Friday, August 18, 2017

Top Down Bottom Up Adventure

I said I'd come back to this shade- and this is the day!  Top down bottom up (TDBU) shades, with two independent lift systems, are cool but tricky.  There are a couple of steps that used to stump me, but between reading up and experimenting I learned a few things that really helped both the fabrication and the end product. 
Fabricated for Crosstown Shade and Glass
I started by making a shade as I always do, but I also added ribs both at the rings and at the folds, to give maximum structure and support.  (I was hoping that the ribs would eliminate the need for interior lift lines.  More on that coming up.)
Something I wasn't sure about was ring spacing.  I wanted to let the shade fold to pattern and approached spacing as if it were a regular shade- but then I wound up with too much at the top, which would made the top fold different from the rest- duh!  I re-positioned the rings and ribs a couple of times and thereby learned a key piece of information: the ring spacing must be determined by dividing the finished length into precisely equal spaces.  I ignored the repeat in the end; with this trailing-vine pattern, it didn't matter much.
If I work with pattern again on TDBU I will be better armed to crunch numbers.  Workrooms often must work with specifications given without consideration for the fabric.  If I had control of the specs, I'd manipulate the finished length and topper length to achieve ring spacing to fold to pattern.   In this case, a longer topper would've cut down the shade finished length enough that the ring spacing could have followed the pattern.
The top of the shade was always the step that caused me much trouble.  I knew that it needs an insert that is rigid and inflexible and can be drilled through.  Photos posted by Elki Horn offered some great ideas for the top.  I happened to have a piece of drapery rod that wasn't needed, and it worked perfectly.  John drilled a hole through the pole for the lift lines that operate the top-down function of the shade.  An orb made it easy later to level the top.
When I made TDBU shades in the past, I followed directions that had me putting grommets in the top pocket.  That was always a big pain.  The fabric layers are thick, and it's hard to position the grommet precisely, and the whole thing looked messy.  I used Elki's suggestion and ran the line through the fabric with a big needle.
In the past I machine-sewed a top pocket, and I always hated seeing that stitching line.  This time I folded the top down over the pole and hand-sewed it in place.   This works but the sewing has to be tight and secure and occasional stitches must pick through to the front to hold the layers together.  I'm sorry I didn't take more photos as I went- sometimes when working on a less-familiar product it's easy to forget to document- even though that's exactly when I want them!
TDBU shades need a topper to conceal the two lift systems.  In this case the topper specified was a shallow, simple upholstered cornice.  There wasn't a lot of mounting space available, so the dustboard was only 2.5".  In the future, I'd want a wider dustboard for a hard topper, or, alternatively, a soft topper.  The two clutches fit, but were awfully cramped, and the wood topper made access difficult.
The shade was about 40" wide and I wasn't sure if the bottom-up function would require more than 2 lift lines.  We tried it with just 2 but the folds sagged dreadfully, even with all the rib support.  So I added one center line and three lines were plenty.  The top down only had the two end lift lines.
The shade was leveled so that the top tucked up under the topper.  The orbs really helped with this.  (I know, in this photo the topper is tilting forward- the shallow dustboard didn't allow the workroom valet to hold it straight.) 
I was very happy with the way this shade turned out, and I'll be confident about making more.
The last shade photographed in the old workroom!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Like riding a bike?.... first job in new workroom

The first job fabricated in the new workroom was installed!........... 6 stationary flat romans used as valances,  lined and interlined, for Nature's Window.
We have been in the process of moving the workroom since mid-June, so after more than a month without a normal schedule or normal workplace, it isn't easy to get back into the swing of fabrication.
Before vacation, the last job was a top down bottom up shade for Crosstown Shade and Glass, which was also the last shade to be photographed in the hallway in the old workroom.  I documented the fabrication of this shade so as soon as the dust settles, I'll do a post about it. 
After vacation we made one last job in the old workroom: a pair of ripplefold panels for Suite Dream.  I'll do a blog post on these, too, as soon as I receive photos of them installed.  I did a lot of research and planning for this project and I want to write about what I learned.
So after the ripplefold, we knuckled down in earnest to get the workroom moved.   I have occasionally posted photos on our Facebook page and will eventually do a blog post about the way we set up the new space.
Last week, before we were really fully set up, I was ready to make the 6 shades, after more than a month of disruption.  I wish I could say it was like riding a bike, but really, I was nervous and exceedingly cautious.
The client added a shade to the order with the same yardage, so I had to work differently than I had originally planned, and I spent way more time than usual checking and double-checking my cuts to make sure that the pattern was aligned on all.
Also two shades were wider than the width of the fabric and needed widths joined- a challenge at any time with appliqued or embroidered fabric, but especially after weeks away from a sewing machine.
 I might as well say right here: to do this work, you sometimes need nerves of steel.  It takes a lot of confidence to cut into thousands of dollars' worth of fabric that belongs to someone else!
After a month hiatus, you can bet I was nervous!  I had to draw on all the confidence and experience I had stored up.  In addition, I was trying to find my way around an unfamiliar space, my tools and materials put away logically but unfamiliarly!  At least a dozen times I had to search to find a simple tool.
Once I got into it, it was comforting to wield a needle and thread again.  Hand-sewing side hems and rings is a repetitive but soothing process.  John had speakers set up by then so I put on some music and got into the sewing rhythm.
The added shade required a shorter finished length, so I had to choose between making the pattern pleat the same on all 6 valances but have the top different on the short one, or, make the top the same and have the pattern pleat differently.
Since this shade was in a different space, I decided to make the folds the same on all. 
Now this week I am working on a variety of products: draperies, shades, valances, bedding and pillows- enough to get me back into the groove, I hope; stay tuned!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Stationary wool shades

Susan Marocco chose beautiful Holland and Sherry wools for two stationary Roman shade valances in the same home as the wool ripplefold draperies I wrote about in June.
Both shades were trimmed around the perimeter with Samuel and Sons tapes.  We mitered the corners, and the blue shade featured two layered tapes.
From past experience with wool shades I knew the layers needed to be interlocked internally to support the wool and keep it from sagging. 
First the interlining was interlocked to the wool face.  We used the seam in the face fabric and then interlocked in alignment with where the rings would eventually be sewn.

Ribs were sewn to the interlining to provide additional structure.
Above the board line, the interlining was serge stitched to the face fabric.
The lining was interlocked at the board line.
The ribs were secured to the lining, then the rings sewn in between the ribs.  These little tack stitches are visible on the back, but they lie on the column line with the rings so they're not noticeable.
The side hems were sewn by hand, and the bottom finished as per my usual method, with buckram in the hem.
To miter the trim corners, we first basted by hand to make sure the pattern was well aligned.   The corners were then sewn by machine, cut, clipped, pressed, and the little fiber ends stabilized with some tight little stitches and a dot of glue.
The mitered trim was sewn by hand to the outer edges with a ladder stitch.  How the pattern falls on a pattern like the Greek key is a matter of math and luck; for this shade, we had pretty good luck!
Because in both rooms the underside of the boards are not easily visible, we did not need to make returns, but we did use a bit of trim to cover the ends of the boards.
The time we spent on steps to support and stabilize the wool were well spent.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Laser-squaring a new gridded table canvas

Hey people, we are back from vacation, and are deep into the workroom move- as of today about 2/3 of the way done- by the end of today it'll be about 7/8 done.
Yesterday was exciting- the heart of the workroom, the work table, was completed!  Today the sewing machines will make the trip and we'll be ready enough to actually work.
John spent the afternoon preparing, and at 7:15pm I arrived.  Stretching the gridded canvas cover is a two-person job.  It was dark when we finished, which made for a good photo op with the laser.
If you own a workroom and don't have a gridded canvas work table, I encourage you to consider getting one.  Everything about my fabrication changed for the better once I got the first one.  This brand-new spotlessly clean grid came from The Workroom Channel.
We followed the procedure in the instructions and it went smoothly, using a tape measure, an arsenal of straightedges, and our Dewalt laser.  The table is layered with a plywood base, homosote, table padding from Rowley Co, and topped with the grid. 
Someday I'm going to do a blog post about all of the ways I use my grid; it's vastly more useful than I ever imagined it would be, and I could not work efficiently without it.  I can't even think without it.
I'll be catching up as quickly as I can with pre-vacation project stories and new workroom stories.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 15, 2017


Hi people!  We have been super busy moving the workroom to our new space, but the move is being interrupted by VACATION!  When we return we'll finish the move, open up the new workroom, and catch up on project posts.  While we're away I might do a few posts on our Facebook page.
Thank you all so much for reading my blog!   I am so inspired by the kind and positive feedback you all send me!  This blog started out 7 1/2 years ago, during the recession, as a way to inspire myself to keep going to work every day during that long, scary quiet spell.  But you guys have become this blog's raison d'etre and it has led to wonderful, un-looked for connections and opportunities that amaze me.    I'm looking forward to getting back to it, in our new digs. 
Thank you all!!!!!!!
Happy Summer!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Making progress on the new workroom!

We are moving soon to a new workroom space very nearby- with double the space, and an 11' ceiling!
Our first look at the space:
 The walls have all been painted robin's egg blue, except for the front display area, painted shitake mushroom.   It will be divided from the work space with a sheer curtain. 
The molding around the perimeter makes it feel fresh and clean.
 Paul scraped old film off the windows and cleaned them (they were pretty bad!)- a heroic job!
John surprised me with a white rose from the florist next door.
A workroom friend took away a bunch of lining short ends.  You just cannot move EVERYTHING.  She will make good use of them!
This little lady- a relic of some apparel-making dreams I once had- is off to a new home!
More photos later...................

Friday, June 30, 2017

Making friends with my blindhemmer

I've grown accustomed to doing a lot of sewing by hand.  I love the look, and I love the process.  Most of all I love how hand-sewing eliminates the stress of stitching on fabric created by machines.  Hand-stitching becomes a part of the product, while machine-stitching is something done to the product.
But there is a time and place for machine blindhemming, and not all budgets can accommodate hand-hemming.
Unfortunately, I've been estranged from my US Blindstitch machine for a few years.  It has sat, forlorn and dusty, in a prominent spot in my workroom, silently reproaching me, and I suspect accusing me of elitism.
Along came this fabric, and an order for draperies.  With its cheerful, easy-going nature, it served as a liaison between me and my blindhemmer, helping to repair our damaged relationship.  My USB breezed through the bottom hems with nary a miss or snag to the front.
The side hems sewed up equally easily. 
The first and  last 4" are still ladder-stitched by hand. 
With a 7" horzontal repeat, the header was pleated to every-other-pattern, alternating light and dark.
An adjacent window will be treated with a roman shade..............
 .....also pleated to pattern, with a 7.5" vertical repeat.
This was a very satisfying and productive project, and I'm looking forward to working more with my lovely US Blindstitch machine!