Making Curtains, Installment 1: Trials and Errors

by longtallyarn

My husband and I are moving to a new rental, in downtown Raleigh.  A ground level house with large windows, see-in-able from the street.  The house is equipped with neither blinds nor curtains.  Being the novice sewer that I am, I thought that this would be a good opportunity for me to add to my sewing repertoire–by making curtains.
My husband shopped on Craigslist for a few days before finding a large amount of blue fabric with a tolerable print for a good price.  It’s actually a pleasant print, “vintage,” it was called by the seller.  It has yellow and red flowers on it.  We stretched it out in the yard and found that it was approximately 43 feet long.  The seller said his wife had originally intended to make aprons from the fabric.  As he correctly pointed out, that would be a lot of aprons.
On the way home from buying the blue fabric we stopped by the library and I picked up three books on home decore, which each contained several curtain patterns.  At home I picked my favorite ones and showed them to my husband.  He stated that he had originally heard me say I would make very simple curtains.  I countered that that was before I saw these.
As I mentioned before, I am a novice sewer.  I have not yet revealed that I am an optimistic sewer.  Anyway, I spent the rest of the afternoon planning the other things I would need and doing math.  I was now in pursuit of some fabric to line the curtains that I would be making.
My favorite curtain design from the books was called “Roman Shades.”  No, these are not sunglasses.  They are curtains that you can scrunch up at the top of your window by pulling a cord.  You construct pockets in the liner, insert pieces of wood into these, sew rings onto the back of the structure, through which the cord runs, and when you feel like having a little more light in the room you pull the cord, et voila… let there be light.

Yes, curtains with moving parts are the best first curtain to be made by a novice sewer.

No more discount fabric could be located on Craigslist within a short drive from our home, so I planned a trip to JoAnn Fabrics on the way to the Dollar Fifty Movies.
One thing that should be pointed out about JoAnn, is that her store is not friendly to the novice sewer.  I always end up in one or more conversations with my mother by phone while I am there.  JoAnn’s employees always look exhausted, and I don’t want to persecute them further by asking silly questions.  Also, the shopper has to stand in two lines: The first to have the fabric cut, in  which you stand, holding all your shopping acquisitions, for approximately ten minutes waiting for your number to be called, and the second to pay for what you have selected throughout the store.  If I were ever planning to go to JoAnn’s again, I would pick my fabric first and then carry it throughout the store looking for whatever else I needed while waiting for my number.  I found the plastic rings for pulling the curtain up.  I never found the “nylon tape” called for in my home decore book.  And JoAnn’s employee that I eventually persecuted attempted to help me find the tape but actually did not know what it was.  She said Lowe’s might have it.
While at JoAnn’s I quickly recalculated the fabric I needed, since I had decided to make four curtains instead of five from the blue, and selected some unbleached muslin in the lowest price range.  The label said it was 38 inches wide, and since I needed 36.75 inches I thought this would work well.  Boy am I glad I prewashed this stuff.  It may have been 38 inches before washing and line drying, but afterward it is 35 inches.  Since this is the liner I am hoping it will not matter.  I am not splicing.
I guess I should also say that I should have done the math more carefully at home, because, instead of 8 foot (x2 for the two Roman Shade curtains), I purchased 8 yards (x2, of course).
The next day I realized my error and considered driving back to JoAnn’s to return some of this, since I happened to have taken a whole bolt home.  I called JoAnn to see if she would accept it back, and she said I would have to have the whole bolt measured to make sure I had not cut any off, and then get all my money back, and then have any that I needed cut off and pay again.  As JoAnn may have anticipated, I decided to keep the excess because I don’t like hassles on a Sunday afternoon.  I figure I will have enough hassles waiting for me on Monday morning.
This afternoon I washed and dried the fabrics.  The muslin wrinkled up something fierce, as my mom had warned me via telephone conference in JoAnn Fabrics.  I have spent the evening trying to iron it flat and cut it square.  (As I’m writing this, the fabric is neither square nor flat, which is what I also like to think about myself).
As a side note, I was only a little late for my movie after standing in two long lines at JoAnn’s
I will let you know, fair reader, how the project progresses.  Will we have curtains for two rooms by the time we move in in two weeks?  Will the curtains be the right size and shape for the windows when the project is complete?  Will the moving parts move?  Stay tuned.

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