How many times have you walked into someoneís home and noticed that the outside end of the drapery did not turn back to the wall? The average consumer, left to her own designs, will hang a drapery panel with no return to the wall. This is often true, even among some professionals, if a decorator rod or pole is used. Is it right or wrong?
In generalóand I do mean in generalóit is a mark of
professionalism to return any window treatment to the wall. However,
individual circumstances and opinions will dictate when a return
is not appropriate.
RETURN WITH A PURPOSE
Returns actually do have both a visual and a practical purpose.
They block the view of the inner workings of the treatments, e.g.
cord pulls, and the window itself. Seeing all the window details
from the side tends to detract from the beauty of the treatment.
Returns also block out the light from the side and are energy efficient.
Enclosing the end of the drapery to the wall will block the heat
of summer and the cold of winter that comes through the glass.
Returns are not just for outside-mounted treatments. If you do not
put a return on many inside-mounted treatments, the sides are not
likely going to hug the window frame completely from top to bottom.
These annoying areas of light strike are likely to be more prevalent
with pillowcased edges, e.g. cascades. Even the most minimal puckering
of the pillowcased seam will cause concave side edges, which become
worse the longer they are. Even a small return of perhaps 1 1/2
inches will help the edges hug the sides of the window and block
There are times, when you might not want a return. If you are doing
inside-mount treatments that have so much fullness that the edges
will comfortably seal the sides, then a return might not be necessary.
If you were mounting standard pinch-pleated draperies on an inside-mount
traverse rod, it would be difficult and more labor intensive to
make the panels return. To insure that the pinch-pleated panel will
hug the sides, put the last pleat close to the outside edge, i.e.
1/2 to one-inch from the edge. This fullness will assist in preventing
a light gap.
Personal preference can also come into play here. In the photograph,
you see the return view of a swag and cascade over a wooden pole.
The cascade has no return but the lace rod pocket panel underneath
does. Why? Because I thought the return on the cascades would destroy
the effect of the pole wrapped appearance. The swags and cascades
were gathered as in a waterfall effect. To have added a return would
have added structure and/or formality to something that was to appear
to be more casual. Also, this treatment is in a bay window with
the side walls flowing into the adjacent walls. Therefore, it would
not be as easy to see behind it. The lace panels with returns effectively
hide all other objectionable things behind the cascades.
This treatment is in my home. It was done according to what I like.
You or your client may prefer a return on the cascades in a similar
situation. Designing to individual preferences is what custom is
FLAT OR FULL RETURN
I guess you could say it is industry standard to make pinch-pleat
draperies and knife-pleated cascades with a flat return. I donít
know if there are other accepted rules for how much fullness to
put into a return. The treatment and the size of the return effect
this determination as well as personal preference.
An additional rule that I recommend is to first try to match the
return with the face effect and if that is not possible, blend it.
For example, we know that standard pinch-pleated draperies with
up to a 5 1/2-inch return are flat. I have known cases where the
return had to be about nine inches and more. In such cases, I would
consider making a pleat within the return as well.
The lace panel in tis treatment has a return, but the cascade
For cascades that are waterfall or rod pocket, I would recommend
1 1/2 fullness.
Experience has taught me that, in general, it is best not to make
the return any fuller than that even if the face has more fullness.
My preference is to have a straight across return at the bottom
of cascades or other shaped valances. Putting more than 1 1/2 fullness
the return, gives the return a very unruly appearance. As with any
rule, there are circumstances where this rule is not the most effective,
but it is certainly a place to start your evaluation.
Standard rod pocket top drapery panels allow you to adjust the return
fullness as you see fit at installation as long as the rod pocket
can follow the rod smoothly into the return. However, there are
times when you must consider the return as a separate entity. When
I made rod pocket balloon shades or balloon valances, I allowed
a half width for each poof and a quarter width for each return.
I cut the return to be 1 1/2 fullness. There was a row of rings
at the front corner of the return and not at the back. Again, this
was my personal preference.
FROM SIMPLE TO COMPLEX
Itís easy to do normal returns but how do you make a return
when the rod bracket is in the way? Or the rod bracket has no place
to hook a return? Such questions often donít arise until installation,
but itís important to think about this before the fabrication
and before the estimate is given. Fabricating alternative returns
take more time, i.e. comes at a higher price.
The lace panel in the photo is on a straight curtain rod (no returns)
inside-mounted to the wood bracket. I planned a flat return because
in this case I did not need the fullness. I measured the return
size in from the side of the panel and made a vertical buttonhole
in the face of the rod pocket only. This allowed the rod to come
through and mount into its bracket.
The wood bracket had no place to pin the end of the return. To
resolve this, I sewed a ring on the face side of the panel return
and then put a hook on the inside of the bracket to hold the ring.
I also could have used hook and loop tape instead.
Yes, I could have used a regular curtain rod with returns. However,
I wanted the lace snug against the bracket and I would have had
to mount it into the existing woodwork which is made of vary hard
wood. My house will be 100 years old next year! They knew how to
build them solid back then! Besides I did not want to put any more
holes in woodwork that had more than enough already.
Suppose I had wanted to make the return on the lace panels have
some fullness. Then I would have had to gather the return to a tack
strip that would be equal to the return measurement.
On the other hand, if I had wanted to make a flat return for the
cascades, I would have had a much more complicated task. The cascades
were sewn to the swags and that seam was placed on top of the pole.
I would have had to plan the finished size of the return and how
far down from the top of the pole it would start. Then during fabrication,
a rectangle would have been cut out at the top for the return. The
remainder of the cascade would be stitched to the swag. This is
shown in the left drawing of the cascade illustration.
What the photo doesnít show is that the cascade on the other
side of the window comes off the pole from the top to the front.
It wouldnít look like a wrap if it didnít. Not only
would that cascade need to have the same return cut out, but also
a curve cut out to go under the poleóas shown in the right
drawing in the cascade Illustration. You might get away without
making a complete dip in the return but you would have to round
the front of the cascade to fit around the pole.
Letís go a bit further. If I had wanted fullness in the cascade
return, I would have had to calculate that into the return for the
cut out. After gathering to a tack strip I would have added hook
and loop tape for more stability. Adding returns can end up requiring
a great deal of forethought.
I have given you my preferences to give you food for thought and
ideas on which to build. As a professional, you want a finished
treatment and in most cases, a return helps to accomplish this.
If and how you add a return is determined by the individual treatment,
the kind of hardware used, and sometimes by the customerís
knowledge and attitude.
I once had a designer say, ďMake it look difficult because
the customer knows how to sew and thinks she can do it herself.Ē
I did. Charged accordingly! She couldnít have done it the
way I did! Mission accomplished!
That little story is certainly not the rule, and I donít mean
to suggest that it could or should be. You know how to do a professional
return and it is another check mark for the education you have acquired
over and above the average seamstress.
On occasion you may want to point out such custom details. Itís
the little things, normally unnoticed, that will impress your customer.
She is more likely to remember such tidbits and pass them on to
her friends who will be more educated when they are ready for window
treatments. Not only will the customer return to you, but she will
bring her friends! Ahhh! The joy of the return!
Kitty Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 29-year veteran
of the drapery workroom industry. She has owned both retail and wholesale
drapery workrooms as one person and as a company of nine, and she
is the founder and past owner of Workroom Concepts, a consulting firm
offering educational resources to the industry. Her experience includes
professional speaking and writing for two industry trade magazines.
She currently owns Kitty Stein & Co., which supplies industry
vendors with the industry-specific products she has authored including
Order in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications, and
Price Your Work with Confidence, available through D&WC.