Dare to DIY

Author | Nicole Hostetter

I couldn’t find what I was looking for.

Etsy had beaded curtains, but they weren’t big enough. They didn’t account for our sloped ceiling. Or the height I needed. Or the width.

I couldn’t find the pillowcases I wanted either.

Sellers online had them, but they were charging way more than I was able to pay for what amounted to a 2’ x 2’ square of Orla Kiely fabric.

I couldn’t find chairs for the kids for the dining room table.

Ikea wanted me to shell out nearly $100 for two, and for a family of four on one income, it just wasn’t an option.

An easy answer to all of these petty domestic problems would be to forget about them: No one needs a 9’ long beaded curtain, or pillowcases that match the drapes, or kid-size chairs for the dining table. But once I look at a room in my house and get to thinking of an idea or a vision, it’s really hard for me to let it go, even if the budget spreadsheet laughs at me as I try to finagle an allowance for my dreams.

But my home is where I let my imagination run free. My career is on hold. I am a stay-at-home mom. A cooker of meals. Cleaner of toilets. Folder of laundry. Master of the schedule. My home is my office. My home is where my children are making their first memories. Where we relax. Where we play.

And limitations be damned, I’m going to keep making it the place I see in my head even if it means stringing tens of thousands of beads from a random Chinese wholesale company to do it. Or ordering fabric and sewing the pillowcases myself. Or thrifting chairs for $12 each and spray painting them colors I like.

I’ve learned that being on a tight budget doesn’t mean forgoing (though sometimes it does), it means I get creative to make things happen — and you can too.

These are weird times, to say the least. Covid has upended life as we knew it, and the way the news is talking, it is going to be a long strange winter. We’re all hunkering down indoors without the respite of holiday parties and shopping sprees, which is probably a good thing since many of us have had our family incomes impacted by the virus’s grip on our economy and our day-to-day living.

If you find that funds are tight but time is a commodity you’ve got plenty of, it may be just the time to try your hand at making something special for your home that you once might have outsourced.

For me, it was the beaded curtain.

One day last spring I was looking over our newly painted black walls in the living room and was bothered by the huge white space above our front entryway. I didn’t want to paint it all black, even though it is an open-concept space, as that would have just felt too heavy. But the juxtaposition of black and white needed something to act as a buffer. But what?

Over a week or two, I realized a beaded curtain would be perfect. Wood beads would tie into the wood cabinets and flooring, and the strands would be spaced enough to allow the partition to feel breathable and open, preserving the spaciousness that we valued so much in our main living space, yet creating a visual transition point between the separate living and entry spaces.

I had the vision, but no one was selling it.

At about 10’ tall and 9’ wide, this thing was going to be a monster. I contacted an Etsy seller about getting a custom one made, but the estimate of more than $500 made my head spin. It wasn’t in the budget.

Slideshow | original quick sketch + measuring sheets

Not ready to give up on my vision, I sat down with my husband and drafted a design, accounting for the slope of the ceiling and the fact that I wanted a repeating pattern that lined up somehow. Believe me when I tell you that I really struggle with spatial problem-solving and math in general. And without John’s help there is no way this would have been possible, because ultimately I placed an order to an overseas bead wholesaler for nearly 50,000 wooden beads, at a cost of under $150. All of these beads would be lined up on 56 strands of fishing wire in a repeating pattern that would somehow align, and finally be hung precariously from a 16’ tall ceiling that overlooked a stairwell and a trip to the emergency room with one wrong move.

Because I hadn’t beaded anything since friendship bracelets in middle school, I went with a simple pattern I knew I could line up. Using the secret powers of math, we (my husband) determined that 22 8-millimeter beads would go in between each set of three 15-millimeter beads. It took me nearly 30 minutes for each strand, but I was able to get most of it done over a few weeks. I draped the finished ones over the sconces in our living room and told the kids not to touch them, which amazingly, they did not (though my toddler did knock over the bead cup I was using one day and I’m still vacuuming up little hidden beads from that mess).

Once all the strands were done, the issue of how to get them on the ceiling needed to be tackled. I bought three pieces of square strips at Lowe’s and drilled holes into them 2” apart. Each strand then was threaded through and taped temporarily. John climbed up the ladder, held the beaded strip of wood, and I adjusted from the ground to make sure everything lined up. Then we knotted the strands and secured the strips to the ceiling using anchors and screws.

Final adjustments needed to happen, but those were easy to do from the ground once they were hanging. One-dollar packs of fishing weights were spray painted gold and tied onto the ends of the strands to help with the unanticipated coiling I couldn’t straighten.

And then, it was done. And it’s everything I dreamed it would be, and more. Because I made it! The point is, you can do whatever you imagine to your space. See it, take the leap, and make it happen.

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