Never have print and pattern been so abundant and so beautiful. Fill your home with life and colour using some of the brightest and boldest fabric on offer. Jazz up a dull room or make a feature out of something pedestrian, and perhaps even brush up on your sewing skills while you’re at it.
- Know your fabric
- Where to put it
- Learn some sewing smarts
- Before you buy your sewing machine…
- The Kit
Know your fabric
Interior designer Una Broderick gives us the lowdown on what’s what in fabric, as well as the companies and collections that have the best of each.
- Applique: Fabric on which a pattern in another fabric has been applied with hand stitching. Materials used are generally a cotton or linen base.
- Brocade: Traditionally patterned fabric with naturalistic motifs. The Zoffany Arabesque collection.
- Chenille: A fabric with a deep uneven pile that drapes beautifully and is often used to make luxurious throws.
- Chintz: medium-weight cotton with a glazed finish. Colefax & Fowler, Alicia, pink/green from the Classic Prints 2 collection.
- Crewelwork: Indian cotton with an embroidered chain stitch pattern in wool. This fabric is often used for bedspreads, cushions and cottage style curtains. Fired Earth.
- Damask: Usually made from silk, linen or cotton, this fabric has a design woven into. often called a self pattern. Zoffany Nureyev.
- Flock: Fabric that has a raised, tufted pattern. Osborne & Little, Fado from the Miradouro collection.
- Gingham: lightweight checked fabric, usually cotton. The check can be printed or woven. Lewis & Wood, Chelsea Check.
- Jacquard: Decorative weaving technique patented by Joseph Jacquard in early 1800’s. Brocade and damask are typical Jacquards. The Nina Campbell Kobana collection.
- Linen: Hard-wearing made from spun fibres of flax. Romo, Solo.
- Mohair: Fibre produced from the hair of the Angora goat. Lewis & Wood, Special order.
- Moire: Fabric with a ribbed or wavy, watermarked effect. Designers Guild Chinaz.
- Organza: A lightweight, semi-transparent material, usually made from silk or cotton. Osborne & Little, Foresta from the Diafana collection.
- Satin: Fabric made from silk or rayon with subtle, glossy lustre.
- Silk: A natural, luxurious fibre produced by the silk worm and found in many different weights and weaves. Silk must be protected from the harmful effects of the sun and so when using silk in drapes they must always be interlined. Liberty, Allamanda from the Lantana Silks collection.
- Taffeta: A synthetic man made fibre that gives a silk look. It is found in many different weights and weaves but is no comparison to the real thing. It does not drape as well but from a distance can be a good copy. The Designers Guild Taraz collection.
- Trevira: A synthetic man made fibre that is flame-retardant generally used in the commercial market only. The Osborne & Little Charanga collection.
- Velvet: A cotton or silk fabric with a deep, luxurious pile. The Romo Roselli collection.
- Voile: A light, semi-transparent fabric with a high yarn count, made from cotton, silk or rayon. For use in drapes and blinds only! Vintage Flowers from the Designers Guild Gaujira collection.
All of the above fabrics can be used for soft furnishings, drapes and upholstery. Fabrics come in such varied weights and weaves that it is strongly advised that you purchase fabric from a retailer who is trained in their field and so, can advise you what fabric to use in the decorating project at hand. This is imperative, as a mistake can be a costly one! Also, take into account the rub test result that is listed on all fabrics. A rub test, is the results of tests that give an indication of how suitable a fabric is for upholstery. Fabric that withstands 20,000 rubs is suitable for light domestic use. A fabric with a rub test of 25,000 rubs is suitable for general domestic use and one with a rub test of 40,000 is suitable for commercial use. Unless otherwise stated, fabrics should be dry cleaned only.
Una can be contacted at Charles Newhaven, Main St, Castledermot, CO Kildare. Tel; 059 916 2882.
Where to put it
There’s no end to the corners of your home that can be jazzed up with fabric in the hottest new style.
- Bed base: lets face it, valance sheets are not a look that anyone really wants to go for and bed bases are invariably ugly. Again, get out your staple gun and work your way around the bed with some lovely fabric for an interesting, unusual and inventive look.
- Canvas: some fabric designs really are works of art unto themselves. If a piece in particular catches your eye then stretch it over a canvas to make it into a little picture to perch on top of your fireplace or add life to a dull wall.
- Chairs: you can choose to get handy with a staple gun if the seats and backs on your chairs are easy to take apart and put back together again. This is a rather fabulous way to rejuvenate tired old chairs or jazz up old auction finds. If they are particularly dear to you, however, take the cautious route and pay a professional. Again, throw-on covers are another DIY option that will hide ugly but functional chairs.
- Curtains: think of the money you’ll save by running up your own curtains. Not only that, but it will give you more freedom to change the style in your rooms on a more regular basis. If you are feeling daunted then just ask your fabric supplier to recommend a good seamstress.
- Cushions: the style enthusiast’s friend, changing your cushions to update your home for a new season or bring it up to trend is probably the advice that we hear most often from interior designers. Get a load of gorgeous fabrics in mix and match colours and patterns and do a big update in one fell swoop; you can pay someone to run up a load of cushion covers for you, but this would be a really good starter project to help get to grips with a sewing machine.
- Headboards: this is a quick and simple easy peasy bedroom fix that will make a huge impact – all you need is the fabric itself and a staple gun.
- Screens: if you live in a small home, it’s always useful to have a screen to cordon off sections of rooms that are being used for specific purposes; perhaps a study in the corner of a living room or an en-suite that’s being incorporated into a bedroom. Make this practical piece into a statement piece in any room by using a gorgeous piece of fabric on a simple wooden frame.
- Sofas: reupholstering a sofa isn’t really a job for an amateur, so you’re best off paying a professional. If you get nifty on a sewing machine, you may master the art of making throw on covers.
Learn some sewing smarts
If you’re feeling crafty, you should take the time to learn how to work with fabric to translate the prints that you love into pieces that you can live with. Some of the following offer specifically interiors-focused courses, others have a more general or fashion-focused approach that you will be able to translate to create cushion covers, etc.
- Bray Institute of Further Education. Tel: 01 286 6233. Web: www.bife.ie
- Enniscorthy VC. Tel: 053 923 4185. Offers a course in curtain making.
- Grafton Academy, 6 Herbert Place, Dublin 2. Web: 01 676 3653.
- Irish Vocational Education Association: contact for details of your local Vocational Education Committee (VEC), who offer courses in various disciplines. Web: www.ivea.ie
- Kilroy’s College: www.kilroyscollege.ie This distance learning centre allows you to learn in your own home at your own pace.
- Limperts Academy of Design. Tel: 01 299 3003. Web: limpertsacademy.com
- Mallow College of Design and Tailoring. Tel: 022 22 768.
- Do your homework when it comes to prices. Beginners should not make the mistake of splashing out on the flashiest model on the market.
- Make sure that you’re buying a model that suits your needs – there is no sense in buying a dinky little model that can only handle simple stitching if you want to whip up a houseful of curtains. Neither is it practical to fork out for a big posh machine if you only intend to churn out some cushion covers.
- Buy from an authorised dealer and be very clear on what your rights are in relation to returns, refunds, repairs and a guarantee. Explain to your dealer exactly what you will be using the machine for in order to verify that the machine will be suitable for your intended purpose.
- Bring some fabric along to test it out before you take it home. Try sewing buttonholes and look for balanced, even stitching, regardless of the direction in which the machine is sewing.
Here are some sewing essentials for anyone who likes to stay well equipped.
- Dressmaking scissors: perfect for cutting fabric
- Embroidery scissors: have a neat scissors to hand to snip at thread
- Needles and threads in different sizes and colours
- Safety pins
- Sewing basket: make like your mother used to and have a dedicated basket where you stash all of your bits and bobs – never be stuck for a needle and thread again!
- Tailor’s chalk
- Tape measure: it’s always vital to be accurate
- Trimmings: various types of edging, ribbons, etc always come in handy