Monday, December 8, 2014

A surprise, improv, return flaps, and color-block

Workrooms often don't get to see their work in a truly finished room.
Often when we go to measure, the room is still under construction, like this one.
The day we came to install the treatments, there was a carpet in place but no furniture.
There was also a big surprise.
These built-ins were not there when I measured!!! 
The shade needed barely 1/4" off one side of the board.  The fabric fit just fine.
Well, we are nothing if not problem-solvers, and Mario's improv experience serves him well in all phases of his life.  He wielded the saw, and I helped by applying my weight to the miter box.  A little hot glue and a couple of screws later, that shade was hangable.

Fusible buckram has more magical uses than I can count, and one of my faves is to stiffen return flaps for shades.  Here I made 5 pair.  Sewing them makes them too bulky so I use double-sided adhesive. 
A quick fold and steam-
And they're ready to be attached.
Here they are from the front, on a different shade.
A peek underneath-
And from behind:
Curious to see the color-block shade?


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Straight of grain

Keeping the grain straight is essential for window treatments to hang beautifully.
I've shown this shade before, while discussing dyeing the ladder tape.  It's a faux linen grainy polyester with a bit of metallic threads.
The following pictures might easily be the most boring photos ever shown on a blog, sorry!  But at least I did remember to take them, and they do illustrate the story......

 It was easy to cut and press the fabric on the grain because of the chunky weave.  But the shade is longer than my table, so before shifting the fabric to mark and sew the last row of rings, I ran a red thread along the grain line to make it easy to shift the fabric and re-align the grain.  It's especially helpful that you can see through sheer or semi-sheer fabrics to the dark grid lines underneath!
The line remained when it came time to staple the shade to the board, so I could measure up from the line to double-check that the grain stayed true.  Here I'm using the covered board to check it against the gridded table.  I think I said, boring pictures?
I didn't remove the red thread until the shade was finished and strung and hanging.  Just to be sure!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Applique sheer shades

I've been wanting to write up this post for months, and this long weekend seems like a good time to do it. 
It's taken me so long because I did not take enough pictures during the fabrication.  We were spending our time trying to figure out an effective method so I mostly forgot about photos.  So, here I am, and I'm going to work on it while I watch old Dr. Who episodes.

My client chose this Pierre Frey applique fabric for four pairs of drapery panels, and asked us to cut out the pieces of the motif and re-applique them to a sheer linen to create London shades underneath.

There were an awful lot of pieces to each motif, some with inner cutouts.
Wonder Under was the perfect product for this project.  I ironed it onto the back side of the fabric area that I wanted to cut out.  The blue satin stitch outlining each piece actually made it easier to do the cutting.  A little snip scissor got into the cutout areas.  It took about an hour for each of the four shades just to do the cutting.
After cutting out all the pieces and peeled off the paper backing, I recreated the layout on the linen sheer, using a tracing underneath as a template, then pressed the pieces in place.  I don't have a photo of the paper tracing; I drew it on graph paper with black Sharpie and then turned it upside down so the black wouldn't come off on the sheer.   
I held it up to the light- and right off the bat I could see that it was spectacular!  Any skepticism I had had about the project instantly disappeared.
The next step was to sew the applique.  Each piece was hand-sewn to the linen sheer by Camille, my amazing hand-sewing expert friend- and it was just as lengthy a process as you probably imagine.   I don't remember exactly but I think each shade took 3 hours of hand-sewing, and that's before making the shade itself!
Now to turn it into a shade.  I made a mockup of the actual shade-to-be out of lining, and pinned a plastic tracing of the motif over the shade so we could determine placement while the mockup hung in the client's window.
We chose this more old-fashioned style of London shade in order to keep the fullness down and also to keep the tails from drooping longer than the center.  This London shade style uses single or knife pleats instead of double or inverted box pleats.  It creates a more compact silhouette.
The final shades had the exact shape I had mocked up- yay!
After they were installed I realized that they needed top welting to fill in the small gap between the fabric and the window frame.  I went back to the house with some ivory welting already made up, took the shades down, and applied the welting with double-sided tape.  I don't think you can even see it in the pictures.  But I know it's there.
The draperies are made with two-finger French pleats, three inches long. 
Next time I'm back at this home, I'll take pictures of the fabulous custom-made hardware that the homeowner designed to meet a particular challenge: because the walls are Venetian plaster, the brackets had to be installed on the molding.  Her solution to get the draperies up and out is brilliant- more on that another time!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

More hand-sewn panels....

When I started as a workroom, I didn't even know that anyone sewed anything by hand.  The realization that some people used a needle and thread was a shock to me!  My goal way back then was maximum efficiency- I didn't know that there were multiple levels of workmanship quality- I was clueless.
What a difference a decade makes!  Now I look forward to hand-sewing.  I spend more time with a needle and thread than at my sewing machine.
These linen mesh pinch pleat panels were mostly sewn by hand.
A French seam joined the widths- the fabric is sewn first wrong sides together, then turned and re-sewn, which encloses the raw edges.  The bottom and side hems are all hand-sewn.
I put khaki chain weight in the bottom, and transparent buckram in the header.  I finally was able to BUY a roll of khaki chain weight- it was on back-order forever- so I didn't have to dye any this time!
The drapery I posted about a few days ago- the ones with seams that were entirely joined by hand-!-!-!- a first for me!- are all done, and they're spectacular.  The fabric, from De le Cuona, is a 75/25 wool/cotton with the softest, sweetest drape imaginable.
I'll just go ahead and post one more picture of the seam, because I love it so much:
The fullness in these panels was NOT up to me- so I did the best I could with pinch pleats at less than 1.5x fullness.  A long, skinny two-finger pleat was actually pretty attractive.  I tacked it at the top as well as the bottom.  I used a premium woven buckram and then steamed the folds like crazy to set the shape of the pleats.  The panels are pleated to pattern- every other pleat matching.  Not much leeway here but they turned out great anyhow!
I did get faster at the hand-sewn seam.  The second one took about 40 minutes for a 120" cut. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A fave shade project

I don't know why, I just feel like posting this picture today.  These shades were made some time ago, pre-blog, and it never made its way here.  This is an upholstery fabric and the welting on the toppers are ultrasuede.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dyeing ladder tape

OK, here goes.  Sometimes you just have to start, and the rest follows.
I've been staring at my computer for ages this evening trying to decide what to write about!  I have a number of subjects lined up, but they're all poorly documented- when things are busy I usually forget to take at least one critical photo to create the visual story.
OK, I'm going to write about my latest dyeing venture.
I've dyed ladder tape before, as well as lift cord and chain weight.
This time, two substantial projects were being fabricated out of grey semi-sheer unlined fabrics, and although I have nearly every color of ladder tape made, there is no grey version that I know of.
I started with a nearly full bottle of black Rit dye, and added a pint of white vinegar.  I cut the white ladder tape into the lengths I would need, and set them to soak overnight.
Naturally, I forgot to take the picture until I had mostly emptied the inky black liquid the next morning.  But I caught myself just in time, and here you might be as surprised as I was to see that the mostly drained ladder tape has a purplish hue, and as I did expect, it's very definitely not black.
I rinsed and rinsed until the water came clear.
The end result was a cool, true grey.
And lo and behold, it perfectly matched both of the grey fabrics!  Here's the first fabric, a textured semi-sheer stripe for flat romans. 
The other project was made from this double-wide linen-like fabric that I could hardly believe was actually polyester; the tape perfectly matched.
Clear rings and grey lift cord make the working part of these shades nearly unnoticeable.
I'm so happy with my latest favorite thread: Coats "Outdoor" thread which comes in fantastic colors.  One of which is the perfect grey which I've been using a LOT.
Do I have a picture of the grey striped shades?  Of course not.  One of those shots I forgot to take.  But I do have some good shots of the faux linen, thanks to my installer extaordinaire Mario Fuentes who kindly took these for me after installing them for Paris Interiors.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A first time for everything.... joining widths by hand

I wondered when the day would come that I would join widths by hand.
This fine wool-cotton blend from De Le Cuona reduced me to that extremity.
I joined by machine and was horrified and appalled at the outcome, so I took out the seams and began hand-sewing with the smallest stitches I've ever made in my life.
The fabric is fluid so it's hard to pinpoint the grain, but on the other hand, it is so impeccably woven that the pattern can be matched down to the thread.  It's a fortune but I can see why.  It's a thrill to work on such superb fabric!
As I continue, I'm getting faster.  At first it was about a minute for an inch-  !!!!!!!  - with a 120" cut length that's 2 hours for one seam!  BUT after a yard or so I got it down to less than half a minute per inch, and now I'm comfortable with the method and it's even faster.  Thank goodness for this maiden voyage the fabric is extremely forgiving and the thread is undetectable.
It's 60" wide so I've matched it into the goods to keep the seam away from the center of the motifs so it will not be in the middle of the pleat when the draperies are pleated to pattern.
By the time I'm done, I hope to be good enough to go work for Penny Bruce :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mise en place- cookin' up a stack of shades

I love all things food just about as much as I love all things fabric.  Long ago I had the opportunity to work as a prep cook in an upscale restaurant, where I learned about "mise en place"- which means "put in place", referring to the chef's set-up of ingredients and tools needed for the night's work.  Everything is in the exact same place, every night, so the chef can easily pick up whatever is needed with the least extraneous movement.

Now I use that concept with the workroom's sewing projects.  Here is my shade-making mise en place- this is NOT just some random scattering of tools and supplies- it's all carefully arranged for maximum efficiency.

At the top of the table I position everything I need.  I have actually four- no, five- pairs of utility scissors out: one at each corner of the shade, plus one good pair for fabric. 
In the center are items that I'll need to be able to reach from both sides of the shade.  Towards the back is a rack with ladder tape and lift cord.  Behind it is a lint roller, and transparent rulers.  There are straightedges everywhere, of every length.
On the shelves under the window are things I might need- extra ladder tapes, mesh cord shrouds, and lift cord in all the colors they make, all the various types of adhesive tapes, weight bar pocket tubing in two colors.
In the center of the table I keep a box of rings; a box with needles and thread in the colors I'll be using; a box with purple disappearing pens, pencils, a Sharpie, little snippy scissors, and some adhesive remover.  If I'm using a fusible for the side hems instead of sewing them, the fusible is there in the middle.  I keep a fabric stapler for use at the top of the shade; a tag gun as my "guilty pleasure" to tack the weight bar pocket where it can't be seen; I don't often need pins but there they are; and a roll of Rowley's weight bar pocket.  There's the weight bar I'll be using, already cut and waiting.
All the linings for the next batch of projects have been rough-cut and are off to the side, or hanging over the fabric rack, labelled. 
After the shade is laid out, tabled, lining(s) in place, side hems secured,  and ladder tapes run, I move things around a bit.
The rings move into the middle of the shade, with the threads, my favorite needle, and at least two pairs of scissors.  The weight bar is waiting at the bottom of the table, with the tag gun, ready for its turn in the production process.  The stapler sits on the top of the shade so I won't forget to secure all the ladder tapes.  The phone is always in the middle of the table so I can reach it from either side.

With a workload of about three dozen shades to get through, here is my other table, with another mise en place: stacked with lumber that's been cut and ripped and notched to size; brass weight bars cut and marked; and all the Rollease clutches ready and waiting.

There's another mise en place for stapling and stringing- as soon as that process starts for this batch of shades, I'll photograph that too.
Time to start cooking up some shades!