I’ve often said, “life isn’t always simple, but the curtains can be,” and then I moved into an apartment with six whole windows soaring to heights that aren’t reachable without a ladder and realized that even simple curtains can get slightly complicated.
There are many possible options when it comes to dressing, treating, or whatever it is you want to call covering up your windows. Specifics have to be weighed against personal matters of light and height and views and neighbors to say nothing of personal taste, budget, and bandwidth for thinking about these kinds of things. There’s quite literally no one-size-fits-all solution, despite the claims to the contrary.
When I first wrote about window treatments several weeks ago, the range of reader suggestions highlighted the range of possibilities—from blocking light with cardboard boxes or clipping up paper shades, to investing in custom-measured roman blinds or honeycomb shades with insulating properties. For my part, I’ve been trying to avoid excessive expense, even if warranted, and excessive off-gassing of toxins, even while understanding there’s nothing that’s truly pure except, perhaps, the shade of the oak tree outside the window. Lots of window dressings, especially ones with light-blocking properties, are made from materials that I tend to avoid: PVC or vinyl or other kinds of synthetics that are fairly toxic to produce, that off-gas once in the home, and that hang around long after their useful life is finished. Roman shades custom sized to fit sound simplest from a materials perspective, but they top the list in terms of investment and the expense of getting these custom made for large windows felt cost-prohibitive for me. EarthShades is a small company specializing in low-emission shades and their website include lots of transparent details re: their materials ranging from whether they’re compostable, recyclable, Greenguard and Oeko-Tex certified, formaldehyde-free et cetera but pricing is somewhat less transparent, and I knew it wouldn’t be in the cards for me without a partnership.
After a few weeks of research, I’ve landed back where I usually do: I’m going to do this myself. Turns out, this DIY enthusiast has seen her limits and determined to blow past them. After looking through the recommendations and the research for store bought options, I couldn’t get myself excited enough to invest in any of them.
As of yesterday morning, I am the very new owner of a not-so-new sewing machine. I’d been half-heartedly putting my name in the hat whenever a machine cropped up on my neighborhood Buy Nothing Group and earlier this week, a neighbor posted a machine that she and her kids had had some difficulty getting to work properly. I got a note saying that if I wanted it, it was mine. Yesterday morning I hopped on the cargo bike and carted the machine back home with me. An overdue lunch date with Rose and a visit to Brooklyn General Store for thread later, I was feeling more confident. I fell asleep last night reading the user’s manual online and sat down this morning ready to hop between YouTube tutorials and get this thing back in working order. I don’t have a final project to share or any definitive answers, but I wet my feet by reinforcing the hand-stitched rod pockets I’d sewn into drop cloth late last year and the nearly straight line I managed is getting me excited for projects to come.
While I decide on specifics, here are a few inspiring ideas for DIY room darkening solutions and other window treatments of the scrappy sort I came across in my research and through the kindness of readers:
+ Wool blankets to block light and provide insulation, like the ones a reader spotted hanging in Martina Thornhill’s house.
+ Denim or otherwise dark curtains, which would function similarly to the black linen yardage that I doubled up and hung from the window in our last apartment or like the charcoal canvas hanging in our office-turned-baby-bedroom.
+ Paper Blackout Shades, clothes-pinned or tacked or otherwise temporarily installed.
+ Simple fabric shades made from tension rods that you move manually whether you want full coverage, or partial.
+ Fold-down shades: You can catch a glimpses of this genius solution in a few instagram posts from the very charming Lincolnville Motel in Maine (head here and here and here!). The concept is similar to the tension rod shade above, but instead of two tension rods, there are three wooden dowels sewn into the top, middle, and bottom of the fabric shade, and brackets in the window frame that give the possibility of hanging the shades to cover the whole window, the top, or the bottom.
For the curious:
More about the patchwork pojagi curtains I stitched by hand.
This is the Singer sewing machine I’m using. I love it, but I have next to nothing to compare it to!
My sewing bag was a gift many years ago from Fringe Supply Co.
All scrappy window treatment ideas more than welcome!