Design IS everything… However, I would suggest that there are two (often over looked) components that bare witness to the success of the project. First, is the type of decorating fabric selected for the window fashion; second, is the fabrication method used to construct the treatment. Let’s assume that the proper color analysis has been done, and that is not at issue. As someone who both designs window treatments and constructs them, I most often find that it is the incompatibility of fabric and design that can lead to unsatisfactory results and an unhappy customer. From my own experiences, here are examples of what to do, or not!
By type of fabric, it is meant; silks, damasks, jacquards, chenilles, chintz, velvets, linens, embroideries, small patterns, sheers, etc. – there are too many to list completely. In any category of fabric, the properties of weight and stability have to be taken into account when planning the design. For example, there are damasks that drape beautifully and are well suited to a lovely swag treatment, and there are damasks that would be too heavy and inflexible for this style but perfect for upholstery or perhaps a cornice. Silks, very lightweight, do best when they are left to soft folds and gathers. If you prefer a neatly pressed and tailored surround, then you will not be satisfied with silk unless it has, at the very least, been knit backed. The faux pas with Sheer fabrics is that they are not used nearly enough in homes today. I am not referring to the standard voile or batiste, but sheers and casements that sparkle when the sun shines thru, have bold stripes of tone on tone or subtle texture. Layered or alone they can do more then open and close on a traverse rod. If weighted properly, they can look fantastic in many designs, from simple shades to elaborate arches. Chintz (very stable woven) is a classic for bed covers and rod pocket curtains, but then you may want to search for a hand printed chintz (see photo) and keep the design simple. The formula is; edited design + exquisite fabric = gorgeous!
All-over patterns are versatile for most designs, because they do not have a true upright. They are wonderful for swag topped drapery panels, because the swag overlay can be cut on the bias without disrupting the overall look - and a swag cut on the bias is much happier! When designing with a solid, either cotton or a blend, the best recommendation is an added coordinating fabric banding or piping. This is the perfect place to add a bias stripe piping to update and customize. As for fabrics with a large pattern repeat, the design has to incorporate the area of the repeat that will be framed in the valance so that it looks balanced. If the pattern is too large for the scale of the picture frame, the design (or fabric) should be altered. So then the question arises, what comes first, the fabric or the design? Well, either really! If you are set on a particular design, then search for the fabric type that will suit it properly. Otherwise, if you have the “perfect” fabric, research or consult a pro for a flattering design plan.
The fabrication methods, or how-tos concerning the construction of a particular design, might vary from workroom to workroom, but professionals do adhere to standard practices and guidelines set forth by the WCAA. An expert craftsperson will often foresee potential problems and plan the design accordingly. But as with any custom project, unexpected situations arise (Believe me, fabrics have a mind of their own!), and it is most important that the workroom/designer handle these expediently. The most common mistakes that affect the professional quality of a custom window treatment are when; an incorrect lining is used, hems or facings are too narrow, seams show and are not pattern matched, valance long point and/or short point proportions are off, lining is droopy, a fabric stabilizer or interlining should have been used, the pattern was not cut true to grain. The design won’t look quite right if any of these problems occur. Hopefully, with proper planning, they can be avoided entirely.
The fabric type and construction techniques have to uphold the integrity of the custom design. If the fabric is inappropriate or the workroom specifications unclear, then you risk being unhappy with the final treatment. The experience does not have to be complicated. Rather, it requires proper planning, research and consult when you are in the creative process! It also requires more than home sewing skills/equipment, so get professional guidance if you want a truly custom appearance. Haste will only lead to waste of fabric, time, and money. Designing for windows should always be a success story!