Did you know that all window treatments begin as just five basic styles? Just like in dressmaking, there are a certain number of basic pieces and an endless supply of variations. Once the basics are broken down, any treatment seen in a show home or major magazine can easily be duplicated by determining the basic style, and then varying the cut and proportions.
When I started my workroom more than 15 years ago, it was difficult to find professional window treatment patterns. Over the years I purchased just about every home decorating pattern that was sold through the local fabric shops. When I would compare my early finished treatments made from one of those patterns against a photograph of a mouthwatering treatment seen in a beautiful show home, what I noticed was that the difference between the two treatments wasn’t really in the basic style of the treatment, it was in the cut and proportion of that basic style.
That’s when I began to realize that there were very few basic styles and really began to study how to break them down into a few basic pieces and then create the variations needed to fabricate any treatment.
BREAK DOWN THE FEAR
My theory has been presented to hundreds of students and conference attendees over the past few years and the one comment I hear over and over from past students is now they have the confidence to analyze the treatment and break it down to its simplest form. This knowledge gives a workroom a change in mindset as to the difficulty of a window treatment. Once the basic piece or pieces are determined for any treatment, the fear is removed from knowing where to start.
Many workrooms are accused of procrastinating on a job, but procrastination has nothing to do with it. Procrastination is just a mask for fear—fear of cutting the fabric wrong, making the treatment too small or too big, or even the fear of running out of fabric. When you start with the right basic pattern pieces, the fear is removed and the fabrication process becomes clear.
THE FIVE BASIC STYLES
The five basic styles of window treatments are:
1. Flat —No fullness in treatment. The beauty of the fabric is usually the focal point of this style. It can be used in a casual or formal room setting.
2. Relaxed —Slight fullness without gathers. Fabric tends to hang forward between tabs or rings, which creates a shape to the top of the treatment. With the right fabrics and hardware, this style can be used in both a casual or formal room setting.
3. Gathered —Random fullness, usually 2 1/2 to three times full, and it can be added along the top, bottom or up the sides of a treatment. This treatment is usually seen in a casual to less formal room.
4. Pleated —Controlled fullness, up to three times full, usually folded and stitched to the front or the back of the treatment. Pleated panels can be used in any room setting. Pleated valances also work in most any setting with the right fabric selection.
5. Swag —A trapezoid shaped valance where the sides are gathered or pleated to create rounded folds. Gathered swags are usually seen in casual rooms while pleated swags are used most often in formal rooms.
There are three additional pieces known as components that are commonly used with the basic styles to create variations of window treatments. They are known as:
Anything else you can add to a treatment is known as embellishment. An embellishment is the addition of an item either placed from behind or on top of a treatment. You will find everything from arrows to zippers in window treatment photos. The most common embellishments are banding, buttons, tassels, beads and trim.
Flat treatments can be the least intimidating for a workroom to quote yardage and fabricate. Yardage is calculated by determining the finished width by the finished length plus returns, hems and any mounting allowances. There are no additional calculations needed for fullness.
Flat treatments that have a shape to the top or bottom of the pattern can be drafted by using proportional tools, French curves and pattern paper. We will explain how this is done in an upcoming issue. A very simply way to create a flat pattern that has a shape to the top or bottom is to place a sketch of the treatment under an art enlarger and blow it up to the finished size on the wall. Tape butcher or craft paper to the wall and trace the shape. Enlargers can be found online at most Internet art stores.
When fabricating flat treatments, pattern matching at the seam line is critical. Be sure seams are sewn straight and pucker free. Limp fabrics may need to be stabilized first in order to hang straight. For a soft hanging flat valance, it’s helpful to add legs to the mounting board then wrap the fabric around the legs and staple to the back. This will help to pull the fabric tight, especially on very wide treatments.
One of the biggest challenges with a flat treatment may have nothing to do with the treatment pattern but with the fabric pattern. Flat treatments that are more than 27 inches wide can be challenging when using fabrics that have a large horizontal repeat or a half-drop match. It’s difficult to place a design motif in the center of the treatment without having to deal with oddly placed seams.
A large vertical repeat also can be an issue if the finished length of the treatment is shorter than the vertical repeat. I have seen beautiful toile fabrics with 27-inch vertical repeats used on flat valances with an 18-inch finished length. You lose the impact of the fabric when you have to cut off one third of the fabric pattern. Keep the fabric repeat in mind when choosing a flat style treatment.
Margie Nance is the president of the Custom Home Furnishings Academy, Charlotte, NC; www.chfschool.com. The CHF Academy has trained thousands of people all over the world to begin a career in fabricating, designing and selling custom window treatments, bedding, upholstery and slipcovering. It is also the home of the highly acclaimed “Career Professional” program.