Thursday, July 1, 2010

Home Decor V - Curtains (or A Clown Car Explodes in My Living Room and I Get Over My Fear of Button Holes)

Our living room has five giant beautiful windows set in a curve. I love them. I love how much light they let in. However, I don't love that everything in my living room is fading because there is no way to block out that light. Also, watching TV or a movie during the day is pretty much impossible.

We need window coverings. If we owned this house, I would have scrounged together, and then forked over, zillions of dollars to have some really lovely long 40s/50s style tropical print curtains made. But - its a rental and we are not rich so I decided to cheap out and make something easy and inexpensive.

I let the Hubs pick out the fabric and its, well, a bit kooky to say the least. The fabric pattern is bright, the red flowers pick up the red of our area rug nicely, and its also totally clowny-circus. Marriage is about compromise: I can live with the loud fabric if he can live with my total half ass window covering design.

I started out by cutting panels that would fit perfectly inside each window with a little left at the top and bottom for hems. I used the rolled hem foot along the edges and made a 1" hem at the top and bottom. I left the edges of the top/bottom hem open. I slid a tension bar through each top hem and inserted the bar into the window frame.

At this point I realized that the fabric was way too heavy to use a simple tie back in the center. The canvas was very stiff and looked bunchy and weird when held back with a tie. I considered making the panels into roman shades, but all of the sites I checked online listed the roman shade hardware as about $30 per window. Yikes! I had to come up with something else.

There were just two long strips of the curtain fabric left so I had to get creative. My solution is totally weird, but it works. I folded each strip down the center and made a seam so that when unfolded the strips would be about 1" wide. Cutting the strips into equal lengths (and two strips per window) gave me ten 12" long pieces.

I stitched the open end of the strip on the shade at the top seam with the right sides together and then pressed them down. Buttons were sewn on so that when in the top button hole, the shades would completely overlap. I inserted dowel rods into the bottom hem to give the shades a bit more weight so they would hang straight down. I will need to sew some rod pockets on the back of each curtain and insert another dowel behind the buttons so that the folded panels don't wilt when they are buttoned up.

Let me tell you, after doing 40 button holes for these shades, I'm a lot less afraid of making button holes with my machine. I finally figured out how to use the button foot and it is the only thing that made it possible to make all those holes. Some are good and some are awful, but they are ALL so much better than the freehand button holes I've made in the past.

Button holes I no longer fear you! I can now make a shirtwaist dress, or anything from the pre-zipper era without trying to figure out how to fudge all those buttons. Hooray!

Its not the best solution ever, but at $5 dollars a panel its certainly was inexpensive and I think it looks okay. If ever we are visited by a circus clowns, they will surely feel right at home.


  1. lol, That is true love, right there! To let your hubby pick out the fabric. :) Nah, it's cute. The curtains look great!

  2. Belle, totally! I'm not so sure I would do it. Great job on the curtains, though.

  3. Hey, I love that fabric, I think you did a great job! I bought the fabric for a divider between my kitchen and living room at least 3 years ago and I still haven't made mine, so be proud!

  4. I've been following your blog for a bit now, but this is my first comment. I'm really enjoying reading it.

    I think the panels looks great! We just moved into a new apartment, and I really need to come up with curtains for the sunroom, which is also my office. Right now I have my cutting board in the window that the desk faces! Not the most attractive of solutions, and it doesn't even work that well!

  5. I really enjoy them. I think they look terrific. I would never have looked at that fabric and thought they could look so magical once up. Tell hubby...good job. And you too of course for turning the fabric into a real window statement.

  6. The fabric is great. I'm very impressed with your husband's fabric choice. My husband would probably pick out Redskin fabric or some other nonsense....

  7. I think they turned out great! I recently overcame my buttonhole foot fear as well, doesn't it make life so much easier?

  8. "Clown Car Explosion" is a perfect description! You LOVE M soooooo much!

  9. I really like the fabric, the crtains look great! How many times do you do the button-holer-round for one button hole? When I do one, the edge still seem a little weak and not thick enough.
    Anyway, have a great Independence weekend!

  10. Thanks everyone for your comments and a big WELCOME to new commenters!

    @Ivy: I only go around once. I'm not sure that I'd be able to do more than one turn without sewing over the opening. I'm not super confident about how well they will stay so I cheat and fray check each one after I cut them open. A "real" seamstress would probably give me a demerit for this, but so far it works.

  11. Good for you Gab. Exercising that creative side of your brain and solving problems. That's what artists do.
    I had a similar dilemma when I had to make drapes for my livingroom window. It's an odd size (6ft high x 15ft long) and of coarse needed custom drapes, which I would have to have sold one of my children to cover.

    Gave it much though and finely decided to use cotton coverlets, from JCPennys. My home is more country style and the coverlets worked great with my decor. I ordered 4 single bed size coverlets, trimmed 12" off one side, reversed them and sewed them back on, making a valance at the top of each coverlets, used grommets across the top, with little key ring holders that attached to the round wooden curtain rings. Got a 15ft long dowel and a couple of supports and BAM! livingroom drapes.

    That was over 20 years ago and they are good as new. Take them down every year and wash them in my machine, hang them back up to dry on the window.

  12. @ Maria: That is genius. I remember when I was a kid my mom did something similar for curtains in my room. She used Peanuts "Happiness is Being In A Gang" sheets. I thought they were so cool. I'd love to be able to find that sheet print again.

  13. It looks so great!! I'm just starting sewing and the title of your blog makes sense only when you try it!!! I admire your work! Is sewing your job? Sorry for all the mistakes I made, I'm french so... I just hope that I've been understandable!

  14. Thanks Madleen! No sewing is not my job. It's just something I do for fun...and I really have no idea what I'm doing. I just sort of make it up as I go along. I just popped over to your blog and I love the photography! Keep up the good work!