Amongst the fittings in our house, it is the curtains that are particularly dear to me and all will have been bought and made to last. Indeed, an inventory tells how one pair is over fifty years old, two are in their thirties and the youngest will be twenty this spring. With such long service they become close friends and when a new one arrives it is welcomed in, not to say celebrated. This blog is about just such an arrival – a new and beautiful hand-painted curtain that has just been hung in our entrance hall. It is also about the curtain’s provenance – for me, knowing the background of any possession is important.
For Christmas this year, Rohan and I decided to give each other a new curtain to go behind the front door. Following that decision, the first task was to choose the material and, rather than buy from a shop we had an alternative idea. My sister Sarah, a textile designer of repute who for years worked with Susan, my other designer sister, keeps an archive of their work and we wondered if we might buy a few metres from their collection; owning one of their designs had enormous appeal.
A week or so after our enquiry, Sarah rang to ask whether we would be happy to have one end of a ten-metre floral tablecloth that she had already painted for another occasion. Then, when we accepted her offer, with extraordinary generosity she said she would like us to have it as a Christmas present from her. We were overwhelmed!
The required length of the erstwhile tablecloth duly arrived but with a delightful modification; to convert it into a curtain, she had extended the field of flowers and around its edge had painted a striped, rainbow-coloured border (see illustration). Next, it was cut to size by a curtain specialist who also added a lining, an interlining and at the top a band of Rufflette and at the bottom a hem. Finally, a curtain fitter attached a rail high above the door.
With the curtain in place, the end of our hallway was now filled by the most beautiful, three-metre high and just under two-metre wide, floral pattern that hung from the ceiling. Here was a treasure indeed, but owning it demanded more – I needed to know its provenance.
From Sarah I learned about how the design was made. She had bought plain cotton sheeting in March 2022 and, thanks to a pressing deadline, within a week had converted it into the decorated tablecloth. Using umpteen brushes and a palette full of different colours mixed from special fabric paint, she had painted her flower design on the sheet as it laid stretched out over her work table. Each flower (and there were over fifty), each petal, each twig was painted freehand just as her mind fancied – nowhere were there any repeats.

With the design completed and the paint dried, the colours were fixed by ironing the reverse side. Nine months after being a tablecloth the section came to us.
The artistic side discovered, I next turned to the story behind the cotton sheeting itself. The material was bought from a supplier in England, the cotton plants were grown and harvested in Pakistan, and the yarn dyed, spun and woven in mainland Europe. For the sheet that Sarah painted, the cotton could have come from shrubs planted as recently as Spring 2021. After growing for four months, ‘bolls’ (bags) containing white fluffy filaments – the future cotton – would have developed around the seeds of pollinated flowers. Those bolls would then have burst open and the exposed filaments left to dry in the sun before they were collected by giant harvesters. Once washed, these filaments would have been converted into coarse strands and packed into bales either for storage or to be spun immediately before being woven into sheets.
The pleasure I get from looking at and opening and closing our new hall curtain is enormous. Although some see curtains as collectors of dust and dirt and best replaced by simple blinds, for me, our investment in a new hand-painted ‘family’ curtain is a wonderful addition. Moreover, knowing about its provenance has added something special. We owe Sarah a lot.
The illustration shows a photo of our new, hand painted curtain half drawn across the front door exposing a stained glass window.
For helping me write this blog I would like to thank Caroline, Andy, Sarah, Rohan and Vivien.

18 thoughts on “Let Me Introduce You to Our New Curtain

  1. Who would have thought that an entry about a curtain could be so interesting?!
    When I think of old curtains, I immediately bring to mind the scene from the David Lean, 1946 version of ‘Great Expectations’, where (I think it’s) Pip who pulls the dust- caked rotting curtains to the floor, shafts of light stream in, and all the curtains rip to mere shreds. (There’s a lot in ‘Great Expectations’ about metaphorical curtains.)
    P.S the material of your curtain is lovely!


  2. Dear Joe,
    This curtain is certainly a great match for your entrance door! And the second photo does it justice. I can imagine how these beautiful flowers with their vibrant colours warmly welcome visitors and invite them to come into your house.
    Congratulation to your sister Sarah for another wonderful creation!


  3. DearJoe That is a truly beautiful curtain. It complements the stained glass perfectly. What a joy it must be to see it every time you pass your front door.


  4. What an absolutely beautiful curtain and sister!

    Sarah is so talented and she has created another unique, ethical and perfect piece of art to adorn your home, we look forward to seeing it in all its glory.


  5. Hi Joe, I loved this blog for several reasons
    1. Loved that you and Rohan had such a great idea to give each other an Xmas present and agreeing to it.
    2.loved that you explained how your talented sister Sarah painted it and adapted it for curtain use.
    3. Loved the description of where cotton sheeting came from, it’s origins in plant form thro’ to being woven into sheet cotton.
    Great blog!!
    Thank you Joe!! X


  6. Dear Joe,

    The curtain and stained glass door look wonderfully happy in each others company and the mirror image on the adjacent wall adds a further perception of the scene.


    1. Dear Alan, I am glad that the blog finally arrived – the distribution of the last post was a nightmare. It was good to hear how much you liked the photo which was, as you might imagine, taken by Sarah. Yours, Joe


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