I’d like to be able to say “Window Coverings”, plural, but so far, I only have one completed. But I’d love to show it off!
First, the details:
- The street layer is dark, purple felt
- In the middle, I have Warm Window (an insulating fabric you can get at the fabric store)
- The house layer is an awesome raw silk that I picked up at the church rummage sale last year. The donor shared that she bought it in Korea in the 50s! (I LOVE that!)
- I used quilt binding bias tape to finish the edges and make tabs for the mangets
- I have 6mm x 1mm rare earth magnets around the edges and 9mm x 2mm rare earth magnets in the corners and about a 1/4 of the way up from the bottom to lift the bottom edge for ventilation. If I were to do it again, I would just get the 9mmx2mm, with maybe even a few larger ones for the ventilation adjustment. The 6x1 really aren’t strong enough, although they do an okay job on the long, straight stretches – but they are a little wimpy.
Here’s the step-by-step how to:
Make Your Patterns
I found this to be the hardest step, so don’t get discouraged at this point! I used newsprint roll end from the newspaper (they sell these super cheap and are a great way to get rolls of usable paper for packing, kids art, etc.). Even with this, I had to tape two lengths together for the side windows to get enough width. I also folded over on one edge to get that straight line (you can see this on the right).
I recommend tracing where the metal just starts to indent in toward the window to have a larger covering (learn from my mistake!). This would give you better insulation.
Cut Your Layers and Make a “Sandwich”
Cut all your layers. When I cut them, they were all ironed (even the pattern) – do that! They’ve been sitting around folded for a while when I decided to make this tutorial and was too lazy to iron them again because it doesn’t really matter for the next step. But for cutting them, you’ll want them nice and flat to get the best results. Because mine are in a large stripe, I made sure that the stripes were at the same place on each covering. If you’re not a detail person, don’t worry about it.
Then stack them in the order in which they go, back, middle, front.
Sew in Center Lift Magnets
This next step I didn’t do on the first cover, and I’m now trying to figure out how to retrofit it. The purpose of this is to keep the center of the cover from sagging when you lift it for ventilation.
First I tried to just sew a magnet in with thread. I’ve been avoiding gluing them because even the smaller ones are strong when they get near anything magnetic. I gave up on the thread idea because my needle kept making the magnet move around too much. So I sewed a couple of little pockets (actually, I just cut one of my tabs in half, to make two little pieces – see below for tab instructions) to insert the magnets and then sewed those down. I originally tried to use the smaller magnets, since I have so many more of them, but they are not strong enough to go through the four layers of fabric (the binding and the raw silk on both sides) so I switched them out for the 9x2s. I hand-sewed these on top on the Warm Window and sewed all the way through the back, using dark purple thread so it won’t show on the back. I didn’t want to have them ON the front, as I want the front to be nice and clean, but I wanted the back to pull up all together without separating.
My first one I pinned the binding on and then sewed it. This one I just sewed it. I think you get just a slightly better result with pinning. I do like to fold in the next piece to join nicer, and you can only do that at each spot when you pin it first. (That sentence is going to need a photo, or three!)
When you run out of binding and need to join a new piece, first open up both bindings and lay one inside the other (first picture). This creates an almost invisible and smooth transition (second picture). If you don’t, you end up with a very visible transition that you really have to push together and it will still look choppy (third picture).
Making the Tabs for the Magnets
Yes, you could probably just glue the magnets on, but these are seriously strong magnets and I think the glue would give way after a while. This is not the easiest way to attach the magnets, but I’m really happy with the results and I think it will hold up to full-time use.
Cut your magnet tabs out of excess quilt binding. I found 1 1/4″ to be about right – these don’t have to be exact.
Next, make your tabs. If you are new to sewing, below are some very detailed instructions. Not trying to insult anyone, so please skip over this if you already can figure it out on your own. I know DIYers are pretty adept at figuring stuff out!
Open your piece of binding.
Fold it inside-out at the center fold – this will give you a nice crease when you turn it right-side-out. Sew along the edge, either down from the fold or up from the raw edge.
Sew the other side. I tend to sew down from the fold on the first side and up from the raw edge on the second, but it totally doesn’t matter.
Clip your threads and clip the corners at the fold so when you turn it, it turns cleanly.
Turn your tab right-side-out. I use a quilting tool for getting the corner pushed out squarely, but you could also carefully use the tip of your scissors or the point of a pen.
Top stitch down both sides. This makes it WAY easier to sew the tabs onto your covering – it keeps your magnet from trying to get under your needle. When finished, simply insert your magnet.
Now you’re ready to attach your tab. Just fold the raw edge under and put it on the back – making sure it doesn’t peak out on the front.
Super important! Start sewing from the outside left.
Sewing lesson: When you get to the spot where you need to turn your work, make sure your needle is all the way DOWN. Then lift the presser foot and pivot on the needle. If it’s not all the way down, you’ll mess up your stitch and, depending on your machine, could end up with a mess of tangled thread.
Here’s the finished tab. It’s a little messy on the back side because it doesn’t really matter – it won’t show. If it did, I’d take more care tapering the open end so it doesn’t peek out the side.
Ta Da! The finished front close-up of the tab.
This is a lot of work, but the result is I have only one layer of fabric between the metal of the van and my magnets. And, most importantly, it works!
So, you know how I sewed the center lift magnets? Well, those are just so the cover doesn’t sag when lifted for ventilation, as in the above picture. You also need to sew tabs that extend beyond the cover on both sides with the stronger magnets. These you will move up the window if you have the window open and want mostly privacy, but need some air. This is one of those things I haven’t seen anyone else do, but thought was important.
General Sewing Tips
When I was growing up, there was always a sewing machine on the dining room table unless company was coming, and even then, it was often left out. My mom was always working on something. She was also a major procrastinator – but a fast seamstress. So, I knew, if my prom dress was cut out the night before the prom, I’d have an amazing dress in time for the dance! All that to say, I have some tips to share if you need them!
Be sure to lower the presser foot before you start sewing, otherwise, you’ll end up with a bit of a mess.
For take-off and landing, make sure your needle is in the full, upright position! If not, you’ll knot your thread under the plate and will get very frustrated very quickly.
For the first stitch, hold the threads straight back. This will prevent getting funny loops of thread on the back. Since we are sometimes sewing on the back in this project, you don’t want funky loops of thread to show on the front.
To lock your thread (similar to tying a knot when hand sewing), go forward two stiches, then sew in reverse for two stitches before continuing forward. Same at the end – back two, then finish with forward two.
When clipping your thread, clip the front first, then pull slightly on the back thread before cutting it. This will pull the end of the front thread through to the back for a cleaner finish.
If your machine has a helper behind the needle to walk your fabric, disengage it for this project. We are using too many layers and it just gets in the way.
I recommend using a fresh needle in your machine for this project. It will just work better. Hey, you spent tens of thousands on a Sprinter – splurge a couple of bucks on a new needle. And if you’re borrowing someone’s machine, get two so you can leave them with a fresh one – this project will not be kind to your new needle.
It can matter which direction the thread is coming off the spool. My Pfaff requires that the thread come up and over the spool and does not work if the spool is upside-down.
Machine oil is a good thing. Check the directions for the machine you’re using to apply a drop of oil in the right place.
If your stiches front to back are not even, you probably need to adjust the bobbin tension. You’ll have to Google how to do that if you don’t have the manual.
I hope this helps someone! And no, I will not sew it for you. I actually don’t LIKE to sew, even though I know how!