Windows in a home are important. They invite the Sun in with her light, and her heat. And in the winter, we crave both. But at night, or on those very cold, gray days, those windows aren’t so friendly. They draw out that precious heat, and light, too. But there is a friendly compromise-window quilts.
Over the years, and many window quilts later, I’ve learned that a winter window covering needs to be easy to use, both going up and coming down. It needs to be cheery when in place (light colors help), and it needs to be inexpensive to make-so you can make them for all of your windows.
For most of our window quilts, I used old white cotton sheets for the backs (or outsides). We had quite a few around, and they turned out to be a good choice. You can often find suitable sheets at garage sales and resale shops. The light color allows more light in when the curtains are down on those subzero, but sunny, days.
Insulating Window Quilts
Next comes a layer of quilt batting. Originally I used cotton batting, not being fond of synthetic anything. But cotton batting works best for well quilted items, not for loosely tied mats. It was fine until the quilts were washed, then the cotton batting clumped and shifted, leaving areas with no batting at all. So (unless you are going to quilt your window quilts) use synthetic quilt batting.
Whether you use one or two layers of batting depends on how much room you have for the rolled up curtain. Lay out a sample and roll it up to see. Two layers will give more insulation, but it also makes a pretty large roll. Even one layer will make a significant difference.
The top (or inside) layer of material can be as creative as you and your schedule allow. Material scraps and a natural collection of worn-out clothing made this part of my original window quilts a matter of time not money for me. I was in a hurry to get the quilts on the windows, so I’m afraid I didn’t strain my creativity much. I made a cardboard template, sat down with pencil and scissors, and cut out a million or so four-inch squares. Well, maybe only a half million, but it seemed like more.
I then sewed the squares together into a size that fit generously into (or in front of) our window frames. When you tie the quilt it will “shrink” some, so make it on the large side. You want it to cozy up tight to your window frame to keep the cold drafts out. I discovered that lighter and brighter colors work best. We use the quilts mainly in the winter months when light is short and scarce, so it is not a time for dark colors and fabrics. Lighter colors will also let more light through if you use the curtains during the day.
Whole cloth would work just fine, of course, and would be faster. White sheets for the inside as well as the outside would make a light, simple, and non-distracting window quilt which may look better than the patchwork design. Use whatever suits you and your home.
After coming up with your top, lay the layers in order and tie your quilt about every four inches. You could quilt these as well if you have the desire and skill. Next, hem the edges to fit snugly within (or against) the window frame. The window quilt can go either within the frame, which is probably best for a tighter fit, or against the front edge of the frame if necessary.
You will need three thin, narrow boards that are the width of your window. If your quilt is to fit within the frame, make the boards a bit shorter (maybe a half inch) than the opening so they don’t jam when you roll the curtain up or down. If the quilt is to roll down in front of the window, make it wide enough for a generous overlap.
Staple and tack two of the thin boards to the bottom of the quilt, one on either side of the material. The other narrow board will be used to attach the top of the quilt to the top of your window frame.
Small pulleys roll the quilt up and out of the way. Three thin boards (one at the top of the material and two tacked on either side of the bottom) will help keep the shade neatly rolled.
In addition, you’ll need cording such as venetian blind cord. Regular string tends to unravel and break. Plus two small pulleys and several large fencing-type staples to secure the pulleys. And you will need something to wrap your cord around to keep the curtain rolled up. A nail will do, but a small dowel is nicer.
A little creative adjustment may have to be done to your window frames to make these curtains work well. The pulleys need to be attached far enough above or in front of the window quilt so it can roll up below or behind them. Look at the drawing to see how to string the cord. It is easier done than said, I think. A knot or large bead in the end of the cords will keep them from pulling through the pulleys. You can tie the ends together, but if you have a lively cat in the house you may want to keep the ends separate to prevent the feline from hanging his or herself on the cord. One of our cats could care less about such things as dangling cords. The other relishes such found toys, particularly during the snow-bound winter.
Rigid window panels
Another technique I’ve used for window insulation in our greenhouse is a rigid insulated panel. Make a frame of 1″ x 1″ wood to fit inside your window frames (or against them). Cut a piece of rigid foam to fit within the frame. Cut two pieces of polyethylene plastic for either side. Squeeze a bead of regular wood glue on the frame, then lay the plastic on and staple it down. The plastic keeps the rigid foam from outgassing into the room if it gets hot.
Cut two pieces of large cardboard to go on either side of the panel. Staple it on. Hammer the cardboard flat around the edges. Tack on small batten boards around the edges (1/8″ x 3/4″ or so). Paint the whole thing with a light color oil paint (it will take several coats). A light color is recommended to reflect the light and heat, both inside and out.
How you keep the panels up depends on your window frames and sills. I’ve used small toggles, small elastic bungee cording, and just a snug fit. The hardest part is finding a place to store these when not in use. But they are more moisture resistant than the window quilts, and have a higher insulating value.
Window insulation can be an inexpensive way to cut down on your winter fuel use, and keep your dwelling cozier and more comfortable. It can also be a fun and creative project.