DOES FABRIC STRETCH? HOW TO AVOID THE ILL EFFECTS?

What an important question to ask. Much of the time we just assume that it doesn’t or that if it does it’s not noticeable enough to matter at all. What we take for granted is the process of making a drapery treatment. In short a fabric manufacturer is taking a natural fiber such as cotton, or linen that is not symmetrical, doing their best to weave that into a squared fabric.  At this point a manufacturer takes it, cuts it, serge's panels back together and then hangs it on a wall, planning on a 1/2" tolerance from perfection. That is no short order.  Most of the time we get this process right, but those situations are working with normal, tightly woven fabrics. There are situations in which this is not the case and so we want to share with you some recent examples in which we came face to face with this exact scenario. We want to state loud and clear that open-case fabrics such as the ones referenced below absolutely have their place in hotel design, and honestly look really good in public spaces especially. We are not suggesting in anyway not to use them we just want you to be knowledgable that when using make sure a conversation is had and that the point is acknowledged that theses fabrics most likely will stretch. We hope that the information will help you in the next situation that you encounter or are using a fabric that may stretch.

On average we come across 3-4 projects a year which use some kind of open-case fabric, but this average seems to be increasing as the fabric type becomes increasingly more popular. Most recently, Quiltcraft worked on a renovation at The Gaylord Texan (see pictures here) in which we produced treatments out of a open case fabric (picture below). This netting type fabric immediately drew our attention and because our work with fabric similar to it we made the educated decision with Marriott to finish the drapes 4" shorter than normal. We expected them to stretch and come out just about right. In this case even 4" was not enough and the sheers were still too long. As the fabric will continue to stretch over time Marriott in this case decided to re-specify the fabric and to have these treatments reproduced. 

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Due to the lessons learned at The Gaylord Texan our estimating department now flags properties in which open case fabrics have been specified. Presently, we are sending out installers to take measurements for a renovation of the Hilton Rochester, MN and have already noted that a fabric, woven to form something which looks like a 1/4" netting (picture below for reference), has been specified for the corridors. In this case our ceiling heights were 104” and we have worked with the customer to intentionally produce the drapes 2.5” shorter than we normally would to proactively adjust for the stretching that will occur.

Architex, Nexus

So with confidence we can say that open case sheer fabrics will stretch. It’s not that uncommon of an issue and is especially pronounced with larger ceiling heights (ceilings over 96”).  Our own internal policy has become first to flag these fabrics in estimating and second to enter into a dialogue that includes project managers, sales and production specialists alongside the designer/owner to make an educated assumption on how short to intentionally make the drapes in order to anticipate proper fall out.

Obviously, from the above you can tell that we don’t always have all of the answers. We have learned this lesson the hard way by making the improper deductions (not allowing for enough stretch) and having to re-hem the drapes after the fact. What we want to make sure of though, is that we always learn and act differently because of those mistakes. In those 3-4 jobs referenced we made sure to return the treatments to QC to re-hem and re-install at our cost. What we’ve learned and what we now follow thru with is the assumption that open/casement fabrics will stretch and therefore we must initial produce treatments shorter than the usual 1/2" tolerance, especially when you have increasingly longer treatments. For we know that as soon as that fabric is put in place and gravity begins to have it’s way you will soon find fabric pooling on the ground where moments earlier you had a treatment finished ½” off the floor.

The Take-aways

  1. Be aware of open casement (an example of open casement fabric is below) fabrics – they will stretch.
  2. Ask the manufacturer what their plan is to remedy stretch and subsequent fabric pooling on the ground.
  3. Reach an agreement on allowances in advance. If everyone is on the same page beforehand then you are all in it together.
  4. If the hassle sounds like too much of a headache think about the possibility of specifying a new fabric.

Our hope is that this helps you proactively face this issue. Again,in no way are we saying that open-case fabrics shouldn't be used, or that they aren't worth the fuss. If they fit your design and help with your aesthetic than by all means specify them. Simply know that in doing so there needs to be a process and a discussion with whoever the manufactuer is, in order to avoid a headache upon installation.


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