Friday, February 18, 2011

Update on the Top-Down Shades

The shades shown in the previous post, just below this one, were completed and installed a week ago.  Pictures?  No, sorry, no pictures! 

These were top-down only hobbled shades with a Rollease clutch and a self-fabric valance.  There were three layers of fabric: the face fabric was a semi-sheer with a woven pattern, a middle layer of a nearly-upholstery weight woven mini-diamond, and the outer back was blackout- the new Bella Notte "Silky" from Angel's Distributing.
There were five shades, all with 2" banding in the mini-diamond on 3 sides with mitered bottom corners.
Shall I mention now that three of the five were side-by-side in a bay window?
Rowley's new encased cord served as both the hobbling tape and the lift cord.  Luckily, for hobbled shades the encased cord can be machine-sewn, saving a bit of time.

This was by far the most complicated job I have ever done, both physically and mentally.
Where shall I begin???

Right off the bat, the first challenge was banding the sheer.  Glue-basting helped keep the layers from shifting, but none of my sewing experience could mitigate the take-up that naturally occurs whenever two fabrics are sewn together.  The pattern was nice and straight at the bottom, but had a big downward smile at the top.  Usually you try to compromise and put the skewed end wherever it would be least noticeable, but with a top-down shade, both top and bottom are prominent!

Once the three fabrics were layered and the side hems pressed in, the lines for the rib pockets were drawn with that miraculous disappearing purple pen.  Some blackouts won't hold that purple mark for long, but fortunately the new "Silky" did.
The new "hazardous loop" standards prevent us from making a combined fabric-plus-tape that exceeds 16.9", which means that with 6" "ring" spacing, the rows for pockets can't be more than 9.9" apart.  I was able to stagger the repeats at about 9.5", and the "ring" spacing was 5.75", so the pattern on the folds were consistent on every other fold, AND it met with the hazardous loop guidelines. 

The pockets for the ribs were relatively easy to sew, with plenty of pinning, but unfortunately the textured sheer was the inside of the pocket and made inserting the ribs a difficult task.  Many of the pockets had to be strategically opened to get the ribs through.  Rowley's clear plastic ribs made it through okay, but that was plan B- originally I wanted to use the 1/8" fiberglass ribs.  But they caught on the fabric and would not slide through, and would have caused runs in the fabric if we'd tried to force them.

But back to the pockets.  There were 10 rib pockets, and I sewed every other one in the opposite direction, to keep the layers from shifting.  My arms are all torn and scabby from the pins gouging them while I wrangled with the very heavy shades at the sewing machine.  The next step, sewing on the encased cord by machine, was probably the easiest part of the whole job.  I kept the top unfinished until all five shades were done, so I could lay them out and make sure the pattern was consistent on all.

Did I mention yet that three of these shades were side-by-side in a bay window?  Oh, yeah.  I did.  So it was essential that the folds line up perfectly with each other on each shade.

That part was so totally not fun.  I made good use of the printed grid canvas and the purple pen, and drew all over the table and made notes right on the canvas about where each fold needed to fall and what part of the pattern had to be at the very top.

Remember the part about how the pattern turned from straight lines into a downward smile towards the top of the shade?  Well, I have no idea how, but by the time it was all done, that line seemed less smiley, and also the busy-ness of the folds and little flowers made the skew less noticeable.

After the pocket for the top was pressed in, John put in the little brass grommets that allow the lift cords out of the pocket.  Then the pocket was sewn- and at that moment I realized the top of the tape needed to be sewn accurately into the seam- yet another step I hadn't been able to think through until I was actually doing it.

These shades had a regular 3/8" round bottom weight bar, but they also needed a top bar that is very rigid which keeps the top of the shade straight, with no sway.  Shopping with John one day in the electrical department at Home Depot, we found something called "wire molding" which is extremely strong metal housing for running wires.  We bought that for the top weight bar because it had virtually no flex in either direction.  It turned out to be perfect.  Brilliant John used the reciprocating saw with the compressor (a non-manual hacksaw) to cut grooves in the metal and we wound the cord around the bar making sure it was settled into the groove so it couldn't slip.  After the two middle cords were tied on this way (there were 4 lift lines) we borrowed again from the electricians and use a wire  snaking technique to get the strings through the pocket, followed by the bar.  I know I'm not describing this well.  (I should make a YouTube video.  Yeah, in my spare time!)  Anyhow, it worked, and let the record show that I would never have been able to make these shades without John's imaginative engineering!

I also must mention that I couldn't have made them by the deadline without a dear friend's patient and good-natured stubborn persistence- she put in a whole back-breaking day of what I had promised as "fun" and "interesting" tedium, did not walk out on me, AND never complained!

Leveling a top-down shade is a major ordeal, and having to level five of them identically is just cruel and unusual.  We were not going to be present at the installation, so we had to come up with a way to make all the lines adjustable.  The orbs used for shades were the answer.  These shades have two sets of lines:  the guide cords which set the length, and the operating cords.  We used orbs at each end of each line, and tied them off leaving a long tail.  This allowed the installer to make slight adjustments.

We were thrilled when we finally heard back from the decorator on installation day that everything had gone well and the next day we heard that the man of the house had called the decorator with his compliments on the job!!!

I feel that I am babbling now- I am sure that no one reading this has the slightest idea what I'm talking about, and I'd be astonished if anyone's made it to the end of this post.  I'm sorry I don't have photos.  The fabrication was just so intense, I had no time to stop and take pictures.  And this was one of those jobs I will never see installed.  But if anything you've read piques your curiosity and you have any questions about any of the process, please let me know and I'll try to be more thorough.

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