Taking the new Craigslist sewing machine out for a spin… curtains

When all of our stuff arrived from Brooklyn, Martha finally got a room.  Shout out to the burbs! We tried to give the pack n’ play in the corner of our room an ambiance of sorts, but the chocolate pacifier on her pillow and the New York Times waiting for her each morning just didn’t seem to do the trick.  Babies these days…

So up to the extra bedroom on the 3rd floor she went.  Here’s how it looked pre-Martha.

Craigslist twin beds with some aDORable Homegoods quilts, and simple cafe curtains from Bed Bath and Beyond for a window ‘treatment’.

I should go back even further and show you how it looked pre-Smiths!  The previous owner loved herself some cream colored wall to wall carpet.  That crap was everywhere.

When our things arrived from the city, Martha got a crib, a dresser/ changing table, and an armchair.  Let me tell you, the kid was psyched.  We had to push around the furniture a bit, and I think my mom fiiinally convinced me to trade these twin beds for our queen-sized bed, but that hasn’t happened yet.  What HAS happened is a new set of curtains so her room is a little darker for all the napping she’s getting up to.

I learned how to sew when I was younger, but I suck.  I’m impatient, I rush, and I don’t really understand anything on the sewing machine other than forward and backward.  In a wild display of over-confidence, I decided to make a set of curtains for Martha’s room figuring I could have fun looking for fabric, and since the windows are small it would be a quick project.  Let’s just say I had fun choosing fabric and that’s about it.  But… I did it.  They’re not pretty when you look up close; the judges on Project Runway would NOT approve of my seams.

About 3 months ago (on a Pinterest high of craft ambition), I got a sewing machine off of Craigslist for $40.  A Brother XL something or other.  Having used it for the last week, I will say that it works… but the chick and her mother from whom I bought it failed to mention that it was missing a crucial part- specifically the thingamajig that HOLDS THE THREAD!!  I made do.

For the curtains, I wanted something relatively simple like the ones below.  I planned to sew on some blackout curtains to the back just to make them super-thick.  I bought one pair of blackout curtains at Home Depot and figured that would be plenty given the small stature of the windows.

At the fabric store, The Barn in Bridgeport, I found a couple of different fabrics that worked.  Rather than- God forbid- choose one, I decided to get both and use the patterned one as a border with the solid color as the main panel.  The windows are 28″ wide.  This is where my sewing ‘skills’ fall apart as I’m not one for details and tend to wing it… I cut the solid colored fabric to 28″ and then added roughly 12″ strips of the patterned fabric on either side figuring there would be some hemming, and I’d find a way to gather the curtains so I’d need more fabric than 28″ anyways.

I pinned the three pieces of fabric (plaid-solid-plaid) and sewed them together.  At this point I have 3 VERY wide striped curtains.  While I was trying to figure out what to do with the width, I went ahead and hemmed them.  First, I ironed the rough fabric edge, then folded it over again so that none of the ‘shredded’ edge was exposed.

Hemming. I just ironed this edge so I didn’t need to pin also.

Now I had to figure out a way to gather the top edge so the curtains weren’t 40″, but the 28″ of the window.  I marked the middle of each panel and made a little 1 cm. pleat every 2 inches or so.  There was no measuring involved, but somehow I got lucky and ended up with the right length.  If I were going to do it all again- without winging it- I’d measure how long the panels were to start and then determine how much they needed to ‘shrink’ to get to the window width.  Let’s say the flat panels were 20″ too wide, then I’d know that I needed to make some combination of pleats that would minimize the width by 20 inches.  Maybe twenty 1″ pleats… maybe ten 2″ pleats.  For these curtains, I’d say my pleats (which is making me sound wildly more competent than I am) were about 1 cm.  I didn’t take any great pictures of the pleating, but it was ugly.  Trust me.

If I knew what I were doing, I would have used two pins on either side of my pleat rather than one.  (Mark assures me that this sentence should have the “were” and not a “was”…reads weird to me, but he’s a grammar geek.) With only one pin, when the sewing machine foot ran over the pleat, it kinda folded back the fabric so it’s more of a bunch.  With two pins, the pleat would have held its integrity.  Next time…

Okay, so now I have 3 hemmed and quasi pleated curtains.  The top pleated edge is a mess, though.  Maybe I should have hemmed this edge before I pleated, but I’m not one for going back and doing it right.  I folded over this edge and ironed it to at least get the rough edge out of the picture a little bit.

I forgot to shift my flash so this is crazy bright, but you should get the idea.  These are the pleats, and I’m ironing the rough edge.

I mentioned earlier, that I wanted to incorporate my black-out curtain somehow.

Perhaps this was the answer to my pleated edge conundrum.  I cut the black out curtain down to the size of each curtain panel minus 1/2 inch or something so the blackout curtain didn’t hang over the edge of the fabric curtain.  Because each packet of blackout curtains comes with a pair, I naturally had 4 pre-hemmed edges to work with (top and bottom of each curtain); the width of these black out curtains happened to be perfect.  I hemmed the edge of the cut blackout curtain, but took FULL advantage of the already sewn edge.  With the pretty side of my curtains facing out and the pretty edge of the black out curtain facing out, I covered the nasty pleated edge of my curtain with the pretty hemmed edge of the blackout curtain.  Genius.

These window wells happen to be super narrow and there’s no actual molding, so I used small little tension rods on the inside of the window well along with some white curtain clips.  My sewing lines are raggedy and crooked, but from a distance, I think the curtains look pretty cool.  Certainly better than the old shade and the plain linen cafe curtain panels I had there before!

Is there anything better than checking off something on your To-Do list?! Not much… and Martha’s sleeping like a [very sweet] baby.




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