Friday 26 October 2012

Refashion Friday: It's Curtains for You

Source: via Zoe on Pinterest

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.

Source: via Zoe on Pinterest

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!

(image source)

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!


Marie said...

Great post Zoe! I actually bought the most goregous set of curtains recently from a charity shop...they are lilac gingham that I can't wait to make into a dress. I've also picked up some cool florals before, also in the form of bedspreads...amazing what yardage you can get for so little money!

Roisin Muldoon said...

I bought some fabulous curtains from a vintage fair for £3 ages ago and I was able to make two dresses from them - a Simplicity 2591 and a Colette Rooibos. They're quite sturdy cotton/linen and I can't date them but I'd say late 70s. I think they'd be quite fabulously ugly curtains but I love them as a dress - and I have been on the lookout for similar fabrics ever since! You can see the dresses here:

and here

Lieke said...

I don't have any photographic evidence (yet), but I finished a circle skirt made out of 70s curtains! I have some more in my stash! Also, because they're cheap, curtains are great for making muslins!

Miss Lottie Lou said...

So glad to see someone else appreciating how amazing curtains are! I make made to measure clothing and the majority are made from curtains and my customers love it!

I've made everything from a shirt for my Dad to dresses to cushions to skirts, all from curtains. Some people are a bit funny about it but at the end of the day the curtains started life out as just a piece of fabric like everything else, why should it matter it's been something else in between? I call it their rebellious stage!

You can see what I've made on my page here:

Charlotte x

Anonymous said...

I love finding vintage curtains in the charity shop, the lining is also great for making muslins. I made this skirt
a while ago and have a new find in my 'to do' pile which is exciting. It's just tragic when you find a lovely curtain and in disintegrates in the wash! Thank you, great post.

Jane said...

Great post Zoe, I'm always on the lookout for old curtains as they often have amazing prints. I made a Banksia top out of a pair of curtains. I think in my case they really were little kitchen curtains in their former life as I only just squeezed a blouse out of them! x

Hearth said...

I used some old curtain fabric of my mom's (quite rotten) to make fitting slopers for myself. I think that reused fabric - even if, or perhaps especially if - it's no longer usable for public consumption - is perfect for making toiles/muslins. I've put the word out to my friends that I will take anyone's old sheets, for instance. I rarely find sheets/curtains in my local shop that are not quite elderly/damaged, so that's all I use them for.

I have to say, the whole post reminded me of Scarlet using the drapes from Tara. :)

HoffiCoffi said...

I agree that one of the great things about old curtains is the meterage of fabric they contain. Because of this I often use them to back quilts like this bright log cabin quilt

Unknown said...

You just reminded me that I really need to go on another thrifting hunt for curtains. I love sewing with them! I made this top out of some vintage curtains I scored a couple of years ago:

I still have a TON of that curtain left and have been wanting to make a dress out of it (which, of course, I still haven't done). I definitely need to do that before Spring!

Crab and Bee said...

Yay, curtains! Thanks for sharing some of the ins and outs of using them.

Anonymous said...

How cute! I love all of these examples, and never would've guessed that they were curtains in a previous life!

Freya May said...

I, too, have picked up curtains for a wondfully low price with the intention of turning them to some item of clothing or other. Sadly, I havent yet made use of them, but i want to soon!
Freya May

Jen said...

I've sewn with sheets alot but never with curtains - I'm inspired to go out and find some. Great post :)

Ellen said...

I'm more a bed sheet person!
I got some lovely patterned sheets for $1 on sale from the local op shop. One had a subtly geometric floral pattern, and was made into two tops (one here

The other had a white on white damask pattern, which I made into a baby princess dress ( and a few muslins for more shirts.

Definately a good source of ample yardage, and not as firm fabric as many curtains are made from.

Trees said...

This is a really great inspiration post - I love those paper bag skirts. A few months ago my mum picked up some old curtain fabric for me, then she realised that the curtains in my parents rental property were looking a bit drab so I lost out because the curtains became curtains again;)

Drop Stitches Not Bombs said...

Tear down the curtains and make me a dress! Lovely stuff here - you have inspired me to go curtain hunting!

MrsC (Maryanne) said...

Oh yes, it is such a pity so many curtain fabrics these days have that yuk thermal coating on the inside making them unreusable for clothing.
My two fave curtain makes were the the kaftan/butterfly dress thing I lived in while at home in lieu of a dressing gown in the early 90's, and a fab long coat with a huge colourful floral in the late 80's.
I've also been known to make curtains out of dress fabric... ;-)

ana5059 said...

Great post!!
I made a dress with the courtains of my baby room. Check it out:

Miriam said...

one of my favourite dresses is made from a single curtain that was in my mother in laws sewing stash/pile. I love it and I have used the saem for a top in another dress too. Here is the link if you are interested

Unknown said...

He he...curtains and of my favourite sections of a charity shop!

Anonymous said...

Miss P, exactly the same! I love shopping for curtains and other textiles. This time home expert did it for me and I couldn't be any happier with what they've done.

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