Anyone who dresses windows for a living has to make templates of specialty shaped windows from time to time, whether it’s for custom arched drapery rods, specialty shaped blinds or shutters, arched top Roman shades, or Tableaux faux iron. I was talking to Ruth over at Helser Brothers about this the other day, and got her to dish about some of the worst templates that designers and installers have sent in over the years. I couldn’t resist sharing a few of them with you, Jay Leno-style, so here you go:
The Top 10 Ways to Make a Lousy Window Template
1. Use leftover scraps of gift wrap, or sheets of notebook paper that your kindergartener helped you glue together, for your template material.
2. If you forgot to bring template material with you to the appointment, just use toilet paper, tissue paper, or Kleenex – whatever you can find.
3. If the window is too large for just one piece of template material, stick two or more pieces together with temporary spray adhesive or low-tack painter’s tape. Your fabricator can stick the pieces back together if they come apart during shipping.
4. Don’t bother making a template of the whole window – just tape skinny strips together to follow the shape of the curved or angled edge.
5. If you label your template, use an air-erasable fabric marker, crayon, invisible ink, or lemon juice.
6. Any markings, measurements or labels on your template should be as illegible as you can make them. If necessary, write in runes, hieroglyphics, or Mandarin Chinese.
7. Cut your template shape out using children’s safety scissors or a dull steak knife. Those jagged edges and irregularities on your template add lots of character.
8. You don’t need to bother making a pattern of the ACTUAL window – these specialty windows are all pretty standardized. Just take a few measurements at key points and then draw your template later when you get back to your office. If you have several specialty windows of the same size and shape, you can just make one template that will work for all of them.
9. Once your template is finished, fold it up as small as you can get it and cram it into one of those envelopes that florist cards come in.
10. Mail your template to your fabricator without a return address, sidemark, or copy of your order enclosed – your job is probably the only specialty shape they have this month.
I know this sounds incredible, but with the exception of the lemon juice and the Mandarin Chinese, all of these template methods have been used by actual designers and installers to create disastrous templates for custom orders. If you’re guilty of employing any of the template no-nos I’ve just described, it’s time for a refresher on how to create templates that will ensure success on installation day. Actual template methods may vary depending on the particular product you’re ordering, your fabricator’s preferences, and the details of your planned installation, but here are a few tips to get you headed in the right direction.
For the best templates, you need to start with the right materials. I like to use a sturdy, heavy paper for mine, either white butcher’s paper like this roll I purchased at Sam’s Club, or brown craft paper that you can find at packaging supply or hardware stores. Get the widest roll you can find, because ideally you want one continuous piece of paper for your template. If the window is too large and you must join multiple pieces, do this on a flat surface like the floor or a worktable to make sure you end up with a template that lays perfectly flat – don’t try to join multiple pieces together at the window. Make sure whatever you use to join the template pieces together is not going to come apart during shipping or when the template is handled, either. I like to use clear packing tape on both sides when I join template pieces together.
Once you have taped together enough sheets of your template material to completely cover the shape you are trying to template, use masking tape or low-tack painter’s tape to temporarily adhere the paper to the window trim, the wall, or even to the glass, depending on where your treatment needs to install. You definitely don’t want to use packing tape for this step, because it might rip off some of the wall or trim paint when you pull it off afterwards. As far as drawing the actual window shape, you may need to experiment because different methods may work better in some situations than in others. I like to use the flat side of a dark, peeled crayon to rub along the front edge of the window opening, but sometimes a pencil works better when you need to make a template at the back of the window casing, up against the glass. When I’m satisfied that I’ve recorded the shape of the opening, I take down the template and draw over my crayon or pencil line with a thin black Sharpie marker, smoothing out any jagged edges and making as even a line as possible. Next, I carefully cut out the template along the black line and – this is crucial – put my template back up to the window opening to make sure it’s an exact fit. If it’s a tricky inside mount and I’m second-guessing myself at all, I’ll use my paper template as a pattern and cut the shape out of a rigid material like cardboard, tag board, or foam insulation board (they sell this at Home Depot) and then I test fit that into the window opening to make absolutely certain I like the fit. Keep in mind that your fabricator will most likely make inside mount deductions. Check with your fabricator if you’re not sure about their standard deductions, or if anything on the order form doesn’t make sense to you – remember, the only stupid questions are the ones you didn’t think to ask until after you received your custom made hardware and it didn’t fit the window!
Once you’re satisfied with your paper template, be sure to label it with the following information, again using the black Sharpie and legible printing:
- ↑ UP
- JOB SIDEMARK
- WINDOW # (if more than one window is involved)
- KEY LENGTH & WIDTH MEASUREMENTS
Finally, roll your template into a mailing tube rather than folding it, and include a copy of your order and contact information. There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? The extra time it takes to obtain an accurate template of specialty windows will pay off on installation day when your design comes together beautifully and everything fits the way you envisioned.