Inverted pleats

The other day I had the opportunity to see some draperies hung up that we made awhile back.

These are inverted box pleats- very small box pleats with a lot of space in between.  The ripple effect was a complete surprise to me!

I like to use clear buckram- the kind used for sheers- in flat panels whether with or without little pleats, because the top line holds without drooping yet is fluid.  The heading is doubled in the back for extra body. 

I was on the run that day- we have work installed in 3 or 4 rooms in this house and I was there to measure more rooms.  I'll take good photos of it all when we install the next phase.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pillows, a force of nature

Bed hanging and pillows.  How about that electric blue microcord?
Hurricane season officially began on June 1, and on Tuesday I officially had orders for 37 pillows in the studio- a regular spring storm of pillows.  I like to hunker down and do them all at once as if they were one order.

I cut 29 of them to start with, adapting a quilt-making technique: using a straightedge and rotary cutter on a mat.

Once cut and marked to indicate front & back & bottom edge, I take the whole batch to the serger and serge the bottom edge where the zipper will go.  This is tedious but best to get over with asap.
All these for one client.  Delicious colors!

Back to the table, the cut pieces are arranged by sewing thread color, which generally is not the fabric color but the trim color.

Then time to dig in and start sewing.  I'll sew the trim and assemble all the pillows of one sewing thread color, and then do all the zippers for that batch.

Zipper color is matched to the welting, not to the fabric.  Two of these pillow were an unusual orange, with self-welt, and none of my zipper colors worked.  I called Alicia The Zipper Lady with my Zipper Emergency and she overnight-shipped the perfect matching orange zipper!

For 3 different clients, but don't they look good together?
They go to the serger and are serged all around and then turned and inspected.  I want to catch any mistakes before I change the thread color on the machine.

If there are a lot of pillows, I'll stuff this batch, too, before moving on to the next- it's just a mind-game to have some of them all done!  Feels like I'm making more progress than I really am.

For this bunch of pillows there was a lot of thread-changing, as you can imagine from the multitude of colors represented!  

29 Pillows cut & bottom edge serged
My personal pillow philosophy dictates tapered corners to minimize "ears" after stuffing.  I equally dislike rounded corners.  The tapering is done by eye: it's something you just have to have a feel for, like seam allowances.

I can't forget to mention the bed hanging in the top photo.  Designed by Joshua at Fabu who always has an eye out for the most wonderful fabrics in the world, it's a fabulously delicious velvet embroidery on linen, with a burlap-like linen border that also forms the pocket.  He also chose those wonderful fabrics for the pillows: the luscious teal velvet, with no trim; the quilted silk with electric blue microcord; and the same blue silk, lined with napped sateen and microcorded.

Selecting zipper color is fun!
The multi-colored batch of 14 pillows in the second photo are all designed by Liz at Paris Interiors for her client, for two separate but adjacent spaces.  The wovens are beautiful organic patterns like spirals and leaves.  The thick solid velvets are soft and comfortable, and punchy with contrast welt.  I especially loved the blue velvet with the orange-yellow velvet which I thought of as Electric Squash.  You know how I like to name things- I called these pillows (in my mind, of course) the Allman Brothers Pillows- you know, "you're my blue sky, you're my sunny day"- you know, the blue sky and the yellow sun welting- oh well.

Welt strips ready and waiting
Back to zippers.  Leatherwood Design Co pillows always get invisible zippers.  The Zipper Lady has an excellent array of colors, and I keep almost all of them in stock.
I buy the zipper tape rolls with the slides attached- I cannot, cannot! put those slides on to save my life. 
There is a special foot for installing invisible zippers, but I never use it- I just use a regular zipper foot and sew up as close as possible and frighteningly close to my left index finger. 
Invisible zippers of course are not actually invisible, haha, but when properly installed they aren't noticeable.  I've had customers complain that their pillows didn't have zippers- they didn't realize they were there!
With a chunky welt the zipper is more apparent because it's not possible to sew up real close to the zipper teeth, but if it's color-matched it's still better than a lapped zipper, I think.

Silk pillows are lined with napped sateen
One more thing, if you're still reading!- when we make silk pillows, we line them with napped sateen.  We also serge all four edges of most pillows, except when serging is not beneficial (loose weaves sometimes fray more when serged) or for round pillows (serging constrains the shape).  These are time-consuming techniques but, like color-matching the zippers, they are the details that make our pillows better.

If you're counting, there are 29 pillows shown, but two of them were photographed twice.  I still have two more to make, silk Hermes scarves for the fronts and brown microcord and backing.  
How I taper pillow corners
Zippers match welt, not fabric
The Zipper Lady resolved the orange zipper emergency
Why I inspect for mistakes before changing thread color!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Make new friends, but keep the old....

It was 2003 when we first worked with Kim Freeman in this NYC Upper West Side apartment on the 28th floor with views east, west, and north.  A few years later we made all the window treatments for the country house- about 100 widths of drapery, hand-sewn!- and now it's time to freshen up this apartment's windows.

For the living room, family room, and kitchen, we made about 80 feet of this silk shaped valance with its cotton and linen knotted fringe.  The crown molding extends more than a foot away from the windows into the rooms; also every window section is a different size.  The shaped valance was chosen to minimize the irregularities, but now the challenge is to create a treatment that will lighten up the room with an airy sheer.

Yesterday we had an initial consultation to brainstorm about options.  Now we'll make 2 or 3 mock-ups of possible treatments and try them out after these valances have been removed.

It always makes me happy to return to a customer who has been so pleased with treatments we made that she wants us to be part of the re-decorating.