IN THE NEWS

Seamstress for tastemaker Carolyne Roehm.

My work can be seen in her books "A Passion for Blue & White" & "A Passion for Interiors". 

“I first used Kristen to make table cloths for me,” says Roehm. “While I was redoing Weatherstone after the fire,  I hired Kristen to make all of my decorative pillows, bedspreads, bed dressings for canopy beds, and skirts for dressers. She is capable of making anything and unlike so many vendors in the interior design world she is always on time! She continues to work with me and did all of the same types of items for my apartment in New York and my house in Aspen. For me, she is an indispensable professional.”

 

Recently featured in Rural Intelligence by Dan Shaw                                Decorate Like A Pro: Custom Curtains by Kristen Foster

Bedding for Carolyne Roehm by curtain maker Kristen Foster of Falls Village
Interior designers sell taste. They also sell connections. And if you are one of those people who’s confident in your taste but don’t know the artisans who can execute your ideas, you should make an appointment with Kristen Foster, a master curtain maker in Falls Village, CT.  Although she always seems to be working on a project for the iconic style arbiter Carolyne Roehm (who has a landmark estate called Weatherstone in Sharon, CT, as well as homes in Aspen and Manhattan), no custom job is too small for Foster, who makes shades, pillows, shower curtains, draperies, valances, cushions, and headboards. “I will do anything with fabric but reupholstery, which is just too messy,” says Foster, whose throw pillows start at $65 and roman shades at $200.
Foster offers small-town service and world-class workmanship. “I first used Kristen to make table cloths for me,” says Roehm. “While I was redoing Weatherstone after the fire,  I hired Kristen to make all of my decorative pillows, bedspreads, bed dressings for canopy beds,  and skirts for dressers. She is capable of making anything and unlike so many vendors in the interior design world she is always on time! She continues to work with me and did all of the same types of items for my apartment in New York and my house in Aspen. For me, she is an indispensable professional.”
While most custom curtain makers insist that you buy fabric from them (so they can get the markup), Foster does not charge extra if you provide your own fabric (what’s known in the trade as COM—customer’s own material.) You can bring her a piece of cloth that you found at a flea market or warehouse sale, and she’ll be happy to make you a cushion or shade. But she’ll also help you find fabrics, and she even makes house calls. “We needed new cushions for our porch furniture and she brought over sample books and we made our choices in ten minutes,” says Dan Dwyer, the owner of Johnnycake Books in Salisbury, CT.  “She measured everything and we could not be happier with the results.” Ray Attanasio, a New York interior designer who co-owns Balsamo Antiques in Pine Plains (and designed the room at left), often brings Foster to job sites in New Jersey and Connecticut so they can collaborate on the best solutions for specific situations. “She has great ideas and knows what can and cannot be done,” he says. “She’s impeccable. She has very high standards. I have never been disappointed.”
Foster, who learned to sew from her grandmother and high school Home Economics classes, says it took years for her to become a master curtain maker. “Making window treatments requires a lot of trial and error,” says Foster, who doesn’t have a shop because she prefers to work at home in her basement studio. “I like being able to go to work at 5 a.m. in my jammies if I feel like it.” She says that she enjoys the challenges posed by clients like Roehm, a former fashion designer, who have extravagant taste.  “I love making draperies with dressmaker details,” she says, adding “but there’s nothing more satisfying than making a simple Roman shade.”
Compared to the ready-made pillows and curtains sold at places like Pottery Barn, Foster’s prices are quite reasonable and will be exactly what you want instead of a compromise. “Made to fit is made to last!” she says. “Most of what I make will last for the life of your house. You don’t have to be a millionaire to afford something truly fabulous.”
Kristen Foster
Falls Village, CT
860.824.5045  

Recently featured in the Litchfield County Times' monthly magazine.  A copy of the article:                                  Kristen Foster's Curtain Art
By: Kathryn Boughton 05/29/2009

Curtains are not a new idea. As early as the second century, mosaics showed panels of decorative fabric hung spanning arches to regulate light and to prevent drafts, while in the Middle Ages, when every man's home was not necessarily a castle, curtains were found not at the window, which was often no more than an open slit to admit light and air, but rather around the bed to keep away drafts.

Spartan early American homes would have had few softening touches at the window as fabric was largely imported and very expensive. Indeed, the inventory taken after the 1657 death of Theophilus Eaton, governor of New Haven Colony, mentions a total of 10 cushions, a needlework chair and a Turkish rug to lay upon his table, but nary a curtain at the window of his hall. And when Judith Sewall was to be married in 1720, her father apparently determined to give the pair a truly elegant wedding outfit. He ordered household furnishings from England that ranged from looking glasses-a real luxury-to a "strong Brass Mortar that will hold about a Quart with a Pestle." But the only "Curtains and Vallens" were to surround the bridal bed.
It was not until the 19th century's Industrial Revolution, when textile manufacturing boomed, that the sumptuous draperies of the Victorian age burst into fashion consciousness, heavily shrouding the overdone rooms and protecting rugs and furniture, with their primitive dyes, from the damage of sunlight.
Since then, curtains have waxed and waned in popularity, but oddly, every application they have enjoyed in the past can be found today. Kristen Foster, a drapery expert who makes her home in Falls Village, says that current trends are moving toward less fussy window treatments. "Chintz is definitely not in," she said, "and you are seeing people looking for more natural, more textured materials. You see more simplicity and more use of shades. When I started, it was all swags; now that is just not it."
Ms. Foster's clients include such arbiters of taste as Carolyne Roehm of Sharon, for whom she has done work for the past decade, and they provide the self-professed perfectionist with many challenges for her needle. "If someone can describe what they want, I can do it," she said confidently. "I have a knack for that, a knack for the way the motif of the fabric should be placed."
From her homes in Falls Village and North Carolina, Ms. Foster operates Kristen's Kurtains, working with designers and private clients from across the country. As is so often the case, her career trajectory started almost by chance. She had enjoyed sewing since she was a young child, when her grandmother said she would give the child a sewing machine if she learned to sew. "I took sewing classes in home economics," she said, "and I can remember how thrilled I was when my sewing machine arrived."
She sewed for herself and later made clothes for her infant son, but it was not until she was working in a Millerton, N.Y., gourmet shop that her future began to unfold. "They needed curtains, and I thought, 'I can do that.' I just sort of jumped in. I am entirely self-taught."
She developed her skill through reading and close examinations of fine draperies. "I would go to show houses and I took a trip to Newport, R.I. [to look at the draperies in the grand mansions]. I would compare the different work."
Then, craftily, she wrote letters of introduction to the designers of area showhouses and succeeded in having her work showcased in these venues. Among those who influenced her career was famed interior decorator-party planner David Monn, who for the past two years created the annual Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala.
In the late 1980s, Mr. Monn oversaw the showhouse at the Colgate mansion designed for Romulus Riggs Colgate by architect J. William Cromwell. "David Monn was a huge influence," she said.
Word of her skill quickly spread, and she said her workroom has "become the most sought-after in Litchfield County," as she advises clients on window treatments, both traditional and contemporary, Roman shades, bed treatments-including headboards, canopies, testers, skirts and coverlets-table skirts, shower curtains, sink skirts, toss pillows, cushions and window seats. Her work has appeared on the covers and in the pages of prominent home fashion magazines such as "House Beautiful and Veranda and is featured in Carolyne Roehm's book, "A Passion for Blue and White."
"I'm a perfectionist," she said, explaining her success. "I can't [let anything go] that is not done correctly."
The process of perfection begins with a consultation with the prospective clients to see how the treatment can best be effected. Measurements are taken and the client is given written specifications and an estimate. Ms. Foster brings her years of experience into the process, helping the client to select the appropriate fabric for the job. "Every fabric has a different in-hand feel," she explained, "its own characteristics. Some might be too light or too heavy-and that all makes a difference."
Her primary object during the planning phase is to listen to the client or the designer working with the client. "I don't live with [these rooms], they do," she said. "I want to make the client happy, whether I am doing a Victorian or a New York town house. I will say, 'This fabric will work better than that,' but it is their decision."
She noted that silk, for instance, while lovely to look at and nice to work with, can be degraded by sunlight. If silk draperies are called for, they will end up as four-layer panels-a lining, black lining to block light, inter-lining and finally the silk. Sometimes she uses English bump, a flannel-like cloth used for lining that gives the finished drapery "that voluptuous ball gown look."
"All that keeps the sun from rotting them and it is all done by hand," she said. "I'm very old school and I don't use a machine. Hand sewing makes it look much prettier. Doing it by hand you can keep the work smoother and adjust it more easily as you sew-and you don't see the stitches the way you do with a machine."
Sewing by hand requires her to stand all day-tiring to the feet-but she saves her back by working at a high table that allows her to stitch without stooping. She said a drape can take a day and a half to complete, but some of that time is devoted to preparing the fabric. "The inner lining, for instance, you cut and then you have to let it rest," she said. "So there are different parts to make the drape."
The fabrics that go into these creations are often very expensive. Ms. Foster said the least expensive goes for about $50 a yard and that it is unusual for clients to spend $1,000 a yard but not unheard of. While fabric is perishable, she has seen examples of her work 15 years after completion and found it to be in perfect shape. "I had one client move three times and we have taken the curtains apart and remade them each time," she said. "Some of this stuff can be used again. It will last a lifetime."
Some clients hand her challenges that require even more painstaking detail. She has upholstered walls in fabric, which she calls "really physical work." Carefully stretching and stapling the fabric over a batting, Ms. Foster must be careful to keep the pattern in the fabric even as she attaches it to the wall, much as one must match a wallpaper design.
"It is the dressmaker details that I enjoy," she said. "This is a dying art but I enjoy fine craftsmanship. There is such satisfaction in creating something beautiful."