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If you are thinking about making a stiff pelmet for the first time and are wondering where to begin, then take a look at these tips taken from our practical guide TEACHYourself STIFF PELMETS.

Pelmets are all the rage at the moment with a return to a more minimalist look in interior design. They are very effective when used in a traditional setting over curtains, but for a more contemporary feel why not team them with a roman or roller blind. The effects can be stunning!
What is a stiff pelmet? Stiff pelmet Valance
Its so easy to confuse pelmets with valances, but they are in fact two entirely different types of window dressing. A valance is much softer in appearance with a gathered or pleated heading. A pelmet however is flat and usually has a shaped lower edge. The scope for design variations is endless, so why not try your hand at creating something totally unique!
Firstly, bare in mind that making a stiff pelmet is somewhat different from creating other lighter weight soft furnishings such as cushions and curtains, which you might already be familiar with. The approach to making a stiff pelmet is a small step closer to upholstery, but it is still easy to achieve a really professional look without any extra heavy duty tools or special craft skills.  We have covered two types of pelmets in our step-by-step guide TEACHYourself STIFF PELMETS. In part one we deal with traditional pelmets made of buckram. The second part takes you through the more modern approach, making a rigid pelmet with an MDF backing for a truly modern feel. The guide will also help you decide which option is right for you.
Consider your design options
A few of our top tips for designing successful stiff pelmets:
  • Traditional or modern? Combine your pelmet with dress curtains for a really tailored look and finish off with a roman blind for added privacy (as seen above).
  • Team your pelmet shape and fabric choice with a co-ordinating roman blind and finish off with a trimming to match.
  • Choose a really eye-catching fabric, design a simple decorative shape for the bottom edge and apply piping, cord and decorative tassels.
Click here for additional design ideas and sketches.
Stiff pelmet and roman blind - with shaped bottom fascia and co-ordinating trim
Double piped shaped bottom edge with tassles for decorative effect
Choose the right face fabric
With stiff pelmets it is particularly important to choose the right face fabric. You are going to need to cut the fabric into various shapes and tension it over a backing material, so avoid fabrics that fray too easily. Initially it is also a good idea to steer clear of fabrics with a pile as these are particularly difficult to work with. Start with a stiff, closely woven cotton and leave the expensive silks and brocades until later!

What about a pattern? Small patterns, particularly stripes and checks are very effective on a stiff pelmet, but if your choice is a fabric with a large pattern, make sure you design the shape of the bottom edge to show the fabric to its best effect.

Selecting a trim
Pelmets look best with a trimming applied to the lower edge, as this adds both weight and definition. There are a vast array of trimmings available today and some of the colour combinations are exquisite.

Our second introductory guide
TEACHYourself SOFT FURNISHING SEWING TECHNIQUES contains a handy section explaining the many different styles of trimmings you can choose from. For inspiration its always worth visiting a branch of KA International or the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre for the ultimate in stylish trimmings, but don't forget that a wide variety of good value trimmings are available from high street fabric retailers and department store haberdashery departments. There's bound to be somewhere near you. Check out our Supplier Directory to find your local fabric retailer. 
Lower edge decorated with a contrasting commercially made trim to match the roman blind
Commercially made trim used to decorate shaped bottom edge
Getting the proportions right
Now that you've considered the shape, fabric and trimming for your stiff pelmet its time to test the size. Whether or not your stiff pelmet is a success will largely depend on getting the proportions right. It would be a shame to create a stunning design with fabrics and trimmings that are really eye catching, but to end up with a pelmet that looks out of place!  If the balance is wrong, the pelmet will either look too heavy or too squat! About a sixth of the overall curtain length or window size works well. A good tip is to invest in some graph paper and do a scale drawing. You will then be able to see straight away if you have got the balance right.
Next Steps
For this type of sewing project you will need several more unusual materials than when making lighter weight soft furnishings. These include heavy duty Velcro, glue, MDF or buckram, which you may not have to hand. If you are planning to use MDF you will also need to make a trip to your local DIY store and think about how you will have the board cut to your desired shape.  Make sure you take your time over the preparation stage and plan thoroughly to avoid mishaps! If you are completely new to making soft furnishings, then its also a good idea to ensure that you understand some of the basic sewing techniques before getting started on more complex projects. These include the different stitches (hand and machine sewing) and seams that are used when making soft furnishings. We've got this covered in our free guide to Basic Sewing Equipment and Techniques which you can download, view, save or print off in no time at all.
The Simply Furnishings team has also produced a unique step-by-step guide to help you tackle your stiff pelmets project with confidence. TEACHYourself STIFF PELMETS offers all the practical advice you'll need on how to make stiff pelmets, including a full list of materials and tools, design guidance and step by step cutting out, sewing, assembly and installation instructions. Time to get to work!

Good luck!
Wendy Molnar

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