Saturday, February 24, 2018

Fixing Grommets on Acoustical Drapes

My most recent Drapes of Doom™ repairs involved some guesswork.  I was frustrated I couldn't find any examples online.  So I'm documenting what I did (and will update with any success/failure).

Removing old headers and replace with new jute
The backstory:  I volunteered to repair a set of heavy velvet acoustical drapes that are used by several dance organizations in the New England area.  The drapes are roughly 6 to 8 feet wide, and 14 to 16 feet tall.  They are well used.  The first set of repairs included splitting three very large drapes (16' across) into two narrower drapes so they'd be easier to handle (six 25-pound drapes are easier to put up and take down than three 50-pound ones!).  I patched holes and restitched hems.

I received 10 drapes for my next set of repairs.  I was asked to patch holes and deal with grommets that were pulling out of the drape headers.  This was more of a challenge.  I didn't want to sew over the metal grommets, wasn't sure how to shore up the weakness.  In the end, I left many of the grommets as they were.  Three drapes had more torn grommets than intact ones and the fabric around the others was tired.  I sliced off the entire row of grommets for those drapes, ripped out the crumbling jute, and attached a brand new jute header.  This required a full set of grommets to be installed.  That seemed to be the safest route to fix the drape:  removing all of the weakened fabric and jute, then add new.  The drawback was that it removed three inches from the height of the drape and required a full set of grommets.  Even though I was given the green light to do the modification, I wasn't sure if there'd be issues with a shorter drape.  (Although I think they've been happy with the modification.)

My most recent delivery was 13 drapes.  A few of these were ones I had deemed not bad enough to warrant a complete header replacement.  I focused on fixing the grommets that were missing or in the process of ripping out of the drape.

After some research I decided that denim may be a good patch material.  I wanted to cover both the torn jute and the threadbare velvet.  Each patch was made of medium weight denim that I folded in on itself, then folded in half again (like bias tape).  The patch was placed over the top of the drape, so that the denim covered both the front and the back.  I made each patch about 3.5" wide, about 2.5" tall.  This covered both the weak spot and the surrounding material so I could stitch the patch to an undamaged area.  My thought was they can re-insert the grommet into the same place as before and the patch would hold together the damage and redistribute the stress along a larger area.  

It's hard to judge how this will work.  Generally speaking with sewing, a patched area is never as strong as a whole piece of cloth.  On the other hand, with good denim and new upholstery thread, I suspect these patches may be stronger than the surrounding area.  My repair may end up moving the damage further down the header.  I'll know if I find myself fixing ripped headers near these patches in the future.

In addition to the header and hole repairs, I was asked to make an enhancement to the curtains to allow them to be hung on their side.  I dithered about this (and again found nothing online to help me).  I tried two different reinforcements.  First was a corner patch, with denim on both sides.  I folded two 8" squares of denim on the diagonal so that the bias of the denim would be the same as the drape.  The back triangle was folded in half, with the straight raw edges set against the edge of the drape.  The front triangle was folded on the diagonal, but not quite in half.  The single raw edges were pinked, folded over the raw edges of the back triangle and stitched in place.  This made the front triangle a little smaller than the back one.  (If you look carefully, you can see the staggered row of stitching on the diagonal.)

The other patch was laughably overkill.  But if it works, then I'm happy enough.  This had the same sort of corner patch on the front, with the straight edges brought around to the back of the drape.  The back consisted of two 7" x 12" pieces of denim, overlapped along the edge of the drape. (It's hard to see with the blue against blue.)

Both are designed for a corner grommet.  The overkill patch could probably handle more than one grommet.  I'll see what they look like in April.

One last note - the jute doesn't handle folding and unfolding very well.  Along with the grommet damage, the headers were weakest where the drape has been folded.  I think the constant use and storage of the drapes is causing some of the deterioration.  I have been replacing old jute with new jute.  It's inexpensive and easy to install if I'm replacing the whole header.  But I wonder if I should consider something else that can handle the abuse these traveling Drapes endure.  Something to think about for the next set of repairs.


  1. are a wonder fixing all those curtains. A job well done by you, I would say.

  2. I love the way you tackle a challenge! And I have been envisioning a velvet drapery to use as a sort of folding room divider - I want something dense enough to make people feel like it provides privacy but not so thick I can't keep it folded back 99% of the time. I really wasn't sure about velvet being feasible, but I can see it so clearly in my mind's eye. Now I wonder if I knew yours were velvet and I was just stealing your project!

    1. "Folding" is a bit misleading; I plan to hang this imaginary thing from a strong drapery rod.


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