I want fabric, but I don't know anything about fabric.
March 14, 2017 4:57 PM   Subscribe

I want to staple fabric up in my basement as a temporary and quick way to hide the wires and spiderwebs going willy-nilly between the supports. It'll need to be opaque, not stretchy, either light enough or sturdy not to sag, able to handle being stapled without falling apart, and cheap, since I'll need a lot of it. What fabric-words should I be looking for if I want fabric suited to this purpose?
posted by Pwoink to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd buy huge painter's drop cloths.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:02 PM on March 14

Duvetyne is what you want. It's what every theatre in the world uses for something like that.
posted by Uncle at 5:12 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]

Muslin is the cheapest fabric you're going to find. It's light and non-stretchy. It's fairly opaque as long as there isn't a light source behind it. It's off-white/"natural" colored.

If you're willing to spend a little more, yeah, duvetyne is actually what you want.
posted by Weeping_angel at 5:14 PM on March 14

Also look into lining fabric, which is very lightweight, can be stretchy or not, comes in lots of colors, and the cheap stuff is very cheap. It's not lightproof the way duveytn is, but it is meant to screen unwanted structural details. I bought a bolt of Bemberg for architectural coverups years ago and am still lining my clothes with it.
posted by clew at 5:35 PM on March 14

"Scenery muslin" from Dharma Trading, 120" wide.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:02 PM on March 14

Muslin or calico. Any fabric will sag after a while if stapled, though. Also, I'd recommend thumb tacks rather than staples, so you can take it down if you need to wash it or repair one of the things it's covering.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:25 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]

(Gluing Velcro strips will avoid the sag-between-staples issue, if that's of any help to consider)
posted by kmennie at 6:59 PM on March 14

I used felt around the interior of my shed (14x20) with beadboard below. Felt is tough, doesn't ravel, is easily stapled (that's what I did), and comes in multitudes of colors. I've put lattice and pegboard over part of it to hang things from. It's been over a year now and there's no sagging. It took almost two bolts but it looks good.
posted by MovableBookLady at 7:32 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]

I did the exact thing to my basement after ripping down old ugly acoustic tiles.

I got painter's dropcloth from Harbor Freight for super cheap. I used a staple gun to initially get the cloth in place, then then used evenly-spaced finishing washers and screws for the final installation. I then pulled the staples. Using a staple gun first allowed me to pull the cloth with one hand while stapling with the other. Don't stretch it too tight though; as long as you stretch it a little, it won't sag.

After it was all up, I used a clothes steamer to remove any creases and wrinkles. I think it looks fantastic, and it was very inexpensive.

Here's a photo of the finished look.

Here's a link to photos of the whole basement project.
posted by The Deej at 7:36 PM on March 14 [7 favorites]

You may want to check that the fabric you use is treated with fire retardant.
posted by Aleyn at 8:11 PM on March 14 [12 favorites]

Broadcloth would probably work well, too. Comes in a lot of solid colors, heavier than muslin but still light. Getting the right sales or coupons, I usually end up paying about $2/yard at JoAnn Fabrics.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:50 PM on March 14

Another possible trick to not-sagging material:
Either sew a folded-over edge you can shove dowels into (top and bottom, measured to the height of your space) or just staple-gun furring strips if that's too much sewing.

You can fold the top edge around the furring strips (or yardsticks, etc) to hide the wood, pin the fabric together so it stays straight 'til it goes up, then staple-gun or tack or nail the wood into place, and remove the pins.
The wood will keep the fabric from sagging between the staples (nails, whatever).
posted by Mister Moofoo at 12:28 AM on March 15

Oh. I was imagining fabric on the walls, not the ceiling. Still could use strips of wood to hold it up.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 12:30 AM on March 15

Please think hard about how to limit the fire hazard potential of this. I know of people who had serious fires caused by those muslin thingies that people hang over beds, and this sounds much more potentially combustible. Pay especial attention to the proximity of fabric to things that heat up, like lamps, loose wires, transformers, et cetera. I'm sure it's possible to do this safely with a little extra thought. Fire retardant sprays, depending on the manufacturer and type selected, may not be sufficient for this, and may just cause the buildup of hazardous chemicals which have not been certified for use over such a wide area, particularly in a basement which is likely to have ventilation issues.
posted by Acheman at 3:41 AM on March 15 [7 favorites]

Just want to add, re: sagging, wood strips, etc.

I put mine up a year ago, and there is zero sagging. The initial staples were spaced pretty much randomly because I knew they were temporary. The screws / finishing washers were 16 inches apart, obviously due to joist placement. I went 16 inches along the joists, too, to give a nice even pattern.

The finishing washers did two things: first, they became part of the design, so there was no need to try and hide them. Second, they provide a larger surface area that holds the cloth against the joist, preventing pulling over time, as you would have with staples.
posted by The Deej at 11:12 AM on March 15

Again with the fire risk. Dust from the boards above will settle onto the fabric, making it even more combustible. I hate to think how fast something like that would spread if it ever got started.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:13 AM on March 18

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