In the vein of reusing existing things for sewing projects rather than purchasing everything new, I want to chat today about an often over-looked resource: second hand curtains. I'm currently working on a dress made from a pair of curtains that I cannot wait to share with you, plus I have a Spring/Summer coat project lined up for the other side of the Winter that uses some amazing vintage curtains that I can't wait to get my teeth (scissors) into. So what's so good about using second hand curtains to sew with?:
They are cheap!
Obviously this is subject to the prices in your local charity/thrift/op shop, but generally you can pick up second hand curtains for far less than you'd pay for the equivalent meterage/yardage of fabric. For example, I bought a pair of curtains made from navy spotty cotton sateen for £6. I was able to make a Ceylon dress and TWO cute Simplicity 2451 skirts for my friends (see above) from them. £6 for three garments-worth of fabric? Yes to that!
They can be big!
Unless you're dealing with a tiny kitchen curtain or something, most of the time we are talking about a decent amount of fabric when you are buying curtains. More often than not you can get multiple skirts, bags or a dress out of curtains with plenty of room to mess up! Plus fabric designed to be curtaining is usually pretty wide which is all the better for squeezing in those pattern pieces.
They can be fun!
Obviously you have to let the curtain fabric dictate your project, rather than going second hand curtain-shopping with a specific sewing pattern/project in mind. But the discovery of something unexpected and using your nous to figure out a cool and creative use for it is a whole super-fun challenge in itself.
Whilst I was working for TRAIDremade we were lucky enough to receive a lot of donated second hand curtains to make into clothing. One particular style we developed to sew from curtaining was this 'paper bag' skirt (see the two images above). Even though the sewing pattern was the same, making the skirts from different curtain patterns lent each garment a unique feel and it was exciting to see the outcome from each curtain.
Playing with the scale of designs can also be a source of fun. For example, I really enjoyed making the skirt pictured below (another Simplicity 2451, incidentally) to see what effect you could get by making a mini skirt from such a large print design. Another great example of this is the wonderful dress pictured at the top of this post. It's a really interesting and clever use of curtaining to form the bodice that has then been combined with a solid coloured fabric skirt, almost giving the impression of two separate garments.
Words of warning:
You can be super lucky and find curtains that have never been used, but if they have been, have a look for any fading or stains. If you find some, don't panic, it may well be that the you can cut around the stains or faded areas and still utilise the cool fabric for a project. Fading in particular will usually only be around the edges of the curtain where day light has hit them, it may well be that the centre of the fabric is still great.
Fading, however, can indicate a further problem, particularly if the curtains are vintage and old. Like all vintage fabric and garments, old curtain fabric can be 'rotten', meaning that it can rip very easily. That is what eventually happened to floral skirt pictured above. Still, I had a good 9 months of use from it before I discovered the hard way that the vintage curtain fabric was no longer up to the task of being worn and moved around in!
So next time you fancy a sewing project that won't break the bank, why not head to the charity shop/thrift store/op shop and scour the curtains section? Happy hunting!
What about you? Have you had any successes (or failures even) of sewing with second hand curtains? If you have a link, please leave it in the comments section, I'd love to check it out!