Quilted Curtains, part 3: Finally we’re getting somewhere…or not

Yeah, it’s been a while…

After much wrestling with glue and fabric and wadding, I finally finished the quilting lines. I had to piece up quite a bit of the calico backing, to my embarrassment, and I never did get around to removing the pencil lines from the canvas. Or washing the glue out.

Ultimately, I only used about half of the quilting lines, though miscounting resulted in an odd number of lines so there’s a narrow section in the middle. I doubt it’ll be noticeable.

Attaching the fancy fabric, attaching the loops and hemming shouldn’t be a huge problem, and I plan to leave myself room to add hem weights if needed (as it stands, it seems like it’ll be heavy enough as it is). Except for the on-off hot weather, ongoing problems trying to use the cramped and awkward office to sew in, ongoing general life problems and burnout, and returning to study now eating into my time and motivation… all resulting in having done very little on it since the last post. (Which might have been obvious from the radio silence.)

And then there’s hanging it. The doorframe has three long screws jutting out of it at the top – not really helpful, but I put together three loops in green canvas anyway, ready to attach them at the right intervals… except the screws aren’t evenly spaced, predictably. (If you think this is bad – the bathroom light fitting is rotated about 20 degrees and so crooked relative to all four walls, somehow. No reason other than that it being part of the extremely questionable DIY ‘renovation’, probably.)

You might say ‘why not replace these screws with a rod and screw-in curtain hooks with screws long enough to attach into the framing behind the door frame to ensure security?’ To which I say, ‘landlords’. Just getting regular, routine maintenance that has to be performed on any house or the most basic repairs done is already like pulling teeth – things like gutters being cleaned, or door locks that have worn to where they no longer secure a door replaced – and getting permission for picture hooks or a curtain rod is borderline impossible.

I don’t think I’ll be doing this again either. More because I like to think that the next place I live in won’t have missing doors that the owner refuses to replace. But also because I think that’s been a big source of the burnout – the reasons I’m stuck doing this, the reasons I have such a poor space to work in (otherwise the alternative is not sewing at all for half of the year or more, thanks to the problems of trying to sew in an uninsulated metal shed), the reasons I have to live in this house.

So, I don’t know when I’ll be doing more sewing – I’d hoped to move everything back into the shed this week, but the shed is currently once again about 10-20C hotter than outside until well into the night, and that doesn’t seem to be changing again. By the time it’s likely to, my classes will have ramped up to 3-4 days a week. It’s very hard to find motivation to keep at sewing in the face of that when it comes on top of the rest of my current situation.

I’ve tried to pivot to other creative endeavours – some attempts at bullet journalling, the (not particularly successful) jewelry, woodworking (which has also hit repeated snags in the form of ‘turns out you can’t get timber delivered and it doesn’t fit in the car’) and now knitting, but I’ve found these equally difficult to blog about. It already took a lot to push myself to blog about sewing given that it’s hard to do things with one’s hands *and* take photos of it (much less do that and also write about it and promote it in any effective manner) and I don’t think I’m going to get much better at it with anything else. But that’s why I don’t have an update schedule and don’t expect anything from this blog.

Quilted Curtains, part 2… or take 2

As I said last time, reader, mistakes were made. A lot of them. You can see many of them. This is… not good.

A piece of green quilted canvas, on a grey laminate table. There are multiple puckers in the quilting lines, and they're all kind of wonky. Several of the lines have had to stop short of the edge, but it's clear even looking at it that there's too much extra fabric left and it will end up puckering and tucking again when the lines are finished. It's just not very good.
It’s just not very good. Too much excess fabric at the top meant it kept tucking, and the lines were just all over the place.

So what did I do? Well, firstly I sat down and unpicked all of the original stitching. That meant I no longer had any matching thread, but oh well. White stitching on sage green doesn’t look that weird or bad, I think.

And then, changes.

Firstly, I cut the piping off the edges of the piece of quilt, and squared up the corners. Then, I deconstructed the whole thing. This took quite a while, but the wadding is in good shape. I’ll back the other side with some calico.

A roll of off-white quilt wadding, with the old quilting lines still visible, on a dark blue couch cover. This photo was taken with a flash so it's lit a bit weirdly.
And it turns out that yeah that’s literally just wool wadding in there. I didn’t even need to buy any.

Then I set the quilt piece aside, to do something very simple on the canvas – mark my stitching lines. I did this knowing full well that I probably wouldn’t be able to wash any of this out. I’ve learned from experience that even good-quality tailor’s chalk can become embedded in a stitching line, and also that graphite pencil is frequently more accurate and less likely to smear, although it does only work on lighter-coloured fabrics. (I normally use my Palomino Blackwing pencil for this, as it’s a bit softer – I think it’s considered partway between a HB and a B? You’d probably get a better line from a B or even 2B pencil.) I marked in my lines at 4cm apart, and then marked in a 2cm top hem, a 4cm lower hem, and 1.5cm side hems on both sides. The wadding will need to extend into the hems, to ensure there’s no gaps in coverage.

The sage green fabric from earlier, but it's no longer quilted. It's on the grey laminate table, with a long steel ruler laying on top of it. Some lines have already been ruled on it in pencil; they're parallel and evenly spaced.
It’s easier to follow a stitching line when it’s on the fabric.

Next, I used lightly diluted washable school glue to glue-baste the quilt piece onto the canvas, on the reverse side from where I’d marked my stitching lines. (I did have proper basting glue, but not nearly enough, and that stuff is kind of pricey. And I already had a 1L bottle of the school glue.) As I said before, I probably can’t wash this out – I’m not sure how well this assemblage will wash now, but I’ll try to wash it out by hand in the bathtub. If it doesn’t wash out, hopefully it loses its stiffness over time. Glue-basting like this is good for multiple layers, extreme precision (where pins may distort the stitching line) or fabrics you can’t pin, but a downside is that you usually need to pin or weight down the fabric while the glue dries. Which can also take a while.

The green fabric, with the off-white quilt wadding on top of it and partly folded back, on the grey laminate table. Next to the fabric and wadding assemblage, there's a flat speckled grey dish, that's clearly a broken piece of a larger dish; there's a black foam paintbrush lying across it. Next to it is a large bottle of Elmer's washable school glue.
Yes, that broken dish is my glue palette. What? I’m not going to use a good dish for glue.

Let’s hope that the second take isn’t as bad as the first. There’s some nice hot weather coming up, apparently, so the assemblage should dry alright given some patience, even if that does mean I’ll be a lot slower to get to sewing it…

Quilted curtains

Because of course I get my sewing energy back after making a hiatus post… I swear I’m getting around to those pants, eventually.

One of the big, big problems in my current house is things that were done multiple owners ago. Like the doors… or missing ones, rather.

There’s no door between the living room and the dining room, or between the dining room and the laundry. And the laundry windows are old louver windows – so they don’t seal in any sense of the word. (We think the current back door might have been scavenged from the living room door, because it matches the master bedroom door, but not the front door.)

What this means is that in winter, the heat leaks out through that area. In summer, heat leaks in.

The current owner isn’t interested in replacing the missing doors. And with summer coming and the risk of a scorcher, plus the hell of trying to keep warm in winter when you can’t seal off half of the house? Well, nothing else for it.

I can’t recall where I read it, but it was most likely articles in Low Tech Magazine – they did a whole series on low-tech insulation and heating, of which this (“Restoring the Old Way of Warming”) is probably the best starting point. Curtains and drapes are a good way to improve the thermal efficiency of windows, even more so if double glazing isn’t really a thing where you live. (I am not sure anyone in Australia has ever even heard of double glazing. It’s usually regarded as too expensive if someone has heard of it. They are probably wrong, but it’s moot when you rent.)

In older times, curtains and drapes were almost always heavy, thick fabric. Finding that these days? Not easy, and especially in an allegedly warm climate. (If I had a dollar for every time someone claimed that you don’t need this or that thermal efficiency improvement in Australia ‘because it’s such a warm climate’, I wouldn’t need to find another day job.)

But then, for some reason, I thought I’d heard of quilting curtains as well.

Reader, this was a mistake. I can’t find anything about that, and it turns out, it’s a real pain to do.

The actual curtains

I chose my fabrics from Homecraft Textiles – a canvas backing fabric, and a blockout-coated fancy brocade to go on the kitchen-facing side. The canvas back was originally going to be a whole separate set of curtains – allowing them to be changed out – until the quilting plan happened. Layering the fabrics, I realized, would both increase the insulation from the curtain, as well as helping to make it less likely to flap around in windy conditions, especially if front and rear screen doors were opened (which can easily cause a wind tunnel effect if the wind is blowing directly towards the house from either side).

I had originally planned to insert heavy hemp rope into the hems, to weigh them down as well – but couldn’t find any local sources that I could buy by the metre, and shipping costs were just too high for the small amount I needed. I ended up instead choosing long, oval-shaped fishing weights. I would normally stick with rope to weigh down clothing hems – metal and ceramic objects can wear through a hem over time, as well as potentially leaving painful bruises if the hem smacks against a person. In a house, they could cause dents and dings in the walls… but this house is so covered in them that it’s a non-issue. (As for bruises… well, don’t stand in the doorway then.)

Then, when I was ready to go ahead, I was reminded that there was an old double bed quilt sitting around, which meant I didn’t need to spend money on new quilt batting. (If I was going to do this again, I’d either strip the outer fabric off of the quilt, or go buy fresh quilt batting, for sheer ease of use.)

Assembly

Working with such large pieces of fabric meant I had to work directly on the concrete outside. Not ideal, but I managed.

I first measured the length of my canvas fabric, ensuring I had enough to fully cover the doorway up to the top of the frame, to the floor. This also allowed enough extra for hanging loops. (The door frame has 3 screws protruding at the top, ostensibly for hanging curtains from; while I did obtain screw-in hooks that should be long enough to penetrate into the doorframe studs for security, I’m only going to resort to the hooks if the current screws aren’t secure enough.) I then added 6cm for the hem – 4cm for the actual hem, and 2cm for an additional turnback (and holding the fishing weights)

Then, I laid my trimmed canvas over the top of the quilt, and trimmed the quilt down to the right width. (I left the extra length on during construction – also potentially a mistake.)

I pinned and stitched the top of the fabric and the quilt backing together, and ran a line of stitching along the selvedge of the canvas and the edge of the quilt. And then started the quilting lines.

A real oversight by Janome is the length of the quilting bar – this is a piece of metal that can be inserted into the sewing machine foot (secured by a tiny screw) to help you keep your lines spaced evenly even if you can’t see the throat plate. The bar sits in the ditch of the previous line. But, this quilter bar can really only extend up to 6cm before it can’t be secured properly anymore – I set it down at 4 for safety’s sake.

Let me tell you, quilting across 112cm wide canvas with 4cm line spacing takes forever. I had to keep rolling up the finished sections, to be able to fit the whole thing back under the foot. I eventually had to turn the whole thing. I had avoided glue-basting any of this, because I figured that once the quilt was on, it wasn’t going to be easy to wash anymore – and glue basting would stiffen the quilt too much. Pinning was difficult enough with the thickness of the quilt. So that meant that my reversed lines were puckering and forming tucks up near the top, so I had to stop about 10cm back and I’ll have to finish those lines from the other direction…

…in other words, it was incredibly difficult doing it this way. I should probably have just bought new quilt wadding.

Delays, and the rain

So, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to add more posts on any projects any time lately.

Between weather conditions ranging from ‘the shed entrance is flooded and I can’t get to it’ to ‘the shed is now a really bad sauna’, said unlined and uninsulated shed that can’t be remedied (thanks to a combination of rental laws and a hostile agent), more discouragement in my job hunt and my efforts to sell some jewelry made from old supplies, and a time of year that has never been easy emotionally for me (and has only gotten worse over the last couple of years) I’ve found myself incredibly burnt-out on most pursuits. But especially sewing of late.

It’s something that I don’t talk widely about. It’s not like I want this to be a ‘good vibes only’ space – but I try to keep this from turning into a digital diary of woe, because I don’t feel like that makes for good reading. I try to keep it focused on what I’m doing, but… that gets hard when I’m not really doing anything that I think is interesting enough to post about. When I’m burnt out like this, I can’t even bring myself to do much reading or watching around the topics – and I never did much of that to begin with.

So, I’m calling a hiatus for now, until either the weather becomes more tolerable, or these end-of-year blues break. I’m not gone forever, just… resting and waiting for something to change.