Friday, December 7, 2012

Aaron's Folly

"Hey Mom, I found these great vintage drapes for our new apartment on eBay. They might be a little too short, but that could be fixed - right?"

"It depends on whether or not there is enough fabric. What is the condition?"

"The seller said they need to be washed and there is a small water stain on one. I think I'll get all three pair and then there should be enough for both windows with some extra to add on if needed. They are so cool Mom. You know those sketchy prints from the 1950s - the fabric is a celery color and the print is of sailing ships in a harbor. I'll send them to your house so they will be there when we fly in from Pittsburgh."

The phone disconnects, I'm left to wonder if there will be a sewing project in my future. I don't have to wait to find out - the box of drapes shows up a few days before Aaron and Elizabeth arrive on their way to LA.

Not long after his arrival in Portland, Aaron opens the box. A strong musty odor fills the laundry room as he pulls out six well aged drapery panels. Thinking a good soak will help, we submerge a test panel in cold soapy water that turns dark brown in seconds. After repeated sinks full of brown water the only solution is the gentle cycle on the washer. Will the draperies survive?

Aaron and Elizabeth are out for the evening when the washer completes the final spin. The first two panels don't look too bad - some thin spots in the lining and frayed edges that could be repaired. I turn the next panel over to look at the lining - it is shredded and so is the next one out of the machine. At least they are clean.

When the frayed side hems are opened I discover the print is "Harbour" by Cheney Fabrics. A little online research brings up articles about Cheney Brothers Silks one of the original silk manufacturers in the U.S. and magazine advertising for their fabrics. The company made parachutes in WWII and then returned to domestic fabric production until it was sold in 1955. Aaron's drapery fabric could be sixty years old.

One thing leads to another. Thirty hours of work later the draperies are completely remade - old pleats removed, (Aaron and Elizabeth did most of that work); old lining removed; new lining purchased, cut, and sewn; new side hems turned under; new smaller pleats stitched; and length added to the pair that was too short. I decide this is the perfect Christmas gift for my son and his wife.

This project brought back memories of the two summers I spent in a drapery workroom during college. I was the cutter and performed other odd jobs for the crazy person who owned the business. The first summer  four of the five employees were named Mary. Several times a day the owner would scream "Mary" and we all came running. She then reprimanded three of us for leaving our work and the fourth for some sewing issue. I put up with this for $1.65 an hour.

Two pair of almost new old drapes are on their way to Los Angeles. I can hardly wait to see photos of my work mounted on the windows in the new apartment.

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