Sue Whimster Curtain’s marketing director James Amies rolled up his sleeves and took a day to accompany our in-house curtain maker on his working day to find out what goes into a premium curtain fitting service.
At Sue Whimster Curtains, we owe much of our success to our brilliant and talented team. It is their skills and hard work that allow us to provide our customers with a premium service. From hand crafting orders with precision and care, to finely-tuned fitting, together we have many, many years of experience that enable us to pre-empt problems and deliver exceptional products on time and on budget.
Today we shine the light on a very valued member of the team, our in-house fitter John. John has worked with Sue Whimster Curtains for over 15 years and is our man on the ground expertly fitting our products. I thought it would be interesting to shadow John and pull back the curtain on what goes into a premium curtain fitting service.
John arrives on site at 8.30am in Clapham, and I meet him there. Parking is always the first problem, especially in built up cities, but today John manages to park outside the building and the road is wide enough so unloading is much easier. John’s van is amazingly well equipped and organised with three different sizes of ladders, numerous tools, drills, saws, hoovers, cleaning equipment and carefully labelled screws, and fittings, all in carrier size boxes.
Be ready for fitting
The job for today is to fit Curtains, Roman Blinds, and Roller blinds into six different rooms in a residential property. However, upon entering the house we soon discover that this will not be possible: the house is still full of builders, carpenters, flooring contractors and cleaners, all busting a gut to finish this property off as apparently the owners will be moving in at the weekend. We can see straight away that three of the rooms are still to be painted, so we won’t be able to do any fitting in these rooms.
John says that he thinks interior designers often book curtain fitters in on dates to almost put pressure on builders to finish the job. But, the reality is that curtains and blinds can only be fitted when carpets are down, and all walls have had their final coats, and all fitted furniture is in place and painted, so it’s a wasted journey and wasted resources for the interior designer.
An expert eye can see what most don’t
We start with the fitting of a roman blind. John double checks measurement of window and blind, and exclaims, “Perfect. This will be straightforward.” John explains that often blinds can be slightly too big or a fraction too small, and there are different things he can do to overcome these problems. He also explains that a lot of floors and ceilings are not straight, and offers a little insider knowledge: using a spirit level would in most cases would be the wrong thing to do and it’s actually best to use one’s eye to make these fit.
John spots a problem – he can see that the blind has been made with the chain system down the left side of the blind, but the this side is two inches from some new fitted cupboards. His experience tells him straight away that it would make far more sense to swap the chain system to the right side of the blind, so he doesn’t waste time to stop and ask the project manager but gets on with the job at hand.
The devil is in the details
I ask John how long he has been fitting curtains and blinds, he thinks for 25 years, and he’s been working for Sue Whimster for 15 years. I am very impressed at the speed he works; fast but controlled. He’s very careful with leaving any kind of marks, he removes his shoes every time we walk into a newly carpeted part of the house. He explains that it would be quicker to wear a tool belt, but this is a no-no, as if he brushed a newly painted wall with a protruding tool handle, it would leave a nasty mark.
Next up was to fit the painted lath that he had made before breakfast. John said he likes painted laths, not only do they hide the tracks, they are a great way of projecting the curtains away from a wall. So they work very well if you have a radiator sticking out below the window. John then had to recondition an existing track, which he did by checking the runner, and adding extra gliders which he had in his supply. He then screwed the track to the lath, and tried to place the new painted lath with track into the recess, and could see immediately this was not going to fit. It could only have been 3mm out. I said, “Can’t you just force it in, as it so near?” to which our expert knew, “Absolutely not, because it would leave a mark on the wall”. He whipped the lath down, and within 30 seconds had his battery operated saw out and had trimmed the end. The lath now fitted perfectly. Job done, I thought. I was wrong again: he had a small gap where the lath joined the ceiling which you could see. John then produced his mastic gun and applied white mastic for a seamless finish.
The mark of commitment
I asked John about other problems with curtain fitting in London. According to John, traffic and parking have become harder and harder: “If I have five site jobs to do in one day, I do prefer to start at the furthest away location and work my way back, but that doesn’t always happen. The other problem is that sometimes you just do not know how long a job will take. Frequently there is a lot of furniture to move, or stairs to negotiate. It is difficult to know exactly what time I will reach each job. However I do like to finish all jobs in the day, even if I am still fitting at 10 o’clock at night.”
Next up, we need to fit a thick white wooden pole with big rings. John lays his dustsheet on the carpet below the window, and then checks measures with tape and a pencil, muttering numbers and drawing four dots on the wall above the window. Showing once again that John’s knowledge and experience is second to none, I look at this and I don’t say anything as it looks as if the pole will be far to far to the left but am assured that once again there’s a good reason for all of this, which will be revealed in time. The holes are drilled. One of the holes is very close to the ceiling, John uses a bit of card that goes between his hand and the drill to prevent any kind of marking on the ceiling. The brackets are put into place, and the pole fitted. He does admit that one could use a centre bracket, instead of architrave brackets at each end. And then I see it – the reason that the pole is on the left, is that as this is a single curtain, it will be stacked on the left when closed and John has ensure there is room for it to hang properly.
How the pros dress curtains
John now hooks the curtains using a measuring tape in one hand, and using the other to pin the hooks into the top of the curtains. It’s clear to see he has been doing this for 25 years!
He hangs the curtains on the individual rings, all fairly simple. Kneeling on the floor, he dresses the curtains. Now this is clever: he moves his hand quickly through the material. He starts at the top of the curtains, and works through the whole top of curtain. He has managed to dress the curtains back into its pleats. Once he has done the top part, he ties this together with a piece of polythene. He does this with the middle section, and finally the lower section.T he curtains now hang beautifully, and if they can stay like this for three days, the curtains will keep this shape. I have to say I couldn’t have done this, and it’s one of those skills that they could have asked people to do on the generation game with Bruce Forsyth, and it would have been hilarious watching people attempting this!
Tricks of the trade
We continue to fit another three roman blinds. John uses the window ledge to layout each screw and fitting. John has another trick. Once he has fitted curtains and blinds, he is able to put back the plastic wrappers over the blinds and curtains. Again, a small but very sensible extra, as there are still builders and carpenters in the house.
We now have the clock ticking, as John needs to meet Sue Whimster herself on another site with the interior designer. Everything is packed away neatly, all rubbish collected, dust sheets are rolled up.
Upon meeting Sue, I see that the task at hand is actually quite tricky, as some of the windows are not even finished. It was interesting to see how Sue and John could envisage how windows would look and, more importantly, seeing any problems and coming up with solutions at this early stage.
John then measured the 20 windows for curtains, roman blinds, roller blinds, and combinations of both, with some of the windows being very large.
What did I learn?
Curtain fitting is a serious skill, and now I have watched John in action, I can see that having someone who really knows what they are doing is paramount. I can see that he has to adapt and be creative on site to make the curtains or blinds look their best. It’s clear that having him involved in the consultation and measuring before the curtains are made saves us and our clients much time and heartache down the line by preventing the wrong type of window treatment being specified.
Interested in discussing your bespoke curtain or blind requirements? Please get in touch with the Sue Whimster team to find out how we can help.