Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Why Choose Hand Finished Curtains?

By Marina Wooldridge

I feel so privileged to have been able to do what I love as a living for the last 25 years.  I have a passion for sewing and have been lucky enough to work with people who make the most amazing curtains. I am often asked what makes Honeysuckles curtains so different from the rest?  To which I answer that it’s all about the hand finishing and the quality of the fabrics, all the work you don’t see. Surely a pair of curtains is just a pair of curtains? Why bother going to the expense I hear you ask but when comparing I would invite you to come and see and feel the difference in ours for yourself.

As with many things in life you get what you pay for.  Quality made to measure curtains are not cheap nor should they be. Good trades people take pride in their work and take care to do it professionally. We curtain makers are no exception. It always takes more time and effort to do a professional job and justifies why hand made curtains are more expensive than ready mades.  A good pair of well made curtains is an investment. Consider how often you change them? Too many people regard curtains as just window coverings. Remember that they cover a large expanse of wall and up to a quarter of a room and will make or break the overall design scheme.

Professional curtains are always hand finished and will last longer and look better than poorly made ones or those entirely made by machine.  Compare a drawer made with glued dove tail joints and one that is held together just with nails. They will both serve their purpose but naturally the dovetailed one will last longer and be more aesthetically pleasing.  Making dove tailed joints takes longer to produce and requires more skill. Likewise with curtains, for a professional job stitching needs to be done correctly and with the correct type of materials. It is the internal work that is not seen that is important as it will ultimately show in the way they drape and how long they last. Lining needs to be held in place not just at each side but also at other points within the body of the curtain so that the fabrics are held together and are not just flapping about independently. Corners should be properly mitered and weighted and seams should also be weighted in the hems.

Hand finished curtains have vertical seams that are machine stitched but everything else is done by hand (side and bottom hems). Headings are made with buckram (a type of stiffening) which is also gathered up and sewn by hand. This gives sharp pleats below which flow in structured waves known as fullness. The alternative is the taped heading which is stitched on by machine and then gathered up by pulling on cords. Taped headings will not give the neat, sharp pleats and structure like those that are hand pleated. The finish is less precise and has a more relaxed look. When using a taped heading it is more common to use tie backs to improve the drape.

Another type of heading is the eyelet. Curtains with metal rings can be threaded onto a pole to create a modern, minimalist look. For the best finish, longevity and drape the metal eyelets should be punched into the heading with a special machine. There are tapes that can be purchased that try to achieve the same effect but these are very much for DIY-ers and do not give nearly as professional a finish.

There are many linings on the market today in different price bands. The cheaper linings will tend to have a low thread count (threads per square inch) and be treated with a chemical like a starch that makes it stiffer and feel, initially, to have good 'body'. This quickly breaks down under sunlight and weakens the fabric and its ability to protect. More expensive linings are not treated in this way and not only feel more substantial but will protect your curtain fabric from damage by the sun and dirt. The best lining is called cotton 'sateen' or 'solprufe' and it comes in various qualities. The better the quality, the higher the protection, and the longer they'll last. If you need blackout curtains there are many different qualities of blackout linings. They all do the job of keeping out the light but some are softer than others or have a more 'cottony' feel. The softer ones are more expensive but they will help your curtains drape better. Some flowing fabrics like silk or velvet will be stiffened if combined with blackout lining and so lose their softness. The degree to which this occurs is dictated by the handle of the lining.

Interlining can also be added between the lining and main fabric. Interlining is a traditional way of adding insulation to fabrics particularly silks and finer cottons. The addition of interlining gives a padded luxurious look according to the weight used. The use of interlining is almost wholly hand sewn and provides a fantastic finish and drape. 

To achieve the best results the right fabric must also be chosen along with the right heading and make up. However a pair of well made curtains needs to be dressed, hung and fitted professionally making sure that the appropriate type of rail or track is used to maximise the effect. 

Good curtains should always be well made. Curtains that are made and fitted professionally are not only practical but add a signature of quality.  I’m proud that at Honeysuckle Interiors we only use the best quality products on the market and have over 25 years of experience in our trade. We take a pride and care in our craft and look forward to sharing and passing the skill on to the next generation.

Join us on one of our “ How To” workshops see our website or call for details.

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