Thursday, March 14, 2013

Curtains of doom

I had a sewing project this week. It was not for pleasure. It was for necessity and it was virtually zero fun. It gave me a headache and made me wish I were rich.

The GB's bedroom was rearranged recently. Our bedrooms are fairly small, especially the children's bedrooms, and there aren't many configurations we can do without blocking a closet door or having furniture lined up awkwardly along a wall. We placed her bed under the window, which is a nice place for one's bed to be, but this posed a problem because her curtains hung below the bed and we couldn't push the bed right up to the wall, which she prefers and which also creates more space. So, like a good frugal homemaker, I decided to shorten the curtains instead of buying new ones.

This should have been a really simple job. It was not. Instead, it was a job which left me feeling like a trapped animal about to chew off its own leg.

The curtains in question are these, Eclipse brand blackout curtains. These are strange curtains but they work. They are made with a layer of light-blocking material inside two layers of decorative fabric. They aren't very attractive. They remind me of a neoprene wetsuit, actually. They also look a little like something you might find in a cheap motel.


I bought them when the GB was a little baby, when we lived in a different house where her window faced south. The sunshine streaming into her window there was lovely in winter, but it was unbelievably hot and bright when you didn't want it to be either of those things. Daytime naps would never have happened without these curtains, even after we moved to our current house with a west-facing window in her room. They've been good curtains but they were very aggravating to alter.

First, I measured off where I wanted to cut; I needed to remove 14 inches from the bottom of each of the two panels. This would keep the curtains long enough to completely cover the windows but shorten them so they wouldn't be mashed between the wall and the bed. My scissors went through the thick material just fine, but I was astonished at what was revealed after the cutting.

That inner light-blocking layer was falling apart as I cut. Little bits of this black fiber were all over the floor, floating in the air, sticking to my clothing and the carpet. It was very messy. I decided to ignore the fibers until after I was done sewing, though. One job at a time, I thought, with remarkable prescience.

My original plan had been to do neat rolled hems on the cut sides of the panels, to match the factory-made hems on their other sides. I've done rolled hems many times on other items and I feel relatively skilled with this technique. However, the curtains of doom had other ideas: the rubbery outer material just would not stay folded onto itself and I was afraid to try the iron on them. I pinned the seams neatly and they unrolled themselves before I could even start sewing, while they were still pinned.

I tried my rolled hem several times and it worked itself out each time. Curtains with minds of their own! I ended up pinning them with the edge turned up just once, because it was all these jerks would allow.

Fine, be that way. At least I'm not an ugly polyester curtain, you Motel 6 rejects.

I started sewing. I didn't know whether I needed to change my needle so I used my usual all-purpose one. I also used all-purpose thread. Maybe I should have experimented more, because this is what I got:

The bobbin thread was loose and a little loopy. I considered ripping the seams out, but then I realized how big the needle holes were. A new seam would not improve this situation. Happily, it didn't look as bad from the front.

But I still felt frustrated. I like to sew and I wanted this be a breezy little job, a domestic lark on a sunny spring afternoon. But I had a companion, who wished to discuss her purse (her Spice Girls purse, as I like to think of it), and the ideas she had for sewing-based modifications to it (they mostly involve removing the current sparkly flower and sewing on a much larger one). So cursing and screaming were obviously out.

I hung the curtains in the GB's bedroom as soon as I was finished sewing them. I needed to get them hung up before bedtime now that we've changed the clocks; the GB is in bed at 7:00 each night, and it's still light then. We really need these curtains. Here is how they looked closed, at about 4:00 in the afternoon, when the sun is particularly bright in this window (sorry for the dark photos):

I was happy to see that my hems were even. I wasn't sure what kind of product I was going to get. Here they are open, as they normally would be during the daytime:

Sorry also for the rumpled bed, I had just been kneeling on it to hang the curtain rod. In the end, I'm okay with the hemming job. The goal was to shorten them to get them out of the way of her bed, and I accomplished that. As soon as they were hung, I hauled out the vacuum cleaner and, like a woman possessed, attempted to get all those little black bits off the floors; there was a trail from the GB's room to the kitchen from my trips back and forth. They stubbornly resisted vacuuming, of course.

It's good enough, I think. Not having to buy new curtains is certainly a welcome bonus. Someday I plan to replace both small Bears' bedroom window treatments with top-down/bottom-up honeycomb blinds like I have in the kitchen, family room and master bedroom; we had these custom-made and installed last year and I've been very happy with them, but they're expensive and we've elected to do them a few rooms at a time instead of the whole house at once. I really look forward to having them throughout the house though. They're so convenient and neat.

Beware, curtains of doom: your days are numbered.


  1. Ha! I can imagine how little you enjoyed that project. Bella's bedroom has some awful blackout curtains that I hate, but wont get rid of because they do such a good job of keeping the light out. And there is nothing wrong with them, except for the fact that I hate them.

    Your sewing looks great to me - they are straight and neat and do they job well.

    Gillian x

  2. Oh poor you! I know this feeling only too well as most of my sewing projects have a disaster tale! They look just great to me. Ollie has blackout roman blinds in his room and I nearly threw them out the window when I was making them! Xx

  3. One of my posts not so long ago was about curtains. I know exactly how you feel... As I felt just the same. I ended up by adopting my Grandmas way of looking at such a problem " a blind man on a galloping horse would not see it!,,"

  4. Hi Jennifer,
    Thank you for becoming one of my latest followers- I will give a link to you blog address in my next post. I always love meeting new bloggers especially from other countries! It seems strange to have cactus and daffodils growing side by side. I felt for you with your curtains. My sewing projects never come out as well as I plan, I'm glad your had a successful outcome apart from the black bits on the floor!
    Sarah x

  5. Those honeycomb blinds are crazyexpensive! We did our house in stages too. I think these curtains look great and they sure will help with bedtime - especially as the days get longer. It's hard to get little ones to sleep when the sun's out!

  6. I have some of those too. Mine are the right size and after reading this post, I am grateful that I don't have to alter them. You did a good job and the curtains do work really well to make a room dark.

  7. Jennifer,

    I could hear your literal gnashing of teeth through this post!!

    Well done you for sticking with it - I would have thrown them out of the window!!

    Leanne xx

  8. We have those curtains in brown :) I understand about sewing projects that end up being frustrating, been there many times! They look great, you did a nice job!

  9. Sounds like quite a struggle. Worth it in the end though as they really turned out well. They hang straight, look fine, and certainly do the job intended for privacy and blocking the light. Looks like a job well done to me. :)

  10. I hope it's okay that I laughed at this story. It reminded me of pretty much every one of my diy projects- something always goes wrong or something unexpected happens.

  11. Hats off to you, Jennifer. Whenever I attempt crafts, sewing etc, things go terribly wrong. I admire women like you who do it all. Hugs, Katia.

  12. You sew curtains? OMG that's so amazing of you. It makes me shudder at the thought of it even though I have a sewing machine! =p

  13. Oh, that's a terrible amount of work, but you got great results at least. I've had huge windows in my last few apartment bedrooms and blackout curtains are a must!

  14. frustrating! I feel your distress! You curtains did come out very nice though. I hope it helps your Bear to have sweet dreams. Have a wonderful day.

    Handmade Cuties
    (p.s. I linked to your blog in today's post)

  15. How good of you to do the sewing.. the sewing machine has never become my friend. Enjoy your weekend!
    ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  16. They turned out great in the end.

    I get really annoyed with loose stitching
    and tend to go away, have a cup of tea,
    and then go back to the project when I'm
    in a better mood!

    Lovely blog by the way.

    I am your newest follower from the blog hop.

    Have a lovely day : )

  17. Thanks for coming by my blog & following! I'm following you back. Have a great weekend!

  18. yay! As soon as I return to my trusty yet slow laptop the button is there for me to follow you publicly. Perhaps I need an APP for that on my Ipad. But I got there in the end and will enjoy popping in often
    Kindest regards linda


Thank you for leaving a comment. It's so good to hear from you! I don't always have time to reply but I try to answer questions when I can.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...