Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Back to Work....

We were incredibly, incredibly, incredibly lucky with Sandy: we never lost power at home, and today we're back to the studio with power AND internet!........... we had no flooding, no trees down, no live wires, no submerged vehicles; we have electricity, heat, water, hot coffee, and home-cooked meals.

Monday morning around noon the Hudson River was at high tide: over its banks and creeping up onto the Riverfront Green.  We weren't allowed to cross the tracks so you can just see the river beyond in this photo.

By 11pm, at just before high tide, the water was up to the tracks- yes, we walked down in the wind to have a look- but too dark and rainy to take a picture.

Tuesday morning, again at high tide, we walked down and the water had receded back to about where it was in this picture. 

Anyhow, that was the worst of it, in our neck of the woods, and for some reason our power flickered only once but rallied and stayed on.

We had little rain compared to much of the storm area, so my worries about water in the studio were totally (thankfully!) unfounded.  I did get to do a lot of cleaning, though, since everything was up off the floor, so it was not a wasted effort.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hey Sandy girl

Waiting for Sandy.......

I spent Sunday afternoon prepping the studio in case it takes on water when Sandy storms in.  After a flash flood some 5 or 6 years ago, everything went into bins, onto shelves, or under the tables on pallets; but for a hurricane, that's not reassuring enough.  We put all fabrics up onto the work tables, along with the compressor, shop vac, and other electrical stuff.  I vacuumed thoroughly because it is just gross to have to clean up after a flood when the floor was full of lint, threads, string, fabric bits, you name it.  Ask me how I know. 
On the gridded table are some of my to-go bags.  I prepped a bunch of shades and draperies to take home for sewing by hand.  My work computer came home with me, and an assortment of sewing supplies.  At least I can get some work done even without electricity.  I'm assuming it'll be at least Wednesday before we have power and the roads get cleared.  
Yeah, some 5 or 6 summers ago I was working, alone in the building, on a super-hot July afternoon.  A severe storm blew across the Hudson and let loose.  Suddenly I heard a loud "crack" and the sound of the water seemed ominously different.  I ran to the back hallway door to see what was going on.  I was afraid the back wall had collapsed, but instead a wall of water was rushing from the office at the other end, past the closets and rest rooms, straight for me.  I say "wall" of water because that's what it felt like to me, but of course it was just a few inches deep.  It was, however, very wet, and rushing madly towards everything I owned, so I freaked out, slammed the door shut (silly, because the water just came underneath!), and in sheer panic started grabbing everything I could reach, throwing things haphazardly up onto the work table any old way.  What a mess.  I got everything that was electrical out of the water, and luckily I got to the fabrics or materials that belonged to customers before the water did.  Next I ran for the computer and other electronics, propping them up on the desk, chairs, whatever I could find.  A big stash- I mean a BIG STASH- of hoarded leftover fabrics were left to fend for themselves, and got themselves wet.  A lot of other stuff got wet, too.  By the time I was done, the water had reached most of my room, and my heartrate was about 190.  I can't believe I didn't have a heart attack.
It was a freak storm, a flash flood, and the normally more than adequate drainage was not up to the volume.  The management company immediately called in a crew to improve the drainage system and we haven't had a problem since, but when I was able to get back into the building to clean up, I bought tons of plastic bins and now everything that touches the floor is in a bin or on higher pallets.  However, the memory of that flood makes me very uneasy when the words "hurricane" or "nor'easter" start appearing in the weather forecast!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Three strikes

Some projects seem jinxed.  Here is one of them: a bedding package consisting of two duvet covers and three 26x26 boxed pillows.  Fate contrived to thwart the project, but we prevailed!

First, the blue duvet cover went seriously awry when I cut into the center width with the serger........ which, in a workroom, qualifies as "The Unthinkable."  I cut off the offending section and pieced in two rows of contrast fabric, bordered by microcord.  (I didn't think to take a picture until it was packaged and about to walk out the door. )

Turns out that the pillow fabric was also discontinued, and the vendor sent the last bit they had, but at just over a yard it was not enough to make the three fronts of the 26" pillows.  They rummaged through the showroom and found the memo sample which was just 25" square, so I added a border all around to get to the right size.  There were just enough scraps to make the boxing.

With all the raw edges from all that piecing and boxing, every seam was serged to eliminate the raveling threads.

Finally, the second duvet cover was too narrow because the supposedly 54" fabric had only 52" of useable print.  I added a 2" band of the backing fabric.  The delicious Vervain silk is lined with napped sateen, making the cover soft and supple. 

Between the seams the tiniest microcord is inserted.   A scrap of fine ivory taffeta from a previous project matched the background perfectly. 

The duvet from Rowley came with snap tabs to keep it in place.  You sew the mate into the cover's seams, then lay the duvet cover wrong side out, place the duvet on it and snap the tabs together, then turn it all to the right side.  So much easier than trying to climb inside to fasten the snaps!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fabrics for Fab Fabric Friday, and how we used them

We make a lot of shades here.  A lot, a lot, a lot of shades.  Some turn out great.  Some turn out.... just fine, okay, meh.  And some I look at and just cringe.  You know, I'm a trade workroom, and sometimes I have zero input during the design and fabric selection process, and I have to do the best with what I get.
What makes the difference between a great shade and an awful shade?...... mostly, the appropriateness of the fabric.  Fabrics for shades not only must look good, but also need to behave well and fold easily.  The best shade fabrics train themselves after raising and lowering just two or three times.

Here is a gallery of shades we've recently fabricated for Fabric Factory Outlet.  All are made with fabrics that lend themselves perfectly to their end use, and all of them just happen to qualify as Fab Fabrics.

A good quality cotton print is still the best fabric for a well-behaved shade.  This Collier and Campbell is a perfect example.
Something about this color combination just floors me.  Perhaps because it embodies the colors of my favorite autumn month, November, but for whatever reason, I can't get enough of gazing at this fabric.

After making two of these, a third window was discovered in the room.  That set off a mild panic to find two yards of this (unfortunately) discontinued pattern.  These last few inches are apparently all that is left in the world, and I'm glad it's here for me to look at every day. 

This is a beautiful crewel, with rich colors and balanced pattern.  As I raised the shade, it folded up as it it had been doing it forever.

A closer look.  Oh, I love embroidery.  Why?

I had my doubts as I started fabricating relaxed roman shades from this flocked velvet on a heavy, upholstery weight linen.  I was afraid this fabric would never fold gracefully, but I was wrong! 

The shade behaved perfectly and the fabric is stunning.

Blue ribbon wobbles its way vertically through this thickly embroidered linen.  It was hard to get a straight line anywhere on these shades, and although undeniably gorgeous the embroidered pattern is not as well balanced as I would have liked.  

The designer found a perfectly matching grosgrain to band the bottom edge, which gave a much-needed clean edge to a fabric that is beautiful but a little...... vague.

However, I never judge a window treatment until I see it in context, and here at home these shades are big winners.

Yes, I love prints.  Prints, patterns, colors, pile them on, please.  Here is one of my recent favorites, totally a joy to work with.  No idea who makes this fabric, but, well, WOW. 


Although a little on the heavy side, this stripe behaves well.  We made a whole bunch of these back in the spring, and now this one more for an adjacent hallway.

Love that little topper!  Nice use of the stripe. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

I love to make Kingston valances

When I need a swaggy look with a fairly straight bottom silhouette, the Kingston is my go-to valance.  The gentle curves eliminate the problem of a severe short point.

For a style I've made what feels like a thousand times, I have only a few photos.  Here's the most recent.  This used to be two swag and jabot treatments, taken apart and re-purposed.  There was JUST enough!  but, enough IS enough, so the remake was a success.  

Why re-invent it every time?...... I am on my third copy of M'Fay's Kingston pattern, since it gets so torn up every few years that I have to get a new one.  In the pattern envelope I keep a piece of twill tape marked with the fold spacing.

There are various ways of securing the pleats.  If the fabrics are lightweight enough, I can fold, pin, and stitch in the ditch by machine.  For heavier fabrics, I secure instead with a heavy buttonhold thread, stabbing through all the layers and tying a knot each time.  I never cut the thread, just slip the needle between the fabric layers and run it up to the next mark and repeat the stabbing and tying off.  It goes quickly, plus I don't have to carry the whole thing to the sewing machine and get stuck with pins.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Double London double-take, and finished length demo

The client loved her treatments......

...but hated the fabric she chose.  So she chose another fabric, and had us make the same treatments.

Long point 42"

It's hard to decide how much fabric to use in a stationary shade valance.  These double Londons provide a good show-and-tell opportunity.  Here you see the shade fully lowered.

Long point 42"

Before swooping up, flat on the table, there is 44" of fabric.  After tying up the bottom 4 rings, the shade has a long point of 42".

Long point 30"

Here it's pulled up to 30", about the longest you'd want to finish a valance.

Long point 30"

There is 13" in each pleat- it would be too much for a full-length operable shade, but just fine for a valance.

Long point 25"

And here it's pulled up to about 25", which is what the designer requested.  Here the proportions look the best; though different widths will have different optimal long points.

Long point 25"

There are 7 rings per shade, and 4 are tied up permanently.  A cord lock makes it adjustable.

Long point 20"

Shades look ridiculous when pulled up too far, as you can see here- this is pulled up as high as it will go, and the long point is 20".
The short point is all squished together and hiked up way too far.
I know homeowners say they will want to see as much of their "view" as possible, but there's no point in misleading them into thinking that they can pull up a relaxed silhouette to an absurdly short drop. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A week in the life

Sometimes it's hard to decide what to write up on the blog.  It's easy with whole-room projects, with lots of pretty "after" pictures and interesting "how we made it" shots; but some weeks are more hum-drum, filled with work on a smaller scale and a lot of variety.
So here's a sample week in the workroom.
The week started well, with a gorgeous Vervain hand-printed silk, for one of two duvet covers with microcording in the seams.   But the week derailed quickly, when the serger decided to take a bite out of the second duvet cover......... we had to order more fabric...... an expensive but oh-so-easy mistake. 
With the bedding package in limbo, I moved on to creative problem-solving.  A homeowner decided she wanted her hobbled shade lined with blackout.  Since it was going to be used as a valance only, and never raised or lowered, I cut strips of blackout fabric (which does not fray!) and used a tag gun to attach them at the rib pockets.

It worked.  Easy, cheap, and effective.

You can hardly tell.  The last strip just hangs loosely down to the bottom trim. 

During this week I had the opportunity to visit some of my work, which I had not yet seen since it was installed.

I love this shaped rose-colored contrast banding. 

And it was the first time I had seen the cornice that Liz from Paris Interiors had had made out of a carved wooden panel she got from a trip to Bali.  Very cool!  And, hey, we made those draperies!

Now it was time to get busy with real work.  My favorite project that week was two Roman shades out of an exquisite crewel.

It's a treat to get gorgeous fabrics like this.

I had nine shade/valances to make, along the lines of this three-sectioned opera shade.  It actually was not at all easy to get sections of unequal width to droop to the lengths the designer specified.  A lot of time was spent fiddling with it.

Then there were four self-lined Roman shades out of this wool-blend sheer.

If you've been following the shade safety discussions and know all about cord shrouds, you'll recognize this one from TechStyles.  I hadn't used this in awhile, since ladder tape became available, but in one week I used it on two different projects- this one, and a very wide box-patterened bronze sheer shade, which I forgot to photograph. 

Also that week were two solid cotton shades, 88" wide, with a jute tape trim- again, no photos.

However I did remember to grab the camera when the week ended with Pillow Day.   I forgot to take pictures of the gigantic (31x31") flanged shams that I made from a quilted velvet bedspread.........

The orange and brown pillows are gorgeous with the unusual three-toned loop brush fringe.

And the fun I had picking out zipper colors!  Every week should end with Pillow Day.