I’m still struggling with the colours for my silk drapes, but I need something over those windows for now. So I made up some sheers. This is a gorgeous Belgian linen with woven stripes, and it was 118″ wide! It is railroaded, which, in drapery speak, means the design runs sideways down the length of goods. It also means I needed about half the yardage to make up these sheers as I had originally calculated.
I chose box pleats for these because it’s clean and simple, and the silk drapes will have box pleats. Good idea to keep them similar, I’m thinking.
The only hand sewing in these was the tacking down of the pleats and slipstitching the linen into place over the buckram heading. Everything else is machine stitched, so it was a rather quick project. I always find calculating the pleats in such a way that is even and pleasing the most complicated part of making drapery.
So, this is my second attempt at mixing colours and stenciling the silk, and I am not happy. I just cannot get the colours to work. They are too opaque, and therefore too garish a contrast with the silk. I tried mixing basic textile paint alone (right panel), with opalescent white (bottom centre), tried several other combinations and am not happy with any of it.
I do like the newest stencil (Anna Damask), on the right, better than the original (Verde Damask). I have one more stencil to try, and I’m going to try it with my wall paint, which is Farrow & Ball Brassica. I want to see if the muddier colour looks better on the silk, and I’ll try it in the last stencil (Anastasia). I’m also wondering if the chalk-based F&B paint will work on the textile. If the Brassica colour works best but the F&B compound doesn’t, then I’ll mix acrylic paints, use a fabric medium, and try again.
I am trying to replicate a drapery fabric that is long out of production. I have lucked out in finding silk duppioni in a lavender-thyme colour way, and am now trying to stencil this damask design from Nobilis, a fabric mill in France. Here’s my inspiration:I found these magnificent stencils on Cutting Edge Stencils, which ship to Canada very reasonably. No one in Canada, BTW, carries these because they are so reasonably priced directly from the US website.Then I sourced fabric paint from Dharma Trading. My local art supply store carries these, too.Here’s my first go. I’m not 100% happy with either the stencil or the purples, so I have ordered another set of stencils to see if I like a different design better, and I will be mixing paint colours to come up with one that I really like.There’s a lot of metallic in the Lumiere paints, and I’m not so sure that I like it. I’ll be trying this again with flat paints, and perhaps adding a bit more red/magenta to the violet. I like the idea of the stencils being imperfect, with gradations of gold-violet-purple everywhere.
BTW, you would not believe how much doing this myself is saving my pocket book. When this project is done, I’ll crunch the numbers.
Well, what do you think? I was so dreading this project because of the sheer size of it and the amount of fabric and the stripes! I have no idea how to make drapes! But they turned out reasonably well, if I may say so myself. I’m pleased with how they look, and I must confess that I really enjoyed putting these together. All the hand sewing that went into this project was calming, and I looked forward to the times where I could just sit on the floor with the panels spread out over my lap and sew each step. I so loved the hand sewing. And why did I choose to sew these by hand instead of by machine?
Well, because I trust my pinning and hand sewing results more than I do fighting with 13 yards of heavy upholstery-weight fabric through a machine that wasn’t really made for industrial type sewing. I can pin and hand stitch a long hem with the confidence that it will be perfectly straight. I wasn’t convinced it would be successful with my Babylock Crafter’s Choice machine. And I didn’t want to rip out and re-sew mistakes.
And I could sew invisibly along the hemline and heading without fighting with an automated blind stitch. This project was a good reminder of what I like about sewing, and why I like it: hand sewing is precise, clean, calming and, for me, a great stress relief. I guess that’s why I used to spend so many hours smocking when my girls were little. That quiet time sitting down with needle, thread and fabric was a haven at the end of such busy days.
I confess my main reason for making these myself was the savings on the labour costs, similar to why I made my own interlined roman blinds a while ago. After these projects, I’ll not complain when I get crazy quotes, as I have a first-hand understanding of what exactly goes into making custom window coverings.
Well, for now, I guess it’s back to garment sewing for a while. There’s no other home dec projects in my future. Well, actually, there is one that’s percolating on the back burner in my mind. Initially, the living room drapes were to be of this gorgeous linen/silk/cotton fabric (called “Epoque”) from French decor company Nobilis. Unfortunately, the only importer in Canada doesn’t carry it anymore. And therein lies the problem. I can’t get it anymore if I don’t order 120 yards because it’s out of production. Um. Well, as gorgeous as it is, I will never need 120 yards of this fabric. I wish I did, but I don’t.I have tried to source something similar, but cannot find anything in this particular sage green-orchid combination. I’m thinking of trying to replicate it via hand printing on a similar plain background.
Well, here is one full panel of my pinch pleat bespoke drapes. Now they need to be hung and “dressed”, which translates into this:The panels get hung and shaped into the pleats in which they will hang, tied loosely together, and then they cure, much like we cure bias before sewing it up. I’ve read varying pieces of advice. Some books say 72 hours, others say 48. I’ll be curing mine during the day, since I really want to move out of my living room and back into the bedroom. That’s the valance hanging on the closet door. I had originally hoped there would be enough fabric to make the drapes ceiling to floor length, but, as you can see, there wasn’t. So the valance and curtain rod will be hung about 4 inches lower tomorrow.
Once the pleats were marked and stitched by machine into place, I pinched them into two pleats and tacked them at the bottom of the heading.This is the inside of the heading. Once the lining was stitched to the bottoms and sides of the panels, the heading is folded over and catch stitched or herringboned into place. I didn’t use any buckram or other stiffening in the heading because this fabric has a coating of some sort that makes it extraordinarily stiff.
I enjoyed all this hand stitching. It was so relaxing sitting in my room, listening to music, hand sewing yards and yards of fabric. Some of you love to knit. I like to stitch.
This was the hardest part so far of this project. Of course I made it REALLY hard by choosing striped fabric. And stripes/patterns are not always my friends. I’ve wadded more projects over mismatched patterns or poor pattern placement than for any other reason.
Now, if I were a professional drapemaker and knew what I was doing, I would have measured, marked, stitched and these would have been done by now. But I’m not a professional. So I measured, calculated, clipped them into place, tried it out over the width of the window, took it out and repeated the process until I was ready to kill someone. Eventually it all came together in a way that I thought was pleasing. (Maybe I just got sick of it and gave up. We’ll see what the final product looks like before I hand in my verdict on that). There is a repeat to the stripes – a 4 inch repeat – but I just couldn’t make it work. So I threw it out the window and did as best I could by eyeballing it and approximation to within a couple of millimetres.
Once I was happy with the pleat placement, I folded the fabric and stitched the pleats by machine through all thicknesses, the full depth of the heading (3 inches). Here’s what it looks like from the inside.The pleats are then flattened down the centres and pinched into smaller pleats, hence the term “pinch pleats”. Usually there’s three little pleats per pleat, but this fabric is thick, and I didn’t order enough fabric for a 2 1/2 times the width fullness. So mine only have two little pleats. But I like them. They look pretty custom, no? How many sets of drapes have you seen with little pinch pleats like this?
Tomorrow, the last of the hand sewing. Well, tacking, actually.
The lining was measured, cut and joined to match the drapery fabric. Now I’m using long basting stitches to attach the lining to drape itself.
The next leg of the project is attaching the lining to the drapery along the hemline, return (sides) and overlap (centre front) of each drape.The lining has been cut to match the hemmed drape, and the bottom turned up twice and machine stitched. Now the lining will be slip stitched along each side and the bottom hem.
This is all I’ve done today, what with summer activities and the time involved for this project. I’m using a catch stitch – or, in drapery language, a herringbone stitch – for the hems. And I’m very thankful for my leather thimble, without which my finger would be shredded.
We are slowly renovating our entire little bungalow. My goal is to have a 1950’s bungalow-sized Fabergé egg house, only it won’t be so spectacular on the exterior. I want a bejewelled interior that I will love to inhabit for the long haul. To that end we’ve redone our kitchen, the girls’ bedrooms and have just laid the new floor and re-painted in mine. The living room is coming together piece by piece…
But right now I need to make my drapes. I didn’t have enough faith in my sewing skills to do a shaped valance, so I paid a professional to do that. (Hey, it was velvet and I really don’t know what I’m doing with drapery, OK?)
I’ve had this fabric in my stash, awaiting this day for almost two years. Today I finally hauled it out and laid it out and measured, cut and joined it.And because I’m new to this and don’t want to make a mistake that can’t be undone, I’m taking my time. A lot of time. Like 4 hours of time just to get the cutting and joining right. Tomorrow I’ll start hemming the bottoms and the sides.