Monday, October 19, 2009

Flash from the Past

I recently had a fun unique project to make. I was asked by a designer to remake some drapery panels to fit her clients new home. The client told the designer she had some draperies she just loved and would like to be able to use them again. The draperies had been stored in a box for several years. The draperies were new in the 70's and the fabric cost a $100.00 a yard back then. Can you imagine what they would cost today? The fabric was a very soft velvet. The colors in the photo is a very close to what the fabric looked like.

We turned the pinch pleated panels into rod pocket panels. The original drapes weren't lined, and that's the way we left them. I was surprised to see the original drapes were made with monofiliment thread. The hems were sewn by hand. The pleats were tacked by a tacking machine. The fabric looked as clean as the day they were originally made. We were afraid to have them dry-cleaned in fear that they would fall apart. The only real stress in the fabric is where I took the stitching out for the pinch pleats.

I thought it was fun to look back in the past at the old fabric and to see how they were made! I see a lot of older fabric and techniques when upholstering antiques, but not so much with draperies. (by the way 70's aren't that far back, I graduated from high school back then!)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Grommet Panels

Grommet drapes continue to be a popular custom treatment. They are a versatile drapery style that fits most settings. I came across some grommets that have a clever added piece to add to your grommets. The grommets have an attachment on them to make it easier to add a wand to the leading edge to pull the grommets across the rod. The grommet link can also be added to control the spacing on the panels when opening and closing.

Click on this link from Rowley Company for a quick video explaining the grommet link

Bob Sprain of Bob Sprains Draperies in Paso Robles California shared a great idea with Helser Brothers . Bob says that traversability is usually an issue with grommetted panels and that he has found the perfect solution. He puts one of Helser Brothers steel wands with a welded ring between the first and second grommets inside the leading edge and it works like a charm.
There are several unique shapes and colors to add subtle style to your grommet panels available today. The unique shapes can add so much personality to your rooms no matter how simple the treatment is. (you cannot use the grommet link with these grommets.)

This group of unique grommets are from Kwik-affix

I scoured the internet and found some really cool looking grommet panels. Take a look at some very unique panels that I found:

Grommet panel by Connie Sikora

Grommet Panel by Ruth Zahler

Grommet panels over cornice board by MaryAnn Plumlee

Grommet Panel by Bob Sprains

Grommet Panel by Kelly Geraghty

Grommet Panels by Kelly Geraghty

Grommet Panels by Cristine Sheppard

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thinking about Slipcovering?

Slipcovers can be the answer for many pieces of furniture. Whether you want to protect your furniture from children or pets, or just want to change the ambiance of your room, slipcovering your furniture can be the perfect solution.

Let's look at a few reasons why:
  • slipcovers are an affordable alternative to buying new furniture
  • they protect your furniture from everyday use
  • they can be easily removed and either washed of dry-cleaned to keep them looking fresh
  • You can change the look or mood of the room from tailored and comtemporary to ruffled and traditional
  • Slipcovers can be made to "fit-like-a-glove" or loose and less tailored.
  • Think green! A garage sale find can be transformed into a beautiful custom piece of furniture made just for you.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What Size Should My Box Pleats Be?

When making a box pleated valance or a pleated balloon valance the spacing is best determined by with size of the window. Generally speaking, if there is a single window in the room and the window is between 30"-45" your pleat size should be approximately 10"-15". For rooms that have double or triple windows, the pleat size should be 18"-30". In determining the length of the valance, measure the point of where the valance is to be mounted to the floor and divide that number by 5. The 1/5 rule in general is a good rule of thumb in determining any valance length for good proportion. If you have added a cascade or another long point calculate that by 3/5 of the total length.

Let's assume the windows in the above scale drawn rendering are single windows in a room. The window on the left is 32.5" wide and the 3 box pleats are each 11" wide. The center window is 50.5" wide and the box pleats are each 17" wide. The window on the right is 29" wide and the box pleat spaces are each 10" All three look pleasing to the eye and in proportion to the window size.

In this rendering there are multiple window sizes in the same room. Try to keep the pleat sizes in each window as close to the same measurement as possible for a unified look in the room. The larger window will be more of a focal point, based on its size. I propose you stay within the same range of pleat sizes determined for the larger window, for both windows. Therefore the small window has 17" pleats rather than staying in the 10"-15" range.

In this rendering, we have windows that are 62 1/2 wide; Do you make the pleat sizes each 14" or 21 1/4"? Either measurement is good. You need to consider if the fabric has a large repeat or not. Does the fabric have a large stripe, or small stripe? Also what is the size of the room? In this rendering I would use the small spacing if the fabric had a small repeat and the room was relatively small. I would use the larger spacing if the pattern repeat was large and if you are working in a large space.

In the last 2 renderings we have 2 large triple windows. You will want the pleat sizes at least 24-30", but which one? Again, either size will work well. Another thing to consider is how many windows are there in the whole measurement of the window? One option for this window is to use the rule of thumb and work with odd numbers in the window. In this case 5 pleats. By grouping in odd numbers, the eye tends to find that more pleasing. The second option would be to place 2 pleats centered on each window. The 3 windows is the odd number for the pleasing to the eye factor. Consider again the size of the fabric repeat, the size of the room, and it's a good idea to consider the size of the furniture and accessories.

One side note... While researching for this blogspot I looked through some window treatment idea books and found several pictures that had patterns placed wrong on the valances, in my opinion. I found plaids that were centered unevenly in the pleat. I also found symmetrical patterns placed unevenly in the pleats. Planning and placing the pattern of the fabric in each pleat is equally important when determining pleat sizes.

Keep in mind, these are general rules to follow. Each room, window, fabric and situation is all different. The best way to determine pleat sizes is to draw a scale drawing of the window and valance.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Dreaded Plaid Match

Step #1

Determine how the 2 fabric width patterns will line up.

Step #2

width #1
finger press the seam allowance back.

You can press the seam allowance, but you need to be careful not to shrink it!

Step #3

width #2
On the 2nd width of fabric glue baste along a line where width #1 will butt up to the pattern match.

Be sure when using the fabric glue, use it sparingly so it does not seep through. Stitch witchery could also be used in this application. A permanent bond is not necessary.

Step #4

Let the fabric glue set up so the match doesn't move when you move the fabric.

You can also set the glue basting faster by ironing it, but again, be careful not to shrink the fabric.

This crease line is where you will sew the widths together.

step #5

Stitch in the ditch of the crease line.
In this case the crease line follows the pattern on the plaid. When working with a printed pattern, the crease line is all you will have to follow.

As you can see the pin is pointing to a perfect match.

When the repeat across is even smaller on a plaid or stripe fabric, this method is even more critical to obtain a perfect match.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

March Madness Time!

It's March madness time!

You may ask; how does sports relate to the window covering business? We need to be team players also. Let me elaborate on some key points in relationship from sports to and the window covering business:


Who's on your team? It's you suppliers, installers, and employees. You are their coach, their leader. It's up to you to bring your team together to be a winner. Be sure as their coach, you have defined what is expected of them. If your employee isn't producing the kind of work you expect, it's up to you to coach and show them the way you expect things done. As the coach, you set the standards. You need to set up your game plan and convey that to your team members. When you are considering hiring an installer, what is his appearance? Does he take his shoes off after walking through the snow? How does he communicate with your client? He's part of your team; he needs to know what is expected. But he won't know, if you don't coach him. How about your suppliers? Do you except products that are not up to your standards? If you receive fabric that is flawed do you try to get by, or do you send it back and demand quality? Be a tough coach!


In basketball there are different positions. Each player is required a different set of skills and contributes that to the game. As the team leader, are you weak in a certain position? Fill that position with someone who has that attribute. Find your niche. Do what you do best and stick to it. Think of the old say, "Jill" of all trades, but master of none. Be willing to let go of the position in your business that your are not proficient in.


Set up a system for your business. Doing things the same way each time, will turn you into a master of that task. Build a system-dependent business, not a person dependent business. You will become more proficient and increase your productivity, and in turn you'll earn more more per hour. It's OK to experiment with new techniques. Make samples and perfect a new technique. Be open to new ideas, you may find one that works better the the one you use now.


Education! Get involved with a WCAA chapter or some kind of group that meets locally. If there isn't one in your area, start one. Attend a seminar or go to a conference, There are conferences offered all over the country, year round. Take a class at the Custom Home Furnishings Academy. There are a lot of networking opportunities on the internet. And easiest of all READ!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fabric Scraps!

I had a designer come to me with about 3/4 of a yard of fabric, some scraps, and a little bit of contrast fabric. She asked if we could do something with the fabric. With just this little bit of fabric this is what we came up with. As you can see it came out pretty nice. The client is happy and we are now moving onto the Family Room and we won't be using scraps of fabrics this time. So, just as a reminder in this economy, don't turn down the jobs that don't seem very profitable. You never know what might be coming up next!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Simple Elegant Gathered Valance

This valance is very easy to make, yet because of the fabric chosen it can be a very elegant looking valance. I choose a semi-sheer silk fabric. The liner is a poly- sheer. The semi-sheer gave the valance a light, airy, flowing look.

Pattern pieces and spacing:

1. Determine how wide you want each gathered flag to be after gathering.
In my valance the flags are 7" finished after gathering. The pattern is 2X the width + seam allowance.

2. Allowance for finished length: The finished length + seam allowance and mounting allowance. I used 2" for the mounting allowance and 1" for seam allowance. I allowed extra seam allowance in the length because of the point on the flag.

3. Determine the straight edge length before tapering to the point. My measurement was 11"

4. Next determine how far apart you want the flags to be after mounting them. Mine were approximately 4" apart.

5. To determine how many flags you will need:
a. finished board width - 1 flag width
b. divide by spacing determined in step # 4= number of flags. You will also need 2 flags for each return.

In my valance my finished board width was 36"-7" (one flag width) =29" divided by 4 ( approximate spacing ) = 7.25. I rounded up to 8 flags.

6. re-adjust for the actual space between flag points
a. finished board width_____ - 1 flag width_____ =______ divided by number of spaces = _______Your actual space between flag points. The 2 outside flags are placed at each end. The return flag points are at the corner and around the return of the board.
For my valance the finished board width was 36" -7 ( width of 1 flag) = 29" divided by 7 spaces (I had 8 flags) = 4.14" space between each flag point.

Using Flag pattern cut flags and lining

With right sides together sew flag and lining pieces.
I added tassels to each flag and sewed them in. You may also add micro welting in the seams.
Trim seam allowances and turn right side out.

Press the flag

Hand gather flags or us a zigzag stitch and sew over upholstery thread and gather up flags

Finished width after gathering 7"

Cut a piece of 1/2" welting to staple to the top of the board. By adding the welting the flags will have more of a lighter more graceful fall off the board, rather than a blunt squared off fall.

Stapled welting on board.

Mark the center of each flag. Mark the spacing on the boards also. Mine was 4.14" apart. Align center of flag and spacing and staple flag to the board.

The flags were randomly placed one on top of the other.

Finished Valance

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Loooooooong Butterfly Pleats

I've been working on these draperies that were 180" long. They were lined and interlined, and weighed a "ton". The fabric was a linen upholstery fabric with a backing on it, which added to the weight. The designer requested a 12" butterfly pleat. When I was finished tacking the butterfly pleats, I could see they were not going to look as nice and crisp as a 5-6 inch pleat. They were too long and distorted. Also because of the weight of the fabric. they wouldn't pinch tight. After trying a couple of things, we decided to tack the butterfly pleats in the center and at the bottom edge. It gave it a simple tailored-like smocking effect. Everyone was happy with the results.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Grommet Placement

I have been fabricating grommet panels and I was asked a question by a fellow fabricator on Facebook if there was a trick when laying out the grommet placements to be sure that the seam fell to the back of a grommet. The answer, yes there is. There needs to be an even number of grommets so that the returns fall back to the wall, and there needs to be an even number of grommets on each side of the seam for the seam to fall back to the wall. Another tip when spacing the grommets is: the center of the end grommets to the edge of the panel needs to measure what you want your return measurements to be.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Covering an Arch Valance Frame

Until recently I have not been totally happy with the way I had been covering my frame for arched windows. I recently made 8 arched frame valance treatments, and by the time I was done covering all of them, I perfected a way that I was happy with. Follow along as I demonstrate how I covered the frames.

Cut an arch frame out of plywood or OSB wood. For this frame my wood was 3" X 22" deep.

Cut a square piece of blackout lining the width and length of the valance frame.

Begin stapling the lining to the frame along the outside edge

Next staple the lining to the inside edge of the frame

Inside and outside edges complete

Trim away the excess fabric on the outside and inside edges.

Add gimp along the raw edges of the inside and bottom for a clean edge

Cut a strip of lining as wide as the wiggle board and long enough to go around the outside edge of the frame. Staple lining to the outside of arch frame.

Cut a piece of wiggle board to be stapled along the outside edge of the frame
Using a nail gun, nail the wiggle board to the frame.

Staple the lining to the edge of the wiggle board

Trim off excess lining
You are now ready to mount the finished treatment

The finished valance treatment is used to cover the top of the wiggle board

Cover the raw edges with twill tape or gimp

Finished valance treatment