& FINISHING THE SWAG
This article contains two
Fabricating the swag.
Detailed instructions for assembling and pleating a swag.
Quality checklist for
troubleshooting the pattern and finished swag. Just before you lock the pleats
into a finished top, you need to inspect the swag to ensure the quality of
the finished product.
Pin lining to the face fabric,
right sides together along the bottom curve. If interlining, lay the interlining
on the wrong side of the face fabric and secure it along the bottom edge also.
It is VERY importance to smooth these layers together and pin to a perfect one-to-one
Sew or serge the bottom
curve. If you use a straight stitch, trim the curve to 1/4". There is no
need to clip this seam.
Turn right side out and
lay flat on the table, face fabric down. Press the bottom seam line, rolling
the face fabric towards the back of the swag up to 1/8". Smooth the lining
(and interlining) up and outward along the length of the pattern. It is very
important that you have no excess lining (or interlining) between the top and
bottom of the swag. If anything, you should push the lining (and interlining)
up past the top and sides of the swag just a fraction of an inch. In doing this,
you will be making the lining (and interlining) slightly smaller than the face
fabric. This will help tremendously in preventing droopy lining on the finished
Secure the top and sides
of the swag with pins. This will hold the layers in place as you take it from
the table to pin to your board
NOTE: Many pattern instructions
will have you serge the edges of your swag at this time for a neater finish
on the pleats. I recommend that you do not. As the swag is pleated, the lining
(interlining) and face fabric do not maintain a perfect relationship. Especially
with heavier face fabrics and/or interlining, the take-up on the fabrics will
shift with the direction of the fold in the pleats. For this reason, you must
be able to manipulate the face fabric and lining independtly of each other
when making final adjustments to the lay of each pleat.
Turn your swag right side
up. If your pattern does not have fingers cut into the sides for the pleats,
mark the sides for the pleats. Follow the directions in Swags:
Options & Variables for marking the sides of a swag.
Pin your swag to the board
and pin up the pleats. If your pattern has fingers cut from the sides, the pleats
will form a straight line across the board. If you do not have precut fingers,
your pleats will form points on the board. Refer to Drawing
the Perfect Pattern for illustrations on how to pin the pleats to the board.
Once the swag is pinned
to the board, you begin the inspection and troubleshooting process using a Quality
Checklist for a Perfect Swag.
This is a checklist of points
to check on the swag before permanently securing the pleats.
Note: When making adjustments
to individual pleats, be sure to make the same adjustment to the corresponding
pleat on the other side. Perfect symmetry is the key to swag making. Only
under very specific circumstances will you adjust one side of a swag differently
from the other.
Shift the first pleat
on each side up to an inch inwards towards the center. This will make the
picture slightly longer. Adjust all other pleats to even out the space.
Or, unpin the swag,
table it and remark so that the first pleat is up to 50 percent larger (example:
if first pleat was 5 inches, remark so that it is 7-8 inches). Remark all
of the subsequent pleats slightly smaller to absorb the difference. You
must distribute the fullness evenly between all of the pleats. If you do
not, the folds on the front of the swag will be uneven.
Shift the first pleat
on each side up to an inch outward from the center. This will bring the
bottom line of the first fold upward. Readjust all the pleats on each side
to even the spacing.
Or, unpin the swag,
table it and remark so that the first pleat is 2-3" smaller. Remark
all of the subsequent pleats slightly larger to absorb the difference. Once
again, it is important to distribute the fullness evenly among all of the
On larger swags, if
the first pleat is not big enough, the first fold may be too shallow, almost
disappearing on the front of the swag. If this happens, repin the first
pleats higher than the board allowance. Move them up as high as you need
to without distorting the lines of the picture frame. Repin each additional
pleat slightly lower than the previous pleat. The last pleat on each side
should not move. Your line of pleats on the board will follow a downward
slant from the inside pleat to the outside pleat. If you pin both sides
the same, your swag will still be perfectly symmetrical. By not moving the
last pleat, your finished length and width will not be altered.
On smaller swags, if
the first pleat is too big, the first fold will be extremely deep. If it
looks awkward in relation to the rest of the swag, you will need to remove
some of the fullness from it. There are two solutions to this problem:
If the swag does not
have a pattern picture in the frame, you can unpin the top edge of the
swag and pull it upward, increasing the board allowance. You will be pulling
fullness out of the first fold. You should only need to pull it up an
inch or so to bring the first fold into balance with the rest of the swag.
Cut away the extra board allowance.
If the swag has a
picture you wish to preserve, you will need to unpin the swag, table it,
and remark the first pleat smaller. Then remark all subsequent pleats
to absorb the difference.
Shift all but the first
pleat in towards the center of the swag from both sides until the desired
width is acquired. This step will increase your swag length by about the
same measure that you decrease the swag width.
Shift all but the first
pleat out towards the edges of the swag on both sides until the desired
width is acquired. This step will decrease your swag length by about the
same measure that you increase the swag width.
If neither of these adjustments
is sufficient, you may need to recut your swag. If it is too wide, you can
cut it down. If it is too narrow, you will need to cut a new swag
3: Finished Length:
Reduce the board allowance
by shifting the entire swag forward on the board up to one inch.
If you can sacrifice
some of the finished width, shift all but the first pleat in towards the
center of the swag from both sides. This step will increase your swag length
by the same measure that you decrease the swag width.
If these steps do not
give you enough finished length, you will need to recompute the bottom curve
length of the original pattern. Recutting the bottom curve with a higher
rise might gain you a very small amount of length. Otherwise, it may be
necessary to cut the swag again with a larger bottom curve.
Shift entire swag up
higher onto the board. Stop at the point where the center picture becomes
Beginning with the second
pleat, repin each pleat slightly higher (about 1/4") and slightly farther
away from the previous pleat. Be careful not to distort the folds on the
If swag is still too
long, it will be necessary to recut the bottom curve length. While is it
still hanging, pin two tucks, one at each end, in the bottom curve length
of the swag until it is pulled up to the desired finished length. Measure
this finished curve length. Unpin the swag and table it. Remeasure the bottom
curve length and mark the desired curve length. Redraw both sides of the
swag from the top corner to the new mark on the bottom curve and cut the
new angle. Remark the pleats, pin securely and pin to the board again.
4: Folds on front and back should be even:
Note: This is desirable
on formally pleated swags. However, scarf swags, cutout/pole swags and casually
shirred swags do not have to adhere as firmly to this rule. As long as they
are symmetrically correct and pleasing to the eye, the slight differences
in the folds will add to their more casual appeal.
If a swag is cut and marked
for even pleats, all the folds should fall evenly. However, there are circumstances
when the folds will not fall evenly:
-- Rise on the bottom
curve is not cut correctly for this shape of swag.
-- Swag has been handled
too much, causing some stretching in the sides.
In these cases, the following
minor adjustments can make the folds even:
folds are too close together.
The space between the
two folds does not have enough fullness to push them apart. Take the pleats
on each side of the upper fold and roll the point of the pleat towards you
1/2" and repin in place. This takes fullness from the fold above and
pushes it down between the two folds which are too close together. At the
same time, it removes fullness from the fold above, causing it to move upward.
Take the pleats on each
side of the lower fold and roll the point of the pleat away from you 1/2"
and repin in place. This takes fullness from the fold below the folds and
pushes it upwards between the folds which were too close together. At the
same time, it removes fullness from the space below, causing the lower fold
to move down.
folds are too far apart.
The space between the
folds has too much fullness, pushing them too far apart. Take the pleat
on each side of the upper fold and roll it 1/2" away from you and repin.
This will remove fullness out of the psace and pushes it above the upper
fold, allowing the upper fold to move downward.
Take the pleat in each
side of the lower fold and roll the points 1/2" towards you and repin.
This also takes the fullness out of the center space and pushes it to the
space below, allowing the lower fold to move update.
Note that these adjustments
on the folds are very small. They will impact folds above and below. It is
usually best to start at the first fold of the swag and work your way down
the folds, adjusting each one in relation to the previous one.
At this point, if you
examine the back of the swag, all the folds should be evenly spaced there
5: Angle & Spacing of Pleats:
Step back from the swag
and study the pleats where they fall off the board. There should be equal spacing
between all pleats, and the angle of their fall should be the same. If you have
been making equal adjustments to both sides of the swag thru all of these checkpoints,
the spacing an angles should be pretty much perfect. Minor adjustments to the
pleats at this point will finish them.
6: Smooth the lining and crisp the pleats.
With one hand on the front
of the fold and the other behind the swag, gently smooth the lining up towards
the board line. If there is extra fullness in the lining, unpin the pleat and
ease the excess lining up onto the board without allowing the face of the pleat
to shift. This requires a very gentle hand. Easing out the excess lining will
help to prevent droopy lining at the bottom of the swag.
You can make the pleat look
just a bit crisper if you unpin it at the board and very gently tug the bottom
of the pleat outward.
For more detailed information
on how to troubleshoot a swag pattern and finished swag, and how to cut and
sew a swag, consider ordering The
Professional Workroom Handbook of Swags, Volume 1. The chapters on Fabrication
and Troubleshooting contain much more detail with pictures and diagrams on
the information given in this article. The chapter on fabrication contains
information on calculating fabric requirements, and different options for
finishing and mounting the swag. It
is a valuable source of reference for new and veteran workrooms alike.
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