The New Household Discovery Series: Vintage Recipes and Processes for the Home - Household Decorating and Curtains, late 1800's and early 1900's

This is a continuing series and contains excerpts regarding curtains and draperies. 

The use of curtains originated before the invention of glass, when windows were either open or imperfectly protected against draughts. They originally hung straight down across the sash.

At present the object of window shades and curtains is primarily to regulate the amount of light in the room, and to screen the interior, when desired, from observation from without. It is a prime rule of good taste in decoration that it must not be allowed to interfere with the purpose for which a thing is intended. Hence curtains and draperies that cannot be drawn aside to admit the light, or let fall to exclude it, are objectionable. Curtains for French windows should be arranged with cords and pulleys so as to be brought out of the way when the windows are opened, or adjusted on rods long enough so that they can he drawn to one side.

For bedroom curtains it pays to buy various cotton materials like dimity and muslin bj' the piece, and to make them all the same style. It is wise to keep to the same pattern, as dots or small rings, and to buy new pieces the same a^ the old, or as nearly so as they can be matched. Then new curtains can be used with the old. As the curtains begin to wear they can be put together as pairs, or changed from room to room as long as any two are left.

Or when curtains from the living rooms wear on the edges, trim them off, hem them neatly, and turn the edged border toward the sash. They will make good curtains for bedrooms or other inconspicuous windows that will last for years.

Dyeing Curtains.—All cotton materials can be readily dyed by dipping them in dye stuff after they have been washed and rinsed in the laundry. Thus the curtains can be made to conform to any desired color shade.

Cheese cloth when dyed in suitable colors makes pretty and inexpensive curtains. Hemmed bands or borders of striped silkoline or other suitable material add a decorative effect. Dark green trimmed with a stripe in Oriental design and coloring makes a very pretty curtain.

Or take cheese cloth or unbleached sheeting which may be any old material as old sheets, from which pieces of suitable size can be cut for curtains, and dye them in any suitable shade. White cotton dipped in a deep brown dye and afterwards in a deep green gives a beautiful gray-green color.

Or unbleached cotton sheeting can be stenciled or hand painted with a decorative border in oil paints thinned slightly with turpentine, and thus given a very artistic effect. Cut the curtain wide enough so that the inner edge of each pair may be turned over eight inches. Fold this strip top and bottom into squares. Mark the squares by means of a stencil and paint any design to form the border.

To Hang Lace Curtains.—To hang lace curtains without assistance, first adjust the pole; throw the top of the curtain loosely over the pole; then, by means of a common pin or tack, fasten each scallop to the skirting board just above the carpet or along the floor. The curtain may then be drawn up rather firmly over the pole so that when the pins are removed the curtain will have been stretched just enough to lift it off the floor. This, without jumping down to look, insures the curtain hanging evenly.

To Mend Lace Curtains.—To mend delicate lace and net curtains when fliey first show a tear, take very fine thread and a hook and fill up the space with a single crochet stitch. When laundered the mend will defy detection.

Or when lace curtains are much worn, take one or two of the worst for patches, and after the others are laundered cut a patch to match the design of the torn part, dip it in thick starch, lay it carefully over the rent, and iron it down. The starch will cause it to adhere until the curtains are laundered again. Strips of net or illusion may also be used in the same way.

Sash Curtains.—Use partly worn muslin or silk curtains for sash curtains. The tops and bottoms of old curtains that have not had the direct rays of the sun will usually be found best for sash curtains. The middle part can be discarded. Make a wide hem top and bottom through which to run the rod. A wide hem is not so likely to tear, and the curtains can be used either end up. Slip a rounds headed hat pin into the hollow of the rod to run them in the hems, and they will pass easily through. Rods may be fixed inside the sash so as to be elevated with the window and not to lean against the screen. Cords tacked across the window will prevent the sash curtain from beating against the screen.

Or instead of rods use quarter-inch iron wire painted over with gold paint or otherwise gilded or silvered. This makes the wire look better and prevents it from rusting. This wire is suitable for shams, mantels, and closet curtains, and many similar purposes in house decoration. It answers the same purpose as brass rods, and is much cheaper. It can be purchased at any hardware store, cut to any desired length.

Flour Sacks. — Large flour sacks may be utilized for sash curtains by carefully washing out the print and finishing with a suitable design in fancy work.

Curtains for Broad Windows.—Divide a broad, low window, or two windows together, by running two shelves across, one at the top of each sash. Paint or stain these to match the woodwork. Fit sash curtains to both shelves by means of rods or quarter-inch iron or copper iron, and hang from brass rings. Let the hangings match the woodwork or conform to the color scheme of the room. The upper shelves may be treated as a plate rail, and the lower shelf may hold pots of ferns or other green plants.

Window Shades.—A double set of window shades—an inner dark shade to harmonize with the color scheme of the room, and an outer white shade— are desirable, but both are not necessary. It saves carpets and other things from fading to exclude the sunshine when a room is not in use, and also assists in keeping sunny rooms cool in summer. Hence, a dark or tan shade is to be preferred, unless the house is fitted with blinds. In that case only the white shade is necessary.

To Renew Window Shades.—Trim off the soiled or worn part at the bottom, make a new hem, and put back the stick. To do this lay on an ironing board, curled side down, th^ part of the shade that has been curled up over the roller and press it with a hot iron. This makes it easy to turn a hem, which may be stitched on the sewing machine. Let the stitch out as far as it will go so that the fabric will not pucker.

Or, if the shade is too short to trim, change the ends by opening the hem at the bottom, taking the shades from the roller and tacking the bottom of the shade to the roller. Make a new hem and put back the stick.

To Prevent Blowing' Window Shades. — To prevent the window shades from being drawn out at the top of the window or blowing back and forth when the upper sash is lowered for ventilation, attach the cord from the bottom of the shade to the back of a chair, and move it a sufficient distance from the window to give a free circulation of air underneath it.

Substitute for Window Shades.— To economize on window shades, the upper rooms of a house may be fitted with shades of white cotton, having the selvage on one side and a very fine hem on the other. By the addition of a little glue size or gum arable to the starch, they can be made very stiff. They look from outside almost equal to ordinary shades of Holland linen. They can, of course, readily be laundered when soiled.

Draperies. — Portieres and other draperies must be selected with due regard to the size and shape of the room, as well as to the color scheme. Heavy, thick draperies make a small room look close and stuffy. But light, airy hangings are equally out of place in a large room. To improve the effect of a room that is too narrow and high between joints, or a room having too high and narrow doors and windows, lower the window shades twelve or fifteen inches from the top and fill in the space with a grill, a rope network, a shirring of silk, or similar decoration. If the doors open outward, or if a door is taken down and hung with draperies, lower the rod twelve or fifteen inches and fill in above with shirred silk or silkoline to harmonize with the portieres or draperies.

Or run a shelf or plate rack across the top of the door on a level with the top of the window shades; by these means the room is made to seem lower and larger in proportion to its height.

Brown leather scraps may be purchased from bookbinders at a few cents a pound, cut in strips about half an inch wide, and tied in lots after the manner of carpet rags. These make very cheap and effective 'draperies for libraries and living rooms.

Choose preferably materials that will not catch and hold dust more than is necessary, and avoid flounces, fringes, and tassels coarse enough to allow dust to accumulate in them. It is a good plan in summer to take down heavy draperies, shake and clean them, and pack them away until fall in a moth-proof box or chest. They will last longer, and the house will be much cleaner, more airy, and comfortable without them.

Or, if desired, replace the winter draperies with cheap draperies of dark green or other color of burlap. Lower the pole a foot or more from the casing to let the air pass through, and let them swing clear of the floor.

Curtain Hings.—Rub the curtain poles occasionally with a rag dipped in kerosene oil to make the rings slip easily.

To Clean Draperies—Draperies and tapestries hung upon the walls may be cleaned by pouring gasoline into a shallow pan, and brushing them with this by means of a soft brush or whisk broom.

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