Author: Sarah Speak

Why we should all love wool

Campaign for wool week celebrated it’s 10th anniversary in October and held lots of events to promote the benefits of wool. Launched in 2010 by Prince Charles, the Campaign for Wool aims to educate and raise the profile of wool as the natural sustainable fibre for fashion and interiors.

Wool mostly comes from sheep but it also comes from goats and alpacas.

Each year a sheep produces a fleece which is 100% natural. The sheep is given a haircut to remove its fleece. The fleece grows back which then makes it renewable.

Wool is also biodegradable. It decomposes in the soil and takes a short time to break down releasing valuable nutrients into the ground. It is also very hard wearing.

Because of the structure of wool it is able to absorb and release moisture. This makes wool a natural insulator, reacting to changes in body temperature and helping to maintain comfort in both cold and warm weather. Wool is also used as insulation in the building industry.

Wool is easy to care for and can repel stains and dirt. It does not generate much static electricity so attracts less dust. It doesn’t need to be washed as often as man-made fibres and it is washed at a lower temperature than most textiles. When wool is washed any fibres that are released are biodegradable, unlike synthetic fibres that release harmful micro-plastics into the environment.

Wool is very versatile

Wool can be fun too!

Make a difference and choose wool.

Choosing curtains for bi-fold doors

If you have glazed external bi-fold doors you may have found that due to the size of them they are sometimes a bit tricky to dress. More and more homeowners are having them fitted and they are becoming a popular choice.

Over 4 metres

Bi-fold doors can take up the whole space of an external wall and are generally very wide and tall. There is sometimes very little space above the door or to the sides, so it is important to choose a dressing that does not hinder the movement of the door.

You may want to add curtains or blinds for the following reasons :
For privacy if your window is overlooked.
You don’t want to live in a gold fish bowl especially at night!
For shade if your window gets the midday sun.
If you want to watch the TV and are worried about the glare of the sun.
If you want to close off another room (internal bi-fold doors) and make a room feel cosy.

So which to choose, curtains or blinds?

It all depends on your windows, some companies have bi-fold doors with built in blinds.
If not, is there enough space at the top to fix blinds?
Do the doors open outwards or inwards? Will blinds, if attached to the frames of the bi-folds prevent the doors from folding back neatly?

If you are thinking of fitting curtains, your hardware needs to be up to the task as you are going to need a lot of fabric to cover all that glass. Lots of curtain fabric can be heavy and thin flimsy poles or tracks will bend in the middle.

50mm Galleria stainless steel pole with recess brackets


If the door opens outwards you can fit a track in the recess. You will lose some light as the curtains will stack into the glass at either side when open. However if you fit a track or pole outside the recess the curtains will fold into the room and can make it feel smaller.

White 1280 track top fixed in the recess. This is a discreet heavy duty track that can cope with the weight

The left curtain above is unhooked at the end so that the curtain can be moved over to right side if the door is in use.

Single curtain on a pole with passing brackets and C rings

If you decide to choose a pole be careful when choosing off the peg pole kits. They generally only have 3 brackets which may not be adequate if the pole is over 4 metres.

How about having some light linen, sheer or voile curtains, these can soften dark grey window frames. When the doors are open they will gently blow in the breeze. Linen and Voiles come in a variety of colours with white being the popular choice – very Scandinavian.

If you would like some advice on dressing bi-fold doors, please get in touch and I would be happy to help. Sarah.

Some tips for buying interior shutters.

If you would like to have plantation shutters this year you need to be thinking about getting a survey done now if you would like them before Christmas. Scary to mention the C word when we are still in late summer but the lead time is approximately 8 weeks from the date of order. Due to the high demand for shutters there is also a longer lead time in the run up to Christmas. The cut off date for most pre-Christmas shutters is the first week of October. You can also have your shutters delivered by air freight which makes the lead time much shorter but the cost is higher. There are some shutter companies that do have shorter lead times, but I would advise that you check.

Window shutters have grown in popularity in the last few years and can be a stylish and contemporary solution to dressing your windows.

Shutters allow you to control light, create privacy and are child friendly with no hazardous chains or cords.
They come in a range of colours and styles and are available in café style, full length or tier-on-tier. Shutters are sold by the square metre.

Café style shutters cover only the lower part of your windows.

Full length shutters are available with a horizontal mid-rail across the middle, allowing you to control the upper and lower louvres separately. This gives flexibility as you can also have one full length shutter without a mid-rail. This gives you control of the full length of the shutter in one movement.

Tier-on-Tier shutters allow you to open the top section of shutter panels independently from the lower section of shutter panels.

Tier on tier shutters

What ever style you decide on, shutters will create a clean look to any living space. Shutters also provide heat insulation during the winter months.

If you would like further information on shutters please click onto the shutters section on my website or follow this link to The Shutter Gallery www.theshuttergallery.co.uk

I hope you find my tips helpful, Sarah

.

Laminated roller blinds

Did you know that you can make roller blinds using your own fabric?

You can use a soft furnishings fabric which is normally used for curtains, cushions and table cloths to produce roller blinds.  In order to get the fabric to stay in position and move up and down without slipping or puckering it has to go through a process known as lamination.

Lamination is a process in which the fabric is treated to become stiffer and stable. The lamination process goes through different heat and pressure stages and a lining is fused/bonded  to the back of the fabric.  It also seals the edges and makes the fabric suitable for precision cutting. The lining can be white or cream and also has a black out option.

Laminated Roller blind which has been reverse rolled so you don’t see the tube. Fabric is ‘Monkey business’ by Clarke & Clarke

A laminated roller blind is a good option in children’s rooms instead of roman blinds.  Laminated roller blinds can also be spring loaded and you can add a single short pull cord in the centre with an acorn which eliminates chains.

However not all fabric is suitable for lamination.  Velvet, silk, embroidered and highly textured fabrics are not recommended as the laminate can bubble.  Also checks and thin stripes can sometimes move and become wonky.   If you are unsure if your fabric is suitable, a sample piece can be sent to me for testing.

Wide blinds can also be laminated.  The fabric is pattern matched and joined.  Seams are symmetrical on wide blinds and a seam will never be down the middle of the blind.

The roller blind tubes come in different sizes depending on the width and drop of your blind.  You can have standard or reverse roll options.  I would always suggest the reverse roll option on a laminated blind, this is because you will always see the back of the blind on the tube if you choose the standard roll option.

If you are unsure how much fabric you will need to laminate your blind please call and I will be more than happy to work this out for you.  Best wishes Sarah

 

Shweshwe

On a recent visit to South Africa and knowing of my love for fabric, I was taken to a shop selling the beautiful fabric known as Shweshwe.  There was only a small selection but it was all so nice it was hard to chose which one to buy.

Shweshwe is a printed dyed cotton calyco that is used to make traditional clothing like dresses, wrap-arounds and aprons in South Africa.  It was originally only available in indigo but is now a available in many colours.  Shweshwe has been descibed as the denim of Africa.

A brief history of the fabric

  • was originally only available in blue which is why it is known as ‘indigo cloth’.
  • once printed in Manchester, England in the 1930s.
  • worn by South African women including many brides since the 1800s

Who makes Shweshwe?

The Three Cats brand produced by the company Da Gama is currently the largest producer of original shweshwe. They are based in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. They have evolved the fabric by employing talented artists and designers.

The company imported large patterned copper rollers, used to print designs on the material, which was washed with weak acid to produce its intricate white patterns.

Limited Designs

Limited designs are also released to commemorate certain people or events.   There is a Nelson Mandela shweshwe. It is from the ‘Madiba’ range by Da Gama to celebrate the life of the former president of South Africa.

Shweshwe is now used in contemporary fashion design, upholstery, quilting and is also used for making accessories.

Best wishes and thanks for reading.  Sarah

Upcycling curtains

I have noticed an upcycling trend in the work I have been asked to do recently.  Customers are asking for their existing curtains to be remade into other soft furnishings.  Not just alterations like lengthening and shortening but making a new item from the existing fabric.

Most of my customers had moved house and their existing curtains did not fit any of their new windows.

So this month I have spent hours unpicking very heavy and very long curtains mostly from Victorian houses.  They have been transformed into soft furnishings to fit windows in their new houses.

I have created new curtains using a variety of fabrics from embroidered linen, embroidered silk, silk taffeta and cotton prints.  These fabrics were good quality with classic designs. Dressing windows can be expensive so this is a great way to extend a fabric’s life and also reduce landfill.

Curtains made shorter and narrower.

Any left-over fabric or wastage from the old curtains can be made into cushions.

Sanderson Fabric made into shorter black out curtains to fit a new window.

Tips to upcycling your curtains

  • Ensure they are clean.  You can have them dry cleaned as it won’t matter too much if they shrink slightly.  You can always add a contrast border if you don’t have enough fabric.
  • Check for fading and wear and tear.
  • Measure carefully before cutting as the fabric cannot be replaced.

My own experience of upcycling curtains. 

The curtain fabric (shown below) was from some curtains at my husband’s family home.  It is a Sanderson fabric in a denim colour with cream roses.  Surprisingly it had not faded despite hanging in their dining room since 1959.  The curtains have been re-made into shorter narrower curtains with new lining and interlining.  Hopefully they will hang in our home for another 50 years!

Call me for a chat if you want advice on upcycling your soft furnishings.  Sarah

 

 

 

 

The benefits of interlined curtains.

How can curtains can keep out the winter chills?

Since the temperature plummeted to minus figures this winter I am very grateful I took the time to make myself some interlined curtains.  A lot of your home’s heat is lost through the windows.  Single glazed and double glazed windows need insulation. With interlined curtains you can cut out the draughts, reduce your energy bills and keep your rooms warmer.

What are interlined curtains?

Interlining is an additional textile that sits between the main fabric and the lining.  It is like hanging a light weight blanket at your window.  Interlining comes in different weights, thickness and finishes.   The  main fabric acts as the first barrier to the escaping heat and the interlining and lining trap the air keeping you warmer.  Interlining not only helps minimize heat loss but makes the curtains look and drape better.

I have double glazed French doors and in the morning when I pull back the curtains,  the cold air hits me. With this in mind I decided to do a little test case one evening. I placed a thermometer in the door recess between the closed curtains and the glass.   My curtains have a cotton print fabric with a synthetic light weight interlining (sarille) and a standard curtain lining.  After only 15 minutes the thermometer in the recess read 13 degrees whilst the main room thermometer read 21 degrees.  That is 8 degrees difference. With the curtains open my room would struggle to stay at 21 degrees. When the curtains are closed the room is warm and cosy.  They really do shut out the cold and keep the heat in.  In summer they have the reverse effect and my room stays cool.

To provide good insulation your curtains should:

  • Interlined and lined.
  • Your curtains should always be wider and taller than the window frame or door.
  • Interlined curtains can be very heavy so they need to be installed with good tracks or poles.   Pelmets can also minimize heat loss through the top.
  • They need to be fitted closer to the wall with good returns (sides) so the heat cannot escape.
  • Door curtains should generally be overlong so that they sit on or touch the floor.

For further information on interlined curtains please get in touch by filling in the contact form or ringing me on 01442 808809.

Believe me, they really do make a difference.  Keep warm.  Sarah x

 

My highlights from 2018

I’m a little late posting this as 2019 is now in full flow but I really wanted to document the highlights of 2018.

What a great year it has been with that wonderful long summer.  After leaving paid employment I decided to open my own business again.  Of course I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of family, friends and colleagues. In April 2018 I published my first blog post on this website which at the time seemed a scary prospect.  Until this time I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t really know what a blog was!  After dragging my feet at social media for years I also joined Facebook and reconnected with old friends and colleagues, I cannot understand why I didn’t do this earlier.

At the beginning of the year I went to Cirencester for a lampshade making course and loved it so much that I added this service to my business.

In May the UK enjoyed the Royal Wedding and had a great sunny day celebrating with friends.

During the year I visited a couple of trade shows and a lavender farm for inspiration.  Over the months I have worked some long days and evenings but it has all been worth it.

The Panetone colour of 2018 was Ultravoilet which was a bold purple shade and a brave choice for interiors.  Tropical green leaves and pink flamigos seemed to be everywhere from wallpaper to mugs.

In 2018 my little business saw lots of fabrics, threads, roman blind tracks and pompom trimmings.   I have worked with lots of beautiful fabrics but my favourite in 2018 has to be Pheasant Fun with Duck Egg Spot by Milton and Manor.

Pheasant and duck egg Spot fabric by Milton and Manor

I made this fabric into some lamps for Christmas presents which were very well received.

Bespoke table lamps

So here’s to the rest of 2019 and all that lays ahead…..

Sarah x

 

 

 

Pompoms, little balls of happiness.

As you already know I’m a big fan of a pompom bobble trimming and my love for these chic little balls of happiness continues to grow.  Imagine my delight when I saw this pompom garland in the restaurant where I was having a Christmas dinner.   For me there’s nothing more uplifting than seeing a row of these fluffy lovelies. Perhaps this love for pompoms stems from my childhood.

I came across this ‘make your own garland’ pack when I was out shopping recently.  It would have been a great present idea for someone to buy me.  Members of my family sometimes ask  “What would I like for Christmas?”  Unfortunately I can never think of anything.

You can add a touch of fun with a pompom trimming on the leading edge of a curtain or on the bottom of a roman blind.  These tactile bobbles can bring a smile to most people.  Pompoms can compliment or contrast fabric.

Who knew you could get books on pompoms?  From Pompomania to Pompom Noel there have been several books published on the subject.  A couple of these are now on my wish list for next year.

So deck the halls with lots of pompoms.

Best wishes Sarah