Victorian Curtains for Fall

As the colors of fall emerge many of us go about feeling the need to decorate or “spruce” up our homes with fall colors and decorations. It’s a warmth and perhaps comfort that reminds us we are going to be settling down for winter soon. And it adds that little variety of life that is singularly enjoyed. Women have always enjoyed endowing the home with their handiwork and in regard to that Victorian women were quite accustomed to doing this. So here are a few curtain or drapery projects from the Sept 1888 issue of the well known magazine “Good Housekeeping” for you to try your hand at should it suit your fancy. An array of colors are suggested, most which are warm colors echoing fall with hues of olive, brown, terra-cotta, yellow, green and orange. Of course these were sewing and freehand painting projects. You could convert the designs into stencils and stencil the design onto the fabric as well. I have provided, afterward, some 19th century references to the materials just to get a better understanding of the fabrics being used. And now the article…

Among the various devices for furnishing any room, nothing adds more to its finish, and cozy appearance than drapery but when the finances of the ” ways and means committee ” have been nearly exhausted in supplying, or renewing, the absolutely necessary pieces of furniture, we ask in blank despair, how are we to buy it ? how can I invest a dollar and receive the value of ten?
To any one skilled in the use of the brush and paint, and the particularly womanly accomplishment of the needle, the way is open for many a pretty affair, with but little outlay for material.

We will take for instance a few yards of brown jeans, it answers very well for the fashionable color, terra-cotta. Take twice the length of your window, that you may have two halves to your curtain. Take of blue jeans a strip twenty inches deep, draft on it, with a glass or cup, discs, and crescents in an irregular pattern, you will then have something like this. {Fig 1}
Outline the pattern in etching, in a dark color, fill in the discs and crescents with French darning {Fig 2}, in shades of yellow, olive, greens, or terra-cotta. Place the strip on your curtain eight or ten inches from the bottom. Cross stitch the piece down. Make a similar one for the top, but narrower, place the same distance from the top and fasten down. Hang the curtain by a rod, and let it hang straight, just escaping the floor.

In this illustration is another design {Fig 3}, very lovely, if treated in the same manner. Either will give you something really effective, and a pardonable pride in the knowledge that the success lies in your own skilled labor.

The same material and design answers very nicely for a portiere, particularly for a single door. You may have an open bookcase, and want a curtain to hang in front. Get some sateen, outline one of these patterns or any other, in dark shades. Across the top and bottom fill in with French darning. Use crewels, or filoselle for filling. Hang the curtain on a brass rod and you will have a really pretty decoration, and an excellent protection for your books for a comparatively small sum of money.

If you want a curtain to hang in front of some shelves in your bedroom, simple unbleached muslin treated in the same manner, only using paints instead of the needle, will give you surprise and pleasure. In painting as in darning, the outlines of the figures must be darker than the filling to be effective, and attempt no shadows, simply the solid colors.

Unbleached muslin may be made very pretty for work bags and tidy bags, if painted all over in a small design like illustration {Fig 5}. The fine lines painted brown to imitate water lines, and the flower to suit the color of your room.

A wall splasher made of cheese cloth painted with the disc design, in groups of three, one lapping over on to the other, outlined in dark, and filled in with three shades of orange is very unique, inexpensive, and a relief from the exceedingly common etching patterns that we see everywhere.

A picture throw made of pine apple cloth, or, if cheaper is desired, cheese cloth, and the difference can only be detected close by, is quite as effective as any we can find on sale at the dry goods counter. The width is sufficient for two. Make it a yard and a half long, ravel out each end for fringe, tie in a few threads of crewel for color and to add to the thickness of the fringe. Pencil across each end the vine pattern in the illustration {Fig 4}. Paint the band bordering it in light yellow green. Paint the outline of the vine and discs in a dark brown color, fill in the leaves with green, and the discs with three shades of yellow. You will have a picture or easel throw worthy of the finest parlor.

P.S. If you have any photos of this project and would like to share I would gladly post them here for viewing ~ thanks!

Further Info:
Jean. [A term generally regarded as having been derived from the town of Jaen, Spain.] A twilled and calendared cotton cloth, usually 27 inches in width used principally for dress lining, and in the manufacture of corsets. Satin jean is a thicker variety, the surface of which is finished with a high gloss, employed in the manner of ladies’ shoes, over- gaiters and similar purposes. Jeanette is a coarse quality of jean. Jeans, for men’s garments, has the same origin as the above, though commonly used in the plural. Much of the “homespun” manufactured in this country, particularly throughout the South in the early days, was jeans. At present it varies exceedingly as to quality, ranging from all cotton up through many gradations to all wool. It is always round twilled, and is usually woven with a cotton warp and a coarse worsted weft. The best grade of cotton-warp jeans is termed
“doeskin jeans”.

Sateen. A twilled cotton fabric, used for ladies’ dresses when printed with appropriate patterns, and for linings and underwear when dyed in solid colors. Sateen may be made a 3, 4, or 5 leaf twill, which when woven of fine yarn and properly calendered produces a sort of satin face. French sateen is “quarter satin,” the warp passing over four wefts each time and under one, and so on in regular order. Satin itself is woven sixteen harness,” that is the warp passes over sixteen threads each time and under one, and so on. Amazon sateen is an extra heavy variety designed especially for women’s riding habits. Sateen finished drill, is a fine all-linen fabric used for working table scarfs and fancy mats.

Crewel. [From German clew, a ball of thread]. A kind of fine worsted yarn, used in embroidery and fancy work.

Filoselle (fil-o-zel’). A loose, slackly-twisted silk thread used in fine-art needlework. It is put up in skeins, the strands of which can be divided or separated into six smaller ones, each suitable for being used in fancy work.

Pineapple cloth. A sort of fine fabric made of the filaments of the leaves of the pineapple plant. The leaves are gathered by the natives just before the ripening of the fruit, and the prickly edges being cut off, the leaves are beaten upon a wooden block with a mallet until a silky looking mass of fiber is obtained; which after being washed and dried is ready for spinning. The yarn so prepared is woven by the natives into fine shawls, scarfs, handkerchiefs, etc. The texture is soft and delicate, and the color generally a pale yellow.

Cheese-cloth. A thin, limp muslin, bleached or brown, used by dairymen to cover their cheese. A variety of cheese-cloth called cotton bunting is woven smooth and of better texture, and is used by women as a cheap white dress goods. It is entirely free from sizing.

{Definitions taken from A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods and History of Silk, Cotton, Linen, Wool… 1892}