Nob Hill Gazette, Inc. — June 2010
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Special Promotion

Laurel Sprigg Fine Sewing For Interiors

Using the most sublime textiles, Laurel Sprigg and her crew of sewers, all accomplished in dressmaking and tailoring techniques, create exquisite custom interior soft furnishings. Sprigg has also worked on preservation projects, giving old, precious textiles new life or preserving delicate textiles with the most advanced archival techniques.

To say that Sprigg does fine custom work barely begins to connote the kind of detail, skill, experience, and dedicated passion that goes into her work. Applying traditional English sewing methods, Sprigg ensures that the custom works she creates fit perfectly, hang properly, look gorgeous from afar as well as to the most nitpicky eye, and last a lifetime. In addition to her business, Sprigg extends her expertise to the San Francisco Fine Arts Museum’s Textile Arts Council, which she has been on the board of for six years—three as its chair—and she teaches about textiles through the U.C. Berkeley Extension interior design program.

The Gazette recently met Sprigg at her workshop in the San Francisco Design Center to talk to her about her fine craft and passion for textiles.

Tell me about what you do here?

We sew for interior designers and architects. I’ve been doing that for nineteen years. We make all manner of window coverings and bed coverings, pillows, pillow shams, cushions—for outdoor use and indoor use. I make slip covers as well. The only thing we do not do is upholstery.

Tell me about the process of creating custom soft furnishings.

Interior designers come in and talk to us about their projects. Most often they bring in samples of what they’re thinking about using. We can then give advice about what’s going to be successful and what isn’t, especially about how something is going to hang. The fabric changes what we do with it.

Once they’ve made a selection, the fabric is shipped to us. We check it right away [Sprigg passes every inch of fabric over a large light-box to be able to see imperfections in the fabric] to make sure there are no flaws.

What differentiates what you do from what we find, say, even in a higher end store?

It’s a big difference. It’s the difference between going to the dressmaker and having a garment made for yourself that fits your body and is hand-detailed on the inside and all the things are done to fit you versus buying something off the rack. The off-the-rack thing might work for a wearing or two, and then you clean it, and it’s shot.

With custom curtains and bed covers, if you’re going to spend the money, you’re going to want to live with them for a long while, and have them last.

I think of what we do the way I think of couture garments. What we create should last and be serviceable.

Pieces of this quality should not fall apart; they should not have curling and twisting issues on the lead edges; the lead edges should not be lifting up when they exposed to weather in a sunny window or dampness. The items should be sewn to tolerate weather changes. They should be protected by the inter linings and linings. I also always recommend film on windows. The two things that damage fabrics most are sun and dirt—like dirt in the air, particulates in smoke or smog, for example.

How should one care for fine interior fabrics?

Curtains that are made this way, the English way, with the inter linings hand-sewn in and all hems hand sewn, I recommend they just use the brush attachment on their vacuum cleaner and vacuum them periodically.

And with bed covers, I always ask designers how they’ll be used. If it’s something that’s going to be put in the washing machine, for example, a duvet cover or slip cover for a child’s room, then we’ll prewash the fabric so they won’t have the shrinkage problem after the item is made.

What new technology is there in textiles that you’re excited about.

There’s so much. First off, there are so many handmade textiles still available it’s astonishing. There are also many historic fabrics being re-made. Many of the fabric companies are looking into their document collections and pulling out old patterns, and using them in new ways—making a three-inch motif a three-foot motif, say, and it has a whole different contemporary impact that way. So they’re using old and making new, and in some places, recreating the old exactly the way it was made two hundred years ago. And the fiber technology is so interesting now. They’re making sheer fabrics, for example, out of things like solution dyed acrylics, so you can have a sheer fabric that has a color to it that won’t fade or be damaged in the sun. And there are fabric designers creating wonderful outdoor fabrics now, that can be used indoors, but are so practical for the spaces where there’s a really strong sun exposure.

And new fiber are being developed with nanotechnology, bonding chemicals to the fibers in a molecular way to resist stains. You see that in clothing now. They advertise pants and shirts where you can pour red wine down them and nothing sticks. There is also nanotech fabric for curtains now that will, not only resist stains, but also absorb odors without retaining them. You can also have fabric custom dyed and silk screened. And now there’s the technology to do digital printing on fabric so that you can get any kind of image printed, and it’s very inexpensive to do, relatively. Modern communication and travel make it possible to know about both ancient and contemporary textiles from all over the world.

It’s a very exciting time for textiles.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Yes, I would like to let people know about the Textile Arts Council. They’re a support group for the textile department of the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums. We are trying to make sure textiles stay around for people to learn about. It’s also a great resource for design inspiration. There’s a textile research center, a textile library, and a state-of-the-art conservation lab.

Many of my clients are actually working with people who are collecting antique textiles from around the world. So, they’ll bring me antique, beaded textiles from Jakarta or India and say, “Make pillows out of this,” or fifteenth century European tapestries and say, “We want to hang these.” So I make sure to do my homework and know how to preserve the integrity of the piece as I work with it.

I think about all fabric that way, how to treat it with respect and to understand the best way to sew something. I want my work to really last and to preserve the integrity of each fabric so that it will look beautiful for a long time to come. I am mindful that what I sew will become part of someone’s home.

I want them to be beautiful and functional, and something that the homeowner will enjoy living with for a long time.