Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Wednesday's Workbox (27th June)

This week the days seem to be flying past.  Already it is Wednesday - half way to another weekend!  I like weekends because we're usually all at home together then, but I also like the peace and quiet of my weekdays, when I can stick to my routine more easily and get all my chores and other tasks done.  Today I have been thinking about ways to improve the hallway in our home, and it occurred to me that one quite simple way would be to replace the curtain that hangs across the front door (well actually it isn't so much "front" door, as the only door in our out of our home, and in point of fact, the front of our apartment block is the side of the building that does not have the door in it, so in truth we have a "back" door, but no front door!).  Nevertheless, whatever we choose to call the door, it has a curtain that we pull across the it during the evening (and on very cold winter days) to keep the light out and the heat in.  I made this curtain not long after we moved into our apartment, by stitching together two identical curtains bought from a thrift shop, one on top of the other, and then attaching a thick piece of fabric the same width as the curtain to its other side to add extra insultation.  It is very effective, but it isn't perhaps the fabric that we would necessarily have chosen, had we had time to wait and think about it.  We just needed something there, that cold December when we moved in, to make the hallway look cosier and more welcoming.  Now, however, several years on, I am thinking it is time to have a new curtain!

Making curtains by hand is not for beginners.  Although it may look easy as there is very little shaping and fitting of separate pieces together as there is say, in a dress, it is difficult because by their very simplicity, you have to ensure that your measurements are absolutely precise, and that the gathers and hems are identical on each curtain (if you are making a pair).  A single curtain, as with a door curtain, is perhaps a better choice if you are a curtain making novice!  All the same, it isn't so difficult that it is beyond the ability of most people who are able to use a sewing machine.

Here are some very basic curtain making instructions adapted from my 1952 "Good Housekeeping Home Encyclopaedia" ... they are for making lined curtains (I would not recommend unlined curtains unless they are merely for decorative purposes - when you have a blind hanging at the window too - as they will not be thick enough to keep out the light or give any privacy, and the sunlight falling directly onto the actual curtain fabric will cause it to fade quite quickly.
  • Measure the windows (or door) that you wish to cover.  To these measurements, add 1 inch for turning underneath the gathering tape, 2 - 3 inches (more if the fabric is very thick) for heading frill, and 3 inches for the bottom hem. 
  • If your windows are very wide (our living room window is huge) you may need to cut the fabric for your curtains in more than one piece.  Try to ensure that the pieces are of equal size.
  • The width of the fabric across should be at least double what the width of the window or door is - 2 1\2 times is what I usually aim for.
  • The linings should be cut to exactly the same size as the curtains, but note that they will need to be separated if you wish to dry-clean or wash them, as the lining material and curtain fabric may not respond to the cleaning treatment in the same way.  Better not to do them together.
  • Machine together the widths of fabric, using a long stitch setting.  Turn in good deep hems at the outside edges of both sides of the curtains, and tack these, then slip stitch them by hand.
  • Use a heading tape not less than 3 inches thick.  Allow extra length when cutting the heading tape (which you should do after) you have sewn the side hems, not before) on either side of the curtain, plus extra string too, so that if they shrink after you have had the curtains washed, they will still fit the window. 
  • Tack the curtain lining across the top loosely, turning the heading down on to it.  Now tack on the running tape and machine along the top and bottom.  Tuck the strings on either side inside the heading after gathering the curtain up to the required size. 
  • Slip stitch the sides of the linings to the curtains by hand, hem the bottom, and leave them loose (i.e do not sew them to the actual curtain).  Although with most home sewing a sewing machine gets better results, it is in fact often the case (it certainly has been for me) that hand sewing gets a better finish as the thicker habadashery fabrics used for soft furnishings don't respond so well to the tension of machine stitching.
  • Finally slip stitch a good thick hem along the bottom of the curtain fabric.  The thinner the fabric the thicker the hem - they will drape better with the added weight of the doubled fabric.  Very thick fabrics such as velour or velvet (as I intend to use for our door curtain) do better with a smaller hem or you fetch up with an unsightly ridge. 
Of course, there are all sorts of extra embellishments you can add when making curtains - frills, pelmets, valances and other trimmings that will soften the effect and make a very feminine and pretty result.  I hope one day to give our kitchen window some treatment like this - but for now, the door is the priority, so Papa Bear and I shall talk about this today and see what we think would be best.  I like the idea of red velvet, but I am sure Papa Bear will have some great ideas of his own!