My New Curtains Made From Painters' Drop Sheets

I have all the new curtains thanks to the kindness of my friends. When I moved in to our new house I had a quote done for curtains and blinds in three rooms. $2000. I thought again. Curtains. They are hemmed rectangles, right? I can hem a rectangle, I thought to myself. Then I hauled myself around town looking for the exact rustic weave, natural linen fabric I was after (none of the curtain-making places could produce this for me. The $2000 quote was for fabric that was synthetic). I figured it would cost a bomb, but hopefully less than $2000. But there wasn't anything that I wanted, at any price. Then I went to the hardware shop for paint for Rosy's door. And I found a shelf full of marvellous unbleached cotton fabric in a canvas weight, and it turned out to be painters' drop cloths. Brilliant! I bought enough fabric for the three windows that needed curtains, and it sat on my bedroom floor. For a year.

Until my clever and kind friend Katherine from the Living Better With Less Group said, "Why don't we come and help?" and I said, ever so gratefully, "Oh, yes please!" So they did. Katherine sews lots of her own clothes, has never sewed curtains, but was game to try.

Cindy actually knew what she was doing, being an experienced producer of curtains. The rest of us tried to be useful by handing over the scissors and making lots of tea. I was already at the point of wilting due to having had extensive conversation with the lady at the curtain shop, who was very nice but she also seemed rather doubtful that I had the least idea of what I was doing (she was so right) as she sold me blockout lining, header tape, hooks, and then I had to return because I forgot to buy thread. Still, we measured twice and cut once, and apparently did all the right things, because curtains happened.

 Benson-the-curtain-making puppy helped immensely. He lay on his bed and had naps and didn't stir even when we accidentally dropped curtains onto him. Oh, wait, he says he was holding the curtains for us until we needed them again.

I tried all sorts of cunning tricks to avoid having to actually help sew. I made lots of tea, and served blueberry muffins and a cheese platter, and then more tea, and had run out of excuses and had just sat down to start hemming at the insistence of everyone, when there was a knock at the door... a couple who were just visiting Launceston had deduced that this was the wife's grandmother's house.. of course, I offered to show them around and discovered that a nice old lady called Dulcie Harris lived and died in this house about thirty years ago..

The others were convinced that I had arranged the whole affair in order to get out of sewing... but look, here I am, actually sewing, with photographic evidence. And so, thanks to the kindness of my friends, I can now sew curtains. And, no, it is not just theoretical knowledge, because this week I have sewed curtains for Posy's room, all by myself which is an actual miracle.

During the course of the sewing afternoon Cindy said, "We don't ask each other for help enough." It's so true. I hate asking for help. Most of us in our society can afford to buy help, so we do that. In our Living Better With Less Group, and in my wider circle of friends, we are attempting to turn that tide by learning to rely on each other a little more, giving and receiving help for all sorts of projects and learning and teaching so many new skills. And the truth is, being part of a community and doing things together is just more fun, as well as providing a practical safety net for each other.

Oh, and no surprises, my house is now much warmer. I can't believe I lived for over a year with no curtains in the house. Especially on the biggest window which is right next to the woodheater. Now we are cosy and warm. And if anyone wants help with curtain making, give me a call. I will make the tea..

Do you have a community of friends or family who volunteer to help with the quilting, the canning and the barn raising? How do you begin to become that kind of community?


Darwin Girl said…
Oh I do admire people with sewing skill.
Anonymous said…
Well done you!
It starts with curtains and moves on to pillows and who knows what you will be sewing next.
Sewing is one of those skills that allows you to be disentangled from the clothing and households goods manufactures.

You will go to stores now and look at a product and say...I can make this myself.

Much the same as the food corporations whose products you no longer will now have a bit more freedom.

All of use frugal/thrifty/zero wastes.need a rallying cry.
How about..... I Can Do This Myself

Hazel said…
They look brilliant- what a fantastic idea for fabric! I've sewn curtains in the past but absolutely none involving header tape. They've all had either clips to attach them to the rings or I've just sewn a channel to insert the curtain pole through. That's the limit of my sewing skills.

We have some very good friends and with the offer of exchange of labour or some homemade cider people have helped us do all sorts of things including moving to the house over the road. They even moved our wood-fired Rayburn and all the chickens and ducks :-) And yes, we now look at the front of our old house. Our new garden is 3 times the size and backs onto fields...
Hazel said…
Marieann, I've just seen your comment and it did make me laugh- I'm famous (notorious?!) for saying just that. I went Christmas shopping with a friend in a very smart garden centre and said "I could make that" for everything she picked up. Sloe gin! Sloe gin truffles! Chutney! She did ask me to stop in the end...

From a British sketch show a few years ago. She always needed a small aubergine and she could make anything...
Treaders said…
Your curtains look great - such a good idea. And I agree, once you start trying to cut back/avoid waste you develop a different mind set - looking for where you can get it cheaper. And Cindy is right - we don't ask for help often enough, which is a shame, because how are we going to pass our skills on or learn new skills? Anna
simplelife said…
What a great idea for curtains.
I never ask for help, too scared of being a burden or something 🤷‍♀️, it makes for a lonely and costly existence.
Cheers Kate
Anonymous said…
That's why you haven't posted in a fortnight, you've been so busy! How clever you are!

I think the material needed a year to cure!!! Though I can't believe you went a Tassie winter without curtains.

As to helping one another, isn't it strange that we don't like to ask for help but we love being asked? And by helping one another, we break down our isolation and build stronger connections and relationships.

Being able to sew is the BEST skill. One of many that involve fine motor skills that I've never managed to master. You are so clever, I am in awe of all you can do.
Linda said…
What a great group of friends you have and so talented too. Love the curtains - like you I have never made them and the thought of doing so would frighten me to death. What an achievement to make all those lovely warm curtains for your house. Out of curiosity, how much did the home made curtains actually cost you?
Pam in Virginia said…
Hi, Jo!

This is just wonderful. I admit to having felt dubious when I read that you were going to use drop cloths, but it was a brilliant idea. And I am so glad that - besides looking fantastic - you are now cozy warm.

Jo said…
Nine Frugal Fingers, yep, me too!

Marieann, I love your rallying cry! If I may, I'll make a little addition - I can do it myself, with a little help from my friends..

You are so right about what comes next when you learn how to do something - Posy has already ordered cushions to match her new curtains:)

Hazel, I love that you moved over the road! Good neighbours are such a gift. I am so lucky to have moved into a whole street of good neighbours. We even have a street ute - one of the neighbours happily lends it to anyone who needs to use it. Also love that you can make anything!

Anna, absolutely, it's a completely different mindset. Since I stopped shopping in department stores I have had to rethink every single purchase/need/want. It was annoying at first, but now it's a challenge. And yes, wee need to find more ways to share skills with each other..

Kate, I am very independent as well, but it is no fun, is it? I am no good at asking, but I am forcing myself to say yes when help is offered. Which is a start, at least:)

Lucinda, I can't believe I went through winter without curtains either. Madness! Think of all that heat flying out the windows.. And yes to the liking to help but hesitant to ask for help. This is such a societal thing maybe especially for women? We think of our grannies as being part of a big community, but my grandparents' generation was very judgemental of other women, their housekeeping standards, their respectability etc. I think my generation is much more relaxed about admitting we know nothing about anything and seeking help. And my children's generation, well those millenials are really good at getting together in groups to achieve what they want to. I have high hopes.

As for sewing, well, I am completely impressed that I didn't sew my fingers to anything. Or the curtains to my sleeve. All possible with me and a machine. But the truth is, it's not about cleverness at all at the level of sewing curtains. It's about sewing in a reasonably straight line. Seriously, anyone could do do it. Because anyone just did..

Linda, the thought of making curtains scared me to death too, which is why it took a year. But having someone who knew how to do it was all it took to be confident enough to have a go. And that is the advantage of doing things with friends. Allies give you courage!

As to the cost of the curtains - the fabric itself was less than $100 but I can't remember how much less - it was a year ago. The blockout fabric, hooks, tape and thread was another $150, which makes three sets of floorlength curtains for $250, which, you will agree, is much better than $2000..

Pam, yes, I was really hoping it would end well too! I was relatively optimistic, but you never quite know until you see the finished product!

Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

I'm in awe as you are doing something that I have no idea how to do: Creating community. Really impressive stuff and I'm also glad to see Benson hard at work! I like your style with the visitors appeared at exactly the right time too - nice work and well planned. Hehe!

PS: Your yoghurt fail mention recently was employed down here to good effect. After much soul searching, we had to fess up to killing some of the bacteria with water that was initially too high a temperature. Ouch!


GretchenJoanna said…
This makes me so happy! Thank you for sharing your sharing.
Jo said…
Chris, I seem to remember a post from you a few weeks ago when you went to plant trees for a friend at his farm. How is that not a plank in the barn raising of community? Community is really mostly about being there to lend a helping hand, or mutual mooching:)

And, oh dear, I killed some more yoghurt this week. I got too cocky and didn't use the thermometer..

Gretchen Joanna, made me happy too :)

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