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Sunday, July 05, 2009

An old lady can do it


This year, we have tried something new by making shades and awnings from burlap. The sacking we buy from a nearby coffee shop for fifty cents a bag. A single bag, cut open down the sides, and pinned to laths at each end with 1/2" staples and a couple of screws, makes a simple and surprisingly attractive window shade, which can be hung from existing curtain rod mounts, as here, or from three inch wallboard screws driven into the window frame or just above it. The shade can be folded in half to cover half the window, or rolled up to rest atop its mounting to uncover the window completely. It seems to admit about ten to fifteen percent of the light into the room. You can see through it to the world outside, if you stand close, yet you have complete privacy. Fits a window of about three by four feet, or can be cut down to fit something smaller. Not bad for fifty cents!

If you attach the bag to the outside of the window instead, or even better, for the south side of the house, one on the outside and one on the inside, you will cut quite a lot of heat gain. Makes for a rather dark room, but we find we are twenty degrees (F) or more cooler inside, than out.

We didn't attach outside shades, choosing instead to dry-soap the window screens for additional reflectivity.

You can also stretch a bag between two laths mounted on wall brackets, to make an instant solar awning, or, better yet for the south wall, stitch together as many bags as it takes to shade the entire wall.

The awning shown is a little sloppy, but that's me; I am sloppy. Besides, I was working alone on a windy day. Not the best plan. Too much light is striking the upper wall; on the other hand, the gap between the wall and the burlaps allows wind to pass through without tearing up the awning, and, as summer progresses, the shadow will creep upwards as the angle of the sunlight tips away from the near-vertical.

Not visible in the photo is a length of seventeen-gauge wire, anchoring the end laths and running underneath the outer edges of the burlaps from end to end. At the anchor points the wire, which is doubled there, is tensioned with a stick to pull the whole thing tighter, much as one would tension end posts on a run of fence.

This forty-foot awning cost less than ten dollars to make and the project took a little over two hours. If an old lady can do it, you can do it, okay?

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