baby proof: blackout curtains.

August 17, 2016

nursery blackout curtain | reading my tea leaves

My philosophy on baby gear mostly follows the simple guideline of “wait and see.” That all babies need all of the things is a fallacy manufactured by the people trying to sell babies (or their parents) all of the things. I am not here to tell you that a blackout shade is a necessity. But in some cases, an artificially darkened room can help a little one get to sleep, especially if there’s artificial brightness to contend with.

When Faye was born, no surprise, we didn’t have a blackout shade or curtain in our room. For the first few months of her infancy, when she slept like a baby goddess descended from above, we didn’t feel any real urgency to get one. At about five months when she decided that being awake was more fun than being asleep, we figured that perhaps shutting some of the light pollution out of our room would do a baby (and a body) good. (Protect the circadian rhythm and all that jazz.)

In a middle-of-the-night attempt to get a bit of precious sleep, I flapped my arms at James from my prone position and told him to rifle through my top dresser drawer to find my black beach sarong. Black, I reasoned, would block the light. Immediately, I hoped, would make a difference. And the darkened room that resulted seemed to help, at least partially. (Which, is all any parent can ever hope for.)

For a year and half, our nightly routine included attaching this same black cotton beach sarong onto our existing linen curtain with clothespins. Yes, it looked bad. Yes, it was annoying. But we mostly only kept it up at night and it was innocuous enough that I didn’t mind terribly much. 

Eventually however, our curtain needed replacing. Having been repurposed to fit three different windows in three different apartments, it was showing more than a few signs of abuse. This spring, I decided to retire the sarong altogether and to replace the curtain with a single, darker curtain that could be pulled shut with the flick of a wrist. I bought a length of denim at a local shop and hung it temporarily in the window vowing to properly hem it eventually. Then we went to France. And a month or so after we got back, it was clear that the fabric choice was great at blocking light but not so great at looking nice in the room. I couldn’t get the denim to drape nicely and, frankly, the color was all wrong. So I began my hunt again, this time looking for linen in a color I could tolerate. Mission finally accomplished. 

I’m not claiming to have found the most perfect blackout curtain solution on the planet, but it was an affordable one to make and it didn’t include hanging anything with questionable origins or materials in my house.nursery blackout curtain | reading my tea leaves

Here’s a few things to know:

Fabric choice: Most any dark fabric will do a sufficiently good job (in my humble opinion) at blocking day and street lamp light. It won’t be, perhaps, as impenetrable as a vinyl or polyester shade, but in my experience, getting those to fit perfectly enough in a window to not allow any light leaks is tricky business. (And as a renter, buying a custom fitted shade for a strangely sized window also feels like a particularly bothersome thing to spend money on.) Besides, I don’t like to sleep in truly pitch black room. When I went on my second trip to a fabric store, I held the fabric up to the light to see how much light bled through and paid a bit more attention to how the fabric fell. There were a lot of different linens on offer when I shopped and I ultimately chose one that was medium weight so it would block light but still drape nicely.nursery blackout curtain | reading my tea leaves

Hardware: We have a very cheap hardware-store-hack curtain rod in Faye’s room. It’s really not perfect which is why I’ve never done a tutorial per se, but if you’re into slightly wonky and very cheap, this is what we have: The rod is a length of thin wrought iron that I asked a local iron shop to cut for me when we first moved to Brooklyn six years ago. (They happily obliged and charged me $5 for trouble and the iron). The rod is fastened to the wall with pieces of copper pipe fittings, found at the hardware store for around the same cost as the rod. They secure the rod to the wall in a perfectly satisfactory manner, but because they’re screwed in, they don’t offer a lot of flexibility. You can’t, for instance, remove the rod easily for curtain cleaning purposes. (See my solution below.)nursery blackout curtain | reading my tea leaves

Construction: Since I don’t have a sewing machine and I have a curtain rod that’s not easy to remove from the wall, I decided on a very, very simple approach to curtain-making. It’s my go-to trick that I’ve used since our days in Providence. First, I choose a fabric that was wide enough across that it didn’t need to be sewn to fit, width-wise. I also choose a fabric with a selvage edge which means that it won’t fray and didn’t need to be hemmed along the edges. (Word to the wise: Inspect your selvage carefully before cutting at the fabric shop. I didn’t, and the edge on this curtain is a little undone in places.) Instead of making a pocket, the curtain is simply doubled over the top of the rod so that the two bottom edges meet along the sill line. (This method helps with additional light blockage, but it requires about double the fabric). This time, I actually cut and measured and used iron-on adhesive tape to make a simple hem along both bottoms instead of hacking the fabric with pinking shears. It made a huge difference in the overall effect; highly recommend the extra effort.
nursery blackout curtain | reading my tea leavesAnd that’s that. A blackout curtain for a kid’s room. (Er, kids’ room. Gulp.)

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  • Reply Ashley August 17, 2016 at 9:32 am

    Kids–plural?! Are congratulations in order?

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 17, 2016 at 11:26 am


      • Reply Baltina August 19, 2016 at 11:53 am

        Congrats to you and hooray!

  • Reply Willow Westwood August 17, 2016 at 11:17 am

    I so appreciate your humble approach to these sorts of things! I just moved into a garden apartment that came complete with many curious and window-knocking neighbor-children whom I adore… but it quickly became apparent that I would need something on my windows lest they catch my in various states of undress. After a lot of frustration and trying to figure out why the most boring shades in the world (white. not vinyl. not spring-loaded. shouldn’t be that hard, right?) had to be custom ordered for like $200, I threw up my hands and opened my toolbox and hammered a small nail into each corner of the window well, wrapped some picture wire between them, and trimmed some old gauzy curtains from my scrap pile to fit. $0. They’re definitely not that fancy, but you hardly notice them, and that’s all I wanted anyways. Anyways, it made me think of you, and your constant reminders not to go buying things when I could make them or simply do without. Thank you!

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 17, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      Hooray! I’ve yet to take a huge plunge with window trimmings. In window treatments and rugs I always prefer the slightly homespun look!

  • Reply Jenn August 17, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Have you looked into about uv block window film? They are sold on Amazon and they help to cut out extra glare and light.

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 17, 2016 at 12:24 pm

      Definitely haven’t felt the need for anything else! The curtain works perfectly for us!

  • Reply Mary Kate August 17, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    I am always so impressed with your craftiness while at the same time wishing I had the energy to be so creative when it comes to improving my home. If you ever open up your own minimalist interior decorating company, please let me know.

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 17, 2016 at 12:35 pm

      Ha! Will do…but truly, truly this took 45 minutes tops to measure, cut, and hem!

  • Reply Lo August 17, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    Congratulations! (And love you curtain hacks)

  • Reply Nora August 17, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Totally lovely, doable curtains and the subtlest of announcements. Both reasons why I love your blog. (Also, so excited for you that your family is getting bigger!)

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 17, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      Thank you and thank you!

  • Reply Laurie August 17, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    I took the slightly easier way out and bought curtains for two different windows at two different thrift stores and hung them on the existing curtain rods in my son’s room. All for $12 and about an hour travel time!

  • Reply Kelly August 17, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    Great post-thank you!! Do you have a fabric shop recommendation?

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 17, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      In my neighborhood, I love Brooklyn General Store. For a huge selection, I head straight to Mood!

  • Reply Susana August 17, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    In theater, the side entrances are usually made of black flannel, it works really well at blocking the light, and other activities that the public is not supposed to see 😉

  • Reply Sarah August 17, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    Plural! Congratulations!

  • Reply Kelly August 17, 2016 at 7:18 pm


  • Reply Rebekah August 17, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    Congratulations to you and your family! Totally unrelated to this post, but is the plant on the left a rosary vine? I’ve been itching to get one to hang in my bed room window.

    • Reply Sarah August 18, 2016 at 8:12 am

      I think this is a ‘String of Hearts’, ceropegia woodii. I havea couple, but I was interested to see it all bundled up rather than hanging down.

      • Reply Erin Boyle August 18, 2016 at 9:08 am

        Same plant, two names! I like to bundle mine in a mound (partially to keep the longer strings out of toddler reach.)

  • Reply Kaolee August 17, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    Our house came with black out shades on all the windows. They are not the prettiest, but we get a ton of light in our house so they are nice to keep out the heat (and light).

  • Reply Mun August 18, 2016 at 5:06 am

    I think this is brilliant 🙂

  • Reply EMac August 18, 2016 at 8:46 am

    I have to agree about the less is more approach with baby items. I always say that the marketing folks for baby products must make a fortune selling all of these crazy, excessive goods to naive new parents. There is a delicate mix of excitement and guilt with every purchase: don’t buy these unnecessary socks and your baby won’t grow up to be an athlete, don’t buy these unnecessary mouth things and your baby won’t have teeth, and so on. It’s getting a little ridiculous in my book.

  • Reply Tobin August 19, 2016 at 9:12 am

    I have been reading your blog (thank you!) for most of a year and haven’t commented, but today I must. Congratulations and good luck on the new babe to be.

  • Reply Bridgit August 19, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Question: How did you create the hem? Is it a large hem with the adhesive a few inches up, or is it just folded over with the adhesive at the bottom?

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 19, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      Somewhere between the two? I ironed down a ~1-inch hem first and then slid the tape into the fold I created and ironed again!

  • Reply Clara August 19, 2016 at 10:50 pm


  • Reply Katie August 20, 2016 at 10:14 am

    I’m not sure where it falls in the chemicals of uncertain origin category, but no-fray solution might save those selvage edges that aren’t quite holding together! I imagine you could DIY a version if you needed to…

  • Reply Abby Cameron August 22, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    I’m thinking we are going to need this as well. This summer has been brutal with trying to keep a sleep schedule. My son doesn’t want to go to sleep when the sun is still shining!
    Thanks for making it easy!

  • Reply Rachael August 29, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Perfectly done.

  • Reply Amanda September 27, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Love this solution. We have pretty wooden slat shades that our home’s previous owners installed, but they let a lot of light in even when closed. When the days started getting longer last summer, my toddler was wanting to stay up later and later because “the sun is out!” In a moment of desperation, I taped up aluminum foil under the shades to cover his bedroom windows. It was so easy that I did it again this summer. When our friends noticed the foil, I told them “That’s where we grow Luke” 😉

  • Reply Stefanie October 1, 2016 at 8:51 am

    Thanks for this post – for me. I live in a downtown flat that is lit up every night by street lamps just outside my bedroom window. I tried various solutions including using light blocking fabric. Nothing worked. I never thought of black fabric as being the solution I needed.


  • Reply Heidi June 8, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    Is that a black linen that you used? Might try for my kids room, thanks for the idea!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 8, 2018 at 5:40 pm

      Yeah! Wrote a whole post on it! Linked above!

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