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Sunday, January 5, 2020

4 generations of Makers, and a Tenth Anniversary

January 1, 2020 was the 10th anniversary of my blog!  We finished up a super busy year, then took a few weeks to relax.  Then- Covid!  And things came to a screeching halt.  Here you will find ten years of documentation of projects that came through our workroom.  Things changed a lot in those ten years, but the content of this blog is still relevant to workroom fabrication.  Perhaps it will resume- if not here, then on some other platform, and if it does, it will be announced here.  Meanwhile, I am working, teaching, learning, loving what I do, exploring other avenues of creativity, and trying to keep a handle on what's important!  I hope you are, too. 
I came across this photo.  Guess which one is me?

I have some lace and a quilt that my great-grandmother, Essie, made.  My grandmother, Corinne, an expert sewer, passed on her love of sewing to me.  My mother, Betty Max, could make anything, and was never without a project of some sort.  I absorbed it all and became that 4th generation Maker in this photo.

On my father's side, my grandmother Agnes was a master knitter.  Her daughter, my aunt Doris, is a Maker as well.  She knits, crochets, sews, and does exquisite scrapbooking which eloquently tells our families' stories.
My father was a maker, too.  He loved woodworking, crafting, and building or painting anything.  He and my mother had a ceramics studio for years.  My mom was the crafts director at our beloved Camp Cherith in the Poconos for many years.

I am learning how to pass on my love for making.  It's a slow learning curve, and I have to take it my way.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Layering sequence to feature the "Important" side

In this Master Bath renovation, different wall finishes required a fabric that would complement both.  Susan Marocco chose a traditional motif, Martinique by Cowtan and Tout, in a fresh colorway that worked with both the painted and tiled areas.  Variegated lip cord from Samuel and Sons defines the lower edges.
We were able to raise the valance over the tub without drilling into the tile by mounting on wood extenders for the L-brackets.
A toned-down, straight kick-pleat valance out of Schumacher's "Woodberry" was an understated treatment for the Guest Bath window.  Rather than divide the width into three equal sections, we instead left the motifs whole by slightly rearranging them and making a barely wider center section.
Sewing patterns are available for shaped box pleated valances- this is the "Sheffield Valance" from M'Fay- but after planning, cutting, and joining the individual sections, I usually just draft the shape directly onto the fabric, free-hand, with erasable pen.  This allows me to customize the long and short points of the treatment.  (In the years before drafting onto the fabric, I probably fabricated 5000' of Sheffield valances, so I had a feel for how to draw those curves!)
After the first return, horn, and scallop are cut, I flip the fabric to repeat the silhouette across the pieced fabric.  To do this, it's essential to cut the sections accurately and straight at the top, because the top line is the reference point.
I layer the interlining and interlining, and cut around the valance.
Very importantly, I notch all three layers before moving the layers, so there are reference points in case the layers start to drift during sewing.
Now I rearrange the layers so the right sides of the face and lining are together, and the interlining on top of the face.  The notches help me re-align the curves.  When turned right side out, the order of the layers will be face, interlining, lip cord or welt, then lining.  This sequence helps eliminate any bulge from the lip cord trim on the right side- the "important" side. 
The layers are all pinned together; the lining is held back so the lip cord can be basted.  (Yes, I'm using a zipper foot.  Many people use a cording foot, with the welt to the bottom during sewing.  Sometimes I do, too.)
The lining is folded back into place and all layers are sewn together.  The seams are graded, the corners and curves are clipped, and the valance turned right side out, pressed, and mounted. 
The interlining smooths out the front of the valance so no seam allowance is detectable.  I learned, years ago, from reading M'Fay patterns, to determine the "important side" of the treatment, and layer accordingly. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Ripple to Pattern

Once Pleat-to-Pattern draperies became an industry standard, Ripple-to-Pattern wave draperies were soon to follow, thanks to a variable wave tape developed by Forest Group
This graphic drapery, recently fabricated for Denise Wenacur Design and Decor, illustrates perfectly the striking effect possible when rippling to pattern. 
A few weeks later we used the same technique to fabricate geometric ripple-to-pattern for Cottages to Castles, installed by Scott Berniker who kindly provided photos.
All ripplefold begins with the rod.  We template the master carrier by fitting translucent snap tape to the actual hardware, using a fabric stapler.
This ensures a perfect fit on installation day.
We make a template of the header and plot out the placement of the pattern.  I make sure to include every detail during this step.
The header template is one reason to always order a little more fabric than the project strictly requires.  With the widths joined on the template, we can be sure the seams fall to the back of the ripples rather than show on the front.
After the drapery is on the table, we align the template to be sure everything is where it should be.
In our workroom, we prefer to fabricate with no stitching visible on the front- a huge change from the old way in which one of two rows of stitching were considered inevitable.
Our method for fabricating begins with a lock-stitch (basically an interlocking stitch which itself is actually a long, loose blanket stitch) to hold the lining and face fabric together, just past the crease on the heading side.  
Translucent 2" Dofix buckram is fused right at the crease line.
Easy-flex tape from Forest Group is secured with a narrow strip of Jewel tape down the center.
Our template show exactly where to position the 3 snaps.
The doubled heading is folded under, and the Easy-flex tape is staple-basted on both sides, through the heading only.
The ends are finished neatly (and hand-sewn after the tape is applied).
The header is opened up flat, and the Easy-flex tape is sewed on both sides.
All that remains is to hand-sew the ends, and insert the Easy-flex Hooks.
The only thing that varied between the two projects: the orange drapery is blackout, and we did not use buckram, concerned that it might not fuse securely.  Instead, we opted to hold the header down with a double-sided adhesive tape.
Did you read all the way to the end?  One thing that really super thrilled me, for the second time ever, I made pleat-to-pattern draperies AND a shade for the same room!  If you're a workroom nerd too, you'll totally get it :)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Tale of a Bunny Tail Trim

What a perfect combo- this Sanderson bunny print "Dune Hares," and soft grey "Strata Marabou" trim from Samuel and Sons.
This fuzzy brush fringe has tape on both sides, and I had no idea how to apply it.  I tried a few different ways, including attempting to baste it on by hand, all with dismal outcomes.
However, thanks to our marvelous workroom network, after posting an inquiry I got enough suggestions to cobble together a process I felt comfortable with, and started out with some confidence.  If I had to use this again, I might try another method, but for my first time, this is how I did it.
Before I began to sew, I had to satisfy my curiosity about the name "marabou."  First, a "marabout" is a west African Muslim ascetic and teacher.  A "marabou" is a sub-Saharan stork whose hermit-like habits I presume gave inspiration for the term for the reclusive saint.  The feathers of the avian marabou were used in fashion- think Mae West in a boa, or that fluffy, feathery trimming on high-style garments.  Nowadays you can buy fake marabou feathers or marabou trimming made from turkey feathers from places like Walmart.  And in home dec trimmings, the term seems to have expanded beyond feathers to include fluffy, bushy trim from any material- such as wool or silk, or in this case, poly/viscose.
Back to the bunny pillow.  I sewed the two layers of tape together- and I still am not sure if this is how it's intended to be applied!- but this is how I started.
I sewed it to the pillow edges with a skinny foot.  I know, I know, I know about using a cording foot with the cord down and the fabric on top- but this is how I did this.
I put right sides together and sewed around the perimeter- not too close.
I turned to the right side and used the edge of a scissor to pull out fringe fibers that had gotten stuck in the seam, and then I could see how much further in I needed to sew.
I sewed again from the other side of the pillow, still with the skinny foot.
THEN I switched to a cording foot, turned the pillow over one more time, and sewed from the other side.  This last go-around did the trick.   I'm sure you wonder why I didn't begin with the cording foot.  Well, I feel that I could not have sewn the trim effectively if I had just started from this point- I feel that I would've gotten too much fiber caught into the seam.  I could be wrong, but this is the method I used and I'm sticking to it.
There was no way to sew a zipper to this, so I sewed the pillow closed by hand. 
It was tough sewing, and it took about four times longer than a normal pillow, but it turned out great!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Laser level saves the day!

Double-wide fabrics are designed to be run sideways for draperies, with the selvedge running at the top and the bottom of the drapery.  This eliminates seams (not that I have anything against seams- sewing seams is how I earn a living!), and with sheer fabrics the absence of seams is a blessing.
This particular pattern is created by heat-setting pleats which, when the fabric is used as intended, run in wavy vertical lines.
But the client wanted to run it the other way, running the wavy pleated lines horizontally.  I suspected this could cause trouble if the heat-set pleats stretched out from the weight of the hem.  And unfortunately, the rep for this fabric company insisted on stating, incorrectly, that the pattern is "woven" and gave the client confidence that she was making a good decision .  I had misgivings about the outcome, but accepted the project.  (Go ahead, say it!  I should trust my instinct!)
To be sure I was cutting on grain, I pulled a thread which provided a cutting guide.  The fact that the grain line didn't follow the pattern proved that the pattern was not woven.  But, anyhow.
Since the fabric was run off the roll instead of railroaded, it had to be seamed to achieve the required width (thus obviating the advantage of the double-wide fabric!).  We French-seamed the cuts by serging them wrong sides together, removing the selvedge in the process:
Then completed the French seam by turning the fabric right sides together, sewing to encase the serged edges.
A small bottom hem was turned and blindhemmed with chain weight inside. 
The tops were pleated with what we call a butterfly pleat: a 4" long pleat, tacked right in the middle.
So, we hung these up in the workroom to see if they would hang straight. 
Well, guess what.  See for yourself:
So this is how we spent a Sunday afternoon.  After letting them hang overnight, we took out the hem and the chain weight.  The hem could barely be pressed because the heat-set pleats would come out.  We didn't see any point in trying to re-table them, since that had already turned out to be unreliable.
So, we set up our laser level on the vertical post of a rolling stand.....
and hung the curtains back up and allowed the laser to indicate a level line.....
and I stumbled and crawled around behind the curtain to pin-mark a new hemline as best I could:  And this took a long time, because, naturally, the fabric moved every time I tried to mark it.
 I re-hemmed it, without the chain weight and hung it back up- and ta-da!  It was level! 
We left it hanging overnight again, and it still was hanging level the next morning.  The draperies were installed the following week, and to my utter amazement, they fell exactly where they were supposed to and have held their shape!