Journal insight #9: Eco Solutions for curtains and blinds
Today’s journal is less about hints and tips and more a reflection on our industry. I’d love to hear from anyone who can point me in the direction of answers to a few of the questions that arise regarding eco solutions for curtains and blinds. I recently turned the wrong side of 50, so I’m not going to claim here that I have the same innate focus on ‘eco’ as those much younger than me. I think its something they now think of naturally whereas for me its certainly a more conscious effort, and I hope in time this will really make an impact as younger people move upwards in their careers and exert a positive influence on all of us. As an industry we still have a long, long way to go before I can write a detailed blog about the environmental options available to us as makers and designers. As I write this the Suez Canal delays are highlighting the freight miles so many of our fabrics and interior products endure to get to us. There is, however, some good news and I detect more and more interest from our suppliers in the environmental impact of their products, shipping, and waste. Whether it is to do with Brexit delays/increasing costs, a focus on UK manufacturing or even an awareness of Greta T’s campaigning, many of our suppliers seem to be looking for UK based mills to produce more and more of their stock. I’m super happy if it is creating jobs and reducing the distances products are shipped, but we do need to be aware of the sourcing of many of the raw materials, which may well lesson the environmental plusses seen at 1st sight. Abraham Moon & Sons maintain, I believe, the only vertical mill in England – its all made on the same site - which hugely reduces shipping between manufacturers in the production process. Wool is a real strength and the likes of Johnstons of Elgin, the Harris Tweed weavers and Bute fabrics add to this rich tapestry of native manufacturing. I remember once buying some gorgeous purple tinged tweed from the Isle of Harris and thinking that it was pretty cool when Callum's wife was cycling to the post office to send it to us. The following video is more about their clothing fabrics but oh boy! if you are anything like me, you'll be wanting to use Johnston's fabrics... Linwood fabrics now highlight UK produced fabrics with clear labelling, and they recently launched a recycled woven cotton collection called Verde, which further benefits from being chemical free. I believe this is an area the team there are keen to expand, and as ever they remain a big favourite of ours. Romo have long produced Leaf recycled wools with their Kirkby by Design brand, and it’s been a popular choice for our customers over the years. Salvaged yarns from the fashion industry make this appear to me to be a great product, and the colours are fab too. There is a definitely a balance to be considered for some fabrics that make greater use of chemicals in their production processes. Many of the stain resist fabrics don’t tick the eco boxes per se, but will wear far better and so their ‘shelf life’ needs to be taken into consideration as they can be replaced less often. Martindale and rub tests are also worth thinking about here, as they also add longevity to a product. In the blinds world, 2020 saw the launch of Decorquip’s Sweetwater Range of roller blinds, manufactured from 100% recycled ocean plastics. I really like this initiative and for commercial projects I think this has great potential as companies look more and more at their own impact on our world. Decorquip have estimated that a typical roller blind recovers the equivalent of 13 water bottles, 55 carrier bags or 730 drinking straws from our seas. Writing this brief blog has made me realise even more what a lot I have to learn and how many more questions I should be asking of our suppliers. Where is the wood sourced for our poles? What initiatives are they taking to offset their carbon footprint? Don’t get me started on packaging… We get quite a kick out of reusing older, treasured heirlooms to remake or rejuvinate. I remember 2 pairs of antique silk curtains we managed to rescue into a new single pair, retaining their fading and history, delighting the customer who remembered them from her childhood home. Recently we made a headboard incorporating our client's mum's GP & J Baker fabrics - it looked as good as new. We are soon to sign a lease on a larger workroom and it is already on our mind to look into green power, whether bought in or self-produced from our rooves. I think, on balance, I might spend some more time looking into this. We already have plans to replace some car journeys to London with trains trips, both to improve our environment and help us keep on top of our admin (if we can get a table) - it's gotta feel better too? We live in a rural community and while it isn't a specifically eco solution, we are hoping to create new jobs in this area, including some apprenticeships next year. Our impact on our communities, our planet, and working lives - they all matter. Small steps they say... lets all try take a few in 2021. If you’ve found this interesting please share. Next time… hand-made vs machined
As ever, if you are an experienced designer you may have this information stored away in your head and what will follow won’t be anything new. But, for those of you with less experience or perhaps those who have never needed to know about hanging and dressing curtains, this journal insight may prove helpful - we hope! It's amazing how often a customer comments on how we hang and dress curtains. Many say they have never seen this and with previous packet curtains, they just hang them up and hope, not realising there is an essential process to undertake in order to finish off those handmade, and probably expensive curtains. Let’s start with hanging curtains, which goes back to the initial specification you will have provided to your curtain maker. Where do you hang them in relation to the pole or track? What are the pluses and minuses of those choices? I’m not talking here about the aesthetics of where you hang them, I’ve seen beautiful curtains hung in every conceivable way, but there are often compromises between methods that are useful to be aware of. Curtains under the track or pole With hand-headed curtains my 'go-to' position for hanging them is so the top of the curtain sits just beneath the bottom of the pole. If you look at the curtain headings there will be a pleat of some kind and then a gap before the next pleat. By hanging beneath the pole we are able to push the fabric in the gap backwards behind the pole. The pleat then comes forward. The benefits are 3-fold: 1. The stack back is reduced as about half the fabric quantity is going backwards and half forwards, vastly reducing the bulk when fully open. 2. The pleats align neatly next to one another and present a great and united front when open. 3. The fabric won't rub against the track or pole, meaning they are easier to open and close – this is particularly helpful with a bay window where the rubbing (friction) is increased much more due to the curves. On a corded pole this means more force needs to be applied to the cord to move the curtains. A Wave curtain has to be hung under the pole in order to form the wave effect as it moves back and forth. Curtains in front of the pole Some people like to bring the fabric up high to cover the track or pole (when the curtains are closed of course) which is quite popular with basic looking tracks that are more function over form. You will need to bring the heading gaps forward, which increases the stack back. This setup helps improve blackout as more of the light gaps are covered by the curtains. A pole with a large diameter presents a challenge when hanging either in front of or above the pole as the hooks will be sitting directly underneath, meaning the heading will have to kink forwards as it gets level with the pole. For thick interlined curtains this can start to look awkward. Curtains above the pole Occasionally, clients want the curtains to come right up and above the pole. This may be purely aesthetic, or to help further with blackout. Its pretty much the same issues as with setting them in front of the pole, just a little more exaggerated. A good alternative when wanting to control the light coming in above a pole, is to switch to Eyelet headings as these are designed to go above by about 1-3 inches, without impeding the opening and closing of the curtains. Not everyone is a fan, but in the right place and for the right solution they are great. There are various tracks on the market with gliders in them that sit forwards under the track to assist with curtains that rise up in front and above tracks and I’d recommend using these when looking to hang in this way. The Silent Gliss 1280 is a good example of this kind of track. Curtain returns and leading edges When measuring for curtains we take two important measurements, often forgotten by home-owners. The leading edge is the vertical section on the inside edge of the curtain, which overlaps in the middle when the curtains are closed. We will allow for about 8cm+ for this, and it is affected by the fabric choice. If the fabric is too floppy then a smaller overlap stops it falling downwards and misaligning with its opposite curtain. If the leading edge is too slim, then you could get light bleed. You may have noticed hotel rooms often have 2 tracks with one sitting behind the other by a good 12”, allowing the overlap to be greatly exaggerated and ensuring extra effective blackout. This is rarely seen in homes, but the example emphasises the role a wider leading edge can play. Return edges are the side that sit on the outside of a window and as standard we measure the distance from the gliders to the wall. It varies by pole and track type, as a well as the brackets that have been used. If there are radiators behind the curtains you will often see extended brackets to clear this, meaning the return needs to be a little longer. When hanging the curtains we fit a screw eye into the wall on the outside to hook the edge of the curtain to. This return creates a super neat finish, hides the lining and reduces light bleed around the outside. Dressing curtains This is where we sometimes get funny looks as we may steam and tie them up. No, it’s not Christmas and we don’t think they are Turkeys. Do we steam all curtains? Definitely not. We only steam curtains if we need to, as the steam will often affect the length and for some fabrics, such as velvet, it can damage the face fabric. It is also time consuming and hot work, so if not necessary, why do it. We do steam some curtains to remove creases and help them settle into their pleats, but even then we often find some creases remain, particularly with linens, and in these cases time is your best friend and eventually most will drop away over the following weeks. However, if you’ve chosen 100% linen don’t expect crease free curtains. Tying the curtains up serves two purposes. The first is to set the curtains neatly into corrugated pleats down their entire length so that they look fabulous and draw back neatly when opened. The second is to help the various layers of fabrics sit together. When hanging curtains the lining and interlining will have a tendency to try to work apart. Experienced curtain makers will have added a daisy chain stitch to the bottom hems and added in locking stitches at regular points across the widths, both of which serve to keep the layers together. Even with these some coaching is still required. You will often see a fitter gently stroking the curtains as they smooth each layer together and into their pleating. Usually a single tie towards the bottom of the curtains is enough to keep them together overnight or a few days to settle. On longer curtains or fabrics that really don’t want to play ball, you may see extra ties. The ties are not tight but loosely encouraging good behaviour. Once the curtain maker or fitter leaves its so tempting to untie them to have a closer look, but I caution you to have a little patience as this process and the time it takes to settle pays back big time. Without this dressing process you are likely to end up with ballooning curtains that never look the money. If you’ve found this helpful, please share. Next time… Eco Solutions
You’re a designer, you add value by being creative and coming up with more for your clients. You’re ordering hand-made curtains and blinds and trust me, they really don’t have to be boring or straightforward. To put it simply, if it can be sewn you can probably have it. So, while there are the most beautiful fabrics out there, you can apply your own stamp on top, and we call this embellishing; it’s a great way of tying different elements of a room together, adding layers and texture, or even just for fun. It gives you far more in your design arsenal than just the fabrics and curtain headings. I personally think this Journal insight is really fun and I’m going to throw ideas at you, that you can use to create your own embellishments. I’m going to start with things you can do with curtains, other than wear them around the house… Curtain Trimmings Lets starts with trimmings. If you’ve been to the big Passementerie showrooms (I still think you can buy a Danish in them, or at least hope to) such as Samuel & Son you will have a good idea of the vast number of trims you can buy in every conceivable size, shape and colour. From simple cords to extraordinary gold thread applique braids. The choice can be overwhelming and also pretty expensive if you aren’t paying attention. Placed down the edge of a curtains you can lift a plain fabric or define the edge of a big pattern. The current enthusiasm for maximalism means some are adding crazy trims to crazy curtains, and why not? Pompoms are everywhere, they truly are. The last 12 months have seen us adding them to all kinds of curtain and pelmets. They can be a very affordable way to inject an extra layer, and both The Pompomery in England and Copper Fox in In Northern Ireland have great ranges at fair prices. Oh, and we all know how kids, big & small, love a pompom. Piping is an under-rated trim that can really sharpen up the look of a curtain. Either placing right on the edge or set back a few centimetres it adds a tailoring detail that I am rather fond of. You can buy great piping cords in various diameters or have your own made up by your curtain maker. Contrast Trims on Curtains Contrast trims are what we call sections of fabric that are added to a curtains or blinds usually on the leading or return edges or top and bottom hems. Less fussy than a trimming, but with the power to really transform a curtain. You can use them to reflect a colour from elsewhere or to frame the curtains. In sunny south facing windows they are useful as ‘sacrificial strips’ that can be replaced when faded, at a fraction of the cost of new curtains. For heavily swagged curtains you can run the trim 50 cm around to the back of the curtains letting you really celebrate that contrast when held with a tieback. More dramatic is the top and bottom hem, where you see it across the whole width of the curtains. From slim hems to big bold skirts, they are another great toy in your design toolkit. A rarely used detail is to add a contrast trim to the middle of a pleat at the top of a curtain. A bit like the button hole detail on a jacket it can be a subtle nod to something else in the room. Buttons sewn onto the front of curtain pleats don’t seem to be popping up so much, but I’m surprised as following the trends you’d think they would be everywhere. Buttons gives you a pin prick of detail. Adding a velvet button can add sumptuousness and we’ve sewn on more than a few Swarovski crystal buttons over the years. Cushion Embellishments You can have lots of fun with cushions too. Piping again, but also applying braids, or tassels to each corner. Plus there are fringes, flanges, box pleats, Oxford edges… Using far less than on curtains it is a good way to add embellishments to a room without blowing the budget. Don’t forget pelmets, headboards and tie-backs can also be embellished. The world really is your oyster and I’d encourage you to be as playful as you can. Clearly it takes a good eye and a degree of control to manage all this properly and harmoniously within a scheme, but that’s why you’re a designer. If you’ve found this helpful, please share. Next time… hanging and dressing curtains
I've never fancied myself as a professor, or a teacher of any kind. I never considered a career in torture either, so it’s all the more surprising I've elected to share some details on how we calculate the fabric quantities for curtains. Many of you will know this, and so this isn't really written for you, but for anyone after a reminder or for who it is new... here goes. Why might you care about calculating fabric quantities? I'm often asked why a certain amount of fabric is required or if we can make with what the customer has already. As the answer isn't always what they want to hear I thought a few pointers would help so you at least get the gist, even if you decide not to do the full calculations yourself - and why would you? Surely you'd prefer a gin and tonic instead, and in my experience gin and maths are rarely complimentary. Curtains use lots of fabric, obviously, but sometimes much more than people think especially when the cost of the fabric tends to be the biggest expense when having curtains made. For starters, we need to allow enough fabric to give the curtains fullness. This is what we call the allowance that stops them being flat sheets when closed and is affected by the curtain heading you want. Double pleats are our most popular heading and we use a fullness factor of 2.25 to 2.5 x the width of the window (plus the stack back = the length of the pole). For triple pleats this goes up to 2.75 to 3 x as we need more fabric to form the 3 pleats. Either way, this gives us the number of drops of fabric we need. For a 2m-wide pole we will need: 200cm x 2.5 fullness (for double pleat) = 500cm This is then divided by the width of the fabric. Most fabric comes 137cm wide, so... 500 ÷ by 137 = 3.6. They don't sell it by parts of widths so we have to round it up to 4 widths. Still with me? Its not so hard after all. Now we need to account for the drop (or height) of the curtains. If it’s a plain fabric - the maths is easy. Just add the hem allowance - to allow for turnings top and bottom. We use 23cm. So if my curtains are 230cm high then the total drop I need is 253cm per drop. Remember we had 4 widths (above) so the calculation is... 4 widths x 253cm (height) = 1012cm. You can usually buy fabric in 10cm increments (above 1m) so you'd need 1020cm or 10.2m. Now you can see why us curtains makers don't like working in millimetres, like you clever designers like to. Fabric Quantities in summary: 1. Calculate how many widths of fabric you need to cover the pole, taking into consideration the heading type and stack back. 2. Work out the total length of each drop, remembering to include the heading and hem. 3. Multiple them together to get the total metres required. Coffee break? It's more complex if you have a patterned fabric - just like with wallpaper you need to allow for pattern matching. You will need to find the vertical pattern repeat of the fabric. As before you take your finished drop + the turnings. We had 253cm. You now need to know how many pattern repeats fit into that drop. Divide 253 by the vertical pattern repeat - lets say its 60cm: 253 ÷ 60 = 4.22. To match everything when you join the fabrics you will need full pattern repeats so we round up to 5 repeats. 5 x 60cm = 300cm, and that's you drop per width. 4 widths x 300cm = 1200cm or 12m. Its an extra 2m just to allow for the pattern in this example. BUT... Don’t assume a big pattern repeat always means more fabric – so many people shy away from them because of this, but it all depends on the window height and the size of the repeat and you need to do the calculations to know for sure… If the pattern repeat above had been just 9.5cm less at 50.5 cm, you have needed exactly the quantity as for plain fabrics. Drop patterns and pleating to pattern add another level of complexity and I don't think it's fair to add this here too, For our purposes now, assume that it may well mean even more fabric. Roman blinds are much easier, and for plain fabrics you need to add 20-30 cm to the drop of the blind, and if its over around 130cm wide you’ll need an extra width (or 2). If there are patterns on multiple blinds its good practice to match the patterns across the top of each and again this takes a little calculating. A word on standard fabric widths vs room high fabrics The vast majority of fabric is standard width and sold approximately 137cm wide and by the linear metre. Sheer fabrics and a few other fabrics are sold room high – this means that they come approx. 3m high and sold by the metre wide. So, standard width fabric is sold by 1.37 sq/m, whereas room high is around 3 sq/m. The great benefit of room high is that there are no joins. The bad news is that this doesn’t usually translate into lower making costs as the fabric is harder to control and keep flat so its swings and roundabouts for the maker. Can you cheat on fabric quantities? Yes, you can! You can shorten the hem allowance if a pattern repeat is killing your budget. Sometimes when its really tight we add false hems to save that extra few metres – this is fabric added to the face fabric that gives us enough for turnings, yet you won’t see it as its hidden away in the finished curtain. You can reduce the fullness ratio and end up with less drops… meaning less widths of fabric. But, you are compromising, and if you go too low in your fullness it starts to hurt and you’ll regret it - the pleats start to look rubbish. As a rule of thumb, we rarely go below 2x to ensure a great look. Wave curtains are different – of course they are. Nothing is ever that easy. Rather than making up in widths of fabric you make these to the exact length of the wave tape. There are a few options on how to configure wave curtains, but our most popular set up uses 2.1 x fullness. If you are still with me, remember, curtains makers are here to help you work all this out, but having a least the basics in mind will be a great start for you when planning ahead and outlining budgets. If you’ve found this helpful, please share. Next time… Embellishments
How long have you got? We used to own a retail showroom and still have several hundred fabric books. So, trying to distil the topic of Fabrics, is going to be very interesting. I’m guessing that you are all pretty clued up on plains vs patterns and their aesthetics, plus next time I write, we’ll be covering the issues around calculating quantities, so for now let’s focus our attention on the impact different types of fabrics have on window treatments. Do you get what you pay for with fabrics? Well, kinda - sorry, but it just depends. As a curtain maker, handling and touching the cloth, I really appreciate the quality of a fabric and how it hangs, but being totally honest most people may not be aware of the subtle differences between basic and quality fabrics. As much as I may drool over beautiful wools from Scotland or Italian silk velvets, most people don’t cuddle their curtains very often and so the choice of fabric is far more open than some may imagine. (Confession: I do stroke curtains… regularly!) In this insight I’m talking much more about the issues for curtains than roman blinds, which are less affected by fabric choice. 1. Thickness of fabrics. Its entirely possible to use many thicker upholstery fabrics for curtains, even some that come treated for Fire Retardancy (FR). Thick fabrics can hang beautifully, with the weight helping the drape, however if it is too stiff then maintaining the pleats down their length can start to prove difficult, and over time they will become more and more ballooned. If you want to achieve thickness, then it’s better (and often more cost effective) to use an interlining as they enhance the drape. If they are FR treated then they will definitely be stiffer, but even so, can often work. It’s a discussion we always have with our interior designers, to ensure the finished curtain is what they expected, and for them to check we are willing to get the painful fingers when sewing. 2. Fabric type In generally I would recommend more natural content is best, unless you are looking at velvets or where cost is a particular restraint. Velvet Fabrics Velvets have specific properties that need to be thought through carefully. Broadly, there are 3 types: Polyesters Cotton Silk. Polyesters are the lowest cost and nowadays many are treated for stain resistance, so if there are children about with chocolate or ice cream fingers, then this is a great option. Close up they aren’t AS great, but from a just a few feet away they look good and you have the confidence that you can save them from the toddlers best efforts (or the grown up’s red wine). Cotton velvets tend to go up in price and are susceptible to damage from water, and once they mark there is very little you can do to rescue them. Compared to many of the other velvets, cotton’s are a flatter, more matt finish. Some will disagree - but I feel they can be the compromise that gives you few of the benefits of either - the budget and safe polyester or the stunning quality in Silks. Yes, silks are the Dom Perignon of velvet – gorgeous, lustrous sheens and they feel amazing – but with a price tab to mean you may need an extra champagne flute or two. Wool Fabrics We curtain makers do love a wool. It’s just so lovely to sew, and we are blessed in the UK with a great choice of British mills, so they often tick the eco box, being totally natural and relatively local. But… beware of central heated homes and especially those with underfloor heating. Wool will grow and shrink with the seasons and changes in temperature. In the summer they may become ankle swingers, and in the winter they grow overlong. For that reason, we tend to recommend them slightly puddled on the floor. Customers should always be made aware of this natural property or else you’ll be back and forth making seasonal adjustments. If you haven’t already, take a peek at Bute Fabrics, who’s wools are stunning, with the most vibrant colours you can imagine. There are a few recycled wools around, and we’ve found them to be really popular with the growing awareness of climate change. We really like them, and have had no issues with quality. Sheer Fabric Lightness and floatyness (is that a word?). Sheer curtains and blinds are always popular, both for playing with light and offering a degree of privacy. Many sheers come in room high formats, but usually no longer than about 320cm – this can prove a problem for rooms with higher ceilings, so be sure to check the finished dimensions before setting your customers heart on a particular fabric. Thicker sheers can be lined and create beautiful lightweight curtains and sometimes this can bring out the pattern in the fabric which can be lost when the sun shines through. When asking for roman blinds to me made, the very, very light sheers can be hard to work with and you may find a degree of ‘relaxation’ that goes too far if you are not careful. Silks and satins Silks and satins can be super thin and for the right window are stunning, giving a richness and lustre that’s hard to beat, but they can easily look limp and underwhelming if not interlined. We’ll stop here or we’ll need another bottle, but my strongest tip is to have a good dialogue with your curtain and blind maker when choosing types of fabrics – their experience can prove invaluable and help you make the best choice for a given situation. If you’ve found this helpful, please share. Next time… Maths
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!