- general guidelines
- special considerations
- nanotex® enhanced fabrics
- natural-fiber wallcoverings
FABRICS MUST BE PROTECTED FROM THE SUN
Draperies should be lined and interlined when fragile fabrics are used. Shades should be closed during the day whenever possible. Window glass magnifies the sun's destructive rays. The winter sun and reflection from snow are even more harmful than summer sun. Windows facing south to west will experience more exposure to UV rays and thus greater protection is needed. Trees, shrubbery and awnings help protect windows.
Colors can fade by oxidation (gas fading) if fabrics are kept in storage for too long a period without airing. Some colors are more likely to fade than others. Impurities in the air may cause as much fading as the direct rays of the sun.
USE A REPUTABLE DRY CLEANER WHO SPECIALIZES IN HOME FURNISHINGS
Dust has impurities that affect fabrics. Vacuum fabrics often. Schedule dry cleaning at regular intervals before excessive soil has accumulated. Very few home furnishings fabrics are washable. Clients should not try to remove spots themselves. Interior designers and specifiers should recommend professional dry cleaners to their clients. Locate reputable dry cleaners in your area through the Dry Cleaning and Laundry Institute (DLI) website. For additional information refer to our cleaning tips chart.
DRAPERY LENGTH FLUCTUATIONS ARE NORMAL
Few fabrics are completely stable. Fabrics breathe and absorb moisture, resulting in stretching or shrinking. It is reasonable to expect as much as a 3% change in any drapery length. In a 3-yard panel (108 inches), this would amount to 3 inches up or down under various conditions. Fabrics placed over or near heating and cooling vents and fabrics chiefly comprised of natural fibers can be expected to react by a much greater degree.
FABRICS WEAR OUT - THEY ARE NOT INDESTRUCTIBLE
Wear will vary with the type of fabric and the level of its use. Some constructions are stronger than others. A favorite chair will not last as long as a seldom used show piece.
APPLIED FINISHES MAY HELP FABRICS RESIST SOIL AND STAIN
Finishes help fabrics resist spotting, but they are not necessarily the end-all to every problem. Light colors are likely to benefit most. Dining room chairs will soil no matter what is used. A finish does not eliminate the necessity of properly caring for fabrics. Spots should still be given immediate attention by a professional dry cleaner.
MULTIPLE-WIDTH DRAPERIES, WALLCOVERINGS AND BEDSPREADS
Fabric is not a completely stable substance; therefore, it cannot be taken for granted that a woven pattern will always be squarely situated within the repeat. When planning multiple-width fabrications, please make certain that patterns and repeats are aligned BEFORE CUTTING.
The following is a practical look at some basic facts concerning the application of fabrics frequently used today and how to avoid mishaps.
Typical fiber content found in chenilles includes cotton, wool, linen, rayon, nylon and bamboo. Any dyestuff anomalies will be amplified by the very nature of chenille yarn construction; consequently, be very cautious about placement in consideration to light-fastness — particularly natural-fiber chenilles that are of a blue primary base.
Manufacturers prefer to have their chenille yarns (which are most often twisted and directional) skein-dyed for greater saturation and a richly-preserved pile; as a result, many run into problems with reversals employing this process. Although a reversal is not a flaw per se, it is a condition in which the appearance of the finished chenille fabric changes when viewed from different angles — much like a black panther's spots. These reversals are termed as genuine "barre marks" and are generally most noticeable from the selvage. Railroading is not recommended.
Flattened pile is often referred to as "streaks," "shading" or "hot spots." In most cases, pile will even out with regular use; ironically, lower-grade chenilles tend to maintain a uniform appearance from the onset.
Chenilles of every quality have a propensity to unravel on upholstery applications, especially if there is an insufficient return on the seams. To avoid answering for an upholsterer or manufacturer unpracticed in the use of chenilles, it is safer to have chenille fabric backed and serged. The purist designer seeking that singular plush feel of chenille over down would be best served by having a light latex backing applied.
Rayon, viscose and bamboo fiber-based chenilles require special consideration before specifying. They share characteristics of velvet including varying degrees of luster and a soft hand. Like velvet, these pile fabrics show crushing, flashing or whitening with use. This enhancement of the reflectivity of the fiber is not a degradation of the fabric, but a result of the crushing of the nap. Crushing or flashing is to be expected with normal use. Railroading or direction reversal during fabrication will exacerbate these inherent qualities. Light use of a vacuum cleaner brush attachment against the nap can help to restore some of the original appearance of the fabric but will not reverse the flashing and whitening characteristic of these types of chenilles.
Linen, produced from flax, is known for its body, strength and variable fiber bundles. Primary limitations are low resiliency and lack of elasticity, leading to wrinkles. Unlike other natural fibers, flax's length and dimensions are not clearly definable. The more flax (and linen yarn) is processed to attain uniformity, the greater the likelihood there would be a reduction of durability; therefore, it is to be expected that a quality linen fabric will contain some variances.
It is these very characteristics that are commonly misconstrued as flaws or deficiencies. More often than not, it is a lack of knowledge about bast-fiber product that causes designers and specifiers to run into problems. For example, linen fabrics are often replete with "slubs," which are extreme manifestations of swollen fibers. Although inherent to the yarn, they are frequently perceived as misweaves. It is essential that a client be informed of their prevalence during the specification process — not after the fabric has been installed.
Secondly, flax is subject to several processes from harvesting to finishing; prevailing conditions (including Mother Nature) will dictate quality and appearance. It is important to understand that every lot will vary; additionally, dyed linen should be treated with the same degree of circumspection. Always insist upon a cutting from the reserved piece to match with the original sample.
A common complaint is the distinct odor that sometimes emanates from unrefined linens. Usually the odor vanishes in time; however, dry cleaning will accelerate the process.
Spots and stains are easier to remove from linen than from other natural fibers and linen is also more resistant to bacterial action and mildew. The general rule is to pre-treat all stains immediately in preparation for the dry cleaner. Never use chlorine bleach because it will weaken the fiber.
Any person who has ever worn a linen garment knows that linen wrinkles, period. Still, it would probably be a good idea to remind your client about creasing and wrinkling during the selection process.
Linen, like other natural fibers such as cotton, is hydro-sensitive and will respond to environmental fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Many different factors contribute to the hydro-sensitivity of linen, including the soil quality and irrigation conditions during the life of the plant; linen is comprised of living fiber. Changes in the length of draperies may be evident within the first few days of an installation as the fabric becomes acclimated to its new environment. One might observe noticeable shrinking of draperies during the cold, dry months of winter, and a subsequent lengthening in the warm humidity of summer. The same linen installed in two separate homes may perform in a completely different manner due to humidity, temperature and light exposure differences between the two environments, regardless of whether the linen originated from the same lot or even the same piece.
There are post-processing services that can be employed to mitigate — but not completely eliminate — this natural fluctuation in the fabric. Try making an inquiry to a professional dry cleaner or post-processor regarding the stabilization of the linen fibers. Usually this process will involve the introduction of chemicals into the fiber to reduce the hydro-sensitivity. A chemical treatment may not be desired by all clients. Many end users are tolerant of the drapery fluctuations because they want the natural, healthful, environmentally friendly qualities of the linen in their homes, rather than turning to the more predictable consistency of a synthetic fiber. Naturally, it is better to discuss these issues with a client before the fabric hits the workroom.
NANOTEX® ENHANCED FABRICS
Fabrics enhanced with Nano-tex® are highly breathable and comfortable while aggressively repelling liquids and stains. Nano-Tex® is a chemical-based product like Teflon® or Scotchguard®. However, where traditional coatings are applied to a fabric's surface and can make it feel stiff and clog the weave of the fabric, preventing breathability, Nano-Tex® treatments are small enough to attach to individual fibers, delivering superior performance characteristics with minimal change to the look, feel or comfort of the fabric.
Nano-Tex® is named for its use of nanotechnology — the technical process of working on the nano-scale. Each nano-scale molecule is one million times smaller than a grain of sand. Nanotechnology refers to not only the small size of the materials being used, but also how those materials are engineered to perform specific functions. Nano-Tex® is identified as an environmentally friendly process due to the small amount of chemicals used in processing. And, because the chemicals are bound to the fibers on a nano-scale, Nano-Tex® is considered permanent and does not require reapplication like other stain and water repellant treatments.
Fabrics already enhanced with Nano-tex® cannot be chemically treated because the process seals the fibers thus preventing penetration of other chemical treatments such flame retardant. Nano-tex® can be used in concert with other chemical treatments, as long as the other treatments are applied first; it is always advisable to discuss the details with your post-processor prior to treatment. Fabrics enhanced with Nano-tex® can be backed, however, since backing has no effect on the Nano-tex®.
Due to a restrictive economy, it is becoming increasingly difficult to sell clients on the idea of wallcoverings comprised of cellulose-fiber yarns such as linen and cotton. Initially, the inherent advantages may not seem to justify the additional cost compared to wallcoverings containing synthetic fibers.
In addition to their natural allure, both cotton and linen maintain superior insulating and acoustical properties and can save a client great expense down the road.
Linen (flax being a hollow-core fiber) and cotton will absorb moisture; therefore, certain precautions should be taken before and during application. Customarily make sure a fabric has been pre-shrunk before it has been backed; otherwise, there is the potentiality of residual shrinkage.
The two most common backings are paper and acrylic. Paper backing is the more stable of the two but is the least forgiving when trying to match the grain of the fabric or when a panel has been hung incorrectly. Acrylic is malleable and therefore allows the installer a chance to work around mistakes and/or peculiarities in the fabric.
Selecting an experienced hanger is of the utmost importance. Just because an installer has a proven track record with wallpapers and vinyls, it does not mean he or she is well-acquainted with applying cloth to walls. It is critical that similar installations be examined before entrusting a contractor with thousands of dollars of wallcovering. Suppliers have become less inclined to issue replacement yardage because of the increasing number of mishaps caused by inexperience.
If silk is specified properly, its brilliance and suppleness can enhance a project like no other; conversely, silk can turn into a nightmare without serious consideration paid to its application.
A continuous filament fiber, silk boasts greater tenacity and elasticity than other natural fibers; nonetheless, if there is any question about the need for backing, the answer should always be yes. Just because a supplier does not offer a particular silk fabric with a backing, it does not suggest that the product is appropriate for all installations. The minimal time, effort and expense required to have a backing applied is well worth the preclusion of potential mishaps.
Be sure a post-processing plant has the facilities to steam out wrinkles because silk (taffeta being the worst offender) has a tendency to crease during shipment.
Allow a minimum of twelve weeks from specification to installation. A significant percentage of home furnishings silk is manufactured in the Far East. Mills there march to their own drummer and invariably delay shipments because of bizarre circumstances such as monsoons, strikes and unexpected holidays.
If time is a factor, check with the supplier to ensure stock and secure a reserve then and there. Fabric houses frequently run into a backlog with supply and demand because of the vicissitudes of the silk market. What is available today could be gone tomorrow and a back-order could take months.
Always demand a cutting-for-approval when placing an order! Despite what salespeople might claim, there has not been a production method developed yet that can guarantee complete uniformity from lot to lot.
It is imperative that a client be informed from the onset that there is no such thing as a perfect silk fabric. Although a sample may not manifest slubs, motes, and other natural irregularities, do not be surprised if they appear in the yardage. After all, it is all part of the charm and character of silk.
Lastly, silk will fade. Silk will decompose in direct sunlight. There is no getting around it. Again, it is important to advise clients to take every precaution to protect silk from the sun.
The most important consideration of all is to allow for the most time possible between the selection process to the date of installation. This is where most everyone gets into trouble.
If scheduling is critical, be sure to check for availability before showing samples to a client — particularly if your concept is centered on the fabric's specific pattern or color. It is suggested that temporary reserves be placed to ensure availability upon client approval. Do not forget to immediately release any reserves on items that no longer apply.
Upon client acceptance, always demand a cutting-for-approval (CFA) before placing an actual order! Memo samples can be off-color because they may have been cut from previous dye lots. For the same reason, swatch books and other in-house sampling do not always accurately reflect current inventory.
CFAs serve a second purpose: IDENTIFICATION. Carefully check to make sure you are being sent the correct fabric and — if the fabric is being directly shipped to a workroom, manufacturer, fabricator, etc. — forward a cutting to them that identifies the face. If it is practical and time allows, the ideal situation would be personal inspection of the shipment before any work is to be performed.
Before having an order shipped, ASK how many pieces are being used and check with the workroom or manufacturer to ascertain what is acceptable. One of the ways suppliers keep costs down is to ship two or three smaller pieces to fill an order. Do not hesitate to notify the order department of cuts required to meet drops, panels, templates, etc. Ask if a fabric is suitable for a particular installation. Such information is not always specific on samples and in price lists.
Get the name of the people with whom you have spoken. Use either your local showroom or the supplier to process an order. Working with both at the same time can easily lead to a duplicate shipment.
It helps to know your account number, which legitimizes an order and protects against unscrupulous clients. In the event of a mishap or dispute, a written purchase order assuredly helps your case. Get price quotes in writing or verify with a P.O.
Plan to order 5% more yardage than you think is needed in order to allow for any variables or misadventures. It is easier to quote extra yardage into the price up front than to have to recoup losses down the line. A flaw or dirt mark may be overlooked during inspection, the workroom may underestimate yardage requirements, or yardage may become damaged during shipping or the fabrication process. There is no harm to having a few extra yards lying around in the event a client ruins a cushion, or a drapery or wallcovering panel becomes hopelessly soiled. Chances are that an identical match will not be available a year or two down the line. Your client will be grateful for your foresight.
Never take a back-order date at face value and request an estimated time of arrival in writing. Avoid splitting a back-order with current stock to get the job rolling.
The greater the number of modifications to an order, the greater the likelihood of non-matching lots, shipment errors, etc.
Treating a fabric (teflon coating, flame-retardant, pre-shrinking, etc.) is a dangerous proposition without pre-inspection of the fabric. Most companies will not accept a return once fabric has been altered from its original state.
Stick with reputable manufacturers and workrooms. Ask other designers about their experiences with particular vendors. Trade organizations are an excellent resource. Also, don't be timid about requesting to look at other work performed by the company you are thinking about engaging.
Always forward a large sample of the fabric to be used to ensure that it is appropriate for a particular treatment or application. Product companies normally provide a cutting from your piece along with any applicable information you may need.
It is incumbent upon processing plants, manufacturers and workrooms to fully inspect fabrics upon receipt — not as they pick up their scissors (which sometimes can be weeks later). A last-minute discovery of anomalies or shortages can cause missed deadlines if replacement fabric is unavailable. If additional yardage is required as a result of a proven under-shipment, you are entitled to whatever extra yardage is necessary to make the appropriate cuts. Request that the replacement fabric originate from the same or a matching piece if possible.
Be wary of manufacturers and workrooms claiming shortages. Fabric companies have ways to determine whether the correct amount was originally shipped. No supplier in its right mind would purposefully undership an order; reputation is too important in this industry. More often than not, errors occur in yardage estimates, post-processing, cutting and application.
claims and returns
Every company has specific claims procedures that are outlined in its respective price list. By referring to a company's published terms and conditions, you are better armed to approach a claims representative with your situation. It is not a good idea to refuse or return shipments without an explanation; in fact, most product companies will not accept returned goods without preapproval from an authorized representative.
If you feel you have a legitimate claim yet you are not getting satisfaction, a stop payment on a check or a charge-back could hurt your credit rating within the industry (e.g. Dun & Bradstreet, inter-industry credit references, etc.) Instead, make a verbal complaint and follow through by sending a detailed letter or email describing your predicament. Addressing your correspondence to an individual in upper management (a name easily obtained though a simple telephone call or Google search) will prompt the fastest action and a desired response.
Once it is understood that the company intends to act in good faith, consider the following:
If a shortage is involved, instruct the workroom or manufacturer not to make cuts until the supplier has been notified; otherwise, the claim might appear somewhat dubious.
If flawed and/or damaged merchandise is the issue, return the unused yardage for inspection. Fabric houses are usually interested in making an analysis on defective product and may need to do so before shipping replacement goods.
Once a return has been authorized, advise the workroom/manufacturer of the impending pick-up in time for them to remove any pins, markings, etc. or the fabric will be considered damaged and therefore becomes your responsibility. On the same token, the workroom/manufacturer must properly package the fabric for transport. It is difficult to prove merchandise came to you flawed when the package is returned in shambles.
Sometimes it is necessary to return merchandise for your own reasons (perhaps a client backed out at the last moment). Most product companies impose some kind of restocking charge if the goods are returned within a reasonable amount of time. A call to someone in charge explaining the situation could possibly lead to waived fee, especially if you offer to handle the return shipping and can guarantee that it is in good condition.