Solutions for Fabricating Floor-Length Draperies
Over the years of fabricating and installing draperies of all shapes and sizes, we’ve learned a lot about what can and can’t be done with various window covering materials.
The most common among these materials is fabric. When working with drapery fabric, one of hardest things to accomplish is getting the bottom of the drapery to perfectly align with the floor or sill according to the designer’s or customer’s request.
Why is this?
It’s because fabric draperies behave much differently than wood or steel window coverings. Wood and steel can be cut precisely to within a 32nd of an inch, and with fabric, this precision is impossible to attain.
Fabric tolerances are extremely hard to meet during tabling (the fabrication step that involves sizing the drapery to its finished length). The best tolerance we can achieve with fabric is within a ¼ inch, and even this is difficult due to fabric’s expanding and contracting properties.
To contend with this ‘looser’ material tolerance, there are solutions that work well.
If the customer or designer is adamant that the fabric drapery be cut to a specified length, we suggest a 2-step hem process. Generally speaking, this method is helpful when the draperies are over 198” in length.
A 2-step hem process is when the drapery is initially hung onsite without hem. Then, the hemline is marked and the fabric is brought back to the shop where the hem is set.
While this method is generally successful, there is no guarantee it will be a perfect fit, especially if the floor or ceiling are not level or if there is significant shrinking or expanding of the drapery fabric. Also, 2-step hemming adds additional time and labor, making it comparatively expensive.
Pictured below is what a 100% wool drapery will look like prior to marking the hem onsite. Keep in mind that wool is notoriously susceptible to shrinkage, a property that only be accounted for so much during hemsetting.
Pictured below is the finished drapery. Notice the floor clearance of approximately ½”:
In this example, the hem was marked exactly at the floor level. This just goes to show that there is no reliable gauge for how much any given fabric will expand or contract.
If the customer is 100% adamant about aesthetics, we suggest dragging, off-floor installation, or drapery puddling. If these options are unacceptable, we will turn down the job, as we don’t want to set unrealistic expectations for the customer.
Fabric’s Environmental Factors
Numerous sizing factors come into play when working with drapery fabric.
One of hardest to plan for is how much the fabric in question will shrink during tabling. There is no ‘Golden Rule’ for predicting this.
The drapery is tabled as precisely as possible according to the size provided by the window dimension measurement. However, the workroom cannot gauge how much the fabric will shrink when it is pressed with iron.
Another factor to consider is the drapery’s everyday environment. The tabling workroom might be set to one temperature and humidity level, however when installed at the customer site, the temperature and/or humidity can vary significantly, which can cause the fabric to expand or shrink.
Also, because temperature and humidity can fluctuate from day to day, the draperies could be on the floor one day and hovering just above it the next. This kind of natural expansion and contraction is simply unavoidable.
Natural length variation is especially difficult to predict for floor-to-ceiling or ceiling-to-sill draperies.
Floor-to-ceiling or ceiling-to-sill drapery measurements are not always evenly fractioned.
As an example, the project shown below called for the drapery to barely touch the top of the bunk rail:
As you can see, the measurement is in 5/8” and 3/8”. By the time we make allowances for the rod, the drapery length would need to be fractioned in 1/8” for touching, and that’s simply not going to happen.
For projects like this, we suggest dragging as an option. While the 2-step hem method could be used here, it is often cost-prohibitive for the customer.
Another challenge we encounter when sizing fabric draperies is how they’ll hang after being installed.
Gravity will invariably pull on hung fabric over time. As such, it is going to stretch at least somewhat over months and years. Once again, this is extremely hard to plan for, as there is no table to reference. This is learned by years of experiences, and even adjusting for expertise, there’s no guarantee of a mathematically perfect fit.
There are some cases where we have flexibility if the drapery is not mounted to the ceiling. In these cases, we can adjust the pin setting or move the drapery rod up or down as needed. However, if it’s a snap tape drapery like a ripplefold, the only option is to move the rod.
Sometimes, the wall will need to be patched and repainted. It can be extremely tough when wallpapering is involved, in some case we can hide the hole with the mounting bracket.
Have a drapery question of your own? Just ask! Precision Draperies is your go-to resource for all things drapery-related.