Friday, September 25, 2009

The price of custom

We all know about custom window coverings. We all know that they may be very reasonably priced or may force you to take out a second mortgage but sometimes it’s the only way to get exactly what you want. If you buy quality you should only have to buy once. Custom built cabinetry is not unusual, but what about other custom items for home decorating? Lets look at two custom possibilities: Custom furniture and fabric.

Custom furniture: Here is what happened recently. A client saw a headboard in a magazine and wanted one just like it. I e-mailed the magazine, requesting source information. I also made some phone calls and found an upholsterer in the area who makes custom furniture - sofas and such- from the ground up. Long story short: my client had her headboard within 1 week, exactly what she wanted, exactly the right size and at a little more than half the price of the one in the magazine. The work this upholsterer does is exemplary, all frames are screwed and doweled, solid wood frames, hand tied springs.. all the good stuff. His price for a simple sofa is in line with a middle of the road sofa from one of the large furniture chains and you could get exactly what you want - arm style, length, seat depth, cushion type and fabric choice.

Imagine being able to have anything printed on your fabric, in exactly the colors you want. I had a client once who was looking for a toile in blue and terra cotta. We searched for months to find one and eventually gave up. Now, with the new technology used by Adaptive Textiles, we could have had this fabric made at about the same price as a lower high end fabric from a designers fabric supplier. You supply a photograph or a drawing of the print you want on your fabric, choose the colors and the type of fabric and ‘Adaptive Textiles’ will print fabric for you. No minimum yardages and about 15 different fabrics to choose from. They also have a great selection of stock patterns, you add the colors of your choice.

You can have what you want, you don’t have to ‘settle’ because it’s all you can find. Ask a decorator or designer to help you, we have ways of finding answers to the difficult questions. For example, I am a member of an organization of about 4000 people in Canada and the U.S. who are employed in the design industry in some way. Its an incredible resource for finding answers and sharing information.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


As a continuation of the tread count issue - knowing you now understand what ply is and the value of long fibers as opposed to short ones, I thought this would be a good time to explain fabric pilling.

In my experience, natural fibers pill less than man made ones. Usually. Some man made fibers, like acrylic are notorious for pilling which can make sweater shopping a bit tricky. Some natural fibers are known to pill a lot too: merino wool and cashmere for example. A few years ago I coveted a very expensive sweater, I saved my pennies and waited for the sale and bought it. After 2 wearings the pills were so bad I had to get out the shaver - and the sweater content says 100% wool. So - what’s up with that?

Remember that I explained, with regard to the quality of fiber used in yarn construction in sheets, that long fibers are considered higher quality? Here is how that relates to pilling.

Pilling occurs when the ends of the fibers in each thread react to friction, and ‘stand up’. These ends get twisted together and cause a little knot. This is a pill. So, the fewer ends you have in each thread, the less likely you are to have a pill situation. Longer fibers are higher quality. Now, if you cut off that little pill, you have not solved the problem. The little ends are still there, just tucked back down in the thread, waiting for more friction to make them stand up again. And then they pill.

So: friction. I can get a shock when I slip across the linoleum wearing my nylon and cotton socks. Rarely happens when I wear my wool socks. Friction; think static. The polyester skirt sticks to everything, the cotton skirt doesn’t. Now does it make more sense that high quality natural fibers pill less than less expensive, man made fibers?

How do you prevent pilling? Some experts insist washing the garment inside out will help, others say this makes no difference. Some recommend washing with fabric softener but this can cause a decrease in absorbency of the fabric, or even stain it.

I stay away from fibers that I know will pill and hope for the best. Sometimes I get really indignant and return things to the retailer. Should do that more often, I think.

I’ve being writing this column for a year now and I’d like to thank all of you for your feedback, comments and your continued readership. I really enjoy hearing from you; please don’t hesitate to call me, or-mail me at I’d be happy to discuss your decor dilemmas.