The Cross House

Does ANYBODY on Earth Sew???????????

I have a problem.

And was hoping that you could help me.

You see, I have taken on this HUGE and very OLD house needing a TON of work. And, so far, when I have needed help with something, like renewing the radiator system, relining built-in gutters, or restoring stained-glass windows, I have found the perfect people to help.

But now, two years into the project, I am stumped. And what I am stumped with rather surprises me.

I need help…having draperies reduced in length.

I know! How ridiculous that this should prove such a headache!

Last year I did a series of posts about the Great Drapery Hunt, the heroic effort to find enough panels of a discontinued drapery at Wal-Mart. Readers across America astonished me by scouring their local Wal-Mart and having their discoveries shipped to me. In short order, I had MORE than I needed!

Whoee!

But…but…all proved not as expected. The drapery panels did not really look like the online images. And the panels looked less than impressive in the library. It wasn’t just me who thought so. I tacked up a pair, and had numerous visitors vote. All voted no. The panels were attractive enough, but not right for the space. They were not, ah, grand enough for such a grand house.

Sigh.

So, I hauled all the panels over to carriage house, where they look quite well. And this is where I will later use them.

Back to square one.

One reader, Matt, had mentioned Half Price Drapes. I checked them out, and purchased two panels to test them out. The panels were lovely, but proved not right for the library. Then I purchased two more panels…and these looked great! The panels were lined and interlined, in a faux silk, and looked rich and elegant and grand. Whew!

(Sidebar: by purchasing TWO panels as tests, rather than ONE, I could always use the panels on some other window in my very big house. I mean, what does one do with one panel?)

The drapery panels were a steal as they were discontinued and thus marked down from $250 each to $39. Big whoee. The problem was that I had to order what was available, and these were 96-inch long panels when I needed 66-inches.

Later, I purchased a set for the parlor, also severely discounted and discontinued, and these were also too long.

This did not seem a big deal.

It does now though, for I cannot find anybody to reduce the length of the draperies! All the local people are booked solid. One reader, another Matt, mentioned that his mother had a drapery shop in a nearby town. I sent along an email…and received no response.

I am beginning to think there is a fabric conspiracy against the Cross House!

My hope is that by reaching out, you will leave a comment stating: Oh! I have the perfect person! I already talked with them and they would be thrilled to help the Cross House!

 

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The library drapery, tossed over a chair back. The room is Tiffany blue, and all the new shelving is stained white. Thus, I needed draperies with blue and white. As I plan to paint the adjacent parlor chartuese, the third color in the draperies seemed ideal.

 

Lovely, right?
Lovely, right?

 

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The parlor drapery, resting on the actual sofa I will be using. The walls will be chartreuse. The ceiling, and the wall above the picture rail, will be white. I needed ten panels, but was only able to buy the last six. So, I am thinking of cutting each 96-inch panel into two 48-inch lengths, and then adding an 18-inch off-white faux silk strip at the top. This would give me a dozen panels. And would look kinda cool.

 

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The design is embroidered rather than printed.

 

You may be wondering why I would want 66-inch long drapery panels when I have this VERY high ceilings and VERY tall windows. Well, I would love to hang ten-foot lengths of drapery panels up. How luxurious! The problem is that when the curtains are closed, they will cover the upper
You may be wondering why I would want 66-inch long drapery panels when I have VERY high ceilings and VERY tall windows. Well, I would love to hang up ten-foot lengths of drapery panels. How luxurious! The problem is that when the curtains are closed, they will cover the upper stained-glass panels. Which means that instead of these colorful windows glowing like shimmering jewels at night, to delight people as they walk and drive by, the house will be dark. A sacrilege! So, the curtains need to be below the stained-glass panels. Tests however proved that the curtains also needed to be well above the floor. When they kiss the floor, your mind wants them to reach the upper-most trim. So, having them as drawn above seems to be the solution: short on top AND bottom, and thus balanced. NOTE: I cannot insert curtain rods INSIDE the window frames as this space is taken up by wood Venetian blinds. Nor do I want to cover all the lovely wood trim, so I had the idea of pulling each curtain to one side, rather than the more normal split in the middle. I know, genius!!!!!!

30 Responses to Does ANYBODY on Earth Sew???????????

  1. I know a couple of people in Emporia — or near Emporia — who sew really well. Let me do some checking and get back to you.

    I wish I could help you, but I can’t sew to save my life. I can mend and I can embroider, I can knit and I can do needlepoint, but I can’t sew.

  2. Hemming drapes is a pretty easy sewing job. Maybe try calling a couple of local alterations places or dry cleaners that do basic alterations to see if they can do it for you?

  3. I had sewing class in middle school – everyone had a rotation of wood shop, metal shop, cooking, sewing, and sex ed – and wanted to get my aunt’s circa 1927 sewing machine working and give myself a refresher course on this. But I’m so slow. And the knobs disintegrated in heat from the attic and I’m hoping that I can get new ones under the Good Housekeeping lifetime warranty if I pretend to be older than the machine.

    So I can tell you I’ll do it, but I can’t tell you I’ll do it very fast.

    One question – are these lined? If not, it’s easy to sew in a hem. If they are, you have to get everything perfect or they won’t hang right.

  4. I sew, and I know lots of people who do as well, but we are a fair distance away, and across an international border.

    When you do find someone who will do the work for you, ask if they could turn any leftover material into pillow covers for you. Then you could have matching throw pillows. 🙂

  5. So after two days of binge-reading your blog, I am officially in love with you and your fabulous house.

    I found you on the CIRCA website, and took a break from binge-watching Downton Abbey (seriously, I went from one ginormous house to another…and don’t tell me what happens, I’m only on Season 4…)

    I live in Southern California and dream of some day restoring an old home. You are giving me hope, so thank your for that! I look forward to your next post.

    Oh, and I do sew. If I lived closer I’d be honored to help you out. I agree with the other folks, a good dry cleaner should be able to hem drapes. And with the extra fabric, forget the pillows, have a fancy vest made for yourself…

    • Julia,

      You make me smile.

      I am glad I am not the only person who falls in love with people who write old house blogs! I once even proposed to a blogger! Their response: You are too old!

      And I am Downton Abbey fan, too. How will I survive with no more seasons??????? ‘Tis be too cruel a future!

      You also make me smile with the matching vest idea. I am going to do it!

  6. Are you sure that you want to alter these now? You went to the cross-country effort to source what seemed like the correct number of perfect panels, and now these rooms are going in a different direction. What happens if the plan changes again?

    • Good point, Connie.

      However, my plans for the library and parlor have not changed. The cross-country effort was for draperies which, in person, did not work in the library.

      I am quite happy with the new set.

      I am not 100% sure about the set for the parlor. I love the fabric but the color was not quite as vivid as shown online. And, as stated, I still need four more panels.

      My hope is to get these two rooms done this year. Painted, curtains up, gas/electric sconces and a chandelier in the parlor (I even have the latter!), the floors sanded and stained and varnished, and DRAPERIES installed.

      I have SO many rooms which look like bombs have gone off in them. I really need a few rooms to be glorious. And soon.

  7. Ross, give me an email. My mom sewed all my prom dresses and I’m sure she would love to help you hem some drapes. I also own a sewing machine, but I’m nervous to make a mistake.

  8. Are there no dry cleaners in the area? They usually do alterations, and hemming drapes is very simple. I don’t know how I’d survive without my trusty tailor at the dry cleaner’s!

  9. Before you get the curtains altered, put up the curtain rods, hang the curtains and pin them up to the length you’re thinking about. Leave them there for awhile, make absolutely sure that that is what you want! Wouldn’t want to get them all done and then realize that they’d look better if they were two inches longer.

    • I agree. That is how I arrived at the 66-inch dimension, and the realization that the drapes could not reach the floor. They looked funny!

  10. If you want to send them to NJ, I would be thrilled to sew them for you. I am guessing that you might be able to find someone a bit more local though. It would be an honor to contribute to the Cross House though! I LOVE the drapes for the parlor and may have to find a set for myself!

  11. I have used “shirred semi-sheer door panels” on all the windows in my Victorian. You use tension rods ($3.00 each), on upper on lower rod pockets and position them INSIDE the window frame. I have 2 panels on each end of my bay window and 4 in the middle window and All the woodwork is on display.

    If I ever want to go fancy smantzy I can top them with a valance of some real drapery fabric. It was a design decision in my last house and a financial decision for this Victorian. You get all the light and privacy at a much smaller cost per window. Put them under the stained glass windows. They come pre-made or use your dry cleaner to custom fit your windows. Just another idea!!

  12. I’ve never understood Venetian blinds. My parents had them, they seemed so very oppressive of the natural light ! But that’s my hangup ! ! ! Just found you house after your interview with Circa, I’ll try to get up to date with the status of your proud lady. How many baths are in the house now ? Sorry my design choice won’t work for you.

  13. Your blog is so great to read. I listened to your interview and it really made me feel better about what I was doing. It is funny what you cannot find. I can sew but like others live far away. I have had a hard time finding someone to help with repairing my windows. About 1/3 of them have been restored but many have been painted shut and the rope cut. Maybe by spring.

  14. I have mounted my curtain rods for draperies outside the woodwork of my window. Thus, the detail of the woodwork shows when they are open and I get more light into the room, too.

  15. Your sense of design and problem solving is amazing.I do not live near you. I agree that a local dry cleaners will know of a seamstress, tailor, or sewist who could help. I discovered that drapery professionals often charge more than the value of the drapes – no judgement just saying getting drapes hemmed is not cheap in my area. You can trim these drapes yourself and hem them using iron on tape. If they are lined, you will have an extra step. No one will know the difference unless people are walking up to the drapes and flipping them inside out. Who does that when they visit a house? Well – about 30 years ago someone did that to everything I made. If i said I made it she would flip the item inside out then scold me. If using iron on tape – experiment on scrap fabric in the same weight. Look at the current hem. Imitate what you see on scrap fabric. Sew by hand – not machine. If you already solved the problem – congrats.

  16. Did you ever solve the drapery issue?

    I’m happy to help. Please email me, as I’m not sure if your reply will go to my inbox.

    Thanks!

    And yay you taking this house on!

  17. “Hemming” drapes that are lined twice means that you have to take off the top rather than the bottom or do a lot of unnecessary work. It looks like you found someone to do it for you. Be SURE to keep the extra fabric for pillows for the living room. It will make more sense of the colors of the two adjoining rooms if those are prominently displayed in the living room.

  18. Even though you seem to be happy with ready made draperies, I am sending you a link to an eBay search of my favorite seller. If this doesn’t interest you, there is no need to read on. Designer Fabrics sells high end fabrics at reasonable prices. Those that don’t sell get relisted over and over so you don’t have to buy in haste and have time to request a sample. I can spend an evening just looking at all of their fabrics, variously colored leather (whole hides and partial), and trims. They have over 3,000 and sometimes over 4,000 listings at a time so I set it for 200 listings at a time and scroll quickly until there is something I must look at. Be sure to scroll through all of the pictures and the description on the fabrics that you like so that you know what you are seeing. I have bought rolls of fabric that I have yet to use simply so that I can look at them in person.Here is the eBay link for Designer Fabrics: http://www.ebay.com/sch/m.html?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEFSXS%3AMESOI&_ssn=designerfabrics*rr&_sop=1 .

  19. Ross…..I have unbelievable love for Victorian drapery! I do sew and cannot control myself when it comes to creating them. Unfortunately, I believe more is better. I cannot get enough trims, tassels, & braiding on mine. I also believe that the most elegant Victorians need their drapes to puddle or at least go from rod to the floor.

    So, my solution to you is….because I am only going by your drawings….this may just work!!

    First, extend your curtain rods approx 10-12 inches past your window on each side. Attach floor-to-rod stationary drapery just to the wood trim of the window. You will still be able to see your stain-glass. Why would you want to close them if you have the Venetian blinds??? Your design of the drapery pulled to one side could work best if you start with a jabot to one side, a slight cascade across the middle, then a floor-to-rod drape!

    For a reasonable idea for an elegant look to a window without blinds. Create a pull-up shade with ornate trims across the bottom hem. Mount inside your window so you can still admire the beautiful woodwork. Then create a matching no-sew shapely cornice board & staple gun matching material. Finish by adding coordinating tassel trims.

    OK, I already know!! You have a million windows!!! I did, too, as my Victorian was 3800 sq. ft. After Christmas sales are great for fancy extra long table cloths, some as long as 120in. On clearance. Yes, I’m a thrifty shopper!! But I love the rich Victorian look!! I have found olive, plum burgandy….many in a damask tone-on-tone materials. Many have matching napkins or runners in case you need a matching vest! These also make great no-sew bishop sleeve drapery for a Victorian look!! Just use a few hidden rubber bands pulled up with a inconspicuous nail!

    To make very plain drapery more interesting, you need gorgeous heavy curtain rods with ornate finials! The bigger the better!!

    I love the designer Raymond Waites!!! I stalk his designs!!! And his ideas are embedded in my brain. I would truly love to kidnap him!! LOL!!! Does this scare you???? LOL!! Seriously, he is amazing with his mixing of fabrics & wallpapers!!! Check him out for ideas!

    So now I’m assuming you are now hoping for some thrifty places to purchase these goodies! Not sure if you have a Hobby Lobby in Kansas but they are a craft store with relatively economical trims if you use their weekly 40% off coupon. Also, a store called “Tuesday Morning” always has amazing Victorian tassels & tie backs. Super cheap!!! Almost free!!! LOL!! Especially at Christmas. So does Hobby Lobby! But not as elegant!

    Hobby Lobby also has drapery / upholstery fabric reasonable & usually 30% off! Nice selection & sometimes large bolts on clearance 50-75% off! Also Joann craft & fabric carries discontinued fabrics & sometimes they offer an additional 50% off the red sticker price!

    I’ve sat here all night reading your blog! I’m so intrigued with each & every project you encountered!! And I’ve fallen in love with your restoration!!! I am living vicariously through you experiences! This has always been my life-long dream! I have a hope chest full of goodies just waiting for this opportunity! Ok….hope chest??? Maybe 3 storage buildings full of antique furniture, wool rugs, chandeliers, wall sconces, German bathroom toilet pcs. Fireplace mantels, oak wood flooring,ornate anaglyptic wall papers. Cornices, gingerbread trim & some ungodly amount of Christmas decor! At the moment, I am creating German Dresden reproduction ornaments for my tree!! I’m on the search for vintage ornaments to incorporate into my designs. Also… I’ve got my first vintage inspired feather tree in the works!! I’m amazed as to how easy it is to create!

    Ross, I love all things Victorian! I think I was born in the wrong era!! I wish you much luck with your ongoing restoration. I have enjoyed reading your blog & thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with us!

    Lori

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