Fabric Spotlight Series, Part 3: Linen and Lace
Linen and lace draperies offer a wide range of benefits for interior designers and builders; these fabrics are beautiful, durable, and incredibly unique—but only when they’re sized and installed correctly.
In this month’s installation of our ongoing Fabric Spotlight Series, we’re having a look at the challenges presented by working with linen and lace. We’ll be exploring a few typical examples of surprises to watch out for and the solutions we recommend for addressing them.
Let’s get started with linen!
Custom Linen Draperies
Did you know that linen is the oldest textile material in the world? It’s true! This strong, versatile material is produced from extracted fibers of the flax plant.
On the one hand, linen fabric is incredibly easy to use as a substrate for printing and dyeing. The natural fibers retain ink very well, and the material itself is highly resistant to breaking down over time. But, on the other hand, linen fabric is quite rigid and not so easy to stretch and conform. Additionally, the yarn used to make up the fabric will often include unpredictable, swollen fibers called ‘slubs’ which are a byproduct of both Mother Nature and the manufacturing process.
These features combine to make linen draperies a solid 3 on the 1-10 drapery manufacturing difficulty scale.
Linen draperies are incredibly low-maintenance and can retain their ‘new’ look for years. However, the fabric acts like a sponge when it comes to atmospheric moisture, a feature which can make linen draperies behave differently in environments with varying humidity levels. A set of linen draperies can have a near-perfect hang following installation, only to lengthen or shorten as the seasons change—this is totally normal!
Things to Consider When Choosing Linen Draperies
If you’re dead-set on having linen draperies made and installed, we have a few tips to keep in mind:
- Almost all linen is going to have wrinkles. Even though every effort can be made to reduce their appearance, these wrinkles cannot be pressed or steamed out.
- And speaking of steaming: Linen draperies should not be steamed. Doing so can bloat the fibers with moisture which can cause the material to expand by as much as 3% before shrinking back again over time.
- Consider choosing blended linens. Some modern fabrics are able to retain the raw, natural look of linen while adding a measure of flexibility and smoothing offered by complementary fibers like cotton, polyester, or silk.
In the world of custom fabrics and soft furnishings, very few fabrics are completely stable. All fabrics naturally breathe and absorb moisture, resulting in stretching or shrinking. For example, a 3-yard length (108” inches) of installed linen draperies could expand or shrink by as much as 3 full inches in various conditions. Linen draperies installed over or near heating and cooling vents may react to much greater degree.
Lastly, remember that Precision Draperies is not responsible for any wrinkles that occur during the fabrication of linen draperies. We do the best we can to ensure that customer expectations are in-line with reality!
Custom Lace Draperies
In a custom drapery application, lace isn’t the most difficult fabric to work with, but it does present its own host of unique characteristics that need to be taken into account.
Some of these characteristics are listed below.
- Due to its delicate weave, lace can snag very easily. This makes manufacturing and installation a skilled practice.
- Lace fabric can be difficult to match and sew when patterns aren’t edge-to-edge on the salvages.
- Lace is quite stretchy, making it hard to maintain it’s finished length when tabling.
- Lace can require manual cutting depending on how loose the weave is.
- A perfect, at-floor-length hang may not be possible and cannot be guaranteed.
- It’s not always obvious which side of lace is the face side, which makes it all the more important to include a swatch with your fabrics.
Due to these nuances of working with lace fabric, Precision Draperies considers this material to be another ‘3’ on the 1-10 difficulty scale.
When these characteristics are managed during the sizing, manufacturing, and installation processes, the resulting draperies can look absolutely gorgeous. However, the skill of your draper is going to play an important role in making sure that the finished product looks as good as you’re expecting it to be!
Things to Considering When Choosing Lace Draperies
Lace fabrics are often manufactured on reams that have blank margins on both sides, with the patterned fabric running center to the ream.
This means that there can be significant fabric loss when the time comes for cutting and matching.
For a more in-depth explanation, watch this video:
Because of the way lace is manufactured, it can be difficult to arrive at an accurate estimate for how much fabric is going to be needed in any given installation.
As mentioned above, the face side of lace fabric isn’t always obvious. Because most lace is sheer, any added patterning can have subtle height differences when comparing the front and back sides.
See here for an example:
To make sure a costly mistake is avoided, be sure to communicate with us during the fabric selection process.
Another aspect of lace is how it can behave when hemmed. When there is extra material doubled over onto itself, the added weight of the hem can modify the hang of the overall drapery.
Even though both linen and lace have their own unique, sometimes finnicky traits, these are fabrics we love working with!
The key to a successful project is to stay in close communication with us throughout the measurement, design, manufacturing, and installation processes.
As always, if you have any questions or want to discuss the particulars of a lace or linen drapery project, contact us directly.
…and be sure to stay tuned for next month’s installment in our Fabric Spotlight Series: Silks and Sheer Fabrics! See you then!