My New Hand Stenciled Curtains Pt II, Tips on Making Your Own, and Sticking with a Project

7 September, 2012

in Fabric, Textiles, & Sewing

Experimenting. #crafts #screenprinting

This post is a continuation of My New Hand Stenciled Curtains Pt. I, and Truth-Telling about Not Blogging or Crafting for a Month.

And now, Pt II….

I was sitting on my couch one day a couple weeks ago contemplating the empty curtain rods on my wall.

They were empty, basically, because I can be a perfectionist. Now, my often messy house does not look like what people think of when they hear perfectionist.

But it’s true. If you want something to be Absolutely Perfect and then spend a lot of time trying to figure out what that is but never get around to making a decision, that’s perfectionism run amuck.

I was ready to get back into making again. And I wanted something cool, something patterned. The types of curtains I liked online were way more than I wanted to spend. I have tons of fabric- maybe I should sew something? Or sew and dip dye some muslin?

But my mind insisted on pattern. But my tired heart said, “no sewing!” (Sewing takes more out of me than other crafts. There’s no “I’ll just whip that up!” in sewing for me yet.)

And then I saw this post by Rachel at Smile and Wave – painted curtains! Perfect! And I wanted that rug. Then I decided I don’t want the rug, but I do want a similar graphic black and white pattern.

Fast, easy. Better yet, I already had supplies! Some Ikea curtains I’d picked up ages ago for the bedroom and never used and my screenprinting ink. Use what you have – yay!

Muslin practice. Hmm.... #wip #screenprinting

So, I practiced on the muslin. Painter’s tape turned out to be perfect for the dimensions I was going for.

Tape took too long. Cutting up old board game for a mask. #crafts  #diy

But laying out all that tape was taking too long. So I made carboard stencils from an old game box.

My painter's tape width working perfectly for the scale I want. #crafts #diy

Again, the painter’s tape worked perfectly.

These curtains are taking for-ever. Ran out of ink. Will have to finish tomorrow. Hoping I still like them when I'm done. #wip #diy #crafts

Howevah…the “supplies I had on hand” were screenprinting ink, not paint. Hand stenciling/screenprinting takes longer than painting with long brushstrokes.

A lot longer.

Curtains coming along slowly but surely. Painter's tape hanging on windows for reuse on next one. #crafts #wip

But I had already started with the fabric screenprinting ink. I considered changing course. But pain in rear as they were becoming, using fabric screenprinting ink meant that whenever I got tired of these as curtains, they were still usable, washable fabric.

Still painting in spare moments.... #diy #wip #crafts

So I inked on.

Over the course of two weeks. I could have probably done them in four days, pounding out one a day, but regular summer life was sitll happening. We went camping in there, too. And they are by no means perfect. I messed up the design at least once on every curtain, dropped little spots here and there, and used too much water in the first curtain mix, leaving some gray washed edges.

I cannot remember the last time I focused on one single project that took that long. If ever.

I don’t mind, in fact I love, that I do multiple things at once, but I still regularly work at and struggle to overcome a lack of finishing what I start.


How come I was plowing through this one in the midst of summer, packing, camping, and getting ready for school at all sorts of odd hours?

Why was I making sure this project got done when I normally would have given up by now?

I became curious about my own behavior and started watching myself from the outside. Why was this time different?

Well, there’s the emotional component one could argue. Major emotional stress and struggle in the lives of those we love is not easily fixed by those on the side, but this is a “problem” I could fix. Something I could get done and see tangible results. And something to take my mind off of the worries circling my head. It was giving focus and structure, a long-term (to me, anyway) goal to shape my days around and make them work.

Those are all true.

And probably the reason I started with such a big, all-consuming project as my first dip into making after a month-long absence.

But still, psychologically intense as they were, those reasons did not seem to be enough. I’ve had other times of my life with great emotional stress and big projects that could have provided focus, relief, and structure and I did not stick with them.


So what was different about this time?

Necessity and feedback.

The curtains covered my dining room table for days and we were picnicking in the living room. While our family picnics a lot, everyday was a bit much, and having no table for other things became a drag.

If I didn’t keep going, we’d never get the table back and with school coming, normal routines were needed again. And if I stopped, we’d still have no curtains.

And my three little boys were very excited about the curtains. They kept telling me what an awesome job I was doing and how great the curtains were going to look once they were hung up. They even told me I was an “amazing artist!” a few times – way to boost the ego, yeah?! Who could stop with such great cheerleaders like that?

My next task is to figure out how to replicate that situation without loosing the dining room table for 2 weeks at a time!


Woah. That’s some serious craftershock happening to that table right there!

Can I just take a moment here to give a major shout out to my husband for not minding all this?

He did not once complain about the table. He admired my tenacity in the project, and he is not bothered a bit by the craziness that I do on a regular basis to our poor table. (No worries, it washes off!) I know a lot of partners that would be driven crazy by that and he wasn’t fazed a bit.

Keeping it real

This is the “keepin it real” photo. Believe me, it’s even more “real” out of frame. You know Lego creations and glow sticks are standard decor, don’t you?

Fabric in Waiting

And see this a pile of “Fabric-in-Waiting” in the little old kids chair?

It’s waiting to be new pillow covers for the couches. Those textiles are from Ecuador, Guatemala, India, and Algeria. And the hat? It’s just a little $2 find from the local thrift store that I couldn’t pass up. The boys love it!

Hand stenciled curtains

Nice, right?

It’s so hard to take photos in my dark house, but it looks better than bare walls, don’t you think?

If, after all that you still want to make your own curtains…

Learn From My Mistakes and One Good Choice:

1. I recommend paint. Haha! It will go so much faster like Rachel said! Deciding to stencil/ink these was basically like deciding to do a printing run of 200 tshirts. Yeah.

2. Take the extra time to clean off your garage or basement floor and cover it with paper or plastic so that you can do a complete curtain panel at a time. One reason my curtains took so long is that I did them in thirds on the dining room table and had to give each section drying time.

3. Even if you never work up samples, do so for your curtains. Take the time to do the muslin or something as close to your fabric as possible so you really know how your paint is going to react and look and how heavy or light your brushstrokes need to be. This was something I did right and allowed me to figure out how much water I wanted to thin the ink with and exactly what my design was going to be. Unlike frogging a messed up knitting or crochet project, poorly painted curtains either have to be rebought or stare you in the face daily with the flub.

If you are still reading, thank you for entering into my journey back into making!! You are a good friend for listening!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

MandyNo Gravatar

The curtains look good now that they are in place. It might have taken a long time, but it was well worth all the effort.


ElizabethNo Gravatar

Thank you!


pamNo Gravatar

Your curtains turned out absolutely gorgeous!. What a project! You must be feeling very good about now!


ElizabethNo Gravatar

I am!! I’m glad you like them – I know they are not everyone’s cup of tea!


Erin Fickert-RowlandNo Gravatar

Those curtains look absolutely fabulous! I love them! Thanks for sharing the highs and lows of your project, and way to get your craft back on after a month off! I love the “Craftershock” shot, too- that was awesome!


ElizabethNo Gravatar

Thanks, Erin! I’m glad you all stuck with the story. I think after not blogging much for a while I just needed to write! And yeah, I think “craftershock” shots are gonna have to become a regular feature around here…. :)


JodiNo Gravatar

“your keeping it real” picture made me laugh, because I didn’t notice any of the real until you pointed it out! I was too busy looking at how great your curtains look. Huzzah to a job well done!


ElizabethNo Gravatar

Aww, Jodi, that’s really sweet! I’ll make sure the K.I.R. shot is even more real next time. ;) Thank you for the compliments on my curtains!


geek+nerdNo Gravatar

Wow! The curtains look great. Way to persevere!


ElizabethNo Gravatar

Thank you so much! Especially the note on perseverance. :)


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