Calculating the Yardage
When a fabric comes into your workroom, you should check it in. Two major things you do during this check-in process are:
1. Look at the fabric in comparison to the worksheet to determine suitability for the treatment. Also, check other features including whether the print is straight-across or a drop match.
2. Calculate the yardage requirements for the worksheet.
Calculating the cut lengths and number of widths for a treatment is basic knowledge for any workroom. Calculating cut lengths of fabric with a straight-across repeat also is common knowledge.
What isn't so well known is how to calculate a drop match (half-drop). As we've already discussed in past articles, a treatment using a drop match print likely will take more fabric. Unfortunately, the fact that a fabric is a drop match usually isn't known until it reaches the workroom. For these reasons, it is crucial the yardage for a treatment be determined as soon as the fabric reaches the workroom.
To understand drop match calculations, use this example:
• An 87-inch cut is needed from a fabric that is a drop match with a 12-inch repeat. As usual, 87 inches is divided by 12 inches to get 7.25 repeats, which is rounded up to eight. Eight repeats at 12 inches each means an adjusted cut of 96 inches.
• Determine the half repeat (12 inches divided by two), which is six inches in this example.
• If you subtract the half repeat (six inches) from the adjusted cut (96 inches) and the remainder (90 inches) is more than the needed cut (87 inches), then you can use this new adjusted cut (90 inches) as your cut length for calculating yardage.
• If the remainder is less than the needed cut, you must add a half repeat to the adjusted cut (96 inches plus six inches). Then that new adjusted cut (102 inches) is what you use to calculate yardage.
Is the Fabric Square?
I stressed in Part I of this series that it is important to determine if the fabric is square with the selvage and straight across the width and I explained one way to do this-laying the whole width flat on the table and using a T-square. There is another way to do this, which is easier for one person to handle.
Fold the fabric in half right-side out and selvage to selvage ALIGNing the selvages parallel to the table edge. Smooth the fabric so it lays flat on the table. Now roll the top selvage back enough to see the print on the wrong side of both edges. (If the fabric is opaque, use pins through both layers to determine where the print is positioned.)
If the print is perfectly matched on the two selvages, then your print is square to the sides. If you have a drop match, then the difference between where the two selvages match must be exactly half the repeat. You still must place a T-square across the folded fabric to determine if the center is straight.
If the print does not match perfectly, shift the fabric until it does and anchor it as matched. If the fabric will not lay flat, then you have a drift in the print-the print on one side is lower than on the other side.
Managing a Drift
Many times it is possible to correct a drift. There are two methods to try:
1. Pulling: This method requires two people who actually pull the fabric on the bias. The side on which the print was low needs to be pulled up and the other side pulled down. Move about every 10 inches down the selvage. To start, pull only enough to see if the fabric is straightening. If it is, then pull the whole piece.
2. Blocking: This method can be done easily by one person. Begin by folding the fabric in half as described above for checking square. Make the selvages ALIGN in a perfect match and anchor the piece on the sides and across the top of the fabric so it is straight. Then, slowly steam press the fabric being careful not to press the fold. Again, only press enough to see if the fabric is going to cooperate and square up. If it is, then only press enough to make one cut at a time rather than pressing the whole piece first and going back and cutting.
If neither pulling nor blocking will square up the fabric, then you must determine if your treatment will allow you to hide the drift. If you are making swags or panels of only one width each, a drift will never be noticed. However, if you are making a five-width pinch pleat panel for a sliding glass door, you may have a problem. If you match the seams with a drift, then the design will appear to be sliding downhill across the panel. On the other hand, if you plan the seams to be beside the pleats, then the seams will be hidden. In this case, you could cut all the widths to match straight across the top and sew the seams to be mismatched but not visible.
There also are instances in which you aren't going to match the selvages in seams because you aren't using whole widths but you must be sure the main motif is centered and squared properly in each width, for example box pleated valances. In this case, only a small portion of the width will be visible anyway so as long as you are square for the main motif, the final treatment should be perfectly acceptable.
There is another case where it's not so much the selvage-to-selvage drift as it is the imperfect printing of the pattern that is a problem. This often is found in the zigzag designs described in Part II. Suppose you are making a balloon shade and you want to shift the motif in one half width up or down to be side-by-side to the motif in the other half width. If you cut the first half width the way you want it, then use it for a pattern by laying it on top of the second half width, you may find the print will not match perfectly. Here again, match and square the fabric from the very center of the motif because that will be what will catch the viewer's eye.
Finding the Center
When dealing with a floral pattern, it is sometimes very difficult to find the center of the design. The easiest way to do it is to make a bull's-eye. Using a clear piece of plastic, draw a circle about four inches in diameter with a permanent wide black marker. You may want to add a larger, concentric circle for larger patterns. As soon as you lay this bull's-eye on the print, you will see where the center should be.
There may be times when you deliberately make a motif slightly off-center. This might be done in order to center up an adjacent motif thereby enabling you to use more of a width of fabric without excessive cutting and piecing. However, if it is necessary to cut and piece extensively to achieve the custom effect, don't be afraid to do that. That is what custom work is all about.
Exact centering left to right is so important, but generally you do not need an exact center top to bottom. In most treatment designs in which there is a flat area with a centered motif (e.g. box pleat valances, cornices, etc.), the design should be lower than the exact top-to-bottom center in order to anchor it for the viewer's eye. If it's exactly centered, it will appear to be floating away.
Stripes and Plaids
Working with stripes and plaids can be the most challenging of all the prints to work with. Because printed stripes rarely are horizontally straight, the treatments fabricated with horizontal stripes should be designed to camouflage inaccuracies.
If you have to work with a horizontal stripe in an unforgiving, tell-all treatment such as a flat Roman shade, there are a couple things you might try. First, taking the cut from the middle of the width may give you a straighter horizontal. Second, if you have a wide horizontal stripe, try to make the top and bottom of the treatment somewhere within that stripe. Do not try to make the edges of a treatment, either horizontal or vertical, right on the edge of a line. If the edge is not perfectly on the line, the discrepancy will be obvious. You also can try blocking, but I have had minimal to no success with it.
Seaming in the middle of the width is a different story. In this case, you should seam the panels very close to a line if possible. That will be far less noticeable than a seam in the middle of a stripe.
Once you have done all the preliminary planning, you are ready to cut. In most cases, even if they eventually must be cut to size/shape, you can begin by cutting all the straight widths being sure they are matched. For one person working alone, the method of folding the width in half to cut is easiest. As long as the selvages are ALIGNed and the width lays flat, you should be able to use a T-square or table grid to get straight cuts.
This folded method is especially wonderful for cutting drop matches. After the first cut, fold and bring the remaining fabric right up on top of the first cut. Make sure the bottom selvage of the top width will match the top selvage of the bottom width. Just keep stacking consecutive widths. This way you know the fabric will match and it will be folded just like you need it to seam at the serger.
If you now need to cut the widths more narrow or to shape, stack the widths that will be cut the same on top of each other. Be sure to ALIGN them well all around. Now cut the stack with an electric rotary knife to the size or shape you need. The Eastman Chick B will cut a 1/2-inch stack of fabric. A knife such as this with a sharp blade will cut straight up and down and not distort the shape toward the bottom of the stack.
Refusing the Fabric
I've covered a variety of options in an attempt to use less-than-perfect prints, but sometimes a printed fabric just won't work no matter how many tricks you use. In that case, refuse the fabric. The supplier may have a better piece. Some of these problems can't be corrected or reduced by the manufacturer. Some of them can.
By refusing unsatisfactory goods, you are letting the jobber and the manufacturer know there is a problem. They may not even be aware of the fabrication problems you experience. Of course the desired outcome here is that their quality and yours will be enhanced from your inability to use the goods.
It's the workroom's job to determine how to make the print work with the design. If you, as the workroom, determine you cannot achieve what the designer has requested or cannot do it and maintain the quality standards you represent, then discuss it with the designer. Let her make the final judgment call after you have presented all the options. I admit to holding many conferences with my clients to try to solve the problems presented by prints. However, I also admit that I love to work with prints.
Prints can be challenging indeed, but the successful creation and fabrication of a print treatment speaks volumes in any language about the experience of the workroom. The more skill and knowledge the workroom has in this arena, the more valuable it is to its customers. The more valuable it is, the greater should be its income.
Kitty Stein, WCAA, is a 20-year veteran of the drapery workroom field, having owned and operated her own business for 18 years and having taught classes on window treatment construction. Until 1990, Stein and a partner owned a workroom with nine employees. She since has opened her own smaller workroom, Workroom Concepts, that has just one employee. She also does workroom consulting, seminar speaking and is the author of Order in the Workroom available through Draperies & Window Coverings.