Monday, August 19, 2013


So, on the long list of things that were bugging me about the house was curtains. Like every old house, our windows are not standard size. The previous owner left behind some store-bought options that weren't exactly our taste, but more importantly, didn't come close to touching the ground. They reminded me a lot of that kid who had a growth spurt over the summer and then came back in the fall with pants that are three inches too short. Are they long shorts or short pants? Some new style i'm not aware of? [Awkward].

At first I tried just rotating around the various options she left behind, but it was clear that that was not a permanent option. Not only were all of the leftover curtains kind of cheesy, but they all had the same too-short issue.

So I started looking for new options. Because of the unique size, finding premade curtains that would fit was impossible. The only place I found was Pottery Barn, which had some lovely options. We particularly liked these, but at $300 per window, it wasn't going to happen any time soon. Since the shortness was bothering me, and these are all our south-facing windows, so the summer sun was getting really warm-- I needed a cheaper option. 

Slowly the idea of making my own curtains started growing on me. I had never sewed anything really, but I did some googling and found a number of blogs that made it look easy, like this one.  I remembered that I had received a sewing machine as a graduation gift from college that was sitting in my dad's attic in storage.  I found a place called that despite its cryptic name, turned out to sell fabric. 

We picked two fabrics that were both under $20 per yard, and got material to line them to keep more light out, and additional material to make sheers- all for what it would have cost to buy one window from PB. 

Tragically, the sewing machine that was in storage at my dad's was misplaced in the fire. We think it's in storage somewhere, but had no luck funding it. So, when I happened to be browsing for new sewing machines on amazon, I discovered that you can actually get a good option for really cheap, so I bought a new one. 

So, all geared up with my new machine and loads of fabric, I decided to give it a go! 

Honestly, it took about a half hour to get the machine set up. I don't get why that part has to be so complicated. Then, I started out with the office. I cut the length of the main material, and then a second panel of lining to match. Then I cut an inch off of each side of the lining so that it was the same length but slightly more narrow than the main panel, and sewed them together along the long seams. Then, along the top, I flipped the material over and sewed a hem with a pocket for the pole to fit through- and hung them. Voila- success!

They aren't hemmed yet- since I expect we'll want to replace the curtain rod at some point in the future (and I was just anxious to get them up there). I'm pretty happy with them- the fabric is more interesting than just plain. They are lined, so they can keep out the sun pretty well. They fit the window, and are made out of real fabric (cotton is real).

So, buoyed by my new sense of confidence, I decided to move on to the green room (our summer bedroom). Remembering the advice of one of the blogs, I decided to cut the fabric and then throw in the wash to preshrink. I skipped this step for the first set and had lots of leftover fabric, so I thought I should heed the advice this time around.

I also skipped the lining, since these will have sheers behind them. Once washed and dried, I ironed them flat, and then pressed a small hem along the sides to sew closed.  I stitched up the sides, and did them same pole pocket top and hung them.
Panels getting ironed and pinned

As I stepped down from the chair, panic set in. The curtains were six inches too short. I was back to exactly where I started- except this time I had paid a lot to get there myself.  Feeling like a total idiot, I moped around for about a half hour. I expected the fabric to shrink by an inch or two, but it shrunk by at least a foot.

Then, I had an idea! I was making pole-pocket curtains, which create a pocket out of fabric for the curtain rod to fit through. If instead, I had no pocket, but a simple curtain hung with rings, I could save at least 6 inches of fabric (think of a sheet hung by clothespins, only a little nicer)! So we ran to target, paid $6 a window for the largest rings they had- and ran home. I stitched up the sides of a new panel, and then made the smallest hem across the top I could. Then I hung them and stood back.

It worked!!

Curtain on the left is the failed pole pocket. Curtain on the right is the simple, ring-hung panel that touches the ground!!

So, I continued with the remaining two panels for the other window. Then i ripped the seam out of the first panel and restitched it under the new approach.

Success! They all touch the ground!

I'm waiting on the new double curtain rods to arrive so I can rehang them and hem them. And I still need to make the sheers- but mostly I'm feeling pretty good about this project! At night they seem to keep out the street lights well, and during the day they let in just enough light to let the room glow. The fabric coordinates nicely with the bedding. And, it turns out that the rings are easier to open, so that's a nice unintended side effect.

I won't pretend the quality is quite the same as a professional curtain, but you really can't tell unless you get right up in them, and if you're getting that close to my curtains, then shame on you anyways!

Total time= 1 weekend
Active time = ~15 hours

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Painting the Garage

Ok, so you may remember from the yard discussion that the garage was originally orange with yellow trim. As we were landscaping, I painted the side of the garage that faces the house, but I sort of cheated and didn't paint the back of the garage. I felt kind of bad that our neighbors still had to stare at the ugliness, so i've been meaning to finish painting it for a while. I decided it would be a good furlough day project.

So this is what it looked like to start. Sorry for the colors- it was really sunny so the pics are all kind of blown out.

First step was to scrape everything. The paint was really bubbled up, so this was super necessary and super slow. Particularly awful task on a hot day when the chips stick to you. 

Once scraped, I did a quick coat of primer. 

Then I covered it all in one coat of paint. 

I went back to edge with a brush, and voila- no more orange!

Then two coats of paint on the trim and ta daa!! All done. 

Itdn't she pretty? No more eyesore for us! The neighbors all seem appreciative. 

Total time= 1 week
Active time = 10 hours
Total cost = ~$50