Learn how to make an interlined roman blind

This month we joined curtain maker Clive Pennington from Classical Genesis in his Hampshire studio where we learned how to make a fully interlined, hand finished roman blind. Having spent many years making bespoke curtains and blinds, Clive now focuses on teaching his professional curtainmaking techniques to students from across the globe.


I have to confess that it was with a slight sense of trepidation that I headed off to Hampshire on a Thursday morning for a two day intensive roman blind workshop with curtainmaker Clive Pennington. Having chatted to Clive on the phone I was under no illusions that this course would be one of the most challenging I had done to date.

Not just because my sewing skills are rather basic and completely self-taught, but also because he had made it clear that this would not be “a nice day out for ladies who lunch”, but that we would be expected to work very hard to produce high quality, professional looking results. And so it was that I arrived at Clive’s studio clutching a roll of beautiful Pie in the Sky linen union fabric, kindly provided by Vanessa Arbuthnott, and a nagging concern that I may be slightly out of my depth.

My worries abated somewhat upon meeting Clive and discovering that he was perfectly charming, and he gently reassured me that he’d taught many novice curtain makers over the years and they had all come through with flying colours. Thank goodness for that! After a cup of coffee, Clive began by explaining that there are four stages to curtain and blind making: Design, Calculation, Setting out, and Craftwork. It is also necessary to consider the room, the view from the window, the window frame, the aspect, and the light source.

Clive speaks passionately about curtainmaking and has a huge amount of knowledge about his craft, from the art of weaving to the history of curtainmaking. Originally a joiner by trade, the techniques that he teaches today involve a combination of science, engineering and art.

The first couple of hours were devoted to calculating the measurements and working out the correct drop, folds and pattern repeat on a flip chart. Clive is a perfectionist and our aim was to ensure that the pattern matched up exactly, even when the blind was pulled up into its folded position. We did this by cutting a six inch trial strip of fabric and folding it to check that the pattern would match when the blind was pulled up.

Then with our measurements confirmed, we began by positioning the printed face fabric squarely on the workbench and pinning it in place, before pressing it flat and cutting it to the required size.

Next we cut out the plain lining fabric and the cotton interlining to the correct sizes. We marked out the top seam where the face fabric would be sewn onto the lining material and carefully measured, marked and pinned where the three rod pockets would go in the lining to create our folds.

As the first day drew to a close we were pleased to have completed most of the technical work and were looking forward to putting all of the different elements together in order to complete our project the following day.

The next morning our first job was to join the face fabric and lining fabric together and to sew a strip of velcro along the top section of the blind, which would enable the blind to be attached to the wooden batten in the window recess.

After a bit of practising on Clive’s wonderful industrial sewing machine, my seams were declared straight and pucker-free, and I was allowed to progress to sewing the velcro to the lining, and the lining to the face fabric. Clive informed us that this was in fact the only bit of machining we would be doing as the rest of the blind would be carefully stitched by hand.

Back at the bench, we placed the blind face down and carefully laid down the cotton interlining between the face fabric and the lining material. Then we tucked the edges of the interlining into the side seam sections of the face fabric and pinned it gently in place.

Next we unrolled a strip of double-sided fusible buckram and laid it on top of the interlining, along the top edge of the blind, and ironed it onto the lining material to create a stiff heading section.

Then we inserted a rod into the bottom seam of the blind to create some weight, before folding the face fabric over the rod to make a hem. At the corners we were shown how to create a false mitre (below, left). We then sewed the face fabric to the interlining by hand using a herringbone stitch around the sides and bottom edge of the blind (below, middle).

The lining fabric was then replaced over the top of the interlining and smoothed out, ensuring that the rod pocket sections matched up with the pattern on the front of the fabric. We then hand stitched the sides and bottom edge of the blind using an invisible slip stitch to attach the lining to the face fabric (below, right).

With the end almost in sight, we inserted the rods into the rod pockets and stitched four small plastic rings along each pocket using a claw stitch to hold the rods in place. These rings would guide the cording and enable the blind to be pulled up evenly from each rod pocket. There was just enough time to steam the lining flat before hanging the blind up.

The very last bit of sewing involved stitching some invisible ’stab stitches’ just below the rods to attach the face fabric to the lining where the rod pockets are located. Finally, the lengths of cording were fed through the rings and we were able to pull the blind up for the first time.

By the end of the second day, my fingers were sore and I was exhausted but I left with an immense feeling of satisfaction, knowing that I had learnt so many new skills and had created a really well made, professional looking finished product.

Roman Blind Course

Despite Clive’s protestations that he is a hard task master (and he was at times!), he was also the most patient and generous of teachers. He cares intensely about each of his students, and ensures that every one of them leaves with the skills they need to make truly professional products.

Past students have ranged from people who’ve never picked up a needle before, to professional curtain makers who are looking to brush up on their techniques. Many of them return year after year to add new skills and techniques to their repertoire, and having spent two exhausting but exhilarating days in Clive’s studio, I can see why. Now that I’ve mastered the roman blind, I think it’s only a matter of time before I return to try my hand at curtain making.

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Resources:

To find out more about professional curtainmaking training with Clive Pennington, visit the Classical Genesis website.

Recommended Reading:

For more information on making your own roman blinds, curtains and soft furnshings, take a look at these books:

The Complete Book of Curtains, Drapes & Blinds by Wendy Baker

Complete Curtains & Blinds Book

The Curtain Book by Caroline Clifton-Mogg

The Curtain Book

Caroline Wrey’s Complete Curtain Making Course by Caroline Wrey

Complete Curtain Course

 

Feeling inspired? Take a look at the Creative Courses category in our Directory, where you’ll find a variety of inspiring courses, from crafts to fashioninteriorscooking and gardening.

If you run a creative course that you think our readers would be interested in reading about, do get in touch by emailing editor@frombritainwithlove.com.

 


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