Taking the next steps in soft furnishings...
Tea break
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Tea break - tips and tricks

When working with fabrics and making soft furnishings there are various points where it’s important to hold layers still, keep trims in place or secure folds before stitching. The obvious thing would be to use pins - but sometimes this can be time consuming for large areas, or you might not want to pierce delicate or blackout fabrics. There are various options available:


For large areas of fabric, or speed when holding layers while cutting, weights can be the answer. You can buy large table weights with handles designed for the purpose from trade suppliers or large haberdashers. These come in a choice of sizes. Alternatives used by many workrooms include vintage flat irons, dumbbells or house bricks which they have wrapped in fabric offcuts to protect their work. Another option would be to make yourself some beanbags to place at various points across the panels — these are quite popular with dressmakers and there are lots of patterns and tutorials online for various shapes and sizes.


When you’re putting blackout linings into handmade curtains or blinds, clips can come into their own. You can buy large and extra-large paper clips that simply slide over the side turnings to hold them in place while you are sewing.

When you’re forming pleats in a curtain heading, take a look at large clothes pegs (some are also called soft grip) or big bulldog clips. Once you’ve formed the pleats, these hold them in place while you finish the hand stitching. They help ‘train’ the heading into neat folds and can also slightly ease any strain on your hands by holding things in place while you sew.

When you’re attaching a folded border or edging, especially to a shaped lower edge for a blind, pelmet or valance, then take a look at clips intended for quilters. When finishing a quilt, these small clips are designed to hold the binding neatly all around the edge while the maker stitches it in place by hand or on the machine. When making soft furnishings, they can serve a very similar purpose and are quick and easy to place and remove. If you make lampshades, they are also great for holding glued braids and trims in place until secure.

Note — if your fabric is delicate, has pile like velvet, or embroidery that could be crushed make sure you place offcuts of fabric or interlining over the area before placing the clips to avoid possible crush marks. Clamps

From time to time you may find there are jobs where clips are not large or strong enough to hold what you are working on. Then clamps may fit the bill — either ones sold for furnishing use, or others sold by DIY suppliers.

Soft furnishing clamps are usually metal, have smooth quite wide grip areas and are intended to hold the piece of work to the edge of the worktable. They hold fabrics or made up panels straight on the table while you work on the heading, or measure off finished drops. They can also help hold an edge or corner if you need to add slight tension while sewing or placing heading tapes across a panel. If you use a long metal ruler when making blinds or measuring short drops, they can hold it in place at one edge while you work at the opposite side of the table.

Clamps intended for DIY use tend to have a narrower grip area and often have serrated ‘teeth’ which may mark soft fabrics. They are relatively inexpensive and come in a range of sizes, smaller for holding pleats and larger for clamping to your worktable or holding sections together when making pelmets or similar items.

In the USA there is a company called Draw-Matic who supply specialist workroom equipment designed to fit to worktables. They have a clamp bar which operates across the whole table width to make it easy to work with fabrics single-handed when squaring, measuring and cutting. For more information, visit Draw-Matic.

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