life in a tiny apartment.

November 12, 2018

Tip 177: Tack Your Curtains.

Silvery branches outside of our apartment are clinging to small rust colored caps. The leaves that made up the rest of their autumnal wardrobes have all blown off this week, but the trees’ loss is our gain. We get sunshine bouncing off the slate roof across the street and an apartment that’s at least 20 percent brighter now than it is in the summer months. But there’s another thing that’s making our apartment brighter these days, and it’s a little quirky but maybe worth sharing in case anyone finds themselves in a similar conundrum.

When we moved back into our apartment this spring, we were reluctant to rehang our cotton curtains. I’d made them myself–simple white cotton curtains that hung doubled over a bit of wire stretched between two screws. They’d always been plain, but against the freshly painted walls, they looked just plain dingy. Besides, the painters had made a mess of the wire, making our never-perfect curtain fix even less so. Over the summer we slept with no curtains at all, but as we started to lose our bit of leafy privacy this fall, I recommitted to finding a solution to work for us.

The windows in this space have always been tricky. (Our last solution was the second one we tried in this space—the first featuring clips I later came to regret.) The windows are high and set into shallow dormers. They’re also two different sizes and they’ve got little room for mounting hardware. Deep sills and sloping walls make lots of the most straightforward kinds of solutions impractical. (If I could find a record of the number of times I’ve Googled “window dressings for dormer windows” and come up empty the number would be truly staggering.) Most solutions are fussy or expensive and nearly everything results in a considerable portion of the window remaining covered at all times. I didn’t want to sacrifice even an inch of light, let alone a whole foot.

Finally, it struck me: We needed curtains that could be taken down altogether. Endlessly inspired by the work of Kiva Montyk of Thompson Street Studio, I decided to try my hand at the Korean quilting—pojagi—that she uses in much of her work. 

I rummaged through my bag of fabric scraps—scraps I’ve held onto from my wedding dress, and favorite baby swaddles, and old curtains, and handkerchiefs that belonged to my great aunts and grandfather. I hand-stitched the pieces together in as much of the traditional method as I was able to teach myself through online tutorials. Together the scraps make our new curtains—fabric screens to hang up at night and take down again come morning. 

To hang them, I nailed three tacks that look like oversized map pins along the top of each window. (I found my tacks at a local shop and haven’t been able to find an online source, but other slim tacks, or any kind of long nail would work as long as you like the look of it.) Along the top of each panel, I sewed three black o-rings. When we want the windows covered, we hang the loops from the pins and when we want the light to stream in, we take them down again. During the day, the panels are folded neatly into a basket that we keep under the bed. It’s not anything you might call usual, and yes, I need to drag a child’s chair over to the window to reach the tacks, but it’s exactly what I’d call perfect for me. Any perfect solutions in your own imperfect spaces lately?

For the curious:

Blackout curtains.

Simple curtains.

Speaking of tacks.

 

This post includes affiliate links. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links. 

You Might Also Like

25 Comments

  • Reply Pat S November 12, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    Brilliant! Good light is precious and I don’t blame you for not wanting to sacrifice a speck of it.

  • Reply Judith A Ross November 12, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    This is so lovely, I’d never heard of pojagi — and what a lovely way to use fabric scraps. I love how light and airy these are.

    As to your question: we moved into a 1947 house a year and a half ago. It needs a lot of updates and improvements that we will mostly do ourselves, as my husband is a skilled carpenter and overall handy-man. It’s going to take time and for now, some of the tackiness is just too much to face on a daily basis. For example, to make the black vinyl sink and counter that sits atop a bright white vanity in our bathroom less jarring, I painted the vanity a soft brown/gray. (I used the same can of paint to warm up and tone down our white fireplace surround, which encloses some black, shiny tiles.) Now the vanity and a generous stripe on the light blue wall between the black counter and the mirror, are painted that less contrasty color. Nothing will ever fix that cringe-worthy counter and sink, but until we are ready to replace it, walking into the bathroom is a bit less jarring.

    And, for the record, we will donate all of our discarded bathroom fixtures to either Habitat for Humanity or another organization in Portland that reuses old building materials. Who knows, one person’s “tacky” may be someone else’s inspiration.

  • Reply Rebecca November 13, 2018 at 5:38 am

    Those are beautiful curtains – I can see why you love the light. I’m curious; what you do in winter? I’d love to be curtainless but we have to hang heavy curtains to keep the heat in. Otherwise our (fossil fuelled) central heating goes on more which we can’t really justify. Do you have a nifty and beautiful solution up your sleeve for this? I’d love to know.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 13, 2018 at 10:09 am

      The beauty is you could really hang whatever strikes your fancy! You could certainly hang a heavier curtain from them in the winter time, or a darker curtain to block out more light at night! Unfortunately, our apartment has turn of the century heaters that are either off or on and when they’re on, they produce an enormous amount of heat.

  • Reply Carmella November 13, 2018 at 7:48 am

    Beautiful, Erin!

  • Reply Elizabeth November 13, 2018 at 8:21 am

    When I lived in Korea a few years ago I fell in love with the stiff linen pojagi that was everywhere in the historic neighborhoods. I also came across an incredible art exhibit where someone had deconstructed a home that had once belonged to a resistance poet and divided the rooms by ghost walls made of pojagi hangings.

    After I returned to the USA, I came home and found, to my dismay, some serious holes in an heirloom linen tablecloth. The first craft I made was a pojagi wall hanging by cutting all the useable parts into squares and rectangles. I am really appreciating seeing this more and more (I also follow Thompson Street Studio!) on my insta feeds and in the blogs I follow! It reminds me of some of my favorite neighborhoods in one of the best cities on earth.

  • Reply Jessica November 13, 2018 at 9:38 am

    I had the same needs with wonky windows and opted to order custom solar shades. When down they offer privacy but also still allow a lot of light to come in. When raised, they disappear into the top of the window, blocking not a single inch of light coming in. They were surprisingly inexpensive and I was able to order exactly the size I needed. We have the same in our bedrooms, but in blackout material.

    • Reply Carla November 13, 2018 at 10:25 am

      Jessica, I’m considering the same! Would you mind sharing where you ordered from?

      • Reply Jessica November 13, 2018 at 10:28 am

        Gladly! I ordered the “cordless cellular shades” from blindster.com and they are almost always running a crazy deal, right now it’s 45% off. The measuring process is very easy but if you mess it up somehow, they offer one free do-over.

  • Reply Leslie November 13, 2018 at 10:14 am

    Love this! You could also sew O rings to either the center sides or the bottom if you wanted to fold them up, rather than fully remove during the day. I’ve done that in the past because I’m afraid to sew my own Roman shades!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 13, 2018 at 10:25 am

      Totally could if you wanted to!

  • Reply Mims November 13, 2018 at 11:26 am

    Erin, this curtain is simply beautiful. I have never heard of pojagi, but plan on doing my own version soon. I have an old french linen nightgown I wore to death and full of holes and saved for soemthign exactly like this. your curtain reminds me of the quilts of jess brown. https://shop.jessbrowndesign.com/collections/quilts
    Linen is the best.

  • Reply Haley November 13, 2018 at 11:37 am

    I love those curtains they are super unique.

  • Reply Grace November 13, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    What a perfect and simple idea! I think I may have to try this out in our living room. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    -Grace

  • Reply Lia November 13, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    Love the use of scraps here. They look lovely.

    Since I have the feeling my boyfriend is feigning excitement when I discuss with him, I’ll mention my recent curtain purchase here in hopes this group shares my enthusiasm. Our bedroom features a half-window in the back door. I had the hardest time finding curtains that didn’t “look like granny pannies for windows” to quote a friend. And then I found the most perfect option on Etsy.

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/628110147/new-gray-herringbone-french-door-curtain?ref=user_profile

  • Reply Carole November 13, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    We had a beautiful pojagi exhibit in our local village museum this summer. A Korean woman in the local community shared Pojagi she had made over the years. Wish I could share photos of this with you!! Your curtains are exquisite. A simply beautiful creation!

  • Reply Joy Askew November 13, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    What a simple and beautiful idea. I love the ideas of using scaps to make your curtains, and using tacs as an alternative for hanging them. They make your room look so light and airy.

  • Reply Clementine November 14, 2018 at 8:30 am

    I absolutely love these Erin, your curtains remind me of the work of Anni Albers, we have a show of her work on at the moment in London so its fresh in my mind (https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/anni-albers). Simplicity wins every time. Just beautiful.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 14, 2018 at 8:43 am

      Oh gosh. Highest compliment!

  • Reply kelly November 16, 2018 at 10:27 am

    I’ve found Rejuvenation to be the best source for drapery rods for my 100-year old apartment. These have been my go-to for all of the oddly framed windows: https://www.rejuvenation.com/catalog/products/inside-mount-cafe-set
    Not as cheap or flexible as your solution, but they really are beautifully made. Every time I take my kitchen curtains down to wash them, I get pleasure out of seeing that hardware.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 16, 2018 at 10:28 am

      Lovely! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Judy November 16, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    One of our sitting room windows faces south and overlooks a lovely rural view, so we don’t want to block it with curtains, but it’s chilly and looks dark and blank during winter nights. So I hung large metal clips over the curtain rail already there behind the pelmet, and clip up a fleece blanket when it gets dark. During the day it’s folded over the sofa. Removable curtains are the best of both worlds!

  • Reply Cussot November 17, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    Window covers ARE complicated. I love your simple solution. I’d probably hammer a nail into the end of a dowel or old broom handle to use for hooking them up and down.

  • Reply claire November 19, 2018 at 1:36 am

    This is so brilliant!!!! I’ve been stumped on how to have a set of sheers and a set of blackout curtains without having to install another rod. Thank you!! 🙂

  • Reply Kristin November 25, 2018 at 1:43 am

    Your curtains are lovely! But I have to say that my eye was drawn most to your beautiful planters. They are perfect! Where are they from?

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Comments are moderated.