Nothing like trying to sleep with a bright light bulb shining in your face. Imagine the bright bulb is not in your room, but it is in the NEIGHBOR’S house! And it’s shining into your bedroom through open windows. That’s what happened to us in India this summer.
If you’ve ever been to India, you know that flavors are stronger, sounds are louder, the heat is hotter, colors are brighter and … well, actually, light bulbs do not shine brighter in my experience. Except for that one light bulb the neighbors have shining 24/7, right outside our bedroom window. Of all places, why there?!?
This single light bulb had the power to render eyelids useless. And there are privacy issues of course. It’s hard to drift off to happy dreamland when you worry about someone peeping in the window only three feet away.
The window was naked because curtain rods were not installed yet. So we draped a saree over an open ladder. Classy times. That blocked 60% of the window. It was enough for the weary to get rest.
The next day, a few guys hung curtain rods on all of our windows, and I turned that saree into actual curtains.
Sew a Saree Curtain
I know there are many readers here from India who wear sarees, and please forgive me. I do worry that what I’m about to suggest is like suggesting we turn my clothing into curtains. But it’s so tempting. Sarees can have 18 and more feet of fabric, about 3 feet wide. And many are so beautiful. I know people will drape them over four-poster beds, people will drape them down walls, so why not drape them over windows.
Here’s the saree I turned into curtains for the India pied-à-terre master bedroom:
It’s a simple beige silk, with white, gray and gold block printing and copper metallic thread accents. I bought it at a Craftmark silk show in Chennai many years ago.
First, I sewed white cotton into lining, We found the plain white cotton at Nalli saree store in Panagal Park, Chennai. Let me tell you, it is not easy to find plain unadorned non-textured white fabric in India. It’s quite the hunt. And you get interesting looks when you describe what you’re looking for. Like, why?!? Given the millions of colorful, patterned, textured choices in India … indeed, why, except curtain linings should be as plain as possible.
Sewing the lining is simple. You sew down the sides, sew the top, sew the bottom. I sewed on a vintage Singer machine stand we found in India (tailors have them on roadsides everywhere) and I brought my machine from the U.S. in a suitcase! We had to get an electrical transformer that weighs about as much as a rickshaw, to allow me to use the machine in India.
The biggest problem is wrestling with such large lengths of fabric, and keeping lines straight over the long haul. Be vigilant to ensure straight lines don’t creep into becoming crooked lines. Measure with a ruler and pin all seams. Your eyes can fool you into thinking you’re folding straight lines over many yards of fabric. A ruler will keep you honest.
And also, boredom. This was about as much fun as sewing hospital bed sheets.
Thrilled to move on from this boring task, I didn’t want to spend any more time with it to iron it. So the lining is wrinkled, but they face the outside so this isn’t noticeable.
For the saree, sewing was simpler because the selvedges made the right and left sides. Seams were needed only at the top and bottom hem. The hardest part here was ensuring both pieces of fabric wound up the exact same length. Measure. Then measure again. Then measure again. Measure one more time.
You will probably have to measure yet again. This will happen when the first panel is sewn and the two panels are no longer the same length. They were before. But they’re not now. You may want to punch something. Don’t. Measure instead. Make it zen. Turn on 80s dance music. Whatever you gotta do to deal with it. Remove pins from the second panel, measure, pin again, then measure again. Then measure again. Measure one more time.
Measuring took more time than sewing!
This is what I did for a whole day of my vacation in India. Pinning, measuring, sewing. Great times.
But the final result was … no more brightest-lightbulb-in-the-world shining through our naked window, and fears of waking up at 3 a.m. to see a face peering in. One day of work, many nights of peaceful sleep. It’s a fair trade.
So to address the obvious issue here …
Leaving part of the pallu design on one side was necessary to get the right length. (The pallu is the part of the saree that hangs straight down when draped over a shoulder.) I thought it would be like an irreverent cast-all-rules-out-the-window kind of look. It says I’m willing to break the curtain molds that bind us. But it is bothering me now. I might replace the bottom of the left side with the blouse fabric. It won’t be the same design as the right side, but it will be a contrasting border, and it might help this situation feel more balanced.