Home and away

Sample of lined and interlined curtain

 So I am back from my curtain-making course and one thing is sure – I will never look at a pair of curtains the same way again. I have inspected all the window treatments we have at home and most of them have to go. What – no true mitred corners? Tut tut – shame on you, Dunelm.

The reality is that all our curtains actually look fine and were affordable when we bought them but what I learned was how to make soft furnishings on a totally different scale. I loved every minute of the week (even when what I was doing wasn’t going well) but I was really shocked to discover how much people are prepared to pay for curtains. Or at least I was, until I realised how much hand sewing goes into a bespoke pair. The side returns, the hems, attaching the interlining and the lining – all done with a good old-fashioned needle and thread. Heading tape can be sewn on by machine but, in some cases the pleats at the top are created by the maker, with no tape required and they are done by hand. The skill and accuracy required are phenomenal and I have a new-found and huge respect for those who do it for a living. Could I do it myself? Who knows? I would like to think so but I would need a LOT of practice.

The other ladies on my course were lovely and we all found different challenges throughout the week. My valance went horribly wrong and I have had to bring it home to do again (how pleats that were carefully measured to be 12cm apart ended up a consistent 17cm apart shall remain a mystery but they had to be redone). On the other hand I enjoyed making a tie-back, which I wasn’t expecting, given that the last time I tried to make my own piping I nearly burst with frustration. It’s amazing what a difference a zipper foot can make (if you don’t sew, you will just have to trust me on this one!)

Sadly, I don’t have many photos of my creations from the week, as they have all gone for assessment towards my diploma – just the curtain sample above and the valance below. I now have several weeks to practise what I learned and consolidate it through reading the course notes before going back for a second week, when we will be covering cushions, pelmets and swags and tails – I can’t wait!

Blue patterned valance with yellow trim and buttons
My remade valance with the pleats in the right place

Coming home was, in some ways, a bit of a shock. I had been so totally immersed in a completely different world, a world with its own language and tools, a world where I had to spend the day actually creating something from scratch, and to go back to my little home office and the day job in front of a PC all day was really hard. It felt like I had been away so much longer than a week. Fortunately, D and the cats were on hand to bring me back down to earth. Calamity did offer to help when I was doing my homework re-doing the valance but I managed to talk her out of it. Apart from that brief show of interest, their biggest query when I got back seemed to be whether I had brought them back any Dreamies. I hadn’t.

In spite of a gloriously hot and sunny September, the other thing I noticed on my return from the course was that Autumn has definitely arrived. D has started to light the fire some evenings (and if he doesn’t, the cats sit on the rug and look mournfully at the empty grate until he does). The garden pots are looking very sorry for themselves and I have had a go at collecting some seeds from the nicotiana, the cosmos and the sweet peas. Note to self – next time you don’t know what you are doing, Google it first, not after you have done it. I carefully picked the sweet pea pods that were still green (I always wondered why they were called sweet peas, now I know – they actually have peas inside the pods!) and then discovered that, actually, to collect seeds, you need to leave them on the plant until they turn brown and the peas shrivel into seeds. Ah well, I got a few, maybe I’ll get it right next year … I was also thrown by the tiny size of the nicotiana seeds – we have literally thousands of them, I reckon. They are safely stored in paper in the garage, ready for Spring. I love the colours, the fragrance and the sheer abundance of nicotiana so I really hope they survive.

Sweet pea pods
What sweet pea pods shouldn’t look like when you pick them!

We do still have a lot to learn about the gardening cycle, though, particularly when it comes to the veg. All the potatoes are gone (it was a grim day this week when we had to buy some, for the first time in months), the tomatoes and carrots won’t be far behind and we are starting to eat the leeks and the sprouts. We do have some beautiful salad that we grew from seed but on the whole, the veg plot is starting to look very bare and sad. We haven’t quite cracked keeping the beds in use and staggering the planting to keep crops coming for the longest possible time but we will get there. We dismantled the greenhouse last week, digging it up where we had planted it all those months ago and so that patch looks pretty bare too. The greenhouse has served its purpose and will be replaced with a glass one next year. However, in spite of the fact that both the cover and some of the tubes and connectors were damaged by the sheer weight of the tomato plants (another learning curve – just how big some things grow), D has an ingenious idea to reuse at least some of it. The top roof section should make a great cloche next Spring to save whatever early veg we plant from late frosts.

Greenhouse frame with shed behind
It was quite sad, dismantling the greenhouse

So, this month has been all about both beginnings and endings – just what September should be. The gardening books all tell us that we can have a winter garden too, but I suspect we will turn out to be fair weather gardeners really and that, once we have finished our tidying and planning for next year, we will snuggle up inside for the winter. After all, I have a lot of curtains to make!

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