30-Minutes with Workroom Tech: Episode Six / Smiling Draperies

In episode six of the Sew Much More Podcast: 30-Minutes with Workroom Tech, host Ceil DiGuglielmo and Susan Woodcock discuss side hem take-up... also known as "smiling draperies". It's a common problem so keep reading, and listen to the podcast (air date December 26, 2018) for tips and solutions.

You can listen to the podcast here: 30-Minutes with Workroom Tech Podcast

What are "smiling draperies"?

On a drapery, the side hems can end up slightly shorter than the rest of the drapery panel. It sounds happy... but it makes workrooms frown.

Keep in mind that every job is different whether it’s the fiber content, linings or lining combinations, and there are different finishing techniques. Once you’ve worked with a lot of different materials, you will gain the knowledge and experience to know what to do… and what not to do! It can be challenging but every job will teach you something new.

Susan's Top Five Tips for Preventing Take Up on Side Hems

1. Remove as much bulk as you can.

Traditionally, draperies have double folded side hems. With each "turn of the cloth", there is a tiny bit of take up. This can become a problem with thicker fabrics, or when adding linings and interlinings into the side hems. For lined only draperies, trim away the lining for a single fold into the side hem, or cut the lining even with the finished width. For interlined draperies, cut the interlining 1.5 inches less than the face fabric on each side so it will single-fold into the double-fold side hem, and cut the lining to the finished width. In some cases, cutting both the lining and interlining to the finished width works best.

interlined drapery with lining cut to the finished width

If the drapery is lined with blackout only, use a single fold of blackout in the side hem to prevent the edges from having light gaps – where the blackout might not stay put in the edge. But with interlining, you can cut the blackout even with the finished width and let the interlining fold over in the side hem.

2. Heat and steam can shrink up the side hems.

Don't over-iron side hems when fabricating draperies. Susan encourages students to give the side hems “a lick and a promise” and try not to get too serious with the ironing. It's always good practice to test fabrics first, before you use a hot iron, or steam.

Sometimes you don't need to iron at all, especially if it is a fabric like linen or chintz, that holds a crease. Use a small wooden ruler to press by hand.

Hand pressing the side hem with a small, wooden ruler

3. Machine blind hemming tension.

Every time you use the blind hemming machine, you have to do a test run first. Once again, every job is unique. To prevent take-up, try adjusting for less tension, depth of the needle and/or using a different thread. Sometimes you have to pull the fabric as you are blind hemming, holding it taut and stretching it a bit. Make sure the stitch ratio is set 2-1, so that it’s catching the face fabric with every other stitch. Blind hemmers have to be adjusted for every job... that's just the way it is.

Hand hemming is less likely to cause take-up on side hems. A hand sewn stitch is very forgiving and the stitches blend with the fibers. They almost float. Plus, you don’t have to move the panel from the worktable to the machine.

When pinning for hand sewing side hems, space the pins at a hands-width apart and at each pin take a small stitch to the front. It’s not pulled tight – you don’t want to make a dimple. Susan uses Coats Hand Quilting thread, or Coats Terko Satin thread, and John James #7 Long Darners for hand sewing side hems.

hand sewing side hems with Coats thread and John James needles

4. Measure last.

If you think the drapery is going to smile, don't frown; measure the finished length AFTER you finish the side hems so that you can compensate, and add to the length at the sides. It's often just a small 1/4 inch adjustment and easy to do at this stage.

Measuring the length on a lined and interlined drapery.

5. Trim off the selvages.

This gives a little ease to the fabric since the selvages are more tightly woven. You can also clip the selvage... but unless the drapery is blackout lined, you might see the clipped edge through the fabric.