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30 Minutes with Workroom Tech: Episode 87 / Become a Drapery Detective

In this episode of the podcast Susan Woodcock shares how to investigate and deconstruct a design from a photo. This podcast was recorded with video so you can see the inspiration photos shared during the discussion.

Setting the scene:


Your customer gives you a photo of a window treatment to copy and you say “yes, I can do that” – because that’s what we do!


How do you figure yardage?  How do you fabricate?  How is it installed?  


Do a little detective work!


1. Deconstruct.

What parts do you recognize.  Are there drapery parts?  Cornice board parts? Swag parts?  

Look at each part individually.


2. Investigate.

Where did the photo come from?  If it was published in a book, magazine or on a blog, you might be able to find more information.  Is it a “real life” photo or staged?  Is there a pattern?


3. Verify the facts.

What are the measurements?  Has fabric been selected?  What is the budget?  Will the style in the inspiration photo work for that project?    


4. Use your expertise and experience.  

Is it board mounted? Is the fabric railroaded? Is it blackout lined?  You can tell these things from a photo!


5. Determine proportions using simple techniques.  

You can compare to other room elements.  Print the photo on graph paper and use general “rules” to get general sizes.


Example 1: Pleated Draperies

Photo from Calico Corners

Custom draperies with fringe by Calico Corners

What do we know from the photo?

5 pleats per panel = 1 width of material / these are side-panels

Light doesn’t appear to be shining through the face fabric – it’s blackout lined.

The folds look very soft and rounded so it is probably interlined.

It’s very difficult to see the hardware.

Where did the photo come from?  

Calico corners.  With a little online searching Susan found the blog with additional photos!


With additional research on the blog, Susan learned that the draperies are installed on French rods and rings and the tassel trim is applied on the outside of the leading edges.


Example 2: Draped windows and walls

Designer is Charlotte Moss

A bedroom with draped walls by designer Charlotte Moss

What do we know from the photo?

Fabric is pleated (inverted pleats) and slightly draped.  Not blackout lined.  


Zoom in on the photo to see it’s installed on little brass knobs.  There are probably buttonholes in the top.


There is minimal fullness.  Print the picture on graph paper and get approximate measurements and proportions.


This room was designed by Charlotte Moss and photographed by Denis + MC Photography. See more images

Example 3: Top treatments and drapery

A traditional bedroom with beautiful window treatments by designer Barry Dixon

What do we know from the photo?

Luxury plush drapery is lined and interlined with possibly bump interlining.  Light isn’t shining through the fabric so it might be blackout lined or French blackout.  You can’t see the drapery pleats, but you can count the vertical fold to determine that there are 7 pleats = 1.5 widths each panel.  Based on the furnishings, the ceiling height is tall, possibly 10 ft from floor to ceiling.  Use this to determine proportions.


There are small pleats at each side for a slight drape.  The jabots could be separate or attached to each side.


How is the arch created?  Possibly a wooden cornice box with a raised top (like a tiara).  This allows staples to be hidden behind the jabots.  


From the book Barry Dixon Interiors.  

Example 4: Unusual shade style

A Home Dec Gal original design

A relaxed roman shade with horizontal stitched folds by Home Dec Gal, Susan Woodcock

What do we know from the photo?


Unlined, looks like a linen sheer.  Horizontal stripes are made from folds of fabric.  Is it stitched or did the fabric come that way?


 Is it a London shade?  Is it a relaxed shade?

The swag in the center is pretty swoopy – fullness is needed to create that shape.


Where is the fullness coming from?  There are not any pleats.  Fullness comes from the width that drapes off the board on each side.  (Like a table cloth on the corners)


Is there a weight bar?  The hem is flat – rings start up from the bottom.  Do you see any cords?  It’s probably a stationary shade.


How would it be installed?


Example 5: Watercolor sketch of an asymmetrical curtain

A sketch of a tied back curtain

 What do we know from the photo?

It’s nor a real drapery – it’s open to interpretation! Could be gathered or pleated and probably 2 x fullness.

It’s not a good idea for it to be functional.


The lining is showing so that needs to be a “feature” fabric.  The bottom edge needs to be finished like the side edges.


Cords with tassels in descending lengths.  How will they attach?


Example 6: Swags and tails  

Custom draperies with swags and tails by Studio Blackwell

What do we know from the photo?

Swags and tails (cascades or jabots) with a pleat/horn.

Pleated draperies. Lined and interlined and possibly not blackout.

1.5 widths for each panel.

Twist cord knotted at each pleat which covers the staples

Jabot length is the same as the width of the board

Identify “parts” and how they are assembled.  Swags, jabots, cornice and horns are all individual pieces used for the valance.

Are there patterns for the “parts”?

Susan shares how she would approach fabrication of this style.

A woman with a magnifying glass



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1 Comment

Very interesting topic and the video to look at the same time, Cause's you to understand a lot thanks much appreciated.

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