To begin with, using sheets requires a lot of challenging calculations just to determine how many to purchase and of which size. Because sheets are folded and so tightly packed, they become very wrinkled and the fold creases become very sharp. The amount of time necessary for properly pressing the sheets will eat up your profits unless you have charged appropriately. Even with lots of pressing, sometimes the deepest creases do not ever come out all of the way.
Sheets are harder to cut -- and can take longer to cut -- than yard goods because they are wider than most workroom tables. They also can be difficult to cut because they often are not printed straight.
Once cut, sheets can be difficult to sew. The die lot from sheet to sheet may not match. Even if the pattern is printed straight, it very rarely matches the pattern on the next sheet. Not only is the design at a different location from sheet to sheet, the print usually is not designed so the motif is completed when the selvages are sewn together. Because many sheets have a high amount of finish, many sewing machines have trouble sewing them. The operator must make many adjustments, and even then the stitch may not be perfect.
Well, if sheets are so much trouble, why do so many people bother using them for window treatments? Because they also have some perfectly wonderful features!
Sheets are a cost effective way to create a beautiful room. Some amazingly gorgeous and very creative window treatments have been fabricated out of sheets.
Many customers enjoy the wide variety of options available to them to coordinate the window treatments with the bed's sheets (the ones that actually get put on the bed) and ready-made bed treatments such as bedspreads, comforters, dust ruffles and pillow shams.
The motif in sheets may be exactly the print your customer has been looking for in yard goods without success. Because sheets are wider than most typical fabrics, fewer unsightly seams are needed to sew them together. Many times a window treatment can be created with no seams at all.
As with most textile products, sheets are available in all levels of quality and at all levels of pricing. Some are as well made as designer fabrics and are available in a wide variety of designer colors and motifs.
With all of these advantages, you can count on a customer at one time or another wanting to use sheets for window treatments. Calculating the number and size of sheets needed for a particular job can be tricky, but with a few tips, it's not so bad.
Let's take a look at the most common sizes of flat sheets and how to determine the number that would be needed for several different types of treatments.
Twin sheets are 66 inches wide by 96 inches long.
Double (full) sheets are 81 inches by 96 inches.
Queen sheets are 90 inches by 102 inches.
King sheets are 108 inches by 102 inches.
The first step in determining how many sheets are needed is determining if the length of the sheet is long enough for the cut length of the treatment. If it is not long enough, the sheets cannot be used (unless a shortcut such as using a smaller hem is acceptable). A word of caution: The given length of sheets sometimes includes a decorative hem that has been added on with a seam. When the hem is removed, the actual length of remaining fabric can be much shorter than as noted on the package.
If the sheet is long enough for the cut length, then proceed by determining which width of sheet is the best. Let's use a pair of pleated draperies 80 inches wide as an example. Each panel would be 40 inches wide. With a typical fullness of 2 1/2 times, 90 inches of fabric would be needed. One queen sheet (90 inches wide) would be the perfect choice for each panel and would require no seams.
If only twin sheets are available, the amount of fabric needed (90 inches) would be divided by the width of the sheet (66 inches) to determine how many sheets are needed (90 inches/66 inches = 1.36). In this case, one and a half twin sheets (66 inches + 33 inches = 99 inches) would be enough for each drapery panel. The extra nine inches can be left in for seams and added fullness.
Calculating the pleats and spaces for pleated draperies is based on using a set number of pleats per width of fabric: five pleats for 48 inches, and six pleats for 54 inches. So, how do you calculate the number of pleats when your sheets are 66, 81, 90 or 108 inches wide? It's easier than you may think. Simply divide the total amount of needed fabric by either 48 or 54 inches. For example, we needed 90 inches of fabric in the previous example. Dividing 90 inches by 48 inches gives you 1.8 widths, or about two widths of 48-inch fabric and 10 pleats.
The actual number of pleats can vary slightly without causing a problem. For example, if 11 pleats fit into the finished size better than 10, then 11 may be used. How do you know what fits the best? With typical custom fullness (2 1/2 times), the pleats will have between four inches and five inches of fabric in them with three inches to four inches of spacing between them. Remember to keep all seams within the pleats.
If creating a pleated balloon that is 60 inches wide using two times fullness, a total of 120 inches of fabric would be needed. Two twin sheets (132 inches) could be used or 1 1/2 double sheets (about 121 inches) could be used. The needed amount of fabric is simply divided by the various widths of sheets to determine how many sheets are needed.
Using sheets for round or oval table cloths is especially nice because they usually are large enough without requiring seams. This means less work and better quality all in one. The same principal applies to coverlets and headboards. Sheets also make splendid coordinating dust ruffles, valances, pillows, shams, ruffles, banding and just about any decor accessory.
If you are intrigued by the advantages of sheets, but don't want the hassles of sharp creases, die lot changes and mismatched patterns, two more options come to mind. Some fabric outlets and suppliers carry sheeting by the bolt. It is as wide as sheets, but not already cut into specific lengths. It is an economical alternative to buying lots of packaged sheets.
Other high-quality extra wide fabrics are available that totally eliminate all the challenges of working with sheets. Many industry professionals are aware of 118-inch wide sheers, but are not aware that many other fabric choices also are available in wide widths such as chintzes, damasks, brocades and prints.
In spite of a few challenges, sheets can offer a versatile alternative for your customers. So, appreciate the good, work out the bad and have something beautiful to offer your customers.
Cheryl Strickland is owner of Professional Drapery Seminars. She is an internationally-acclaimed speaker with more than 20 years experience in the window coverings industry. She is the publisher and editor of Sew WHAT?, an international monthly newsletter for professional drapery workrooms. Strickland also is the author of A Practical Guide to Soft Window Coverings and the Designer's Sketch Pad, which are available through Draperies & Window Coverings magazine.