After I wrote last month’s article on high-end workrooms, I attended my local WCAA chapter meeting for which Susan Schurz gave a presentation on high-end fabrication with exquisite samples. What a delightful opportunity to see current high-end work up close.
Creating a description of high-end is not easy. Haute couture comes
to mind, as it means high fashion or high quality. Webster’s
dictionary defines it as “upscale.” Neither of these terms
is specific enough to tell you if you are doing real high-end window
treatments. If you add detail and handwork, you are getting close.
In fact, I don’t think you can get closer than that.
Just as no two workrooms fabricate an item in exactly the same way,
no two workrooms are likely to agree on every aspect of what they
consider high-end. Fifteen to 20 years ago, I thought I was doing
high-end. What I was doing then is not the same as what is being
done today. That does not necessarily mean my work wasn’t high-end
then. It just means it wouldn’t be considered so today.
While I know several high-end workroom owners, I have never actually
seen their work until I saw Susan Shurz’s. She graciously agreed
to share some of her high-end standards as well as some photographs
of her work. By the way, Susan teaches at the Custom Home Furnishings
Industry Trade School and at its education conference and trade
STARTING ON THE RIGHT FOOT
I once heard a high-end designer say he would only consider a workroom
if it had tailoring skills. Most of us who learned to sew probably
did so to make clothes. Being a seamstress does not necessarily
make you a tailor or a window treatment fabricator. The difference
comes in a different level or focus of education.
A tailor and a high-end workroom have the commonality of detail
and handwork. If you want to learn some techniques to take yourself
into a higher-end, then study a tailoring book and any of the window
treatment how-to books by British authors. The latter seems to do
everything by hand except the seams.
Another way to learn is to become the workroom of a high-end designer
that is willing to teach you what he or she expects in the fabrication
arena. Some designers care about the fabrication methods, while
others do not. Designers also can be very creative in what they
want to offer their customers. In other words, they force you to
think outside the box and as a result you develop certain techniques
and details that become your norm.
ONE WORKROOM’S DETAILS
Susan Schurz shared with me what she considers her standards that
1. Micro-cording on virtually everything. Micro-cording, according
to the WCAA Standards is defined as 1.8 mm shade cord (normally
used for stringing Roman and balloon shades) that is covered with
fabric and used in the same manner as standard fabric cord.
From the beginning, Susan included the cost of micro-cording in
her pricing structure. She puts it on the edges of swags and cascades,
next to ruffling and on the leading edges of panels (see photo 1).
She also has put the micro-cord across the top of the panel.
2. Contrast side hems, which are wider and usually a four to six-inch
single hem instead of the standard double 1 1/2-inch hem. Photo
1 shows an example of using an eight-inch side hem.
The first thought that came to my mind when I saw this was, “What
about fading from the sun?” Susan said her designers’
customers have treated windows so sun fading is not an issue. It
makes sense. The high-end consumer has the money to have treated
windows and this would be something they would do as they would
not want their other expensive furnishings to fade.
3. Hand-sewn hems and trims. Susan has hand-sewn the hem in photo
1 and hand-sewn the trim in photo 2. I know another high-end workroom
who tacks the face to the lining and interlining just in from the
side edge. This is done to keep the layers together and so that
the hand hemming stitches do not have to go all the way through
to the face fabric.
Interestingly, many years ago I had a very high-end client (not
my normal clientele) who wanted machine blind stitched hems. He
went so far as to take his clients to decorator show homes and point
out the hand-sewn hems and why they were not the best! Much of high-end
is personal preference, whether it’s the workroom’s personal
preference or the client’s.
4. Combine details. Susan will sometimes combine hand-sewn trim,
contrast banding and micro-cord in the same treatment. Photo 2 shows
hand-sewn trim with a box-pleated ruffle.
A box-pleated ruffle is a favorite of Susan’s and I have seen
photos to testify to this. Unfortunately, she does not have a neat
trick or tool for making the box pleats. She just folds and sews
as she goes. (After you finish looking at the magazine, you can
all go practice this!) Susan did say that she prefers not to press
her box pleated ruffles. This enables the box pleat to flare nicely
while it helps to camouflage any minute discrepancies in the pleats.
5. Hand-tack pleats. Susan has been known to hand-tack pleats at
the bottom and not pinch folds into the top of the pleats, but instead
rounded the top edge. She also does not insert buckram! Is that
a high-end touch? Maybe. Maybe not. You decide. This is a technique
that many are using for the softer look in the heading.
6. Good quality lining. This is an area that presents a puzzle to
the workroom and to your clients. There are many linings to choose
from—too many! Better lining is usually heavier and will do
a better job of protecting the face fabric. It also will reduce
the yellowing effect the sun has as it shines through fabric in
There are many things to look for in a lining, but it will come
down to trial and error. There is no one perfect lining, just as
there is no one perfect face fabric. When you find a lining you
like, then it is up to you to sell it to your client on why it’s
STANDARD OR FAD?
Besides what we have just pointed out, there are a couple other
things that need to be mentioned.
1. Interlining is enjoying great popularity now. It seems that those
that don’t consider themselves high-end are even selling it.
Is it a fad? My high-end designer of years ago did not use it. However,
at the same time a department store we worked for did use it in
swags and cascades.
2. Vertical hand-tacking of interlining. This is a British technique
that may or may not be necessary. The reasoning has many variables.
It does seem that most high-end workrooms do this vertical tacking.
3. Extra fullness or less fullness? My high-end designer always
wanted more fullness. I often did four times fullness for him. I’ve
also heard that some high-end means less fullness.
What we have presented here is by no means the standard. Susan’s
ideas work for her. Everybody has a different opinion of what is
included in the details to be considered high-end.
In photo 3, you see a pillow that Susan designed for herself. Notice
the opening is on the front, perfectly matched, and it has a knife
pleated ruffle. There is actually interlining in the ruffle. In
photo 4, you can see the extra softness. Being creative like this
is what many workrooms need. This is a big reason why many workrooms
are retail instead of wholesale. This allows them to be as creative
as their customers can afford.
Many workrooms do have the creativity for very high-end ideas and
details but their wholesale designers may not be aware of it. It
doesn’t hurt to try making some small suggestions every now
and then. Notice how receptive your clients are. Some won’t
be interested, but others will love it because it can only make
them look better to their customers.
CHECK YOUR MARKET
Before you start studying high-end and implementing new techniques,
be sure there is a market for it that will pay your price. If you
look over this article, high-end details take time. Time is money.
If your clients cannot afford these details, then don’t start
implementing them or any others they cannot afford.
On the other hand, why not put your marketing cap on and plan to
find those clients. Now is the best time to begin your search!
Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 26-year veteran of the drapery
workroom industry. Having owned drapery workrooms
as one person and as a company of nine, she is now president of Workroom
Concepts a consulting firm offering educational resources to the
industry on its Web site (
www.workroomconcepts.com ). Her experience
in both the retail and wholesale window covering arenas has contributed
to her success as a business consultant. A professional speaker and
writer, she has authored several industry products including Order
in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications and Price
Your Work with Confidence, available