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Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic
When we moved into our house years ago, I was faced with the challenge of dressing palladian or half-circle windows. We have 5 of them and the biggest one is in my sewing room. It faces south, so the light is constant and wonderful, but the glare was so bad I almost needed sunglasses while I was sewing!
I quickly bought the paper “accordion” pleated window shades to put in the upper half-circle of the windows (on top of the mini-blinds), just to diffuse the light a little in three of the rooms on the front of my house. The paper shades are great because they are cheap and easy to cut to fit. I had to attach two 36” shades for my sewing room window because the diameter of the arch was almost 72 inches. The other windows were smaller and could be filled with just one shade, folded in half and fanned.
The paper fans look great from the outside of the house, but my sewing room window was a little boring on the inside. It needed a curtain to dress it up.
I scoured my personal library for ideas of how to adorn a curved window because I didn’t want to just hang a rod straight across the top. In the out-of-print book 1001 Ideas for Windows by Anne Justin, I came across this fun design idea:
Unfortunately, the book doesn’t include any instructions or how-to’s and most of the best ideas are only sketches. So I needed to engineer a way to rig my curtain to match the sketch.
In another book on my shelf, I found some lovely photographs of simple curtains hanging in arched windows. No curtain rod required! The only problem was that the how-to seemed to be written in code because it called for “touch-and-close tape”. What on earth??
For at least two years, I pondered my window and brooded over what touch-and-close tape could be. Then one day I cracked the code! I remembered that the book was written by a British decorator so… I figured it had to be a lost-in-translation thing.
Then – lightbulb!!! – I knew! “Touch-and-close tape” is British for what Americans call “hook-and-loop tape” or Velcro. It was so stupidly simple, I can’t believe it took me years to figure it out!
I bought a pack of half stick-on and half sew-on velcro and (to save a little money) cut it in half down the entire length, giving myself twice as much since my window circumference was so big. I stuck a continuous line of the hook velcro around the inside of the window frame. (You could also staple the hook side of sew-on velcro to the frame if you don’t have the sticky kind.)
For my curtain, I needed 15 yards of fabric. I chose 34-inch-wide bleached muslin because it would still let a lot of light through, and I wouldn’t need to hem the sides since the selvage edge was hem enough without the fabric being too wide. This way, I only needed to cut the fabric in 4 straight lines. Then I had two panels 10 feet long and two panels 12 feet long. (Make sure to wash and dry your fabric before cutting to allow for any shrinking – this way you can wash & dry your curtain later.)
The same curtain design would be fun in all kinds of fabric combinations, or edged with a colored stripe. I considered adding a black edge around my panels for an added graphic effect, but decided it would detract from my wall decorations and just kept it simple.
I gathered the tops of the 4 long panels and secured the gathers by sewing the edge to the fuzzy strip of velcro, which was cut to fit exactly one quarter of the half circle window frame. (This also makes it easy to wash the curtains because the soft loopy velcro won’t tear the fabric like the hook side.) Then it was as simple as hanging, twisting, attaching loops (or safety-pins) to 4 small nails in the wall, and cutting the hem at the correct angle. I simply serged the bottom hem on each panel, but a rolled hem would work as well.
Now I have an artistically draped curtain that helps filter the light and looks great with my décor.
I know that anyone who has any sort of curved window has been frustrated at some point by the lack of options for window treatments. I had a feeling there was a simple solution out there without spending a fortune on fancy hardware! And when you have a beautifully shaped window, why should you have to cover up the architectural interest?
I hope this – my adventure and eventual solution – will help other owners of unusually shaped windows solve their own decorating dilemmas.