Grasscloth – to trim or not to trim the edges?

Grasscloth comes in many standards of quality. Poorer varieties have tattered edges, while finer varieties are more carefully produced. In many instances it’s obvious that the factory-edge of the material is unsuitable for producing an acceptable seam and needs to be trimmed. Instructions sometimes recommend trimming the edges of the material, but it’s usually left to the discretion of the installer. As paperhangers, we look to see how crisp and straight the edges appear when determining whether or not to trim them. In some instances, we’ll trim the sheets down to a certain width anyway, to be able to evenly balance them across a wall.

There’s an element of grasscloth which is often overlooked, though, in determining whether or not to trim.

When grasscloth is manufactured, the raw, wider material is bulk trimmed down to a width of 36″. In this process, the edges are compressed by rollers which hold the material in place as a rotary cutter slices off the raw edge of the grasscloth as it rolls through the presses. This crushes the grass and alters its appearance along the outer edges. It’s not something that would necessarily be noticed during a visual inspection of the material prior to installation, but it shows up as a white banding at the seams after the sheets have been butted together on the wall. This is more true of color-dyed grasscloths than of coarse, natural looking grasses.

In this photo which I found online (at sadieandstella.com), you can see the white banding that I’m talking about. If 1-½” had been trimmed off of each side of those sheets, the overall appearance would have been much more pleasing to the eye.

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These are two grasscloths that I trimmed before hanging. The green is an Elitis, and the taupe is a Romo grasscloth (both excellent companies known for quality textile wallcoverings). Even though the factory edges were true and crisp, I trimmed them anyway, and the result is consistent shading from panel to panel. Ditto for the grasscloth in the photo at the top of this article, which is Phillip Jeffries Glam Grass that I hung in a bedroom in Sewickely, PA.

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I prefer wet-trimming grasscloth on the wallpaper table. In the case of metallic-backed grasscloths, I prefer to trim the edges on the wall using the double-cutting method. This involves using a seaming pad on the wall, masking the underneath sheet to protect it from the paste on the back of the overlay sheet, and then cutting through the overlap with a #9 razor blade and a straightedge guide. It takes a lot of practice to perfect the art of double-cutting, especially with a heavy material like grasscloth, but the results are worth the effort.

In any case, it’s very rare that I hang grasscloth without trimming the edges, whether for shading or for panel-balancing considerations. It takes longer, but the finished appearance looks more professional.

 

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