How to best repair a tear in sheer curtains -- desperate!
July 5, 2015 7:11 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to find the best way to repair runs, snags, and a large, jagged hole in expensive sheer curtains. I am so upset about it and have probably one one shot to fix it and don't want to make matters worse.

These curtains came with our model home, were custom made by the designer, and we were told they were expensive. My husband likes to open the windows and let them blow around in the wind (despite my warnings they would one day get snags). I just discovered, to my horror, that there are numbers of runs, some are actual splits, and one large, jagged hole. I was actually in tears, I am so upset about this. (see pics)


I have no idea the best way to mend these because they are light cream in color with embroidery, transparent, and probably synthetic fabric.

I looked here and found this thread:

I looked online at my options.

One would be to use a fabric stabilizer behind the hole (don't know which one to use, if any) and then stitch witchery to try to adhere the tear. There are problems with this: 1) you will likely see the stabilizer behind the curtain. 2) I probably can't use heat on the fabric without melting it, and I can't get it wet without risking water stains. Stitch witchery requires heat, to my knowledge. And stabilizers can be permanent, tear-away, heat soluble, or water soluble. I have no idea what stabilizer would be best and if the hole could be mended and stay sturdy on its own without a stabilizer if I used one that's removable.

I could also try to just glue the hole and runs, maybe use a piece of parchment paper behind the hole and try to remove it once the glue dries, but: 1) it may not hold once I remove the paper, 2) most glue dries shiny, so you'll see it. I considered Modge Podge that is supposed to dry matte, but have no idea if that would work. I don't know which glue would be best if this is the option to try.

I suppose some sort of glue might work to stabilize the runs but not sure what glue would be best and dry matte.

I also thought I could try to use a pair of pantyhose as a stabilizer behind the hole, so it blends in more color-wise, but don't know if that would work either, and then I'd need to find the best matte glue.

Maybe there's another option I haven't thought of.

I only have one shot at trying to mend them and am concerned I could make them worse. Please help me figure out the best option. I loved these curtains!
posted by LillyBird to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I used to live in a lake house and I put up sheers, which were just from Bed Bath and Beyond. They do get a little bit torn, yeah.

Maybe you could just let go of these curtains and put up sheers instead?

To try and fix some sheer fabric is annoying. Why not put up something that won't bother you both?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:24 PM on July 5, 2015

I would take them to a good tailor; repairing and re-weaving fabric is their job.

And - they're just curtains. I realize that they're something you like very much, but no children actually have died as a result of these curtains having holes. I'm worried that your emotion is keeping you from being able to think what to do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:24 PM on July 5, 2015 [18 favorites]

I wonder if clear nail polish would work for the smaller ones (like for runs in stockings/nylons). For the larger ones you could try small bits of iron-on interfacing (I'm not sure what you mean by fabric stabilizer but could be similar). Interfacing is available at any fabric store.

To use it on delicate fabric, place the curtain on an ironing board, the interfacing on the back of the torn bits and place a towel over where you will iron. The towel will allow some heat through to seal the interfacing on but will protect the fabric.

Good luck!
posted by mulcahy at 7:40 PM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sheers, and especially silk sheers, are very delicate. They simply deteriorate with age, and sun exposure degrades them as well.

This damage looks like normal age damage for this fabric. If you try to clean them the will fall apart. If you try to repair them you'll see new holes next month.

It's time for new curtains. You can try to source the same fabric or choose something new. If you are crafty curtains are an easy project, but embroidered silk is always expensive by the yard.
posted by littlewater at 7:40 PM on July 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

I think a tailor is your best bet. I've used stitch witchery many times with great results, but it wasn't made for this type of repair.

I've always thought of sheers as sun protection for carpets and furniture, i.e., made to be sacrificed to the elements. This seems like odd item to have custom made by a designer.
posted by she's not there at 8:12 PM on July 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would find a good tailor or seamstress, but if you do go DIY and head to the fabric store, there's a product called Fray Check, which is a liquid stabilizer that does not require heat to apply. Be sure to test it first on an inconspicuous part of the fabric just to be sure it dries clear and maintains the translucency of the fabric. (I use this stuff for projects and have had varied results on delicate fabric.) If the product does work for you, I recommend applying with a tiny brush or a Qtip.
posted by mochapickle at 8:29 PM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

If they mean that much to you, I'd take them to a tailor/seamstress. Patching sheers is delicate work and no amount of stitch witchery is going to amount to a "no-show" job.

That said, it'll be pricey for such delicate work, and there's no guarantee it'll be perfect. The curtains will continue to get such damage in the future unless you prevent them from ever being treated as curtains, and then, what's the point?
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 8:35 PM on July 5, 2015

Invisible mending is very expensive. Somebody might have paid a lot of money for those curtains, but they are not valuable curtains. They are not hand-embroidered heirloom silk draperies. They are nylon "sheers" with machine embroidery, almost certainly cheap fabric from China. Which looks to have a fundamental design flaw, with the white part not being able to support the weight of the black stitching. They were not meant to last.

Just get new curtains. You could get extremely attractive curtains that would be made to last, and which would stand up to normal curtain things like open windows, for probably less than what you have been led to believe those are worth.

(I do some fancy hand mending and if you brought those to me I would tell you no. It would not be worth either of our time or $ to fix it, and if I fixed it I would be angry with myself for taking your money for a foolish thing and you would be angry at me when they continued to disintegrate.)
posted by kmennie at 8:44 PM on July 5, 2015 [20 favorites]

I had some good ideas, but after I saw the pics - NOPE.

Here's one stop-gap :))

There is sheer tape that is used for rollers. Google was no help - I'll have to find the box and update the thread....

You can cut slivers of that and bond on the window side of the shears to keep the tears from expanding. Should blend in. Ditto try shear scotch tape - but that works less well - not enough stick strength. This worked on a shear beige shirt I've owned through multiple washings - hole is undetectable!

Eventually you will need new shears. But try tape first. Good luck!!
posted by jbenben at 8:49 PM on July 5, 2015

I 100% understand your attachment to these curtains -- I am similarly attached to a TV unit that will never be able to leave my apartment and the thought of losing it makes me cry because IT IS PERFECT and I just... No. Okay?

So here's what I'm thinking. How long have you owned your home, and can you still contact whoever it was that told you the curtains were expensive? IME, stuff that goes into model homes isn't always that irreplaceable, and I think it would be worth your while to try and suss out if you can have replacements made either by the original designer or by a new one. Would anyone in your housing complex know who made them?
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:18 PM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi everyone!

Thanks so much for the super-quick replies.

Marie Mon Dieu, EmpressCallipygos: Yeah, the emotion is more due to super bad timing, the repeated warnings that were ignored, and the fact they are only 2 years old. Hubby lets them blow against a pallet wood bed (lots of rough edges) instead of tying them back as I always suggest. ;)

I did think of clear nail polish and may give it a go. I think interfacing is the same thing as stabilizer. I didn't know it would work through a towel, so that sounds like a good option.

mochapickle: Yes, I forgot to mention fray check as an option. Probably for the smaller runs. I've never used it but people say it works well.

littlewater, Hermione Granger, she's not there, the uncomplicated soups of my childhood:

I wish they were old so I could justify them being in this condition! But they are only 2 years old and the tears happened sometime in the last week. Hubby felt so bad he contacted the designer today to see about the fabric. She is no longer with the company but he found an email. Not sure if she'll reply. It was a model home, so all the curtains were custom. A neighbor told us some of them (probably not these) were $800/yard, which seems outrageous, but she said she checked for herself with staff when she toured the home.

Personally, I don't love these enough to pay for new ones (if I could figure out the fabric) or even get a tailor to repair them since they are in bad shape now. But I would like to at least get them patched enough to keep them up so I don't have guilt of throwing out 2-year-old expensive curtains!

kmennie: Thank you for explaining them to me. It makes it a little easier to take. Glad you didn't think they were silk b/c some in the house are. I still feel like such a shmuck for letting them get ruined, though. I did not want to invest in a tailor or anything like that. Just do a home repair and tie them back like they should be in that location next to a rough bed.

jbenben: I am very interested in this fix if you can find the name. What sort of rollers do you mean so I can do some checking on it?

Hermione Granger: haha. I had the same problem with a TV unit and a hide-a-bed leather couch when we moved. We had to cut apart both into pieces after having it stuck in the doorway for a day, blocking our neighbor's exit out of her condo! Have no idea how things can fit in but not out.

Again, thanks so much, everyone!
posted by LillyBird at 9:46 PM on July 5, 2015

As they are so sheer, how about installing another set of plain sheer curtains and then having these ones permanently tied decoratively at the ends? That way you get to keep them but their functionality is reduced and also you won't notice the rips.
posted by Youremyworld at 9:54 PM on July 5, 2015 [11 favorites]

I would just use clear nail polish on the frays to keep them from spreading. If you only just noticed them, they can't be that noticeable. Otherwise, you're just spending money you don't want to spend to patch an item that is not really fixable... money that might otherwise be better spent on new embroidered sheers, of which there are about 97,000.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:59 AM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Definitely not $800 a yard. I've worked with tons of mock-ups and model fabrics and no developer in the world would go for a spec quote that required $800/yd fabric. Never ever. Probably something along the lines of $25 to (at the absolute most) $75 a yard.

So, having said that, I totally get why this is a problem and the usual fix of just sewing a dart to conceal the tear won't work here. I would not recommend using fray-check or nail polish either. The hole is still going to be there and you will still be able to tear it more. Fray check is more for things that are generally fraying out at the edges, not interior repairs of things that are hanging. It will also plasticize the tear a bit and stress the surrounding fabric making a little "handle" for the tear to get bigger/worse.

OK, so blah, blah, blah... what to do? Here's what I'd do if you brought them to my workrooms and insisted that these were the sheers you had to save:

Get some sheer fusible interfacing. Nothing too heavy. You are looking for something like Pellon SK135 by the yard. Get a yard or two of it. Have an iron, a pair of scissors, a pencil, paper, and an old sheet.

Now for the fun part: Take some paper and trace out the pattern of the embroidery that surrounds each hole or tear on the paper. You are going to be using this for a template, so do it right. You want to isolate the area to be stabilized and just a bit outside of it.

Now take your old sheet and lay it over the ironing table or any flat surface. If you are using a regular table or a countertop, put a couple of towels or a wool or cotton blanket down before the sheet to protect the surface.

Cut your interfacing pieces based on your templates you traced on the paper. Make sure that the textured side of the interfacing (that is the heat-activated adhesive) is going to go to the back of the sheer.

Making sure that your precision-cut fusible is in the right place, follow the directions on the package to fuse the interfacing to the back of the sheer.

If you wanted to go the extra route of then using fray-check not the edge of the scar, go for it, but it shouldn't be necessary.

Cutting precise patterns that will blend in with the circular embroidery will help hide/camouflage the extra bulk that the interfacing will add. If you don't want to go to the trouble of cutting precise patterns, you can always just cut squares/rectangles that will cover the area and put them on the same way, but you will see the edges of the interfacing through the sheer and it will look a little more "fixed".

IMO, that is about the best way to do it if you wanted to go just a little quick and dirty without reaching There, I fixed it! levels of fix.

I'lll work out a demonstration for you and post it once the day gets rolling. Check back in a couple of hours.
posted by Tchad at 5:34 AM on July 6, 2015 [11 favorites]

Honestly--and I'm not exactly trying to take your husband's side here, you should still try to get him to quit letting them flap around in the wind--this doesn't look like catch-and-snag or fraying damage from being left untied, it looks like fabric that's been weakened somehow starting to fall apart. Curtains are exposed to a lot of UV radiation, and if they aren't UV-resistant (or protected by a liner, which isn't possible when they're sheer) they will fade and/or shatter after they've been in constant service for a few years. If these curtains are silk, this is absolutely what is happening, and it's is a super common mode of failure for silk fabrics. It's virtually ubiquitous once sheer silk garments reach 40-80 years old unless they are essentially never used and stored under archival conditions, and I wouldn't be surprised if it started to happen after only a few years of sun exposure.

If you're hell-bent of fixing them, Tchad has some good advice--but I think investing too much time, money or emotion in these curtains is just going to lead to heartbreak down the line when they start to wear even more. I think you should look into having new curtains made in a similar, or better, fabric (or make them yourself--curtains are a satisfying and achievable sewing project even for a novice). Also consider having multiple sets so you can rotate them seasonally or only put up your favorites when you're most able to enjoy them.
posted by pullayup at 7:22 AM on July 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Another possibility, especially if there are other draperies on this window in addition to the sheers--re-hang them so the damage doesn't show.
posted by Sublimity at 8:06 AM on July 6, 2015

A tailor or textile conservator could probably fix them invisibly, but it would be hugely expensive. I know you love them, but it's almost certainly cheaper to have similar curtains made, possibly out of a stronger fabric with the same embroidered look, if that's what you're in love with?
posted by kalimac at 9:54 AM on July 6, 2015

I was a custom drapery seamstress for a few years when I was younger. Those drapes are not repairable imo. They're started dry-rotting and separating and once that starts, it's like rust on a car. If they're over 8-10 yrs old, that's the end of their life generally.

Now the bad news is over, what you could do is apply some very lightweight stitch witchery or other fusible repair tape to the runs & holes. (NOT stitch witchery hem tape, that will melt all over and create a much bigger mess. You need a repair tape w/heat-activated glue, like the Dritz Iron-On Mending Tape I found online. Get the lightest weight available). It will show as a definite shadow and on the wrong side it will just show, but not many people look at the back side of drapes.

Apply the smallest amount of the tape as you can, and use a press-cloth so you don't scorch the fabric and weaken it more. You may find more holes forming just from handling to repair them, so don't be surprised if that happens, try to be gentle. It's really pretty fabric btw.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 1:19 PM on July 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Hey LillyBird, I made a quick little tutorial for you to get you about as close as you are going to come to getting them back to the way you want. I just threw it together in-between classes, so my examples aren't super-professional. But it should make sense.

I'm always happy to answer any question you may have about it if you decide to tackle it. Sorry to take so long, the day got ahead of us here.
posted by Tchad at 2:28 PM on July 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

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