Monday, August 24, 2009

A Little Sunday Domesticity

Just call me Betty Draper. Yesterday, I took some time out from the sheath dress and Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing for a little home decor sewing, and it gave me a lot of think about in terms of sewing and "homemaking," I suppose we'll call it.

You see, this weekend both my parents and my in-laws are coming to visit and my husband didn't want them to see that we live like savage exhibitionists with no curtains. So off I went! I started these yesterday afternoon, and had them done in the evening - after a little Mad Men break, of course. I used this fantastic tutorial as my guide. I absolutely adore this fabric, and I wish I had enough left to make a dress so that I could match my curtains!

Anyway, there's not much interesting to say about making curtains. But I did have an ironic, contemplative moment while finishing them up. Jeff and I had just finished watching last night's Mad Men, which was so much about Peggy: her confusing status as both single girl who wants to be desired - and conversely, as a budding feminist and the one voice of women's perspectives in an "old boys' club" office.

As I sat at my sewing machine, Jeff had gotten out the tool kit and was puttering around, getting the curtain rod put up. Weren't we the perfect picture of 1963 domesticity! It's funny how sewing, while being creative and resourceful, can also be a symbol of the ideal housewife. Just look at this Elna ad from 1955:

Look at the happy homemaker, hanging her curtains! This ad really highlights that sewing at this time wasn't thought of as a hobby, but as a vital part of home economics for a wife. Even my mom said in this interview that my dad bought her a sewing machine when they first got married 40 years ago so that she could repair his clothes. (Very romantic, Dad!)

And, of course, home sewing is a money-saving, ecologically responsible, and fun activity. I actually starting sewing again a year and a half ago after being horrified by the selection of window treatments in my price range. (Hello, polyester!) But I do think it's crucial to remember the roots of this feminine activity, just as it's crucial to remember the historical/political implications of what we wear.

Whew! I guess I had more to say about curtains than I thought.

P.S. The young gentleman in the first picture is my beloved kitty, Henry Higgins. He bids you ladies a good day.


  1. Great curtains! Sewing window treatments is what got me back into sewing 4 years ago. I saved soooo much money, it was ridiculous! Of course, I spent 800.00 on fabric, and I can say that the next house I buy will not have 35 windows in it, but still! I did save!

  2. Your cat's name is Henry Higgins! When he like gets into your sewing fabric, or spills cat food on the floor do your run after him singing "just you wait 'enry 'iggins just you wait!" That is AWESOME. I love you even more now in a non-creepy way. Just in an I appreciate your blog so much way.

    Homemaking, making one's home run beautifully, efficiently, cost-effectively and well is a dignified and essential task that brings joy and peace to everyone who lives in and comes to your home. It is in no way inferior to other kinds of work and women and men should be proud to do it.

  3. The curtains look great - can't wait to actually see them. Henry Higgins looks very peaceful there. I was surprised that the vintage tablecloth didn't make it as curtains.....

  4. elizabethe, that's very funny! Sometimes I call him 'enry 'iggins. And sometimes I tell him he's a respected professor and should act the part. But I hadn't thought to bring musical numbers into it--until now!

  5. Beautiful curtains! Don't you feel empowered to be able to make them?
    Also , sy hi to Henry from me :)

  6. Excellent color drapes. Well done. sometimes we need to balance out these apparel projects with some fun!

  7. I had similar thoughts to elizabethe - I like the name of your cat!! I would also end up singing to him!
    Your curtain looks great. I followed the link back to the interview with your mother - really enjoyed it. I think it is rather neat that you included it with your green curtain and she commented that she must have liked green at the time she was sewing. (You also mentioned you wished to have more of the curtain fabric to make a dress!)
    I so enjoy coming to your blog each day. It is fun to see what you have done, but is also interesting to read your take on things.

  8. Well, Betty, after your company comes and goes, just rip those curtains off of the window and whip yourself up a dress, just like Carol Burnet did in her infamous skit of Scarlet O'Hara!

  9. I had a chuckle reading this... last night I was busy in the sewing room while my husband was sorting out some plans for his shed!!

    I love that we can enjoy these tasks from a new perspective, not just from the 'have to' domesticity perspective the ladies had to in ye olde days.

    Lovely fabric, agreed! I've never tried making curtains, it's always seemed like a huge task, but these are rather inspiring.

    And I think Mr. Higgins is quite fond of them too (he's so cute).

  10. Love that first photo... what an idyllic scene!
    Stumbled across your blog a few days ago and already can't wait to see what you create from the VoNBBS! Love it!

  11. I love living with green decor. The fabric is fabulous!

  12. Funny, it was window treatments that got me back into sewing as well! I guess that's a pretty common occurrence... What's really funny now is that the house still needs curtains in some rooms, and I'm not in the mood to make them; I'd rather be making clothes!

    The Elna ad reminds me very much of the expectations that were placed on my Mom as a young bride. She is an amazing seamstress, not necessarily because she loves to sew, but because she felt she had to sew in order to provide her family with basic necessities and (sometimes) little luxuries. Even though she quilts now, I'm still not convinced that she loves sewing just for its own sake.

  13. Lovely fabric! Did you line yours as they do in the tutorial?

  14. Knitosaurus, I was lazy and didn't line them. I also didn't have the fabric for it and wanted to get them done!

    I have used their technique for lining curtains before, and it came out really nicely.

  15. They look fab unlined, don't get me wrong, I was just curious for when I try it myself at home!


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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