There are a few things I’d like to share with you this month. One is a personal experience I had making a simple valance for a friend of mine with a twist you might find helpful; another is a piece of workroom equipment I find very helpful and am sure you will, too; and the last is a list (we all love lists) of the top 10 workroom tools submitted by Margie Nance, our new director of education at the Custom Home Furnishings Trade School.
Let’s get started!
POORBOY SWAG WITH A TWIST
Several years ago I visited a friend in Maryland. He was so excited
to have the opportunity to show me the new furniture he had chosen
“all by himself” for his den. He also was worried that
I, as a professional, would not think he had made a good choice.
He kept saying, “You probably won’t like it, but I do.
But, then again, I have weird taste.”
To his surprise, I loved it. I like contemporary design.
This friend is a veterinarian and the furniture was covered in a
very chic animal print with lots of poufy solid-color pillows. What
I couldn’t believe was that the fabric on the pillows was the
exact same fabric I had left over from making a treatment for one
of my seminars. I told him I would make a couple of valances to
go over his blinds and coordinate with the furniture.
Now, this is quite a feat for me. I just don’t have the time
I used to have—not even to make samples for my own seminars.
But you know how it is when you just know something would be perfect,
and you know you won’t be able to sleep until you see it finished.
It’s like that pillow the customer just couldn’t afford,
but you made anyway for free because it was going to be the perfect
final touch. Not having a lot of fabric or time wasn’t a big
problem, though, because the fabric was the same on both sides and
the treatment was very easy to create.
I decided to make a “poorboy” swag with a bit if a twist
to the design. I measured from the bottom of the window apron to
the top of the frame, across the width of the window and down to
the bottom of the apron on the other side. That was the amount of
fabric I needed.
When measuring the length of that leftover fabric I discovered I
had exactly enough with not one inch to spare. There were two windows,
but the fabric I had was wide, so I split it down the middle to
create two pieces.
Usually this treatment is self-lined or contrast-lined. I didn’t
line this one at all because it was fine for the back of the fabric
to show. I used a rolled hem along the edge of the selvage, although
I didn’t need to because it wouldn’t show. I could have
laid the selvage edge along the wall on the return and on top of
the window frame.
After choosing a short point for the jabot-like sides of the poorboy,
I angled the ends of the fabric. I then turned the raw edges of
the fabric to the front of the treatment and glued matching leather-look
trim along the edge covering the raw edges. I was already done!
For the finishing touch and to add a little twist to the treatment
I didn’t use a typical swag holder. I used rod finials. I knew
they would be perfect. They were brown and black zebra heads. The
finials were made for wood poles and had two-ended screws already
in them. They were screwed into sheetrock plugs into the wall just
above the upper corners of the window frame.
Now, if I had laid the fabric across the zebra heads, it would have
almost completely covered them. Instead, I chose to loop black twist
cord around the fabric and then tie the cord around the zebra’s
neck—almost like reins. My friend loved the treatment and couldn’t
believe how such a simple style could pull together the entire room.
He says no one ever visits without commenting about the window treatments.
If you make many pleated treatments at all, you know what a hassle
buckram can be. It just loves to roll off the table and all over
the floor whenever you try to unroll it while you are sewing. Here
are two solutions I use at the trade school that are very inexpensive—or
free, if you use leftover scraps.
The first holder is attached to the ceiling over your sewing machine.
It is constructed of two-by-fours cut to the desired drop from the
ceiling—high enough not to hit your head on, but low enough
to easily reach. Attached to the inside of each two-by-four is another
short piece of two-by-four in the shape of a “U.” A length
of conduit is laid between the two “U’s.”
The support can be mounted from the ceiling whatever distance apart
you desire. The wider apart, the longer the conduit needed and the
more rolls of buckram it can hold. The same system can be mounted
underneath the table or be suspended under the sewing machine table
The other holder is a simple box made slightly larger than one roll
of buckram. The buckram just sits inside the box, which you can
place on the floor next to the sewing machine pedal and between
the feet of the machine operator. It is easily removed when not
When the sewer pulls on the end of the buckram, it rolls inside
the box and not across the floor!
Cheryl Strickland is owner of the Custom Home Furnishings Trade
School, Swannanoa, NC, and is an internationally acclaimed speaker
with 20 years experience in the window coverings industry. She is
the publisher and editor of SewWHAT?, an international monthly newsletter
for professional drapery workrooms.