Before and after: replacing the paper stick-up shade with a gathered French door curtain!
It might seem odd to have a glass door on the powder room but that’s what I have. I found 5 sets of salvage doors and used them throughout the house, including the downstairs guest bath because I knew I could make a french door curtain to insure privacy. The old doors are fir and had been removed from a 1920s house. The one on the powder room still had the original brass curtain rods and brackets for curtains intact. I removed and kept hardware from all the doors when I restored them by hand-scraping the loose paint. I wanted their age and patina to show and I didn’t fill any of the old bracket holes since I felt they are part of the look. The side of the door facing into our hallway is white with some old awning green showing through. Inside, the door is a different color.
To give the powder room privacy, I threw up a $5 pleated paper stick-up Redi Shade I found at Home Depot and secured it to the top of the door with blue painter’s tape. By the time I found real fabric for the shade –a jacquard-stripe ivory cotton at a Scalamandre remnant sale — I was horrified to realize that the paper shade was 6 or 7 years old. Since we had only been using the house on weekends, the door shade hadn’t been a priority.
Rather than replace the old curtain hardware I decided to use it. It is solid brass, it fit the door and all the pieces were intact. But first, I had to clean the rods and brackets which hadn’t been touched in decades. After soaking them in Noxon metal cleaner, I rubbed and rubbed until tarnish gave way to brass-clad rods and brass brackets still dotted in some spots with old paint.
After the Noxon rub-down, the brackets, sleeves and screws got a mineral spirits soak to finish the cleaning.
The keys to making a french door curtain are the top and bottom rod pockets. Those allow the fabric to be stretched between them, then gathered and held taut rods above and below the window. Making the curtain requires a few yards of fabric, careful measuring and basic sewing machine skills. My door measures 79-inches high by 23-1/4-inches wide overall. The window area measured 66-1/2 inches high by 16-3/4-inches wide. My fabric was 53-inches wide (half is 26-1/2) so my finished curtain would be a double width with generous gathers. As a precaution, I measured an extra 12-inches longer than the height of the door window.
The right/front side of the curtain is made to face into the powder room – the back visible through the glass. The first task was to create a 1-inch finished border on each side.
For some reason the selvedge on this fabric were red so it was easy to fold them back, press them for a crisp line and stitch them down close to the folded edge.
Then I finished the sides with 1-inch borders by turning the fabric back by 1-inch and stitching over the previous line of stitching. The finished side looked good and went quickly.
I needed to complete the top rod pocket so the curtain could be basted and put up to test for a snug fit. For the top pocket, I measured ½-inch from the top of the fabric, pressed that down, and stitched close to the edge.
Then I sewed a second row close to the first to secure the edge and trimmed away the excess fabric.
Rod pockets usually range from 1-1/4 to 2 inches, depending on the rod thickness since the pocket should not be too snug. My old curtain rods were about ¼-inch thick so I calculated 1-1/4 inch pockets. Before sewing down the top pocket, I tested to be sure the rod would slide easily – and it did. So I made the top pocket 1-1/4 inches deep and sewed it down.
The old bracket holes for the curtain rods were located about 2-inches above and below the glass. They were not in perfect condition but they worked with the rods. Those fit between the brackets and were held on each end by a threaded brass sleeve. I attached the rods and brackets loosely. Then I measured from the top of the top rod to the bottom of the bottom rod and got 70-1/4 inches. I added ½-inch (total diameter of the two rods) to that for uptake. My target finished length: 70-3/4-inches.
Next came the test on the door. The curtain moved beautifully across the top rod. Then I basted in the bottom pocket and rehung the curtain for a second test.
Once the curtain was hung, I could see it was slightly uneven on the bottom left side but it fit snugly enough that it didn’t need adjustment.
From the outside, the curtain is opaque enough for privacy. It’s not perfect, but it was my first curtain project! Happily, I was able to go from “do” to “done” for one item on my longstanding house punch list, though many projects remain.
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