Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Workrooms, designers and finishing up some draperies

It is tuesday and I have spent most all of monday working on the draperies for the bedroom. I have the border at the bottom attached and as I was laying out to put in the lining, I found that the top of one of the panels had a whole in it. It was excess material from a long time ago at a drapery workroom that I worked at. The manufacturer sent extra yardage due to the flaw and the cutter was able to get whatever was being made out of the remaining fabric. Usually workrooms donate the fabric after 6 months to a year after completing a job, typically clean up day, employees can pick through before donations are sent out.  Sometimes there is nothing left, sometimes when multiple items are coming out of the same fabric there can be quite a bit left.

The reason for excess fabric, is this.  When a job is estimated for a designer, the designer sends over a request for an estimate of pillows, draperies, bedding, valances, whatever soft furnishing are being specified for the room. A designer has the big picture in mind and they are communicating to their client what that big picture is going to look like. For this stage a designer needs accurate pricing for all of the items. Each product is specified individually, it is easy for the designer and client to control the budget by changing out fabrics, eliminating items, etc.

In the estimating process, fabric economy is not taken into consideration. The workroom does not do a fabric layout for the estimating purposes.

It is difficult to determine how the fabric repeats are going to arrive and often times multiple items do get ordered from the same fabric.  However,  cost breakdown is impossible to do when a pillow front and the bedskirt are coming out of the same width of fabric. When all orders are placed and fabric arrives, it is then laid out in the most conservative manner. Your designer can request that all excess fabric be returned with the completed items. However, fabric is NOT returnable to the manufacturer and your designer will NOT refund for any excess unused materials. This is standard industry practice.  Part of doing custom work is to ensure that adequate materials be available to complete that work for an impeccable finished product.

The estimating process can take up to two business days for the workroom to determine all of the details if they do complete custom work. It also depends how they are staffed, if the person doing estimates also does the sewing/construction, it can take longer. Premium workrooms often times have one or more people whose job is consulting with designers, estimating, writing work orders and scheduling. 

I have held this position for numerous workrooms throughout my career and have most likely designed and specified for some of the most challenging windows in Minneapolis and St Paul-   Unfortunately, for me, my most challenging work was sold by someone else as part of their design and vision. There are a great deal of talented artisans and professionals that make a designers work very good. A good designer cultivates these relationships and has access to some of the best work available. Many of these artisans only work with the trades, because they can do what they love and don't have to 'sell' their work to someone who doesn't understand what goes into it. That is the designer's responsibility. A designer is the person who has the vision and is the communicator between the end user and the person(s) doing the work. A good designer can speak these multiple languages to ensure that expectations are met for the client and the workroom (artisans).

Recently, I drove by the first workroom I worked at while in college. It was a great position and I was fortunate enough to work with the top designers in the Twin Cities. I learned to meet the standards of very discerning designers for very discerning clients. Detail was the name of the game and custom was the arena. Making sure every custom detail worked to create a one of a kind finished product, that was my job. This position is the foundation of the reputation I hold amongst my peers to this day.  (I have heard more than once from others in my industry "oh, your THAT Shelly!?")

This company was started in 1974 and celebrated 25 years in business when I was working there. It has been a name that any top designer in the country who has designed windows or soft furnishing in Minneapolis would know. I am extremely grateful for the experience that I obtained there. Driving by the other night, the windows were bare and the space was empty. The company had sold a few years back when the remaining original partner of the business sold. Unfortunately, the new ownership wasn't able to navigate through this economy.  In a world of cookie cutter houses and cookie cutter furnishings, these fabulous houses of artistry are becoming extinct. It sent a twinge of sadness through me to see it gone. (heavy sigh of remembering..... )

Now, back to those draperies. Due to the tear in the fabric, I had to improvise the design. So, I cut the top off and added a narrow flange and will add the remaining fabric to make up my length again. The plan for today is to attach the tops, add the lining and sew in the side hems, attach the facing, grommets and leather and hang them up. I may have photos at the end of the day of a finished drapery. Drapery math another time. I just need to sew today. 

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