Tuesday, August 31, 2010

French Seams

Perfect French seams are just a little labor-intensive.  They require two stitching lines, and up to five pressings.  Usually the first stitch is serged: that keeps little loose threads from going astray making it easier to do the second stitch line really close and narrow.  Depending on how easy or difficult the fabric is to manipulate, it may need pressing each time from each side.  But the results are worth it, especially with sheers like this where the seam needs to be a beautiful feature, not a necessary evil.

A neat, trim French seam always gives me a little thrill.  
After the seam is serged, wrong sides together, the seam is pressed to one side, then flipped over and pressed flat again.
Then it's folded over, so now right sides are together, and pressed yet again.
It's sewn as close as possible to the serging, and then goes back to the table for pressing from the wrong side and then once more from the right side.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

To Make Smiles

I loved this fabric so much, I hoarded it for more than 20 years!

It's been an unsettling week.  I feel a need for nourishment, sustenance, grounding. These treatments are re-runs, some of them have been on the blog before, but today I want to group them here because they are very personal- treatments I've made for myself and family- and they make me happy and they make me smile.  They have mostly been made from scraps or leftovers or fabrics long hoarded.  The sort of things that don't exactly fit in a professional portfolio!- but are a reflection of my own dreams of home.
Wrinkly but happy in its home, like some of us
Another hoarded star fabric, with scraps of sheers and beads, for the dream-catcher bedroom
Made out of scraps and bits and pieces, the smiliest window treatment I've ever made!
She's nearly 17 now, but my niece had just turned 14 when I made this for her entirely out of bits & pieces to go with her turquoise sheers


Friday, August 20, 2010

Linen Drapery Installed!

Some years ago, at the fabulous Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown NY, I saw a demonstration of dried flax stalks being turned into linen fiber, by hand.  It gave me insight into linen fabric I would never have had otherwise.
(I'm dying to get back to the museum... if you ever have the chance, be sure to check it out.)
The tall stalks go through a five-step process to prepare it for spinnning, delightfully called rippling, retting, scutching, grassing, and hackling.  First, they are combed to remove seeds and leaves, then soaked, then dried.  Then they are beaten, and the stalks separate out into long individual strands, and then they are put through a fine comb to create yarns for spinning.
The resulting yarns and eventual fabrics contain all the irregularities of the original plant stalk, which is why linen has a "memory" and does not retain a pressing.
Linen fiber is one of the strongest, which is why it can be combed into extremely slender yarns for fine linen like lace, bedding, and table linens.   Linen also is lint free which makes it perfect for kitchen dishtowels.
Seeing the linen yarn appear before my eyes at the demonstration at the Farmers' Museum was one of those "aha!" moments for me.  It was like magic, and I don't look at fabric in the same way since. 
Yesterday we installed these interlined linen draperies- they were incredibly heavy!  The linen is rough and irregular.  I was fascinated by how the fibers' appearance changed when the sun shone through it.  Flat on the worktable, it was a dull, consistent off-white, but when the sun shone through it was warm and golden.  The jute and cotton banding was a nice complement.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Totally off-topic: Koos

I parked on Madison Ave the other day and, to my immense delight, practically in front of these garments in the window of Koos.

They are totally unrelated to window treatments, but this is all about fabric and fabrication and totally related to my personal aesthetic of scrap-collecting, patchworking, vintage, repurposing, green, funk, punk, and mixed-up riotous gorgeous prints.

Not that I actually dress that way.  Who knows what I would wear if I had the time to sew my clothes myself!  (My unfortunate sartorial reality is jeans, tank top, and running shoes....)

(no, I don't run, either)

So today I was in the neighborhood and walked up to have another look.

The owner was there and as I browsed through one gorgeous garment after another, she graciously walked me through the store pointing out wonderful fabrics, fabrication techniques, and embellishments.

Though I readily proclaimed that I could not afford to buy anything there, she was so lovely and suggested I stop in again next time I'm in the area because new styles come in often.

I think I will, this place is full of inspiration!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The new treatments
Installation day in New York City is usually a big production.  Yesterday 78' of board-mounted treatments replaced treatments we originally made in 2003.

These photos show two of the four areas we treated.  It took some mathematical gymnastics to decide on a common denominator so the sections could be approximately the same size.

The cool, airy treatments, designed by Kim Freeman of Freeman Design Group, were made from curtains from the client's country home that we made in 2008.

The original treatments
A set of mock-ups showing different styles, fabrics, and trims helped the designer narrow down the client's preferences.

Why did I forget to take a close-up!?  Well, I've got a close-up of the mock-up, below.  The 4"
one-way pleats, all rippling in the same direction throughout all the areas, create a sort of wave illusion which is modern and restful.

For this fabric, a slubby linen blend sheer,  we chose a plain-weave lightweight white cotton lining which gives shape to the undulating pleats.  While the unlined mock-up was floppy and uncontrolled, the finished product has a serene orderliness.

The plain linen banding lends a quiet definition to the bottom silhouette, and blends perfectly with the wall color.  This, along with the fact that the pleats end perfectly at the corners, was no coincidence but the result of careful planning by the designer and the workroom.

Our installation team was a model of efficiency and proficiency.  They made it look effortless.

On the way out of town I stopped at the Museum of Natural History to catch the Silk Road exhibit before it closes on Sunday.  I also finally got to see the Golden Orb Spider Silk Tapestry- awesome!- there's a picture of it in the top right corner of this page.  That gold is the color of the silk- it's not dyed!  

The winner- a little wrinkly
The mockups
Treatments were made from this curtains

Monday, August 9, 2010

Linsay's Farm

The stuga
I've been working hard and will have photos this week, really!, of this ongoing project that finally will be installed.  All the previous treatments that you see in those photos have been removed and the new ones are about to take their place.
Meanwhile, other projects just have been too whirlwind to have the time to document.

So let me tell you what has been occupying my imagination as I sew away the summer: this little building on Linsay Cochran's Kitchawan Farm with its charming windows and robin's egg blue floor.

The moment I saw it I knew I'd have to make a window treatment for Linsay with fabric from my vintage and feedsack collection.

Linsay refers to this building as her little Swedish stuga.  It was moved from the back of the property and renovated for her to use as a farm store for her produce as well as local hand-crafted products.  
Some of my feedsack and vintage fabrics

Though Linsay grows fabulous veggies, I think she really uses the farm as her own artist's canvas.  Everything in sight reflects her unique sense of design and balance.  Form and function are in harmony here on Kitchawan Farm.

I know exactly what I want to make for the stuga: narrow pojagi-inspired pieced scarves to be hung with loops from poles made from branches. 
August at Kitchawan

Palette for a Robin's Egg Blue Floor

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

More inverted box pleats

These are inverted box pleated cafe curtains for poles with rings.
The pleats have just 3 1/2" of fabric and are stitched-in-the-ditch to flatten for pinning in the back.

Yet another ribbed shade method

When this order came in for blackout shades with ribs, I knew I needed to develop a new method.
My standard method has been to make skinny pockets in the back for the ribs, but with blackout lining the stitching would leave horizontal light-bleed lines.
Though I don't love using adhesives- I like to think I sew, not glue, for a living- I know that blackout is all about NOT sewing, because every time the lining is pierced with needle or pin, light is allowed through.
So I worked out a non-sewn ribbed shade method that I like.
The weight bar pocket tape sold by Rowley was used for the rib pockets.  There is probably a cheaper alternative, but this is what I had on hand and it worked beautifully. 
After pressing the sides of the lining to 1" less than the finished width, I adhered the pockets to the wrong side of the lining, using adhesive tape from Atlanta Thread.
The lining was turned right side up onto the wrong side of the face fabric, which had been pressed to size.  I ran rows of adhesive tape up each side but kept the paper on until after the rings were hand-sewn and the ribs inserted, then I reached under and released the paper, pressing the lining into place.
These shades had bottom trim, so I turned up a 2" hem and glued it in the back and glued on the trim.
I used tiny stitches to reinforce all the stress points of the shade so the glue and adhesive didn't have to bear all the burden of keeping the shade together.  Also, of course, the tacking used to put the rings on goes through all layers, including the top of the pockets, so the pockets are secure as well.
There were three shades on one headrail, and they turned out perfectly, I think!  They're on their way to being installed, and if I have time I'll run over and get a photo today.  If not, I'll get pictures in a week or two when we install the swags in the dining room.
I totally forgot to take pictures while I worked!  So the one above is the only one I have, but it does show a lot of what I just wrote about.
I think I'll use this method for two more shades I'm about to make, even though they aren't blackout.  I like the hidden ribs and pockets.