Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Inverted Box Pleat Panels

It’s rather ironic that my first official blog post will be about sewing a home dec project, my least favorite type of sewing, next to alterations, I suppose.  But I found that I had to put together info from several sources to have a result that worked for me so I thought it might be helpful someday to other sewers looking to do something similar.
I wanted to make inverted box pleat, lined and flannel interlined panels for our dining room redecoration project.   We bought a new dining room set two years ago and since then have stripped the former border, bought a rug, a new chandelier and painted the room.  I had wonderful advice from a terrific decorator we had met a few years earlier, Beth Wolfe, who has gone back into commercial design work but was still willing to work with us as a personal client.  Just like in fashion sewing, I don’t always trust my own judgement (with good cause after some awful wadders) and Beth was experienced enough to offer quick suggestions that made all the difference.  
But this post is about sewing so let me get on to explain how I made these panels.  I studied two great resources, The Decorating Diva, Pam Damour’s DVD #108, Designer Draperies.  Her DVDs show her techniques for producing “couture” home dec or what you see in designer showhouses and model homes.  It’s more time consuming and slightly more expensive (everything is usually lined) but just like couture fashion, the results are more long lasting and rich looking from the outside.  While Pam’s drapery instruction was easy to follow, she showcased pleats that I wasn’t using on this project (DVD has standard pinch pleats, goblet, country, tuxedo, box, button and center tacked)  and she didn’t explain how to underline  with flannel on this DVD.  I wanted the current Pottery Barn look of inverted box pleat panels and for that I had a wonderfully current source,  The Complete Photo Guide to Window Treatments, edited by Linda Neubauer.  Terrific pictures and explanations.

I measured the desired finished length of the panel, added 16” for top and bottom hems and 4” for insurance.  I wanted my panels to “bump” the floor, not puddle but have a break like a man’s trouser.  Cut fashion fabric that length and lining 4 inches shorter.  Cut interlining the desired finished length plus 4 inches.
Mark 8 inches across the bottom hem of the fashion fabic, fold up that hem, iron and then double 4 inches back to make a double hem.  
If you are interlining, lay the entire panel piece flat on the floor or long flat surface.  Carefully place the underling flannel an inch or two below that folded hem.  Pin the entire panel and flannel together along that ironed hem and up and down both sides as well as placed several pins in the center of the panel from the fashion fabric right side to hold everything in place.

Hem with interlining
Use your blindhem foot to hem the combined interlining and fashion fabric.  I increased my blind hem stitch length to 1.2 and stitch width to 4 in order to grab the thickness of the flannel and fashion fabric.  But only catching the interlining is ok , too, since the fabric will be supported entirely by the side hems and pleated top hem.  Press again after hemming in place.

Use your blindhem foot to hem the lining fabric, marking only 4’ and doubling for a 2” finished hem.
Cut off the selvedges of all three fabrics.  You will be cutting off the selvedge of the lining by itself.  You will cut the fashion fabric selvedge and the flannel interlining while they are pinned together.  I just kept the side selvedges flat on my cutting table, removed the pins as I came to them and kept repining to keep the fashion fabric and interlining stable and together.  The edges don’t have to totally match.  If you don’t want to trim the flannel or lining, you could just cut at frequent 5 or 6 inch sections.  But you do want to remove the strength of those selvedge edge threads in order for your panels to hang properly.
Selvedges cut off both sides

Lay your panel (fashion fabric facing down) with its interlining pinned in place on the floor again.  Place the lining on top of this panel, wrong side to wrong side.  Place the hem of the lining to match the hem of the panel.  That means you should have a 2 inch fashion fabric hem showing at the bottom without lining showing.  Now get down on your creaky knees again (oh wait, maybe your knees don’t creak like mine!) and turn the side hems.  You will turn the side hem “sandwich” of three fabrics approximately 1 ¼ inches and pin in place.  Both sides.  Hold this entire panel carefully and take it to your ironing area to press that first folded area in place.  Put it back on the floor (oh, I envy you if you have a big long table to do this as professionals do) and fold the side hems on both sides another 1 ¼ inch turn.  Press again and then blindhem in place.   
Panel right side down
with lining right side up

When you blindhem the bottom hem area of each side, insert a drapery weight into the double folded area on the bottom.  (I had a lot of bulk in this area so my blindhem started about an inch above the bottom fold) You can buy weights at Joann’s like I did or also I used small washers from Home Depot that were small enough to fit into the 1 ¼ fold.
 Here’s a great tip I got from Pam Damour.  Lay your bottom and side hem panel on the floor one more time, again, “wrong” or lined side facing up.  (No she doesn’t do hers on the floor but I had to in my pics)  Measure from the bottom hem with a ruler to the finished length you want for your panel.  My finished length was 98 inches.  Measure three times across your panel, at either side and in the middle.  Draw a line across the lining connecting those three marks.  Now measure up 8 inches from that line.  Cut off the excess.  Here’s where I made sure that I didn’t have extra interlining caught in the top hem fold.  Depending on how accurately I had cut the flannel, sometimes I had to reach inside the top area and trim away extra flannel to make sure it wasn’t “bulking” up that top hem area.   (Her method insures that you have the same length for all your panels.  Of course, that doesn't mean I have the same wall length on all my 60 year old walls!)

Pleats marked with chalk
Press this new top hem at your pressing area.  Cut a length of 4 inch wide pleating tape (from Joann’s drapery area) to fit.  Tuck the tape into the top hem and fold the remaining 4 inches underneath.  Press again and pin to hold in place.
Mark your pleats as you want them.  I made 5 sets of pleats with 3 ¾ inches between each pleat and side areas of 21/2 inches.  I used my Chalkener to mark those lines.
Inverted box pleat from
the front
Pin pleats into place.  For inverted box pleats make the pleat form to the back of the panel.  Stitch all five pleats.  Pam’s other very useful tip was to start stitching at least ½ inch from the top hem area, then backstitch and continue to sew the pleat.  It keeps the hem area even since you are sewing through quite a few thicknesses.  It’s a little bulky but my Viking had no problems.   

Inverted box pleat from back
with stitch in the ditch showing

Form the inverted box by opening the pleat to the back, centering the pleat fabric so that a box pleat is formed.  From the front, right side, stitch in the ditch down the center of the box pleat to keep that fold intact.   

Slip stitch by hand the very ends of the hem area corners.  Insert pins ( if you are using them) into the back of the pleat.  I used 7 pins, one in each pleat and one in each panel side hem area.  My pins were placed approximately half way down the pleat box.  (I asked my husband to insert the pins since there’s lot of bulk in those pleats.) Hang from rings on rod.  These are not functioning panels, merely decorative.  I anchored the first ring on the outside of the rod bracket and the rest inside the mounting bracket.  After hanging the panels, if desired, train them overnight by tying the pleats into place with wide fabric pieces to hold the folds in place.

The home dec flannel and cotton lining are from Joann's and the Duralee decorator fabric I ordered from Joni Fine at sales at source4interiors.com.  

So this is how I started National Sewing Month this year. Labor Day weekend always feels like the real new year to me and I was glad to finish this much anticipated project.  Learning to blog will be another new challenge.  

1 comment:

  1. The curtains looks great! And you have put so much useful information about construction in this post - thanks.


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