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  • Writer's pictureKate

Activity of the Day: Cut the sun out (part 2)- it's time for the curtain call...

Use an old duvet cover, sheet or other fabric to make a really simple curtain

This is my personal favourite for shading rooms you’re going to be using during the day: I think they're prettier than the recycled shutter options and they let more light in than all but the thinnest paper- which also means the room will heat up more than with darker shading, but daylight is also important for mood and seeing where you're going without bumping into stuff... so as ever, it's a compromise!

This curtain can be fitted really close to the window- almost like a roller blind- and can be opened and closed so you only need miss the view when the sun needs blocking out. It can also be adapted to work on sloping rooflight or Velux type windows- you'll need to use a string at the top and bottom of the window and stitch a channel for the string top and bottom of the curtain so that it's held in place on the slope of the window.

You will need:

  • 2 nails, screws (plus wall fixings for screws, as relevant) or sticky hooks,

  • String or wire- about 30cm more than the width of the window,

  • Enough fabric to cover the whole window plus a bit more length,

  • A needle and thread or a sewing machine

  • A pen, pencil or chalk

Fix one nail, screw or sticky hook into the wall or top edge of the window frame on either side of the window.

Measure the wire or string by tying it across the window onto each nail (or hook or screw- from here on, I’m just saying nail to refer to all the options- and the wire or string is just going to be string).

Mark the string next to each fixing- this gives you the width of the curtain you want- then take the string back off the window.

Cut the fabric to the same width as the window, using the string markings to get the right width. You should have string overhanging each end of your fabric width so you don't lose the string, however wide your curtain is.

IMPORTANT: This step is not necessary if you want your fabric to work as, eg, a sheet again, once the summer is over- just ensure that whatever fabric you are using is at least wide enough to cover the window- it doesn't matter if it's too wide. You could use two sheets (and a nail in the middle of the string as well as at each side) if you have a really wide window to cover.

Fold the top edge of the fabric over the string as shown and stitch along below the string to make a tube the string runs through (don't take the string out- rethreading it will be really tricky!):

You can probably see from the pictures that I've ironed the fabric before stitching- if you have an iron pressing your creases in place is a really useful thing to do, as it helps the fabric stay where you want it. It saves a lot more time than it takes- if the fabric is OK with a hot iron (ie not synthetic and likely to melt), put it as hot as you can and use lots of steam.

A good stitch to use if you're hand sewing is backstitch- a good tutorial is here, or use a long machine stitch.

Tie the string back onto the nails- hey presto, you have a shaded window and can slide the curtain open whenever you like. If you’d like, you can cut the fabric to length and hem the bottom edge (and sides if you like)- pin or tape it to the length you’d like while it’s hanging, then take it down again to stitch the hem line.

If you’d like to make the curtain open better AND YOU DON'T NEED TO USE THE FABRIC FOR ANYTHING ELSE AGAIN you can convert it into a simple tab top style like this before sewing:

  • Remove the string from the curtain

  • Cut pairs of slits about 15-20cm apart almost all the way down the top folded section of the curtain.

  • Pin down the longer sections and press in place. You now have the tab tubes free

  • Stitch along the top of the curtain

Once again, DO NOT do this if you need to use the curtain as a sheet or duvet cover again!

With less fabric running along the string, the curtain will fold back further when opened. You could also split the curtain down the middle to make a pair which will open to each side of the window.

As with the paper options, you could always decorate your curtains- if you enjoy sewing, there are loads of embroidery and applique tutorials available- otherwise, biros and sharpies tend to draw quite well on cloth- have fun!

Troubleshooting hints:

  • So you don't lose the ends of the string, tie a knot in each end and use a safety pin to fix the end of the string near the edge of the fabric, below where your top fold will be.

  • If you do lose the end, this video shows how to rethread a string (yes, it's about trousers, there wasn't an obvious one about curtains...).

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