The first thing you have to do is to forget conventional pinch pleat calculations. Don't panic, these calculations are easier. It's just a different way of approaching drapery fabrication. The second thing is to find a distributor of Graber and/or Kirsch products who is knowledgeable about contract draperies. Not all of them are.
In order to write this article, I talked with Cindy LaRoche, manager of Decorator's Supply workroom, who is very knowledgeable about these products. Not only is Decorator's Supply a distributor of Kirsch products, but it is a workroom to the trade as well. LaRoche tells me they are doing a tremendous business in fabricating contract draperies for decorators installing them in residential environments. A hands-on business like Decorator's Supply is the type of distributor that will be best able to help you work out all the little details of fabricating contract draperies.
Understand the Hardware
• Carriers: Both Graber and Kirsch offer a variety of tracks for mounting contract draperies. Kirsch offers both a one-piece carrier that loads from the bottom of the track and a two-piece carrier in which one piece loads from the bottom of the track and the other piece loads into the front of the first piece. Graber only offers the latter system.
An advantage of the two-piece system is that you can snap the drapery to the carriers before mounting them into the track. The front-loading carriers go into their mates, which are already loaded into the rod, easier than the snaps on the draperies go into the carriers. The type of rod will dictate which type of carriers you can use. There are many types available.
There also are loose carriers and connected carriers. The connected carriers are used to make Ripplefold, Roll Pleats or Archifold draperies. The carriers come in different spacings that determine the fullness of the drapery: 60, 80, 100 or 120 percent. These drapery styles have only the carriers to hold them in uniform folds when they are closed. It is important to remember that because the carriers are connected, you must have the correct number of snaps on the drapery panel. Carriers can be subtracted, but you cannot add to them without replacing the whole string of carriers.
• Baton draw: Another important piece of information to know is whether the draperies will have a cord draw or a baton draw. With the Kirsch system, a different track and an extra piece is needed in the fabrication of the baton-draw draperies. A grommet must be put through the overlap of the drapery panel and through this extra piece to hold the baton. The track also needs a different master carrier to hold this piece.
In the Graber system, the baton is mounted to the carrier with a cable tie or a metal clip if requested.
• Master carriers: There are two basic styles of master carriers, the butt master and the overlap master. The butt master is especially nice when used with Ripplefold or Roll Pleat draperies because it provides uniformity to the overall look of the folds. However, it does not guarantee total closure for privacy.
The overlap masters work best for Accordia-Fold or Stack Pleat draperies to carry out the repeat of its folds and spaces. Because the details of fabrication and/or notions and hardware is different for different masters, it is essential to know which of these styles of master carriers is being used.
• Rods: There is a variety of rods available. The rods also vary in fascia depth meaning there is no one length calculation that will work for all systems if you use the measurement from the top of the rod down. One of the nicest rods from Kirsch is the wooden Estate rod, which comes with finials or elbows to really customize the contract style draperies for a residential setting.
One of the most important tips I can pass along is to insist on having the rod and all the components in your possession before you begin fabrication. That way, there is no miscommunication about any fabrication questions including the finished length.
The sale and fabrication of contact style draperies cannot be done without using specification charts offered by the system's manufacturer. Be aware, the charts are not interchangeable. The charts must be obtained before you can sell a job as they contain the information about the number of carriers, fullness and the panel width which is necessary for yardage.
The stack width, which is critical in some instances, also is included in the charts. You just have to let the charts work for you. They are not difficult to use, which makes the job so much easier. Once you are familiar with them, they will be a breeze.
About the Draperies
Contract draperies are very easy to hang, but the drawback is there is no margin for error in length. There is no way to adjust the length without moving the rod or reworking the drapery itself.
Easy removal for cleaning and then easy rehanging is a real benefit for the home owner because usually he or she is intimidated by the placement of drapery pins. Also, another benefit is flexibility in width. If the drapery happens to shrink in width from cleaning, it will never be noticed. However, length shrinkage cannot be corrected through adjustments like pinch pleats are with drapery pins.
One disadvantage to most of these styles of draperies is that the panel has to be cut to a specific width to accommodate the systems and the seams cannot be hidden. However, if you are using a Kirsch pleater system and you are good at math, you can calculate to use the whole width and you might be able to hide the seams, too. This probably will take more time and effort on your part.
Another nice benefit of contract draperies is that they look the same from the front or back, making them not only more attractive at the windows but wonderful room dividers. If extreme sun is a problem, Graber carriers can accommodate a front and back panel on the same carrier. Using a separate liner will allow you to easily replace it when the sun has damaged it. The home owner may see this as a nice advantage, even though initially she has to pay for the fabrication of two separate panels.
Another nice feature is that all these treatments stack back tighter than conventional pinch pleated draperies. Many home owners are emphatic about wanting the draperies to stack off the window to afford more light and view. These draperies can solve that problem.
To fabricate any of the contract styles of draperies, you will need some notions. Graber offers only a snap tape system, so you only have to be concerned with getting the correct snap tape for the style and fullness of drapery you are doing plus some extra snaps and the tool to insert them. Kirsch, however, offers a snap tape system as well as pleaters, some of which require two-inch polyester buckram in the heading.
The pleaters, which must be individually sewn on, are either snap-on or have a T-top that is actually part of the carrier. They also require a special master pleater to be used with them. There really is no advantage of one system over the other. It's just a matter of preference. For the small workroom that does not do this style of drapery very often, I would suggest the snap tape system, if possible. It is easier overall because you don't have as many pieces or decisions to make. However, be sure you are using the correct rod for the snap tape.
Yes, contract drapery systems are different in many ways than pinch pleat draperies, but they can offer a whole new avenue of income. Just open your mind, accept and embrace these systems as a new class in your continuing education. Then expand and use your new knowledge for greater profits.
Next month, some details about the fabrication of these systems.
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.
Many thanks to: Decorator's Supply, (888) 218-5571; Graber, (800) 544-4749; and Kirsch, (800) 528-1407 for assistance in compiling this article.