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Author: Laura

  • Choosing the correct fabric for your project may seem like an easy task - you just pick the one you fancy right? Wrong!! Choosing the incorrect fabric can make sewing and fitting your garment difficult or downright impossible. Now I’m normally not a colour inside the lines kind of a girl (I've been called contrary on occasion) but I will always admit the people who design the patterns know best. So if I’m told to use a chambray or a cotton type you better believe I’m using a cotton! So in order to choose correctly you must first understand what these names mean. I’m going to break them down into their types and styles as a pattern might suggest them and explain what they mean.

    There are a few basic types of dress fabrics that you will come across again and again - particularly when reading the back of your pattern crepe or crepe de chine; cotton or chambray; sateen; taffetas; jacquards; satin/duchess satin and laces.

    What do these mean and why do you pick one over another?

    Chambray/Cotton types: This is usually taken to mean a cotton fabric that is not too thick with no stretch, these would be suitable for projects like shirts and dresses with some structure as they are not particularly flowy and so will not skim the body. Chambray is simply a cotton that is a woven mix of white and another colour. These are usually interchangeable with sateen (usually cotton with a smooth and shiny finish, not to be confused with satin) linen/linen types or seersucker which is a bumpy checked/striped cotton.

    So basically if you are told to use any of these fabrics what you are looking for is a cotton or linen fabric or even a mixed fibre that feels like cotton or linen but it should be non-stretch and relatively stiff. These are probably the easiest types of fabric to sew with and so are great for beginners projects.

    Gaberdines: Gaberdine is a tightly woven fabric usually interchangeable with lightweight wool blends. These fabrics work really well in suiting and trousers. If you want to imagine what they feel like think back to your school trousers or skirt. But fear not! There are all sorts of nice new versions that will frequently be labelled “suiting”.

    Denims/Twills: Twills are fabrics woven a certain way so that the surface of the finished fabric has diagonal lines and the reverse is smooth. A denim is basically a type of twill made from cotton usually in that classic indigo blue but there’s many versions. Patterns that look for these type of fabrics are usually utility style garments or garments with a firm structure like boiler suits or jeans which these fabrics really lend themselves to.

    Jersey: Jersey refers to any knitted fabric with stretch, they come in many weights from a light viscose jersey which usually drapes beautifully to heavier cotton sweatshirt style jerseys. Luckily your dress pattern will specify what type of jersey you need - some jerseys stretch in more and in more directions than others. 

    Ponte Roma: This is a double knit type of jersey which means for our purposes it’s usually slightly heavier and less drapey than other jerseys. This makes it easier to sew than most jerseys while still having good stretch and suitable for more structured garments.

    Scuba: Scuba or Neoprene are again double knit fabrics though much heavier than ponte roma with a smoother surface, it can be used for sportswear but is increasingly being used for evening wear as it gives great structure and will hold its shape.

    Crepe/ Charmeuse types: Crepe is nowadays a kind of cover all term for fabrics that have a light to medium weight and a nice flow and drape, crepe will usually have a slight dimpled texture. Charmeuse is a lightweight similar style of fabric with a smooth finish. Crepe is probably the most versatile of fabrics being used in blouses, dresses and any garment where draping and flow is desirable even certain trouser patterns.

    Taffeta/Dupion: Taffeta is a smooth woven fabric with a crisp finish, dupion is usually a stiff slubbed silk but synthetic versions are made. If your pattern calls for these or like this, what it is really asking you to use is a relatively lightweight crisp and stiff, non stretch fabric. These types of fabrics are mostly used for structured garments as they hold shape very well and look fabulous in full skirts.

    Satin/Duchess/Crepe back satin: Satins usually have a nice flow and are used mainly in evening wear. A satin finish means the fabric is woven a certain way to make the surface smooth and shiny. Duchess satin has a higher thread count and so is usually less shiny and has slightly more body than other satins though it still drapes beautifully. Crepe back satin is as it says a satin front with a crepe finish back which gives beautiful weight and drape and allows you to use both matt and shiny sides in the one garment.

    Lace/Chiffon/Tulle: These are all soft sheer fabrics usually used overlaid on a satin lining in evening wear. They can also be left unlined as sheer details on a garment or in jackets and the likes. Tulle can also be used to create frothy layers though not to be confused with it’s less expensive nylon net counterpart which is used to make stiffer underskirts and create volume. If you’re looking for these you’re most likely making occasion wear.  

    There's probably some fabrics I have missed but the types outlined above are the most common you will see. If your pattern calls for a fabric not listed above the most important thing is to understand how the garment falls and drapes and to match it up with the right style of fabric. Indeed the reverse holds true that if you fall in love with the fabric before you pick the pattern have a look and feel -  How does it fall? Does it stretch? Is it Stiff? Does it need lining? Once you understand the fabric properties you can choose the right project.

    Hopefully having read this you feel confident in your fabric choosing abilities but to help you along we have added some check boxes on our website to narrow the choice down. If you’re the type who likes a feel and a chat (and who doesn’t) then call into one of our Hickeys stores where our expert staff will be happy to offer advice! The most important thing is to have fun! Choosing your fabric is not only the most important part of your project but it's probably my favourite part. Having a look and a feel and imagining what the finished project will look like - and what shoes I'll wear it with! Please feel free to comment below/ ask me questions if I missed some or you’re unsure of what to pick.

     

  • Wave curtains are a modern style that are really making waves in the custom made curtain industry! (I'm so so sorry) Anyway puns aside it is a really simple and elegant style of curtain that particularly suits modern homes with large windows but looks great in any room where chic simplicity is the desired effect .

    Courtesy of Silent Gliss

    The wave heading makes a simple rippling fold effect in your finished curtain and so is a less fussy and ornate style than say french pleat or pencil pleat curtains. It must be fitted to a Silent Gliss track that is made specifically for wave heading.

    So why Wave?

    The Silent Gliss Tracks can fit any number of awkward spaces where a standard pole can't be used. If you've ever watched Dermot Bannon's Room to Improve you'll see that those poor people never have curtains because of Dermot's love of floor to ceiling room width windows. Somebody tell Dermo about Wave Curtains quickly - those people's neighbours are getting an eyeful!

    Courtesy of Silent Gliss

    If you have a window like this where standard curtains/ blinds aren't really an option then wave curtains on a silent gliss track can be a beautiful option, the track can be fitted very discreetly giving the impression that the curtains are almost floating from your ceiling. It can be fitted to bay windows and comes in a pole style finish to mimic the decorative look of a standard curtain pole, it even comes with electronic operated options.

    The Wave heading itself allows for less fabric fullness than is required in standard curtain headings allowing for a neat and crisp look that will stack back off your windows allowing you to let light flood in and enjoy the view!

    Voile fabrics look amazing in Wave Heading as they fall into beautiful soft folds and so are the perfect solution in rooms where some privacy is required but no heavy curtains are needed. That being said Wave Curtains look equally well made in heavier fabrics as long as they're not stiff or too bulky and can even be blackout lined for when you want a lie in.

    Courtesy of Silent Gliss

    So if you have a window you're struggling to find a solution for or simply like the look of modern simplicity then Wave Curtains could be for you. Find your local store and talk to one of our experts who will be happy to advise and give you a quote.

     

  • So you get home with your shiny new curtain pole and are faced with hanging it. It might seem like a straightforward proposition but I have spent years working with curtains and have seen some shockers in people’s homes. Hung barely above the window, squashed either side of the window, brackets right at the end. On a side note -don’t invite me into your home people – I may not notice the pile of newspapers a la Horders: Buried Alive but I will notice if your curtains/pole are hung incorrectly.

    I have already covered How to Hang your Curtains but I suppose that’s a bit like putting the horse before the cart as you have to have something to hang them on. That thing you hang them on must be hung correctly otherwise you’re just starting on a bad foot. So here’s our expert tips on how to hang your curtain pole.

    I suppose there’s a few general rules:

    • Your pole should be at least 6” (15cm) wider than your window to allow the curtains to stack back
    • Your pole should be at least 6” (15cm) higher than your window

    And a few things you will need:

    • Your pole and Screws
    • Hacksaw – if you need to cut down your pole
    • The correct rawl plugs for your wall type – speak to your local DIY store here if you’re unsure
    • Measuring Tape
    • Pencil
    • Drill
    • Screwdriver
    • Spirit level (if you have one)

    Start by measuring your window and add 12” (30cm) to figure out what size your pole should be:

    If you need to cut the pole it can be done easily

    If it’s a 1 piece pole:

    Just remove one of the finials and cut the excess off with the hacksaw and replace the end, the end will cover up any unevenness in your work so don’t be too precious

    If it’s a 2 piece pole:

    Remember to cut an even amount of both sides so the pole meets in the middle of your window. Remove both ends – cut to size and replace the ends

    Next figure out what height to hang the pole at:

    Ideally this will be a minimum of 6” (15cm) above the window but what I would say to you here is that hopefully you won’t hang your pole until you have your curtains so that you can use the curtains as a guide.

    Hold your curtains up against your wall – leaving them approx. ½” (1.25cm) off the floor to mark the height the pole will hang.

    Make all of your marks 1.5” (3.5cm) from the end of your pole as this is where your bracket will sit – for example if your pole is 6” (15cm) wider than your window make the marks for your bracket 4.5” (11.5cm) from the edge of your window.

    Mark where the top of the curtains hits the wall and use this mark to mark the screw holes in your bracket.

    A good rule of thumb is

    • For pencil pleat: The top of the curtain is at the bottom of the bracket

    • For eyelet: The top of the curtain is at the top of the bracket

    Hold your bracket up to the line and mark the screw holes with a pencil.

    Measure the distance from the floor to these marks and make a note of it.

    Next go an equal distance from the other side of the window and make the same marks using the measurements from the other side. If your pole comes with 3 brackets do this in the dead centre of your window as well.

    This might seem an inaccurate way of doing it but your ceiling and floors may be uneven so in my experience the best way is to have your curtains hanging evenly on the bottom – your eye won’t notice a slightly uneven pole but you will certainly notice if the curtains are in wavy lines at the bottom

    Now it's time to Break out the heavy machinery:

    • Drill and place in appropriate rawl plugs where the screw marks are – you’ll notice we used 2 different types here – the standard ones on bottom and an expanding plasterboard one on top because our surface was uneven. Speak to your local DIY store about this as they are the experts!

    • Next screw in your brackets into the plugs.

    • Place your pole on top of the brackets and tighten using the screws on the bracket.

    If you’re hanging pencil pleat curtains keep one 1 ring between the bracket and finial (pole end)

    If you’re hanging eyelet curtains keep one of the eyelet rings between the bracket and the finial (pole end)

    So there you have it – one perfectly hung curtain pole. If all of this sounds like an ordeal or is likely to cause a divorce, visit your local store for information on our expert fitting service.

    Ready to get started? Shop our range of curtain poles and find something that suits you!

  • Bay windows can be a stunning feature in a home - adding an extra feeling of space to a room with a charming look to boot. When it comes to dressing your bay windows, however, life is not always so picturesque as it can be an awkward space to work with. The unfortunate result is that some people simply put curtains across their bay window, blocking it off and making it unusable, or the classic, light blocking, bay window ruining 2 pairs of curtain on 3 separate poles - 1 pair on the middle window and a single curtain at each end. Here at Home Focus we have a plethora of solutions for that awkward space from the simple to the dramatic. Let me take you through them to help you make your decision.

    Luxaflex®

    Rollerblinds: These are a really simple solution for your bay window and as roller blinds have become more attractive and heavier over the years, those of you who like a simpler aesthetic will not miss curtains. The roller blinds are usually ceiling fixed into your bay with one in the middle and the 2 either side having their cords at the opposite sides to make the whole look symmetrical. The only slight problem with roller blinds is that you might drive yourself crazy trying to get them all sitting at the exact same height - or maybe that's just me and my curtain OCD.

    Vertical Blinds: Kind of the same deal as the roller blinds, vertical blinds will sit on 3 separate headrails in your bay and while they aren't as pretty as some of our other options they can be a good option for a huge bay window on a budget.

    Roman Blinds: Probably the most popular type of blind for bay windows as they are made from fabric and lined and so have a more cosy, warm feeling about them than regular blinds. Again, these will sit on 3 separate mechanisms and have to be pulled individually.

    Curtains

    There are a few ways of hanging curtains on your bay window and some are better than others so let me list them for you in my order of preference:

    3 separate poles/rails & 2 pairs of curtains: This option will look nice enough if done properly but it breaks up the flow of the bay window and blocks light where the curtains hang at the sides. Essentially you are treating your bay window like 3 separate windows, hanging one pole and a pair of curtains in the centre and individual poles and single curtains drawing outwards on either side. This is the only way you can hang eyelet curtains on a bay window.

    Plastic Swish Rail & Pencil Pleat Curtains: These plastic rails are malleable enough to bend around a bay window, though they will not support a heavy curtain when bent. They will maintain the look of your bay window and are very inconspicuous when hung as they are narrow and white and can be ceiling fixed to your bay. The major downfall is the weight issue so they are really only suitable for lightweight ready made curtains or mid weight with a short drop, they are a good choice for those on a budget or a kids bedroom or the likes.

    Bay Pole with Ready Made/Custom Made Curtains: A continuous pole can be achieved around a bay window with the addition of elbow joints and open brackets. These essentially allow you to turn any 28mm pole into a bay window pole - an elbow joint is added at the corner between two separate lengths of pole and an open bracket is used on either side of the bend. It is important to note that although it is a pole, you cannot hang eyelet curtains on these poles as they still have a bracket at the join. This bracket is overcome by the use of 'C' rings - as their name suggests these are c shaped rings that are open at the back to allow them to pass over the bracket. The curtains have to be handled somewhat carefully when being opened and closed because of these c rings - they have to be guided gently around the bracket - for this reason they are better suited to a bay whose height is within comfortable reach. The bay pole is aesthetically a very nice look, it is quite a modern finish and is a reasonably budget friendly option especially if you're handy with a drill and a hacksaw.

    Pole For Bay Window

    Custom Made Rail & Curtains: This is obviously my preferred choice and although it is the most expensive of the options it is the one that will last the longest and can even be recorded in 20 years time if needed. There are a few types of custom made bay rails - some that look like a pole and some are just plain white metal. In any case they are all the same basic principal - a heavy duty rail, either corded or uncorded that is made especially to go around your bay window. If going down this route a fitter will come and measure your window accurately, your rail is then handmade in Ireland to that specification before our fitter goes back and fits it perfectly on your window, adjusting cords etc where needed. If you are going to the time and expense of having a bay rail made it is most certainly worth having custom made curtains to complete the look, this is really the best way to get your bay window fitted perfectly.

    If you are interested in finding out more about the best option for your own bay window; I would suggest calling into your nearest Home Focus Store with some basic measurements. This will allow our expert staff to guide you in the right direction immediately, keeping your preference and budget in mind, we will be able to provide a solution that suits your home.

  • It's confession time again here on the blog: I am a wool addict! I love wool more than I love knitting with wool and when I say wool I mean real wool - that lovely stuff that comes from sheep. My wool addiction has gotten so bad that my boyfriend remarked that "the amount of balls of wool coming into the house are not really proportional to the amount of knitted garments being produced". Well like yeah some of the balls just look nice hanging out in that large basket there!

     

    So with my years of wool addiction and knitting experience let me share with you some what I believe to be vital information about wool and how to go about choosing wool for your project.

    When we say wool it is somewhat of a misnomer so let's call it knitting yarn for now as most yarn isn't wool at all but man made fibres or a mix. There are some basic fibre types used to make knitting yarn – each of them have different properties and you might prefer one over the other for many reasons.

    Yarn types:

    Pure Wool: Made from sheep’s fleece and has pretty amazing properties – it is warm, breathable, and will absorb quite a lot of water so if you get caught in a downpour in your knitted sweater you might get heavier but you won’t get wet! Pure Wool does require some more care than other types and will most likely have to be hand washed with care and dried flat.

    Merino Wool: Made from merino breed sheep – all of the above properties hold true but merino wool is particularly fine and soft. This is probably my favourite type of yarn to use as it's lovely and soft to knit with and the result is a fabric that is warm yet breathable.

    Acrylic: Probably the most common fibre in the yarns we sell – it is a man made, synthetic fibre and while it offers some of the warmth of real wool it isn’t very breathable and can pill relatively easily. It is washable and usually hypo allergenic, most baby yarns are acrylic for this reason. It also takes dye very well so they usually come in great, bright, vivid colours.

    Cotton: Cotton is a natural fibre produced from cotton plants and is therefore very breathable and lovely against the skin. It’s not very warm and so is a lovely choice for spring /summer knits. You have to use the right pattern as cotton is quite heavy when knitted up and so can sag. Care wise - it can usually take a cool machine wash or hand wash and so is fairly easy care.

    Bamboo: Bamboo is a natural viscose like fibre sourced from the bamboo plant – it has lovely drape and sheen much like viscose and is breathable and usually washable on a gentle cycle. It is ideal for adults and children’s knits.

    Alpaca/cashmere: Types of wool but sourced from llamas and goats respectively, both have the same properties as pure wool but are softer and more insulating. Alpaca is particularly warm and has a very soft brush finish. They need a little care and attention and require gentle hand washing.

     

    Many of the wools we stock will have some combination of the above fibres which will usually give you a mix of the properties of each.  For example: Hayfield Super Chunky with wool is 80% acrylic and 20% wool meaning it’s robust and washable like regular acrylic and ha some of the warmth and loft of regular wool.

    I suppose the next thing to consider is the weight of the knitting yarn you're using -

    Yarn Weights:

    2/3 /4 ply – These are very fine yarns used mainly for crochet and lace knitting, most common in these is 4 ply in white as it is frequently used for Christening robes/blankets. Needle/Hook size 1.5 – 3.25mm.

    Double knit – Probably the most common weight, it is especially used for baby knitting as it makes for a fabric that isn’t too thick. Needle/Hook size 3.5 – 4.5 mm.

    Aran/Worsted – Aran wool is what’s used in those lovely scratchy jumpers, aran weight simply refers to the thickness of the wool – it is middle of the road thickness and is mostly used in adults garments but can also be used for kids knits. Needle/Hook size 3.5 – 4.5 mm.

    Chunky – Thicker than aran but we’re still in the realm of yarn that can be used in kids knits, but not babies. It knits up nice and quick but is still manageable so would be my recommended size for a beginner knitter. Needle/Hook size 5.5 – 6.5mm.

    Super Chunky – A really thick yarn ideally suited for accessories and adults garments – it makes a really thick, bulky fabric so isn’t really suitable for kids or baby knits. Needle/Hook size 10mm + depending on the yarn.

    So what does this all mean for you when choosing your yarn?

    Often as knitters we don't really pay attention to what we're using - we see something we fancy the look of and go ahead with our project. In my years in Hickeys I would look on aghast as experienced knitters, people who had been knitting for 20 + years picked up an aran weight acrylic to knit up a double knit cotton pattern. What does it matter and why would I care? It matters because, as you can see from the brief outline above; every fibre and weight behaves differently -knit with the wrong type and you get the wrong results. Knit using the wool suggested in the pattern as much as possible or at least find a good substitute - the same weight and fibre type/behaviour is important.

    I care because I love knitting and I want everyone to knit and be happy with their finished product!

    I'll give you a real life example; a wonderful lady used to come into the shop and buy yarn all the time. I was talking to her one day and she remarked how she'd been knitting a cardigan for herself for weeks and how now it was finished she hated the look of it and this is why she never knits for herself and she'll just go back to the baby knitting. I suggested she brings it and the pattern in so we could have a look and see if it could be altered to suit her better. In she comes with a beautiful cotton cardigan that I will admit looked rather long; to my dismay when she showed me the pattern it was for a pure wool aran weight yarn. "Ah now there's your problem - you used a cotton" "But it's aran weight". So after a lengthy conversation explaining how cotton is so much heavier/more drapey than wool that once she had the garment knitted up, even though she stopped at the right point, the cardigan kept growing. I mean once she put it on, the shoulders started hanging and the cardigan was nearly down to her knees. The only option was to rip it back and start again, so we went and picked a suitable pattern and I gave her a hand starting the ripping back process.... 4 weeks later that particular lady came sashaying into the store delighted to be modelling her new cotton cardigan.

    What's the moral of the story?

    • Choose carefully before you start your project. Let's face it knitting is a time consuming hobby, buy a yarn you love not only the look of but the feel of and you know you/your loved ones will be able to wear. I once bought a super chunky alpaca yarn to knit a sweater for myself - I have only ever worn this sweater once because it is far to warm and I am not a cold creature. I was a picture in my bright pink jumper with matching bright pink face!
    • Always use a suitable pattern for the wool you have chosen - see real life example above!
    • Buy the best you can afford. While there is always a place for a cheap and cheerful acrylic yarn - even I won't splash out on cashmere when knitting tea cosies - treat yourself/your loved ones to something you will really love and will last. As I have said repeatedly, knitting is time consuming, a labour of love if you will, so make sure you'll love the finished product by buying yarn you love.
    • If you're still unsure speak to an expert!

    In conclusion: My name is Laura and I am a Woolaholic!

    The Offending Jumper

  • If there’s one thing I heard more often than anything else when I worked in our stores it was “mine don’t look like that” - no sniggering please I’m obviously talking about ready made curtains. You see when you see ready made curtains on display in our stores they have been hung by our amazing display team who know all of the tricks of the trade to make them look fantastic. If you read on I can fill you in on the steps to take to make your ready made curtains look amazing.

    1. Pick the right size - this is an entire blog in itself which you can read here but basically if your curtains are too small they will never look right. You can pick the most beautiful curtains but they will hang like a sheet if there’s not enough fabric to gather nicely.
    2. Iron your curtains!!!! I cannot stress this enough -  if you wouldn’t put on a shirt without ironing it then why would you hang your curtains without ironing them? Your curtains have been folded and packed for some time before you receive them so they need to be unpacked and shaken out and pressed. Consult the label as to what temperature to iron them at and iron them on the lining side. If you’re not happy ironing them yourself or if they’re un-manageably large then ask your local dry cleaner - most will offer a pressing service for around €15.
    3. If you’re hanging pencil pleat curtains gather and hook them before you get up the ladder to start hanging, you don’t want to start messing about with tapes and the likes when you’re 6ft off the ground. If they’re eyelet curtains then have them folded in their pleats ready to go.
    4. Get some help - hanging the curtains is much easier if you get somebody to take the weight of the curtain while you do the fiddly bits at the top.
    5. Stand back and have a look and keep fixing and froofing (that’s the technical term) them until you’re happy with how they’re hanging. Always remember that the curtains are a ready made product and may need a bit of fixing to get them just right.

    See below for a step by step with pictures on how to get your curtains looking their best:

    • Get the iron and ironing board out - press the curtains on the reverse first, at the temperature it says is suitable on the label, I usually find it easiest to fold the curtains in half lengthwise and iron both sides then fold them out and iron over the centre crease.
    • Go to either edge and press the outside in to meet the lining, the fabric usually folds over by an inch (2.5cm)  this will have been done in the factory when they were stitched so you’re generally just going over and making sure the edges are sitting nice and flat.

    how-to-hang-ready-made-curtains

     

    If you’re hanging pencil pleat curtains this next bit is for you:

    I know this might seem like a lot of steps but none of them are complicated and you’ll thank yourself later when you’re admiring your perfectly hung curtains.

    • Pull the cords out of the tape a little at each end and tie a knot in both. This is probably the most important step as if you don’t, then you will pull the cords out and either have to darn them all back in yourself or hope a nice sales assistant in Home Focus takes pity on you and does it for you.

    how-to-hang-ready-made-curtains1

     

    • Next pull the one end of cord (usually the end that will be on the outside edge when hung) on the tape to pull the curtains to half the size of your rail/pole plus an inch (2.5cm), in this case the pole was 46" (116cm) so I pulled each curtain into 24" (60cm)

    how-to-hang-ready-made-curtains-2

     

    • Tie a knot that you can later undo to secure the tape and repeat this for the other curtain.

    how-to-hang-ready-made-curtains-3

     

    • Turn the curtain over to the front and space the pleats out evenly, take a bit of time to get this looking right at this stage.

    how-to-hang-ready-made-curtains-4

     

    • Turn your curtain back around and divide your hooks out evenly across the tape, use as many hooks as you have rings/gliders on your pole/rail. If you’re hanging the curtains on a pole - put the hooks in the second pocket down and if you’re hanging on a rail put the hooks in the bottom pocket. The general rule is to have 3 hooks per foot (30cm) but a few extra is fine.

    how-to-hang-ready-made-curtains-5

     

    • Now get hanging - as I said it’s helpful to have somebody take the weight of the curtains so you can hook them on top without the hooks popping out as you travel along. Start from the centre out as these rings/gliders all move and then when you get to either end you can pop the last glider in easily, either into the ring you have between the finial (end) and bracket on your pole or the last stationary glider on your rail.

    how-to-hang-ready-made-curtains-6

     

    • Next close your curtains fully and have a look at how the pleats are looking - you can have a last little straighten out now that they’re hanging.

    how-to-hang-ready-made-curtains-7

    If you’re hanging eyelet curtains:

    • Simply thread the rings onto the pole, making sure that the fabric is facing out on both ends. 

    how-to-hang-ready-made-curtains-8

    • Ensure that one ring is between the finial and the bracket on your pole.

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    • If you're using tie backs now is the time to hang them.

    how-to-hang-ready-made-curtains-11

    These pencil pleat curtains sat beautifully first time round but on the rare occasion your curtain still isn’t just right (sometimes some fabrics just want to bounce/kick a little) here’s a couple of more insider tips for you:

    • Tie your curtains into their pleats - basically gather them open into nice folds and use a few bits of fabric (even old tights will do) and tie them, leave them hanging like that for a couple of days and when you release the ties they will fall into their pleats beautifully.

    how-to-hang-ready-made-curtains-12

     

    • Open the seam at the end a little - sometimes they are stitched to the lining a little tight in the factory, a good tip is to rip the last few stitches out and press the seam flat again.

    If unlike me you're not naturally a person who loves a good preen or have too much other stuff to do to be ironing curtains then inquire in store about our expert fitting service

  • Choosing the right furnishing fabric for your project may seem a bit daunting but if you know a few things before you get started you can choose with confidence.

    Upholstery vs Curtain weight:

    Our furnishing fabrics will be marked with either UPH (upholstery weight) or CTN (curtain weight) - these are divided into 2 separate categories online. What do they mean?

    • UPH basically means that they have passed a test to qualify them for upholstery use, generally this is 20,000 rubs - meaning a machine literally rubs the fabric 20,000 times before wear occurs.
    • CTN means that these fabrics have never been through a rub test but are suitable for curtains.

    You can generally use upholstery fabrics for curtains also, the only time this would not be the case would be when the fabric is too heavy to fall/pleat correctly, in our current range all upholstery fabrics can be used for curtains.

    You can generally use curtain fabrics for cushions also, some heavier cottons I would even say you could use for kitchen chairs etc as they can be spot cleaned but they will not last as long as a fabric that is designated upholstery.

    Fabric Composition:

    Cotton/ Linen:

    • Cotton is a natural fibre, quite matt in appearance and will hang very well as curtains and lend itself very well to cushions and the likes as it can usually be washed. Of course I would never recommend washing curtains but a cotton can be spot cleaned.
    • Cotton is very easy to work with and is a good choice for beginners projects.
    • Beware the shrinkage! Allow yourself 5% shrinkage and always pre-wash your fabric if you’re planning to wash it in future.

    Silk:

    • Silk is a natural fibre and is a beautifully luxurious fabric with a dull sheen but requires some care.
    • When using silk for curtains use a good lining to protect against sun damage as it will fade easier than other fabrics, generally they will be interlined with an extra thick lining for body.
    • Probably not the best choice for cushions due to its delicate nature but I have been unable to resist in the past and with careful cool hand washing they have lasted me quite well.
    • Silk generally won’t shrink.

    Viscose:

    • Viscose is derived from plant sources like wood pulp and then transformed to fibres - it has a beautiful drape and silk like lustre but is much cheaper.
    • It’s generally a good all rounder as it’s breathable like cotton so nice for cushions etc and as long as it is graded UPH will do a fine job for upholstery.
    • Viscose can shrink slightly and sometimes can be a bit “bouncy” to work with but if made up correctly it is a beautiful fabric.

    Polyester:

    • Is a synthetic fabric, essentially a plastic making it extremely versatile and it generally has a sheen to it.
    • It is frequently washable and doesn’t shrink - making it a good choice for either cushions, curtains or upholstery.
    • It is less breathable than most of the other fabrics so you may find you get a little warmer on a polyester upholstered couch or with polyester cushions.
    • If made into curtains you can nearly guarantee it will last for years as it won’t shrink or fade like some of the natural fibres.

    Most fabrics you see will be some sort of mix of the above fabrics giving them slightly different attributes. For example: Polyester is frequently mixed with cotton to give it the firmer handle of a cotton and dull the polyester sheen with the longer life span/ lack of shrinkage of a polyester; Viscose is frequently mixed in with other fibres to add lustre and drape.

    Generally if you see a mix, you will be getting the best attributes of the fabrics listed rolled into one.

    I hope you can shop more confidently knowing more about these fabrics, trust your eye, choose what you love first and then have a good look at the composition and care to see if it is suitable for your project. If you want further help you can ask out experts in store who will be happy to advise you.

  • Oilcloth has come a long way from when your granny had the terracotta teapots on her kitchen table. I dare to say it is downright cool with some fresh and funky designs available along with the more classic styles.

     

    So here’s my top 5 tips if you’re considering oilcloth:

    1: Know your oilcloth - there are 2 types:

    • the less expensive P.V.C. usually retailing between €4.95 - €8.95, this is made as a plastic, it won’t wear as well as the more expensive oilcloth but is cheap and cheerful. This Is a good choice when you have toddlers etc as the chances are it will be full of bolognese and crayons and you’ll need to change it before it starts tearing anyway!

    • The more expensive Oilcloth usually retailing between €16.95 - €19.95 is actually a cotton that is then laminated so will last much longer than the less expensive ones and will look more like a fabric cloth.

    2: Invest in some table protector:

    • You don’t always need this but if you’re putting down hot plates/ dishes this will protect your table from heat where your oilcloth won’t.
    • It also helps to stop oilcloth slipping.

    3: Use clips - especially if you have children around:

    • These are simple little plastic clips with a bit of stretch that go over the edge of your table to hold your oilcloth in place, available in store.

    4: Remember that the oilcloth is protecting your table:

    • Wipe your oilcloth with some kitchen spray and a cloth
    • It will stain - if you spill curry or bolognese or the likes wipe it immediately but it may still leave a stain.
    • Remember every time you see a stain on your oilcloth - this is one less time you have ruined your table

    5: Get the size right - probably the most important on the list:

    • Measure the table! As with all things in life there is no such thing as an average table.
    • Generally you want your oilcloth to be 30cm (12”)  longer than the overall length and width of your table, this gives 15cm (6”) every side which looks decent and will hold the oilcloth down without it sitting on your lap when you’re eating your dinner
    • The P.V.C. / Oilcloth is usually 135 - 140cm (53  - 55”) wide so work with what’s available; if you have 20cm (8”) either side make it the same at the ends so it looks even all around.; If you have less in the width then still add the 15cm each end as you will need this to allow the oilcloth to drape.

    For example:

    Your table measures 105cm (41 ½”)  wide x 150 cm (60”) length and the oilcloth we’re buying is 140cm (55”)  wide - we will have an overhang of 35cm (14”) let’s go ahead and add the same to the length and buy 1.85m fabric.

    Now you’re educated about all things oilcloth (who would have thought there would be so much to know!) Shop our trendy range of Oilcloths now.

  • Let me confess something to you - I am not a dressmaker - I am generally crafty, knit more than I sew and I'll always run up a pair of curtains and a few cushions. I have even been known to quilt on occasion but when it comes to straight up dressmaking I find the whole thing a bit intimidating. I'm just not a great pattern follower - I tend to skip the instructions when reading a pattern and plod along only to realise halfway through that I have forgotten something vital. I have realised the reason for this is a somewhat short attention span and an assumption that they're probably being overly fussy and there's definitely a quicker way to do it. I am that monster that walks against the yellow lines in IKEA because I'm convinced I have found a more efficient way around it.

    I have recently started to challenge myself to follow patterns properly and have had some success - no doubt I'll update you in some future blog - but until then let me show you the perfect project for those impatient souls among you who just want a new dress!

    The secret to this easy sew project is plisse fabric - this is the most beautiful type of fabric - it's usually fairly lightweight and has tiny pleats the entire width and I am slightly obsessed with it! Don't be afraid of it -it will flatten out in parts when you sew but just don't stretch it as you're stitching and certainly don't iron it and all will be well.

    Let me show you how to make a super simple skirt and an easy peasy dress and I swear to you I had both run up in less than an hour, from thinking about how to do it to the finished product.

    Super Simple Plisse Skirt:

    You will need:

    • 1m plisse fabric
    • 20mm wide elastic to fit waist - * see below
    • Sewing machine
    • Gutermann sew all thread to match fabric
    • Pins
    • Measuring tape
    • Fabric Scissors

    *To figure out how much elastic you need - stretch it around your waist so that it is tight but comfortable and then add 2cm.

    Let's start:

    When you get your fabric it will be double folded with the pleats running across the width like this:

     


    Next fold it in half widthways.

    The next step is just a bit of shaping to give the skirt slightly less fullness at the hips - and who needs anything extra there? - mark a point about 34cm across - this is for size 10-16, for smaller go 31cm, larger go 39cm, then use your measuring tape to mark a diagonal line to the bottom right corner and cut along.

    Fold it back out from quarters into half and cut along the top so you have 2 pieces:

     

    Next with right sides facing, using a straight stitch and a 1cm seam allowance throughout - sew up the 2 sides of the skirt.

    Then you want to make the waistband by making a channel for the elastic - with the wrong side facing you turn down the top by 25mm (1") - sew all the way around leaving a gap of about 25mm (1") when you get to the end - then stick a safety pin through the end of your elastic and use this to thread it through the waistband.

    When you get to the end, pull both ends through and stitch together. Then stitch up the gap in the fabric.

    Try on the skirt and cut the length if desired - it doesn't need hemming but if you do this you may want to reinforce the last inch of stitching on the side hems.

    Easy Sew Skirt Ta Da!!!

    The dress may be even easier but you don't need to tell anyone that when you're wearing it:

    Easy Peasy Plisse Dress:

    You will need:

    • Approx 1 m fabric - *See below
    • Sewing machine
    • Gutermann sew all thread to match fabric
    • Pins
    • Measuring tape
    • Fabric Scissors

    *To figure out amount of fabric - measure your widest part, usually the hips and take 10cm off this measurement, for example my hips measure 120cm all around and so I used 1.1m fabric.

    Lay out your fabric with the pleats running down, then mark the halfway point and cut up the length of the fabric leaving you with 2 pieces.

    With right sides facing, pin at 28cm from the top on both sides, stitch up to this point, using a 1cm seam allowance throughout - this will be your armholes, this will be for size 10-16, smaller make it 26cm and larger go for 30cm

    Now for the neckhole - make it 30cm wide for size 10-16, 28 cm for smaller and 32 cm for larger. Simply mark with pins evenly across the top and stitch to this point with a 1.5cm seam allowance.

    That's basically it, turn the right way around trim any threads, as in the skirt you can simply cut to desired length, reinforcing the side hems at the bottom if you do. For the lighter plisse fabrics the neckline just naturally folds itself under but for the heavier one like this one with metallic finish you may want to hand stitch the neck seam down so it sits well.

    Easy Sew Dress Et Voila!

    This was all so easy that I got a little carried away and now Lauren and I have an entirely new plisse wardrobe!

    Easy sew dress Looking Fun and Flirty!

    Easy Sew Dress Our Edgy Model Look!

  • festival-survival-tips Image sourced from Pinterest

    The sun is shining, the weather is sweet and it makes me want to move my dancing feet! Yes people festival season is upon us, the weather is good (for the moment) and I am not getting any younger.

    In the last few years doing the festivals has become less rough and ready for me - I am not a young wan anymore and I like some comforts at a festival. I don’t mean giving the festival organisers €1000 for the glamping experience - I’d rather go on holidays to spain for that thank you very much, but making your own little slice of home in your campsite.

    So as a somewhat seasoned festival goer here are my top tips and tricks on not only making your festival experience just a bit more pleasant but slightly more glamorous also!

    1: Invest in the basics

    • Get a good tent, with a porch in case it gets muddy that way you can leave your boots and clothes in the porch and your sleeping area will stay reasonably clean.
    • Treat yo self to an inflatable mattress - I am 33, with a dodgy back, I do not need to be sleeping on the ground  - this was the best investment in festival going I have ever made!

    2: Pack a picnic

    • You probably won’t care by day 2 - 3 but on day 1 it might be nice not to start eating the chips right away. I usually bring a cooler bag like the one pictured, pack it with some of those ice packs you can get. Frittata is a good option - either day 1 lunch/dinner or day 2 breakfast if you keep it cold enough and I always pack some fruit- apples and clementines nothing that’s going to go mushy. That being said I’ll never turn down a peanut butter and jam sambo! You could invest in a fancy ice cooler but I usually find a few large cooler bags packed with those ice packs does the job very well for the weekend and I find them easier to haul around.

    3: Pack utensils and glassware

    •  Let’s face it there will be prinks (pre drinks - gettit?) in the campsite but gone are my Dutch Gold days, there may be a fancy I.P.A but that’s about the only can you will find me drinking out of. There will be fizz and there will definitely be a gin and tonic and even if it’s plastic I’ll feel a little classier drinking out of these glasses.

    4: Pimp your tent!

    You have the basics but let’s get fancier on it - not only will this make you feel like a sophisticated member of society but this is also a big help when finding your tent at 3 or 4 am.

    • A few years ago I stitched some bunting and added them to some solar lights and strung them around my tent - just tie them to the poles and guide ropes. While they have survived several festivals they are now on their last legs - this year somebody has done the work for me and I will be buying this solar bunting.
    • Add fairy lights indoors - these bulb ones actually give off loads of light - I usually bring 2 sets, one set of festive fairy lights for the porch part and the likes of the bulb lights for the bedroom of the tent. There’s generally a guide pole that you can catch them onto - bring some ribbon/tape to help.
    • Stick some reflective tape or tie brightly coloured ribbon (both around your guide ropes) - we’ve all been there, some eijit trips over your guide ropes and brings half of your tent on top of you! I’m not saying there won’t still be some eijit but this will certainly minimise all chance of tripping - for yourself included.

    5: Don’t forget your wellies!

    I am never going to wear wellies in the real world but you may need them at the festival. I usually pick up a cheapo pair and stick in my orthotic insoles (told you I was old) but I will Customise. I have done all of these in the past and spent many a festival with that smug “Oh I just made them” glow when people asked me where I got my cool wellies. The glitter ones were my favourite as I had a matching gold bomber jacket and glittery cat mask - oh no there’s no pictures I swear!

    • You could cover the whole wellies in mod podge glue and coat them in glitter/ rhinestones, let them dry and coat in a couple more layers of mod podge
    • Break out the glue gun and add some rhinestones a la Shirley Bassey, who should be everyone's festival idol I feel!
    • Again break out the glue gun and add some cool trim or fringe to match your festival ensemble!

    Images Sourced from Pinterest

    So there you have it - life lessons from a seasoned pro. I know you might be reading this thinking that seems like a lot to haul around but I always fit it all onto one of those little trollies that they sell in those German supermarkets this time of the year. Take a little time setting yourself up and you will thank yourself all weekend! The items pictured above are available in most of our stores - find your nearest one here. Oh and don’t forget your sunscreen!

  • If any of you were up late enough and not out dancing on Saturday night you may have been sitting happily at home watching the Ray D'arcy Show with a cuppa (or glass of wine). If you were one of those people you no doubt saw Sonia Lennon, Brendan Courtney and Hickeys' very own head of display Cathy Doran (we're not related) discussing the topic on everyone's lips "Meghan Markle's guna". I had the pleasure of being involved in the recreation of that dress on Saturday and assisting Cathy as she worked her magic, recreating the wedding dress in a mere 6 hours.

    The finished product onstage

    I sat at home that morning thinking to myself "oh I hope it's going to be a lacey number so we can show off our beautiful laces" -  you can imagine my disappointment when I saw how simple the dress was. There's no doubt that she looked gorgeous, though I'm fairly certain that she could wear a bin liner and that would still be the case - but as a fabric woman it was all just a bit.... well.....plain. Elegant; yes, beautiful; most definitely but this was not the princess moment I was expecting.

    The Real Deal - pic courtesy of townandcountrymag.com

    As I cycled into our Henry st store to meet Cathy and Joanna (the dreamteam) to prepare for our 5 mins of fame I had plenty of time to think about the dress. Did I love it? No. The veil was really the star but the more I thought about it the more I loved it - those who know me know I'm not really one for the understated but what I loved was that this is the dress of a woman who knows who she is. I think as we all get a bit older, creeping into that mid thirties bracket we get a bit more assured of who we are and what clothes we like. I know my style has developed over the years (I was once a full on goth) and while the eyeliner remains as black as ever, I have got to a place in my style where I know what I like and what suits me. I recognised this in Meghan's wedding dress - here was a woman who was confident in who she is and knows what she likes to wear. Meghan eschewed the traditional in favour of an understated number that would let her beauty shine through.

    So what about the dress itself? There was rumours abound about the designer Meghan would go for, everyone assuming it would be a British fashion house in honour of her new country. What did she do? She picked a french fashion house in Givenchy but helmed by a British native, their first female designer, the uber talented, Claire Waight Keller. The dress was made from a "double bonded silk cady", well what is that you might wonder? It's basically 2 layers of fabric bonded together to make a heavy, fabric with beautiful drape and minimal shine, it was lined with several layers of silk organza to make it stand out. This meant that the dress would have been heavy - while the weather was great for everyone else I'm sure Meghan was cooking slightly inside her dress! We used a very heavy matt duchess satin with layers of soft tulle underneath to mimic the look on the day.

    The real stand out for me - and the thing that I think Meghan Markle has single handedly started a trend with - was the cathedral length veil. The veil was about 16 1/2ft (3.5m) and was made from silk tulle hand embroidered with 53 flowers representing each of the countries of the Commonwealth. This was a truly unique detail which really told a story. I'm sure the seamstresses who lovingly stitched those flowers on nearly died when they saw that fella ball it up and ram it into the carriage when they were leaving the church! For our penance on the day, we cut and hand stitched 17m of lace trim onto tulle to recreate the look.

    Joanna and me working on the veil

    It was a day of strong and independent women at the royal wedding, which we can take lots of inspiration from - there was Oprah, Victoria Beckham, Serena Williams, women who run empires and look good in heels while doing it! There were a couple of standout looks in the sea of pretty and blush ensembles and you can see our takes on these looks in our Henry st store.

    Firstly, and let's get her out of the way because we all know what I'm going to say - Amal Clooney, she looked ridiculously good and again was true to her intelligent, elegant self! The ochre hue was out of the ordinary and the shape was perfect on her, accessorizing with a matching hat and a handsome man didn't hurt either!

    Secondly there was the lesser known Janina Gavankar, which you may not recognise from such TV shows as True Blood and The Vampire Diaries. Why did she stand out so much? Again the gorgeous colour was a factor but I also loved the story of the outfit - It was a 1930s dress from The Western Costume Company's private archive which she and her stylist landed on after being passed over by designers they reached out to to dress her for the wedding.

    Details of our replicas

    You might wonder where I'm going with all this rambling and what the royal wedding has to do with Hickeys anyway? I'm not a super girly girl and certainly not one of those girls who dreams about her wedding and the big white dress, so why was I so interested? Other than being involved in recreating the look for the Ray D'arcy show the thing that made me smile most about the day was all of these Independent Beauties being true to themselves. Meghan herself looked exquisite but nobody would have predicted that dress. There was countless intelligent, gorgeous women who attended that wedding and they all looked unique.

    Which brings me neatly to my Hickeys related point. Why go cookie cutter with a dress that anyone can buy in any store? If you're getting married or attending a big event why not be your unique self and go custom? It will generally cost the same or less and if you work with a dressmaker you will have an exquisitely tailored piece made only for you. I know it may seem daunting but you can call into your local Hickeys store and they can give you some dressmakers details. By finding the right dressmaker and the right fabrics, you could change your outlook on occasion dressing forever!

  •  

    Let’s face it; there have been some horror stories over the years of children being caught in the cords from blinds. Now I’m not here to scaremonger but rather to reassure as modern blinds have all sorts of new safety features.

    In 2014 a new European Standard was set, and all of our blinds made after that date were made to conform to that standard. So what does this mean? You can read the full ins and outs of the “European EN 13120” here but basically it talks about looped cords and what should be done to make them safe.

     

    Most blinds be they roller; venetian; or vertical will have some sort of looped cord to control them, this closed loop is really the source of danger. This has been the danger that the standard has set out to eliminate. If you're not familiar with blind types and would like to know more before reading on check out our Beginners Guide to Window Blinds.

    Looped cord

    So what did they come up with?

    The first and foremost solution is to make all cords a minimum height of 1.5m (60”)  from the ground. This is why when you give your blind measurements you now have to give the measurement from the top of the blind to the ground, even if the window is well off the ground - we need to know the full length so we can make the cord the appropriate length. This measurement is required for every home, not just those with children and if your blind is going to be in an awkward place, like over a sink where the cord cannot be easily reached, let us know and we can fit an alternative safety feature.  If you’re not sure if your cord can easily be 1.5m from the ground then that is definitely a job for our fitter to check.

    The change in cord length was perhaps the most obvious solution to a problem, little hands can hardly reach 5ft off the ground? But as we all know children can get themselves pretty much wherever they want if they want to! So the second solution is to have the cord under tension, this basically means that the cord is held taut with a cleat at the bottom. Not having the cord hanging loose means the little ones can’t get themselves tangled in them too easily even if they do manage to climb up to investigate.

    Cleat Holding Cord Under Tension

    The other feature which when suitable is on all of our blinds is an “Easy Break Mechanism”. This means that your cord is not one continuous piece but rather joined together with a small mechanism that will pop off if pressure is applied. The 2 ends can simply be popped back together if this happens. In cases like an awkward window like a dormer or if a person has mobility issues and can’t easily reach 1.5 m off the ground we can even make blinds with a “Double Break Mechanism” which is essentially 2 points where the chain can break, so the bottom of the chain basically drops off if any pressure is applied to it. Again, this can be easily re-attached.

    Easy Break Mechanism Joining 2 Cord Ends

    If you want to eliminate the issue altogether if purchasing rollerblinds you can opt for a spring mechanism, which simply pulls up and down with a toggle in the centre.

     

    The Curious Case of Roman Blinds

    I’m not going to lie to you, roman blinds were a major issue when this standard came in, as they’re basically made of all cords, talk about a hazard!! For those of you who aren’t familiar, a roman blind is attached to a track and pulls up and down with a series of cords running up and down the back of the blind.

    Cords Running Down Roman Blind

    The solution to this was to make each point where the cord attached to the rails at the back an easy break mechanism. This can be a pain at times - where if you, or someone in your home pulls the blind a bit too vigorously, they pop off. Now I’m not looking at anyone specifically here but either pull the blind yourself or teach that person who shall remain nameless how to re-attach the cords. This is of course an easy enough job and if you purchase a blind with us and you’re fitting it yourself, our expert staff can talk you through all this.

    Roman Blind Safety Break Away Mechanism

     

    So what does all of this mean if you already have blinds?

    You probably can’t have your blind altered at this point if they’re more than 5 years old but my simple suggestion to you is to buy a cleat. Keep the cord under tension so the little ones in your life can’t get wrapped up in them. If you’re handy you could go in store and buy an easy break chain connector and cut the chain to the appropriate height yourself. You can only do this if the full length of the chain is longer than the blind after you cut it, if the chain is shorter you won't be able to pull the blind up and down fully.

    Of course if your blinds are more than 5 years old and you’re worried that they’re not so safe maybe it’s time to treat yourself to some new ones!

    If you would like to talk to someone further about our child safety features please talk to our experts in store who will be happy to help.

     

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