Journal Insight #4: How to slow the process of your curtains fading.
Right! If you think this insight is going to help you avoid fading, I am about to disappoint. We are working with fabrics at windows, where light comes in, so we can’t stop fading – sorry. But… we can certainly manage it. Pretty much everything fades eventually. After all, putting things in bright windows hardly helps. Do things fade if they are cheap? Often, yes. You certainly pay for quality and if you want good fade resistance you are likely to have to pay for it, but that doesn’t mean a higher price gives you lower fading. We are an industry led by designers and creatives, so there are always going to be designs that just look fabulous and to hell with the technical properties. Clever scientists have gotten all excited by this topic and someone produced a rating. Here’s a table for you to get hyped about: Grade Degree of Fading Light Fastness Type: 8 No fading Outstanding 7 Very slight fading Excellent 6 Slight fading Very good 5 Moderate fading Good 4 Appreciable fading Moderate 3 Significant fading Fair 2 Extensive fading Poor 1 Very extensive fading Very poor OK, maybe not, but a handy reference all the same. You should be able to get this rating for any fabric you are looking at, and for mechanical binds like rollers its readily available. Selecting the right fabric is the first step in managing fading. In terms of fabric material, the big one to worry about is silk. The higher the silk content the greater the likelihood of fading, even in north facing windows. Light will kill the integrity of the fabric as well as the colour, so it’s a double whammy. Now, get your compass out as window direction is a key factor. A south facing window is going to be your biggest challenge with the most intense light coming in that way. Conversely you can have a lot more choice when looking north. Shaded windows help, where a gorgeous tree in front of a south facing window will make a significant difference. When you know you’re going to have a problem there are a couple of tricks to call upon. We regularly use a trim on the leading edge as this is the bit of the curtain that sits in light when open and takes the most beating from the sun. It can be a great design detail but, in this instance, also think of it as a sacrificial strip. A client buying expensive handmade drapes will be happier if they know they can replace just a small section of the leading edge after a few years rather than the entire curtain. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper and if you advise them of this up front we find it’s a good tool to build trust and their confidence in you. Protective window films are readily available and there are few firms on the market they will measure and fit for you direct to your client. The films range in styles, but you genuinely can get invisible films that block out the most harmful UV rays. Plus, you’ll be surprised how inexpensive it is. Finally, there is a really easy option. Sheer, protective blinds, often roller blinds but sometimes Romans behind a curtain can make a massive difference, not only limiting the light hitting the curtains but also helping the homeowner manage the light coming into the room and also offering them greater privacy. If you’ve found this helpful, please share. Next time… Fabrics
There is often some confusion when the subject of curtain linings is raised, although there isn’t really all that much to know. A quick review should do it. There are two types of linings. The first is the actual lining on the back of a curtain, which can be simple cotton or blackout. The softness of a cotton lining helps it drop effortlessly, with some light glowing through. In rooms where you want to play with light, or emphasise the openness of a particular face fabric, linens or cottons for example, this kind of lining works perfectly. Blackout lining is not actually black – so many people assume it is and we often have to disarm people of this preconception when asking if they want it. It does however block the light. This is done with the way it is woven and has the added advantage of adding some degree of thermal gain too. So, if you are looking to darken a bedroom at night or block out that annoying streetlamp immediately outside a window, blackout lining is a must. However, while the lining may be blackout, it won’t in itself guarantee a light free space, as light can bleed around the edge of curtains and blinds and over the tops of poles. Think of this lining as one tool in your room darkening armoury. Blackout is also a great help with fabrics that fade (more about this in the next Insight), and it helps protect the bulk of the face fabric from the harmful UV rays). All linings tend to come in a white and a variant of cream, and some have other neutral hues. The second type of lining is called interlining, and is the fluffy, thermal, thick fabric between the face fabric and outer lining. It has two purposes. 1. To thicken the end result, which can add a huge amount to a curtain, stopping it hanging limp and looking a little deficient. 2. To add warmth. We recommend anyone with single glazing to add interlining and reap the benefits of a far warmer room. For really cold windows and especially for doors there is super thick interlining, commonly called Bump. Our home is a c.1800 cottage with original leaded (leaky) windows, so we employ a combination of bump interlining and blackout lining at all the windows, and we feel the benefits every winter, especially as our face fabric is a thick printed velvet – toasty! Before we let this go, there is a final option – self or contrast lining. Using a face fabric to line a curtain adds impact from the outside looking in. It doesn’t have to be plain old off white for your neighbours to stare at. Sure, you need to think about fading, but the right choice at the right window for the right client can really add some ‘’wow’’! If you’ve found this helpful, please share via email or social media. Next time… Fading.
In my last Journal Insight we looked at the big questions around stack-back, during the course of this topic, we raised the options of different types of headings, and so I thought maybe now is a good time to delve into this topic and explain curtain headings. Headings refers the myriad ways the top of a curtain can be finished and has impact on the cost, production timescales, how the curtains stack-back, and hang. Broadly speaking I've split 'headings' into four types: · Tape headings · Hand headings · Modern headings · Informal headings So many headings… Tape Headings Starting with Tape headings, these are often what you get buying online or from those shops who sell curtains off the peg. Using a machined-on tape, the heading is formed by drawing up strings to bunch up the heading and create pencils – thus they sometimes they get called pencil pleats – they’re the same thing! Tape headings are what many people make for their own homes, as with limited skills and a sewing machine you can run something up that looks pretty good. It’s also what the factory workrooms churn out in bucket loads, and you can see why - they are quicker, with less opportunity for mistakes and frankly a lot less skill required. On the plus side, they are robust and a lot cheaper to supply. They are also a good option if you just want the curtains to sit there unobtrusive and discreet; voiles are often made this way for just that reason. We don’t make many tape headed curtains, and largely it’s because of the way they hang; it doesn’t matter how hard you try they just won’t dress as neatly as other styles of curtain, often billowing as they drop. Not every maker will agree with me, but that’s my take on the subject. Hand Headings The vast majority of our work is with hand headed curtains. These are more clearly structured and sewn in by the maker, to form perfect pleats - either single (also called cartridges), double or triple pleats. Once set in place the curtains will fall in beautiful corrugation, but only if hung and dressed properly when installed. For most people thinking about hand-made curtains, they are picturing hand headed tops. You may not realise that you can specify the depth of the pleat too, which really helps scale the curtain to the room. You will see loads of 5" headings, but we prefer 6" and 8" headings too, as they help elongate the curtain; particularly useful for a tall room. The difference between these is largely aesthetic and down to the look you are after, from more contemporary unfussy single pleat, to the height of classic with a triple pleat. It also affects the amount of fabric required, and on jobs with either cost or stack-back constraints, this can be a worth reviewing carefully. Modern Headings Under modern headings I’m talking about wave and eyelets. Wave curtains came from the hotel industry, where they were keen to standardise the look and ensure even the clumsiest of bell hops could close them and they’d still look great. The tops are not gathered like tape or hand headed curtains, by ‘waving’ back and forth beneath the pole or track. The gliders have cords between them making sure they are exactly the same distance apart each and every time. It’s a super clean look, used widely on big expanses of glass and in contemporary architecture – when people want the hotel look, this is your go to heading. Because they aren’t as gathered at the top, they require less fabric than double or triple pleats and stack neatly. You do need to be careful of the length of the curtains though. As the drop increase the ‘wave’ starts to drop out and so you must always check with the maker if the fabric is suitable for a wave curtain at all, and if so for the length you are after. For example, fabrics with metal content are a known problem as they spring out of the wave after a few feet. Eyelets can get a bad press, but used properly and creatively can look amazing. The smallest stack of any heading, the easiest to hang, and the least fabric required – all key plus points. With an unfussy modern look they are ideal if blackout is required as the curtains can reach above the pole and reduce the amount of light bleeding into the room. You can also have big or small eyelets, and we’ve made and seen plenty of giant eyelets that looks very designer indeed. Informal Headings Finally, what I call informal heading. These are ones the maker might get grumpy about as they often take more work to complete and get right. Cottage headings are those big floppy tops reminiscent of the 80’s but they are having a resurgence now. For less structured looks there is a pin hook heading, which is hard to describe, but allows the fabric to droop a little at the top and can work for linens, in particular heightening the relaxed feel of the fabric. It can be a tricky look to achieve and talk to your maker, but remember that in general 'structure' is there for a reason, and informal headings need a lot of thought and planning to get right. There are more, but even I’m running out of concentration after that lot, and what I’ve talked about so far covers the vast majority of your options. Remember though, you can also email us, pick up the telephone for a chat or book an appointment. If you’ve found this helpful, please share, we would appreciate it. Next time… linings!
Stack-back? Seriously? OK, I know it’s hardly the stuff of Hollywood movies, but it’s probably the single most regular question we get. What is it? It’s how wide the curtains are when they’re open, how much space they take up, and whether you have the room for them or if the gorgeous cabinet you’d planned to get fits in the room. See! Suddenly it's sounding more important. Clearly every fabric has its own thickness properties but as a starter for 10 try this: · For unlined curtains 10-15cm per width · For lined (cotton or blackout), 15-20cm per width · For lined and interlined, allow 20-30cm per width It’s surprising how much space you need. The good news is that there are ways to help. Dressing and pleating the curtains during installation is an absolute must. Neatly dressing, tying (usually steaming too) and leaving them to settle makes a world of difference. It helps them return into the same beautifully corrugated stack each and every time they are opened. Some styles of curtains have smaller stack backs. Eyelets are a great solution where space is limited, and we often use them in doorways and narrow entrance halls. By placing the pole a little further away from the door than you would typically creates a much bigger space for the stack to sit in - you’ll wish you paid more attention in trigonometry lessons now (No? Maybe just me)! Wave Curtains also stack neatly. For Wave curtains using Silent Gliss tracks with standard gliders, each metre of curtain stacks to 18.4cm, but if you need to use roller gliders for heavy drapes beware… the size of the gliders makes for a far bigger stack, and usually means its bigger than standard hand-headed curtains. If you find you’ve really got no space left, we have a couple of other tricks for you. Most curtains are even pairs, but single curtains can take advantage of extra space on one side and with the right fabric can create a real statement when stacked; like artwork. You can also have uneven pairs (though Wave tracks needs to be set up for from the start). Three quarters of your fabric could then stack left, and one quarter to the right, of course. A final trick we use more often that you might imagine is to have a bent track (or pole) allowing the curtains to return at 90 degrees off the window elevation onto a side wall. For wall to wall windows this is a great way to install them, giving the homeowner that beautiful, unobstructed view and a room filled with light. If you’ve found this helpful, please share. Pete & Ryan Next time… curtain headings!