Friday, January 11, 2013

How to Get Curtains at Garage Sales

So you have some windows, and they need some curtains. As far as I can tell, there are two ways to get them thriftily. Well, three if you include Ikea as an option, and they have pretty darned good curtains for pretty darned good prices. We’ve used more than one set in more than one house.


Some of them make a nice canvas for zinnia shadows. Always a plus in my book.


But the easy Ikea route didn’t work this time. Bought some curtains there back in the fall for our family room, and the only color I thought might work was just…meh. So back they went. Which left finding curtains on driveways (you know I wasn’t going to look in any more stores!).

The first way to get curtains at garage sales involves a heap of luck, and always having your window measurements with you. You walk up to a sale and see some fabric sticking out of a box or peeking from under a pile of thirty-year-old sheets. You begin to dig, and your heart starts to pitty-pat in a faster rhythm as you behold curtains. You whip out the little measuring tape you carry with you when you’re garaging and discover they are JUST the right size, and there are enough panels for your windows. Maybe you really luck out and there are a few more than you actually need, so you’ll be able to make coordinating slipcovers for your vintage rattan sofa or a set of decorative pillows for your puppy to chew the corners off of. The price is right, and your day is made! All you have to do is get your new curtains home, wash and probably iron them, and hang them up. Wow…they look fabulous!

Which is not the method I used. No, I took a slower route which still required a heap of luck. Several heaps. But it was a fun trip. This method involves first finding a wonderful vintage sewing machine on a driveway, for five bucks. This happened back in March of 2007…close to six years ago. Don’t want to rush into anything on a project like this.

Next, you have to luck into some fabric. Since I needed to make curtains for two windows and a pair of sliding doors, I needed quite a bit of fabric. Found 10 yards back in 2006, but that got used for our bedspread. Found various 3 and 4 yard pieces in 2007; not big enough. The roll of Schumacher fabric in 2008 was big enough, but the colors didn’t seem right for this project. (Picky, picky!)

Schumacher fabric

But then June of 2010 rolls around, and there it was. Another whole roll of fabulous all cotton Schumacher decorator fabric, yards and yards of it, for another fiver. It received immediate Cat Approval.


So we’re making progress, we have the fabric and the sewing machine. What I didn’t have at that point was the HOUSE. Oh, we bought the house in late 2009, but it was rented out, and I didn’t get to move in until the summer of 2011. And it took at least a year to decide this was the fabric we wanted to use in the family room; it’s so – so floral. Once that settled, I needed to decide on the style of curtain. Wrote about that back in December. Still wasn’t rushing into anything! After some trial and error, I sketched out my curtain design in Google Draw,


went downstairs and made the necessary measurements, and was ready to begin.


The whole time I was working on these curtains, I was amused by how much garaging played into the project. Fabric and sewing machine, check. Thread and pins came from an actual store


but the pincushion was constructed from a scrap of felted wool and a little planter from an estate sale.

IMG_6523   IMG_6522

Even my scissors came from a driveway; whenever I find a decent pair at a decent price (fifty cents, of course, which is what I paid for the last pair I found) I buy them. I have scissors in most rooms of the house.


I wanted these curtains to have a tall header, which meant they’d need some kind of interfacing. Didn’t have any on hand, but I do have a whole lot of Wonder Under fusible webbing (a fifty-cent deal back in 2009).


Worked exactly like I hoped it would, and ironing it on was when I realized what a pleasure it is to work with really nice fabric. From what I know of Schumacher fabric, it’s sold ‘to the trade’ only. If you’re affluent enough to employ a designer, you’ve probably got the bucks for quality materials. Or you shop on driveways. Anyway, every time my iron touched this fabric, it would just glide across so smoothly, and any wrinkles instantly melted away. And as the yards and yards rolled through the sewing machine, it slid so gently under my guiding fingers.

For hours and hours.

Good thing it was such luscious material!

But at last the curtains are done. The last buttonhole made, hems stitched, panels ironed one last time, curtain rods inserted.

And I love them. LOVE them. Got exactly what I wanted for very little cash. And the whole project, from start to finish, took only, what…six years?


What the heck. Six years from now I bet I’ll still love my curtains!


  1. lol, 6 years :) Well worth the wait, I'd say!

  2. This story is so entertaining. I only wish I could sew. The only thing we have in common at this point is that I, too, have scissors in every room! Your curtains look fantastic, by the way.

  3. Love your story! Your husband must be patient with you and willing to store things that you know that you will use...."some day"! My family has a rule that when you bring in some thing from a garage sale, or a thrift store, you have to remove two items from the house and donate them to a thrift store, or put them in the trash. I would love to do what you do when I retire!

  4. I'm sure you will still love them for many years to come. I am incredibly impressed - they look fabulous!!

  5. That is my MO! I find fabric on the driveways and hold onto it until I am inspired to use it. What a fabulous fabric you found and created into divine curtains. Once again you have shown us that it's all about the hunt.

  6. i buy fabric in driveways ALL the time (mainly vintage florals) just because i can't resist them. and i don't even sew!! nice work on the curtains!

  7. Looks amazing! Worth the wait....!

  8. Beautiful! A happy ending to a great story!


I really love your comments. Thanks for coming along on my thrifty adventures!

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