Friday, August 29, 2014

Basketball Pillow

I remembered to take pictures as I made the orange ball pillows.

The decorator ordered inserts that were 16" diameter, and guess what, there is no pattern available for a ball pillow that size- so I had to draft one.
If you look at math websites, or, alternatively, globe websites, you can find how to draw the pattern, but unfortunately they don't give precise proportions for the curves. 
I figured I could use the insert for a rudimentary pattern, and refine it from there.

The softest, most flexible material I had readily available was- Kleenex tissues!
Pinned to the pillow, they draped around the sphere, and were easy enough to see through to mark the seamlines.
Then I transferred the shape to pattern paper and evened it out- you can see how lopsided it was at first- this took several tries; then added a 1/2" seam allowance.
Making a mockup out of lining was essential.  It's nice to have a gridded tabletop, and lining you can see through so it was easy to cut on the grain. 

The mockup needed refining.  I thought it was a tad too big, and about halfway up the curve needed to be trimmed down a little to improve the curve.
Before cutting the silk velvet, I used Rowley's fusible fabric stabilizer on the back.  Then marked and cut 16 sections, cutting as carefully as I could, and notching VERY carefully.  The notches were critical to a good outcome.
Sewing the pieces together is simple enough, using the notches as a guide.  It is extremely important to keep the dots at the very tips precisely aligned, so you have a beautiful apex.
All 8 sections sewn together, one side is left unsewn so the insert can be stuffed in.
Did your grandmother teach you to staystitch your curves?  Mine did.  She knew what she was talking about.  I joined the last remaining seam up to the first notch, and staystitched the rest of the curve a hair under 1/2 from the edge.
It would've been fun to have a video of me stuffing that insert into the cover, but I would've been extremely embarassed.  You really have to wrestle with it.  But it did happen, against my initial misgivings.  I sort of rolled it into the cover.   I pinned the open edge, using the staystitching and notches to keep things where they belonged.
Hand-sewing pillows closed is NOT my forte.  The curve required the teeniest stitches- like, 1/8".  I sat and watched the Yankees (yes, there's Joe Girardi on the screen in the background.)
I have a new favorite thread: Coats' Outdoor- and it was available in brilliant orange!  It doesn't tangle, doesn't shred, knots securely, and comes in a lot of cool colors.  I'm going to stock up on every color.
If the tips are all aligned precisely, the pillow ends will look like this:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A flurry of pillows

Pillows go in waves here.  Lately we were inundated with 30 pillows: BIG pillows, pieced pillows, lumbar pillows, and best of all, spherical pillows. 
I wanted to take a picture of all of them, piled up on the table, unpacked.  But there just wasn't enough room! 
Here they are:
Silk velvet flame, silk woven ikat-look, faux fur, for 6 pillows in all
10 pillows: 54" interlined silk; pieced velvet; purple velvet, sage velvet, and a gorgeous Zoffany embroidery
3 Euros, a 8x46" crewel bolster, and burnout velvet 36" lumbar
2 of each with turquoise microcord
2 Turkish corner silk velvet, 2 basketball silk velvet, plus an orange lumbar I forgot to include
The basketball pillow!  Bad exposure.  But behind it you can see part of the mountain of pillows.
These fabrics were fabulous.
A very dense crewel in an unusual colorway. 
Turkish corners, no welt.  Oh, that silk velvet......
Loving our invisible zipper color collection.  Perfect match! (The Zipper Lady)
Faux fur, wolf style.  Very deep pile!  Sews like a dream.
The apex of the basketball

Friday, August 15, 2014

Extreme blackout; or, where are the pinholes of light?

"Extreme blackout"- this blog post title could actually apply also to my blog in general- I having been out of sight since early July!  I've checked the blog stats and am shocked (but delighted) to see that people are still reading this blog every day even though it's been 6 weeks since my last post..... 
Ever since returning from vacation, I have been swamped with very intense production deadlines.  It's hard to remember to take photos when working so hard, but I do have some, and a few stories to tell.
Here's one of them.

"Extreme blackout" is what I call this homeowner's request for her bedrooms.  We created three-layer treatments that came as close as one could get to total blackout, without fully covering the windows with draperies, which she did not want.
We installed phase one of her renovated home on July 31, the family moved in on August 1, and on August 4 their baby boy was born.  He came home the next day to his own very, very dark bedroom.
Now that is DARK!
Here's what you see by daylight:

More on the toppers in a future post- meanwhile, thanks to Joanna Braxton for her instructional DVD on making these sleek cornices....

Now, you might be wondering, where are the pinholes of light that are the inherent drawback to blackout shades, the thorn in the side for shade fabricators, and the bane of our existence?

Yeah, we solved that problem.

A double-sided shade with multiple layers of linings made it possible.  Here's what the back looks like (this photo is of a similar shade in another room.)   These are serious shades, folks, more like furniture than curtains! 
Before going into detail, I want to acknowledge that my train of thought about those pesky pinholes of light began during an enlightening webinar by Susan Woodcock (Home Dec Gal) which I attended in the spring.  She developed her own clever way of dealing with the pinholes, which over a couple of months percolated through my brain and evolved into this method for this particular job.

First we made the shade using three layers of lining.  Next to the face, Bella Notte Silky Blackout.  Then interlining, and finally regular cotton sateen.
The shade is strung, using ladder tape on the outer two rows.
Another layer of Silky Blackout is tacked over each ring, one tack on each side of the ring.  So one layer of blackout hides the hole(s) in the other layer.  No pinholes of light!
Coming up next: more on the double-sided blackout; more rooms with variations on the three-layer treatment; more on the slender cornices; more on box pleated draperies.  No more 6-week hiatus for me.  Thanks for hanging in there, and coming back!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Just before leaving for vacation, we completed this project: cutting out appliqued motifs from one linen fabric and re-appliqueing them to a linen sheer.  Here's a workroom shot.
I'll take more photos after vacation when we return to tweak the treatments, but for now, here's a first shot of one window with drapery over a London shade.
Meanwhile, here's where we are:
See ya next week!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Wool and grosgrain draperies

Oh, my poor blog and blog readers, I've been so neglectful.......
Well,  I have this project to show off: hand-sewn interlined wool top tack draperies with grosgrain trim, for Christopher Robert Matson.  Did I take even a single photo during fabrication?- No!  I did not.  This was a tricky job and all my concentration went into making it, not documenting it.  Now I'm sorry.
Wool from Elizabeth Dow was a dream to sew with its thick, forgiving weave.  With additional layers of lining and interlining we chose to use a low-bulk header so the pudgy 3" 3-finger top tack pleats would not have too much bulk.
I wish there were a perfect method for applying grosgrain ribbon.  Unfortunately it's usually a choice between less than optimal techniques.  Applying anything to wool is a real challenge.  In this case the first step after joining widths was to fuse the ribbon to the wool with Sealah tape, which came to just below the top of the trim to give a teeny tiny space for the hem stitches.  Blue painters' tape marked the side and bottom hemlines, thanks, Scot Robbins! 
Christopher asked us to duplicate the style of the original sheer, unlined curtains, including the cutouts which accommodate the molding.

On installation day we were excited to be delivering these luxurious draperies to this Upper East Side flat in our new pink garment bags from Wawak!  Thanks, Merlyn.....
We took down the original curtains and hung the new ones on the existing rods.
A minimal amount of steaming was all this amazing wool required and the pleats dressed wonderfully.
In another room, a similar wool and trim were used for side panels and a scalloped kick pleated valance.  The beautiful cotton batiste sheers disguised the asymmetry of the space.

Friday, May 30, 2014

One way to make a ribbed shade

Ribs give a bit of support to flat romans, helping them fold neatly.
Ribs aren't foolproof; there are some fabrics that they just don't help at all; but they were great in these 3 linen shades with napped sateen lining.
There are different rib materials: plastic, metal, fiberglass; and many ways of using them. 
This is one way. 
The shade begins with the lining: pockets are sewn into the back side of napped sateen.  Since these shades are 86" long, we spaced the rows 8" apart.  The default spacing of 6" would've made way too many folds, all stacked up on top of each other.
The pockets are pressed downward, and the lining laid onto the prepared face fabric.  The gridded tabletop is indispensable for producing these shades. 
No matter how meticulously the pockets are sewn, you still need to go along each row with a straightedge and make sure the seams are as straight as possible.  The side hems are folded over the lining, but not yet sewn.
At the bottom, the hem is basted in place.  Yes, it could be pinned, but basting is better.
The vertical rows are marked for rings with purple disappearing pen, and ladder tape is run.  At the bottom, the row of rings above the hem are sewn, and the ladder tape pinned in place above the hem.  Note that the side rows of rings are not placed over the side hems, but just past the edge of the hems.
At the top, the topmost row of rings are sewn.  These are reverse mounted, so the grommet placement is marked with pencil.  The board line is marked allowing an extra 1/4".  The cutting line is marked, and the word "REVERSE" is lightly penciled in to help me remember not to staple the shade the regular way!!!  This step has saved me a lot of time :)  The ladder tape is stapled to the excess fabric for safekeeping.
Now for the Zen portion of the fabrication: sewing on the rings.  If the seams did not absolutely perfectly follow a straight line, it's ok, as long as you've marked perfectly for the rings.  The ring can go a smidgen above the seam or a hair into the pocket area.  The ribs will keep straight inside the pockets. 
When all rings are sewn, the shade goes to the sewing machine for the weight bar pocket- several steps that I forgot to photograph.  The shade is laid back out onto the table, the side hems opened up, and the ribs inserted into the pockets.
The side hems are folded back over, pressed lightly, and hand-sewn to the lining.  The weight bar is inserted and the pocket tacked shut.

All it needs now are the grommets, and it's ready for the board!  After the lift mechanism is secured, the shade is strung and leveled; lastly the valance is attached and it's ready for packing up.