by Tamara Oliver
Moving to a new home or finding a terrific deal on fabric can create a powerful temptation to make curtains for even the most stalwart domestician. But unless you're a decorator by trade, homemade curtains are harder than you think. HGTV is not reality, it's science fiction; Real Simple couldn't be further from simple, Martha Stewart's LIVING is lying. Don't believe the hype. Reconsider this audacious domestic endeavor while you still can.
1. No, really, this is going to be a giant pain in the ass.
Sure, the majority of window coverings at their most basic are just rectangles, but size matters. Have you really considered the volume of fabric required to cover all of those living room windows? Your frugal/inspired/creative moment is easily a couple dozen yards of fabric, and we all know leatherette and sequined knits are the only things you'll find that much of in the clearance bin.
2. Choosing the fabric is a giant pain in the ass.
How does one decide what to look at every day? Pattern and color are important, but so is the type of fabric. Yes, that shimmering organza would make lovely sheers, but have you ever sewn organza? No, because if you had, you wouldn't be reading this, you would be alone in the woods, screaming into the sky.
You'll walk into the fabric store with a vision and search earnestly for a style you saw in a magazine. Save yourself the heartache — it's not there. The decorating fabrics are shockingly expensive, clearance is full of material better suited to dance recitals, and the whole rest of the store is a sea of "fashion fleece" — an oxymoron if there ever was one. You will leave the store frustrated and confused, having spent $7.99 per yard on burgundy polyester lace.
3. Pleasing other people is a giant pain in the ass.
Heaven help you if you have a domestic partner of any variety. If you are one of the lucky few whose domestic partner is unable to see colors and shapes at the same time, it will all be fine. However, most partners will want to participate in the style decision, and you can never truly know a person until you decorate together. One person's paisley is another's purgatory; your houndstooth their hell. You will argue over this in front of strangers. No couple should set foot in a fabric store without a Snickers and a mutually agreed-upon safeword.
4. Cutting this much fabric is a giant pain in the ass.
Unless your domestic partner is afflicted with the same home décor hubris, you are going to be on your own with this mess. That might even be for the best, because no one should have to witness what you will become.
It starts with cutting your fabric, the success of which is going to depend heavily on your ability to measure accurately, consistently, and often. In order to get the straightest lines you will need a flat and steady cutting surface, such as the floor, dining room table, or an airstrip. Your odds of snipping a hole in the fabric as you go are maddeningly high.
5. Patterned fabric is a giant pain in the ass.
Once you have your panels cut, line them all up at the top. Does the pattern start at the same place on each panel? If not, welcome to Hell. Now you're cutting again, and we've already determined that cutting is a pain in the ass.
Eventually, very late on a Sunday night, you will have all of your panels cut to the same size. It's perfectly normal to cry at this phase of the project. Self-loathing is also common, as you wonder who the heck you think you are, trying to make your own curtains like some Martha Stewart wannabe. You will abandon the curtains in disgust, go to bed with some carbohydrates, and fall asleep dreaming of Cinderella's mice finishing your curtains in the night. They won't.
6. Ironing this much fabric is a giant pain in the ass.
You are now faced with the daunting task of stooping over roughly 90 feet of pinning, your face mere inches from a hot iron, making sure your hems are perfectly straight. When you finish the last few feet, a powerful relief will overcome you where you'll attempt to stand upright, reveling in your glory, and discover that you have developed a permanent hump in your upper back. The other moms at the bus stop will start whispering about you, and the kids will call you "Hunchback" behind your, well, hunched back.
7. Sewing machines in general are actually a giant pain in the ass.
The good news is that sewing will be easier with that hump in your back because your face will be closer to your work. It will take you 27 minutes to remember how to thread the machine, get the bobbin properly wound and set in place, and figure out which stitch and tension to use. Good luck with that, by the way. No one actually knows what stitch and tension to use except for your cosplay friend who makes all their own costumes; everyone else is guessing.
8. Sewing injuries are a giant pain in the ass.
At some point in the process of sewing all four sides of each rectangle multiplied by the number of panels you are making, you will sew yourself into the curtains. You may sew your own clothing into the curtains, sew a curtain to itself, or even sew through your own hand. Remember to use the hand wheel to reverse the needle out of your flesh and cut the thread, otherwise you'll break the machine when jerking your hand away.
It took two months but you finished! Kudos on your persistence in the face of total demoralization and stabbing yourself twice with the seam ripper. Be proud of how much you have learned about yourself and what a giant pain in the ass homemade curtains are.
Tamara Oliver is great at banana bread but pretty awful at Twitter. Find her there and admire her socks @sensoryoverlord.