This month Nicky Sherwood joins curtain maker Clive Pennington from Classical Genesis in his Hampshire studio where we learn how to make an interlined roman blind. Having spent many years making bespoke curtains and blinds, Clive now focuses on teaching his professional curtain making techniques to students from across the globe.
I have to confess that it’s with a slight sense of trepidation that I head off to Hampshire on a Thursday morning for a two day intensive roman blind workshop with curtain maker Clive Pennington. Having chatted to Clive on the phone I am under no illusions that this course is going to be easy.
Vanessa Arbuthnott Pie in the Sky linen union
I am anxious, not just because my sewing skills are rather basic, but also because Clive makes it clear that he expects us to work hard and produce professional results. And so I arrive at Clive’s studio clutching a roll of beautiful Pie in the Sky fabric by Vanessa Arbuthnott. Along with a nagging concern that I may be slightly out of my depth.
Stage 1 Design
I needn’t have worried. Clive is perfectly charming, and he gently reassures 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 begins 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 curtain making and has a huge amount of knowledge about his craft. Originally a joiner by trade, the techniques that he teaches today involve a combination of science, engineering and art.
Stage 2: Calculation
The first couple of hours are 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 is to ensure that the pattern matches up exactly, even when the blind is pulled up into its folded position. We do this by cutting a six inch trial strip of fabric and folding it to check that the pattern will match when the blind is pulled up.
Then with our measurements confirmed, we begin 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.
Stage 3: Setting out
Next we cut out the plain lining fabric and the cotton interlining to the correct sizes. We mark out the top seam where the face fabric would be sewn onto the lining material and carefully measure, mark and pin where the three rod pockets would go in the lining to create our folds.
As the first day draws to a close we are pleased to have completed most of the technical work and are looking forward to putting all of the different elements together the following day.
Stage 4: Craftwork (the actual making up)
The next morning our first job is to join the face fabric and lining fabric together. Then we sew a strip of velcro along the top section of the blind, which enables 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, he declares my seams straight and pucker-free. Then I progress to sewing the velcro to the lining, and the lining to the face fabric. Clive informs us that this is in fact the only bit of machining we are doing as the rest of the blind is carefully stitched by hand.
Back at the bench, we place the blind face down and carefully lay down the cotton interlining between the face fabric and the lining material. Then we tuck the edges of the interlining into the side seam sections of the face fabric and pin it gently in place.
Next we unroll a strip of double-sided fusible buckram and lay it on top of the interlining. We lay it along the top edge of the blind, and iron it onto the lining material. This creates a stiff heading section.
Then we insert a rod into the bottom seam of the blind to create some weight. Then we fold the face fabric over the rod to make a hem. At the corners we are shown how to create a false mitre. We then sew the face fabric to the interlining by hand. It’s a herringbone stitch we use around the sides and bottom edge of the blind.
We replace the lining fabric over the top of the interlining and smooth it out. It’s important to ensure that the rod pocket sections match up with the pattern on the front of the fabric. We then hand stitch the sides and bottom edge of the blind using an invisible slip stitch to attach the lining to the face fabric.
With the end almost in sight, we insert the rods into the rod pockets. Then we stitch four small plastic rings along each pocket using a claw stitch to hold the rods in place. These rings will guide the cording and enable the blind to be pulled up evenly from each rod pocket. There is just enough time to steam the lining flat before hanging the blind up.
The very last bit of sewing involves stitching some invisible ‘stab stitches’ just below the rods. This is to attach the face fabric to the lining where the rod pockets are located. Finally, the lengths of cording are fed through the rings and we are able to pull the blind up for the first time.
The finished result
What do you think?
Despite Clive’s protestations that he’s a hard task master (and he was at times!), he is also a patient teacher. He cares about each of his students, and ensures that each leaves with the skills needed to make professional products.
Past students have ranged from people who’ve never picked up a needle before, to professional curtain makers. Many of them return year after year to add new skills and techniques to their repertoire. Having spent two exhausting but exhilarating days in Clive’s studio, I can see why. Now I’ve mastered the roman blind, I think next I will try my hand at curtain making.
Ideas & Inspiration
Now you know how to make your own interlined roman blind, you might like some more ideas.
Ada & Ina
A great source of beautiful linen and linen cotton blend natural fabrics if you intend making your own blinds. Ada & Ina also offer a very reasonable custom blinds making service, which I recently tried out myself. I painted my entire house from top to bottom during lockdown in January and February, and I decided my bedroom really needed fresh new blinds.
After A LOT of swatch ordering and deliberation, I chose a natural linen fabric with a pretty white Chervil pattern and had two roman blinds made by Ada & Ina.
I decided not to go for blackout lining because I wanted to see what the pattern would look like with the light coming through a little… I am so glad I did – I absolutely love my new blinds and how different they look as the light changes. What do you think?
All Ada & Ina blinds are custom-made in their Kent studio and the service was a pleasure to use from start to finish. I made a bit of a hash of my measurements, and they couldn’t have been more helpful at sorting out the problem.
If you’re looking for natural linen fabrics at amazingly low prices, check out their Adel White (100% linen) or Adria Natural (Linen cotton mix) which each cost £4.89 a metre (or just £3.91 a metre if you have them made up into roman blinds).
Ada & Ina is listed in the From Britain with Love directory
Cabbages & Roses
Love this Jolly Stripe linen fabric by Cabbages & Roses.
Also love how this simple stripe linen looks mixed with faded florals…
Get all the info you need from the Cabbages & Roses listing in the From Britain with Love directory here >>
Simple white linen
Also from Cabbages & Roses. Get all the info you need from the Cabbages & Roses listing in the From Britain with Love directory here >>
Vanessa Arbuthnott has such a wide and beautiful collection of eco-friendly linens you’re sure to find something just right. I love this jolly ochre coastal print from her latest Artists Collection (read the story behind this collection here).
I love this Anoushka linen fabric by Olive + Daisy ( listed in our directory here >>). You can also buy a handmade lampshade in the same fabric by Lolly & Boo (who are also listed in our directory here >>)
To find out more about professional curtain making training with Clive Pennington, visit the Classical Genesis website.
Feeling inspired? Take a look at the Creative Workshops category in our Directory, where you’ll find a variety of inspiring courses, from art and crafts to fashion and beauty, interiors, food and flower & gardening.
If you run a creative course that would interest our readers, please get in touch. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org