Last year we completely renovated our son’s bedroom – it’s the room with the blue-tiled hearth I use as a backdrop in some photo-shoots. However, I never got round to making curtains for its semi-circular bay window. My son insists he doesn’t need curtains as he likes to lie in bed looking at the sky and the plane trees in the distance and yes, I take his point, but what about the electricity cable and the streetlights…? As we had a very important visitor coming to stay in that room, the impending arrival gave me the kick to make the room a bit more homelike.
Firstly, the newly plastered ceiling needed a curtain track affixed to it. In order to save the £230 track-fitting fee, we did the job ourselves. It was horrible, fiddly work with much planning and marking and it blew all the daytime hours of Damon’s entire weekend and some of mine too. It was the first time I had to make sense of tiny diagrams in the instructions by using a magnifying glass. Shame on you, Swish 👿 Next, while Damon moved to the task of renovating the bathroom only to unearth plumbing horrors, I set about estimating the fabric amount required and ordering samples. The curved window, typical of British 1930s’ suburban houses, was wider than it looked: 4 metres. This meant the required width of the curtain would be between 6 and 8 metres. Taking into account the pattern repeat and the ‘drop,’ I’d need about 16 metres. I wanted cheerful fabric rather than something grown-up so I opted for quilting cotton (which comes with a tremendous choice of colours and patterns). At £12 a metre from Frumble, a bolt of 16 metres cost £192. Which isn’t why this is the most expensive curtain ever.
The lining fabric came from the local curtain supplies store. It’s crisp, white and since it’s cotton-rich, I hope it won’t be prone to mould spots come winter and condensation on the glass. The lining and 10 curtains weights came to another £70. Which isn’t why this is the most expensive curtain ever….
Curtain-making isn’t my forte. All that I know – which, apparently, is called the ‘bag-method’ – I learnt from Readers Digest Complete Guide to DIY. The fact that my work will undoubtedly be subject to scrutiny makes it all the more nerve-racking. But it’s dynamic work too. The cutting up of the panels, the measuring and the marking required so much getting down to the floor and up again that after three days I felt like I’d been to a yoga retreat! There’s something rewarding too in all that flat geometry. I love the point at which the lining and fabric are turned right side out and the side edges get a hot press: the lovely smell of steamy, printed poplin. And hand-hemming more than 6 metres, though time consuming, really means you’re quite quick and neat by the end.
I did run into big trouble getting my panels to match up, both horizontally and vertically. Unlike during the previous curtain-making occasion, my walking foot (even feed foot) simply wasn’t up to the job. Something was wrong. Normally, I’d slow right down, sewing centimetre by centimetre and checking for accuracy but there just wasn’t time… we had a very important visitor coming… So I kept going, sometimes with luck on my side, often not, but a passable effort. If anyone points out the misalignments such as these, I’ll wrestle them to the floor I think.
The curtains were finished the evening before our important visitor arrived… which meant that a strapping 16-year-old exchange student from Munich (to the right of the picture) got to sleep soundly underneath the most barmy curtain he’ll see in his whole life, probably. It was when the excitement was over that I realized the machine’s stitches weren’t forming properly. I’ve taken Elna in for a repair which will cost £150. Which still isn’t why this is the most expensive curtain ever…
No. You see, my son wasn’t sure if he liked this choice of fabric quite as much as he liked Star Wars: Imperial Storm Trooper . But I couldn’t bear those dull colours. So, in order to sway his decision I said “If you choose Mascaras de Pelea, I’ll take you and the whole family on a holiday tour of Mexico!”