Thursday, 28 June 2012 17:00

Insulated Curtains Part II

off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableEd: Well, when I read this I got confused before I even got to the second paragraph. I think I will go stack wood……………….

Laurie: The first step is to measure your window. You will need to estimate how much fabric you are going to need. It will be worthwhile for you to sit down and figure how many windows you are going to do and their sizes. The Warm Windows fabric comes in 2 widths so you may be able to use that to your advantage. Next step is to gather your supplies. My list was pretty simple. Fabric, thread and all those kinds of things and I bought a bag of ½ inch brass rings, a bag of orbs and a supply of rib slides. All the drapery supplies you could ever want you can get through Textol Systems online.

When you are hanging your shades inside the window frame it’s really important to get your measurements right, you won’t have much wiggle room.  You will measure from side to side of the framed window opening, not the window itself.  I cut the Warm Windows fabrics to that width plus ½ to ¾ inch for the wider windows, and depending on how you decide to hang your curtain from the top of the window frame you will need to add length to your curtain measurement, a little more about that later. My next step was to serge the whole outside edge of the Warm Windows fabric. Because of all the layers it’s just way easier to work with if it is serged or zig zagged around the outside edges. Next step is to sew your cover fabric onto the curtain. Your covering fabric will be wider and longer than your Warm Windows fabric for hems and seams. I use the width of the Warm Windows fabric and add 3 inches, and for the length I use the length measurement and add 9 inches. It is a good idea to use a square to square off the fabric for marking and cutting when you are using these large pieces of fabric.

off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableNext step is to create your seams and hems. Lay your Warm Windows fabric drapery lining side up and place your cover fabric face down matching the cover fabric edges to the Warm Windows fabric edges. Your cover fabric will not lay flat because it’s wider than the Warm Windows fabric, but that excess is taken up when you turn your shades right side out.  I sewed my seams with a ½ inch seam and once that was done went back and surged  those seams again. I know that seems like a lot of serging, but it sure makes these shades nice and no loose ends. I love my serger. Turn the shade right side out and press your side seams. Be careful not to use too hot of an iron.

Then tackle the bottom hem. For the bottom hem lay your shade front side down and fold the excess cover fabric in half to the bottom of the shade and press to set your crease, and then fold up again to cover the first 4 inch channel of the Warm Windows fabric. Pin and then hand stitch the hem and close the sides with a slip stitch.

off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableNext step is to attach your rib slides. Turn your shade inside out and lay flat with the Warm window fabric face up.  At this point you will be gluing the rib slides to every other channel of your shade. I use Aileen’s Tacky Glue.  Start with your bottom channel, apply the glue along the whole length of channel and cut your rib to exactly the width of the shade, and glue the rib directly onto the channel.  Do the same for every other channel on the Warm Windows fabric. You will need to find something to weigh the ribs down while the glue dries. Once the glue dries carefully turn the shade right side out. Don’t be too concerned if parts of the ribs come loose, this is an extra step to help keep the ribs in place until you secure them in place by tacking them in by hand.  The next step is to sew the top of the shade closed, again, if you have a serger I would use that. Otherwise sew a ½ inch seam and zig zag the seam. Once you have that done you will be sewing the brass rings for the cords onto the back of your shade.  Lay your shade down drapery lining side up. You will have to decide how many rings to use. For wider curtains you may want to use 3 or 4 rings across the width of your shade. Narrower shades you may be able to get away with 2. On each of the channels that you glued the ribs onto you will be sewing 2, 3 or 4 brass rings. These rings will have to be tacked on by hand. You want to sew through the Warm Windows fabric catch the cover fabric and the rib slide plus the ring. So you are securing the shade fabrics, the rib slide and the ring all at once.  When you use the slide ribs these help to make your shades to fold up properly when you pull your shades up without any extra help. It seems like I was always having to help fold the curtains by hand while I was pulling them up, but these ribs help to make the curtains fold where they are suppose to.

off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableOnce your shade is made you will need to install it. And rather than attach my shade to the support strip and then attaching the support strip to the window sill I simplified that process by having my husband install a ½ inch X 1 inch strip of finish trim to the inside of the window frame that has the screw eyes fixed into it (these are for your draw cords to go through). These need to be in line with the rings on your shades. Decide which side you want the pull cord to hang, and fix the last screw eye on this end of the wood strip about ¾ inch from the end.  Then I folded the top seam of my shade over about an inch and stapled front side of this lip to the front of the support strip. This was the only tricky thing in the whole process, and is probably a two man project, someone to hold the shade up while the other person gets up under to staple. One of the reasons I did mine this way was so that if I wanted to take my shades down in the summer time for the view I didn’t have to install and uninstall the support strip. We have 12 inch wide walls because our house is made with insulated concrete forms and this makes for beautiful wide window sills. I wanted to make these support strips as inconspicuous as possible so if I took the shades down you wouldn’t see them. Having said all that it turns out that I wouldn’t take those shades down during the summer anyway, they make really good shades for keeping the house cool in the hot summer months.

off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableOnce your shades are up you will thread your cord through the rings, starting with the bottom ring on the pull cord side up through each ring, and then through the two screw eyes, and out to the side.  Thread the second and third cords the same way taking the ends through the screw eyes and cutting them to the same length.  I use orbs instead of tying the cord to the bottom ring on the shades. This way you can easily adjust them if you need to. I use orbs for the end of the draw cords as well which eliminates having to install cord locks. I just slide the orb up the cord to hold the curtain open.

Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their website  and Off Grid Works.


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  • Insulated Curtains Part 1

    off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableOne of the items on our “off grid checklist” was insulated curtains. At elevation 4200 feet and temperatures below zero degrees every winter, it just made sense to have them. The actual R factor isn’t all that much, (claims are from R-2 to R-5), but every little bit helps and I can assure you that in spite of the low R values these curtains make a huge difference in both comfort level and heat retention.

    We burn about 5 cords of wood each year. After two winters I am going to say that these curtains save us as much as ½ cord per year and when they are in full use they make a difference of about 2 degrees warmer in the house. You begin to feel the difference in temperature almost immediately when you lower them.

    My wife Laurie made our curtains so I asked her if she would write down instructions for everyone to read. This is Part 1 and next week we will finish up with Part II. The reason we are posting this in the summertime is to give everyone plenty of time to absorb and make plans for fabrication before the next cold season.

    off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableLaurie – I started my shades with the Warm Windows Insulated Windows Shade System. Warm Windows has manufactured the shade system so that all you have to do basically is to add a decorative cover fabric to match your interior decorating. The system they have produced is 5 layers thick, with a drapery lining on the outside, and the layer that will be the backside of your curtains. The next layer is the high density hollow polyester fiber, then there is a vapor barrier layer, next is the metalized film needled with another layer of the poly fiber, and finally you add the final layer of cover fabric. I know that all the components of this curtain system is available separately, and is totally feasible to build your own system but I think you will find its much simpler, tidy and easier to purchase the pre made system.

    off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableThe Warm Windows website has instructions on how to make several different types of curtains with their products. I chose to start with the Roman Shade instructions and make some major changes to simplify the installation of the finished curtains, plus a few changes in the production of the curtain itself. I used a different hanging and measuring system than the Warm Windows folks suggest.  I measured the inside of the window and hung the curtains inside each window frame. Instead of using the magnetic tape I sewed ribs inside the curtain where the curtain folds when you pull the shade up. This works really well to keep the curtain right up against the window frame and make that air seal that is very important with the insulated curtains. The air pocket between the window and the curtain is not as deep as it would be if you installed your curtain on the outside of the window frame, but I like the look of the shades on the inside better, plus you are not using the magnetic strips on the inside of the curtain and on your window frame. I did try using that system some time ago on a different house and I could never get it to work properly. Lots of fiddling with trying to make the magnetic strips stick and it just never seemed to work, plus the tape is pretty expensive.

    off grid, living off grid, self sufficient, homestead, sustainableI always read and research a lot of resources before I start a project like this. This is a pretty expensive project and time and effort on your part too, so you want to put some research of your own into a project like this. The Warm Windows website has very easy instructions on making curtains with their product. I just took their information and tweaked it to fit into what we wanted. Making these curtains is not rocket science and you don’t need to be an expert sewer to put these curtains together and make them look really nice,  although a sewing machine that is working properly with the proper tension will make this job go way easier! I chose a small window in one of the bathrooms to use as an experiment to make my first shade. This way you can tweak the product your way to fit what you need. And if it doesn’t work out the way you had planned its not a large amount of fabric and work that went into it if you don’t like the finished product.

    Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their website  and Off Grid Works.