Van Home Improvement Project – Privacy Curtain

You have no idea how many people look in your vehicles.  It didn’t even occur to us how exposed our life was until when, on our last seasonal job, other staff members regularly asked us about things we had going on in our van.  That’s just human nature.  And we do live a strange lifestyle, even among other seasonal employees.  I can’t blame them for being curious.  Not that there’s anything to hide, but when you’re living in your van, that’s like having people regularly peeping inside your home’s windows.  While there are always trouble makers out there looking for things they can take, I don’t think that most of the folks looking in your vehicle are malicious, just curious.  Still, it feels a bit invasive and uncomfortable.

Van Privacy Curtain 6

Finished Van Privacy Curtain, View from Front of Van

So, our simple van home improvement project:  Add a privacy curtain behind the driver/passenger seats.

This project was so easy and inexpensive.  Of course, you can go more upscale, but our cheap solution suits us just fine.  We’re choosing to live simply and frugally.  We don’t need fancy new things.  We don’t need them to be perfect.  We just need them to be reasonably attractive and functional.  This fits the bill.

I used:

  •   1 set (2 panels) curtains from local thrift store     $4
  •   2 small eyelet screws (approx. $1)
  •   clothesline (I already had some extra, so just cut piece to size)
  •   additional:
    • thread*
    • measuring tape
    • sewing pins
    • sewing needle
    • ironing board
    • iron
    • electric screwdriver & small bit
    • screwdriver

Note:  I do keep a sewing kit, but didn’t have brown thread.  At the fabric store, spools of sewing thread were fairly expensive.  Since I didn’t need much thread for this project, I decided to go with embroidery thread (you can get a skein of it for around 50 cents).

Here’s what you do:

  1. Figure out where you want the curtain to hang.  Try to picture it finished and in place first.  Is it going to be in the way of anything where you want to put it?   (Also, make sure you have the seats in the positions you usually keep them, or else you’ll end up accidentally putting the curtains where they bug you by bumping your head).
  2. Mark the spot that you want to place the eyelets.  We put immediately behind the driver’s seat (at the top of the vehicle’s interior), and one behind the passenger’s seat.  Try to get them at the same height, if possible.  (Measure the distance to the ceiling for each one, and make them exactly the same).
  3. Our old van is a conversion van, so it has nice solid wooden trim.  We anchored the eyelets to the trim.  In the trim,  we drilled a small hole in each place marked in step 2.  (These holes should be smaller than the width of the eyelet screw that you’ll be using).  This makes it so much easier to screw the eyelet in, vs. if you didn’t do a “starter hole” first.
  4. Screw the eyelets in.  You may find it easier to thread a screwdriver through the eyelet hole, and turn the screwdriver.  (This is a little more cumbersome than just using your hand to screw it in, but it is much easier on your hands.)
  5. Measure the length that you’d like the curtains to be. (Chances are the ones you bought are too long, and need shortened.)
  6. Hem your curtains.  I don’t have a sewing machine these days, so I sewed them by hand.  But admittedly, I
  7. was a bit lazy in my approach.  I didn’t cut the curtains to size.  Instead, I just folded the bottom up until it was the right length.  Then ironed and measured them to make sure the fold was even.  Then pinned the fold in place.  Then did a basic running stitch to secure the hem (see this for how to do a running stitch).
    Van Privacy Curtain 4Finished View of Curtain Hem (Front)

    Van Privacy Curtain 5

    Finished View of Curtain Back – My lazy fold over version

  8. Since my hand sewing isn’t as strong of a stitch as machine stitching, I did a 2nd row of running stitch to reinforce the hem.
  9. Attach the clothesline securely to one of the eyelets.
    Van Privacy Curtain3
  10. Thread your clothesline through the curtain loops.
  11. Pull the clothesline as taught as you can make it, and attach the loose end to the other eyelet. (Your curtains will sag some, no matter what you do. But try to get as much slack out of the line as you can, or they’ll really sag.  You don’t want any slack in the line, or your curtains will sag too much).
    Van Privacy Curtain2
  12. viola! You’re done.

Van Privacy Curtain1

Too bland for you?  Pick brighter curtains! Or embellish plain ones to suit you… tie dye them, embroider them, sew patches on them, whatever you heart desires! (I’ll probably embellish these later, but for now, just wanted them in place.)

Battle of the Bugs

Car Camping: How to Keep Bugs Out of Your Vehicle

Ever been car camping in the heat of summer?  Even if you’re not a dedicated gypsy, I’ll bet you have.  And I’ll bet you remember a time when it was hot, humid, and the bugs were everywhere. You just knew they were waiting to sneak in your vehicle and eat you alive.

Flies, mosquitos, no see-ums, or just gnats: unwelcome visitors that make sleeping in your car in unfamiliar surroundings even more challenging.  What makes it even worse is that I seem to be hubby’s best bug repellent (they’re drawn to me, instead of him)!

Of course, it is always too hot and stuffy to sleep with the windows closed.  You can leave the car running and the air conditioning on, but that has a whole host of other  possible  problems. (Like running out of gas, breathing the exhaust, etc.).  So sleeping in the car with the air conditioner on isn’t an option that I favor.

Part of this new lifestyle is also about being resourceful.  And since, I didn’t want to run a own blood bank for a van full of tiny biters, I needed to come up with a solution.  I simply made screens for our van’s windows.  I’m pleased to report that it worked marvelously, and was very inexpensive.

How to Make Screens for Your Car/Van’s Windows:

  1. Measure the windows that you would likely want to crack open when car camping.  Jot down the measurements.
  2. Visit a local fabric store that carries a selection of thule.  (Thule’s a synthetic see-through netting that are used for a variety of things such as bridal veils.)
  3. Select a thule with netting openings are just small enough to keep the insects out.  However, remember that smaller isn’t always better.  You only want it to keep the bugs out, and not restrict the fresh air circulation!    You can also pick a color of thule that suits you.  I went with a darker shade to help screen out light, and to provide a little extra privacy.
  4. Get enough of the fabric to cover the windows, allowing for a couple of inches of extra fabric around the edges of each window.
  5. Take it home, and fashion a pattern out of a paper bag, or old box, or similar for each of the windows.  Again, you want to allow a border of a couple of inches around the circumference of the window.  For example, if your window is 22” x 20”, you’d want a pattern that’s approximately 26” x 24.”
  6. Cut the fabric.  No need to worry about seaming the edges.  Thule won’t fray.
  7. Estimate the number of magnets you’ll need around each window to hold the thule screens securely in place.
  8. Visit your local hardware store to purchase your magnets (or order them online).
  9. Test your new screens.  You’ll apply them on the outside of the vehicle.  Simply hold up the screen so that it covers the window, and place magnets around the outside perimeter of the window.  Smooth the screen out, so that there are no wrinkles that the bugs can sneak through.
  10. Figure out how you want to store them while traveling.  I went super simple and use an old pillow case.  When I take the screens off, I always stack them in the same order, and then roll them up.  (Our van windows are different sizes, so this is easier than trying to figure out which screen goes to which window.)  I have a small sack I place the magnets in.  They all go in the pillowcase, and get rolled up for their protection and to take up as little space as possible.

When you’re settling in for the evening after a day of driving, it’ll only take a couple of minutes to install your screens.  And in the morning, when you’re ready to hit the road, it’ll only take a few minutes to remove and stow them. (Don’t drive with them on – they’ll likely fly off in the wind!)

Note: I’m afraid this solution only works if your vehicle has a metal body.  Some of the newer vehicles have so little metal that the magnets won’t stick.