Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dressmaking + Engineering

This week I am teaching a class called "Dressmaking + Engineering = A Formula for Success" at a national conference with my friend and colleague Debbie Williamson.  Debbie will be covering dressmaking skills and I will be sharing several of my engineering techniques as they apply to the fabrication of window treatments.  One of the techniques I am covering is how to make a perfect circle valance.  Circle valances have fullness at the bottom while the top remains smooth with no gathers or pleats.  They are cut in the shape of a donut.
The key to a perfect circle valance is the right fullness.  I won't bore you with the details of pi, diameter, and circumference but like Goldilocks, you don't want too much or too little fullness.  A circle valance with too much fullness looks busy at the bottom and can obscure the motif of the fabric.  One with too little fullness looks just plain skimpy. 
Circle valances are a great option when a customer tells you they want a "simple valance".  It is the custom alternative to the rod pocket valance available at Country Curtains or Bed Bath and Beyond.  Another reason to consider a circle valance is when the fabric selection is heavy or upholstery weight.  Thick fabric does not shirr up well on a rod.  The white valance above was a perfect candidate for a circle valance because it is made of matelasse.   
There are three caveats when choosing fabric and trim for a circle valance.

1) Don't choose a motif that must be upright.  The motif will turn sideways and upside down as it moves across the treatment.  This is part of the charm of a circle valance.  Notice the dragonflies in the skirt of this slipcover made by Mary Ann Quinn of MAQ Designs.  They are flying every which way, just like real dragonflies!

2) Trims must be able to curve.  Even though the hem ends up looking straight, you must apply the trim to the circle shape.  This tape has a fringed edge on the top and the bottom which allowed me to ease the flat tape into the circle shape.

3) Use a contrast lining because the lining will show in the soft folds of the hem.  White cotton sateen was used here to blend with the white matelasse. 

Circle construction is not limited to valances.  Any time something is gathered or ruffled, the circle cut is an option.  You often see this technique used on the runway in flounced skirts, jackets with peplums, and ruffled collars.  Likewise in our world of home dec, dust ruffles, skirted drapery panels, and leading edge ruffle trim are all possible candidates for circle construction.   

Be it chairs or porridge or window treatments, if you want them just right, contact me at peggy@parkwaywindowworks.com


  1. Peggy, I'm enjoying reading your blog. This "Circle Valance" article shows really good ideas! I've taken classes from you in the past at the CSI Conference. Talk soon! -Camille

  2. How do you calculate "just right"?

  3. Camille: I'm glad you are liking the blog.
    Liz: You figure fullness in a circle valance by comparing the circumference of the outside edge of the circle to the circumference of the inner circle. To me, "just right" for a circle valance is 3 times fullness. If you send me an e-mail, I'll send you the handout from the class I taught.

  4. Hi Peggy, I love the valance above. Great idea. I am interested in the handout from the class you taught on how to figure the circumference. That would be wonderful. Thank you.

  5. Beautiful job Peggy. Could I please have a copy of the handout? This looks fun to create.
    Thank you

  6. Hi Peggy, Love you Blog. Also, love this circle valance. Would it be possible for me to receive a copy of the handout as well? Thank you.


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  8. I've just now found you. Can I also have handout on this circle valance. Fabriccreations@att.net