Even a simple project can feel daunting. As soon as you seriously consider starting, what at first seemed easy becomes something else.

I’m working on a new project which I’ve wanted to do since I set up my home studio four years ago. My studio is a small space which is open to our family room on one side. I love my little space, but as a person who prefers complete silence and no one watching when I work, I would prefer to shut myself away sometimes.

After a year and a half of my husband working from home, and my son attending virtual school, I’ve decided it’s time. So I’m finally making curtains.

Simplicity

As with most creative projects, the final product can look simple and appear intuitively self-evident. That’s what gets me to dive in. And then, the further I go into the process, the more I realize how much work I have to do and how long it’s going to take.

Curtains are the perfect example. They’re certainly simple to look at: a hanging panel of fabric. But I’m continually surprised by what goes into the process of making them, from design to research to preparation.

One of the joys and surprises of each creative project is how unique it is. I’ve hung sheers, draped swags, sewn curtains for windows and sliding glass doors, even made Roman blinds. But yet again, this curtain project is unique. Hanging curtains in an opening between two rooms means that unlike all the other curtains I’ve made, these have two fronts. So unless I want to see messy curtain tape and hooks on the studio side, I have to figure out how to construct double-sided drapes.

Plan

I start each project, including curtains, by gathering information and jotting down ideas. For curtains this means a sketch and some measurements. One of the first questions I had to answer was where I would be putting my curtain track: studio side, family room side, or in the opening itself. In the end, I opted for the family room side. This allows me to hang the curtain in a way that the hooks will be covered by the beam that anchors the track.

Once I have a basic idea of what I’m doing, I dig into details—calculating fabric yardage, for example. How many yards I’ll have to buy influences how much I can afford to pay per yard. For these curtains I decided to splurge on the fabric facing the family room, then found an awesome sale for the studio-side fabric.

Improvise

Sometimes, probably inevitably, there will come a moment in the creative process when things don’t go as planned. I brought home 12 yards of cozy flannel, bought in the last hour of a sale for $3/yard. But now that I see it in the space, I’m not crazy about the color—it is too close to my beloved pear green walls, taking away from what I already love about the room. I thought about returning the fabric, but that will bring the price tag up, by a lot.

Luckily, I found a printed sheer in my fabric stash that looks beautiful and playful when layered over the flannel. I don’t have enough to totally cover the opening, so I’m working on a design to use what I have to good effect, but I think it will solve the color issue and liven up my space.

Experience

It’s always great to leverage past experience in new projects. When I first made curtains for our living room, I did a lot of research on how I was going to hang them. I knew they’d be opened and closed every day, and was really concerned about them gliding smoothly. I found the perfect solution—a minimal track mounted to the ceiling with ball bearing carriers that glide like a dream. They’ve been hanging for over a decade and still work beautifully.

So now I use those curtain tracks whenever I can. I will be using them for this new project too.

Secret

So the secret behind projects that look simple, from making curtains to writing novels, is that they’re not. In fact, the more seamless and streamlined the final product, the more work has likely gone into preparation and design. So if you find yourself discouraged because you think your project should be easier than it is, don’t feel bad. It isn’t supposed to be easy or simple. But if you can work through the challenges with patience and persistence, it can be rewarding. 

Wish me luck with my curtains!

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