Drinking-straw Door Curtain

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About: I'm severely visualy impaired, so intricate work is out of the question - so is anything that needs electric tools or blades. Prefer tactile work - if I can't see it I can at least feel it!

Intro: Drinking-straw Door Curtain

I’d been looking for a decent door curtain for some time: I dislike the ones made of strings of beads, as they get too easily tangled.

I found what was advertised as a “three panel door curtain” on an online shop, this sounded ideal … I should have read the reviews.

Step 1: The Problem

This is what arrived. I don’t know where the “three panels” come into it! This is what happened every time I went through the curtain. It could be dangerous for small children and pets. There’s none of either here, but it was very annoying all the same.

I soon cut off the strands with the sparkly bits so that I could use an old comb to untangle the strings; not my idea of a rewarding pastime, especially as it had to be done virtually every time I went into or out of the room. After a while, it got so tangled that I couldn’t comb it out; I had to cut off the tangled strands, which left irregular gaps.

Step 2: Trying to Make It Work

It was no use as a door curtain as it was, so I pushed it all to one end of the curtain wire and left it there.

I did think of plaiting the strings to make them thicker and [hopefully] less liable to tangle; I did three plaits of three strands, and then plaited them into one bigger strand, but that wasn’t my idea of fun either.

I’d been watching some videos on craft ideas, some of which included drinking straws, and this idea suddenly occurred to me.

Step 3: Tools, Meterials, Costts

Needed:

[] drinking straws, paper or plastic – lots! I used about 850 @ 8½ per string.

[] stoppers for the ends of the strings: I mostly used beads from an old door curtain which I kept on the “might come in handy one day” principle.

I also tried using some small nuts. A small length of straw could also be used – tied horizontally it would hold the other straws on the string. [didn’t occur to me till later]

[] scissors – each of these strings needed half a straw to finish the length.

Optional:

[] Blu-Tak.

[] bodkin or a length of straight wire: I tried both, but found that, once I got my eye in, I could just poke the string down the straw without them.

They both have the same problem: how to hold the string in place so it doesn’t slip through the eye or loop; I tried some Blu-Tak, but that made too large a lump that wouldn’t fit into the straw.

Eventually I smashed a tiny bit of Blu-Tak into the eye after I’d threaded the string; that worked, but wasn’t easy to remove to get the next string in.

The wire had the extra problem that I couldn’t make the end of the loop lie along the rest of the wire; no matter how I tried it, there was always a bit sticking out to catch the end of the straw.

It didn’t occur to me at the time, but maybe a dab of nail varnish on the string just beyond the bodkin would work to stick the end. It could be pulled free once the string was finished, and wouldn’t mess up the bodkin’s eye.

Cost:

Depends on where you buy your straws! I used about 850 for this; it should have been more, but I’d cut about half the strings out. So this cost me about £10

Time taken:

Several hours [I didn’t count them]. It doesn’t all have to be done in one go: I spent weeks on it, doing a few strings every now and then when I had nothing else to do. This is a project that can be nibbled away at over time.

Step 4: Getting Started

The strings were pretty close together; I thought that putting straws on all of them would make the finished product too bulky, so I cut off every other one [not counting the tangled ones I’d already cut off].

Perhaps I should have cut off every third one, as the finished product is quite see-through, but I was making this up as I went along. [Anyway, the original curtain was even more see-through.]

I had a few hundred plastic drinking straws, bought for some unspecified future project.

After trying a length of wire I found that I could get the string into the straw without any aid – these strings are very slightly stiff, which helped. Other string might not be so helpful.

It took a while to get my eye in – with my vision, I have very little depth perception and so couldn’t tell if the string was in front or behind the straw], but once I got the hang of it, it was fairly easy.

My real problem at first was coördination: the string wasn’t *that* stiff; it would only feed into the straw a couple of inches at a time, which meant only holding a couple of inches of string – any more and it would loop and bend. So I had to let go of the string to shift my grip another couple of inches along.

I very quickly found out that I had to pinch the top of the straw I was threading to stop the already-threaded string from slipping out while I shifted my other hand further up the string.

Step 5: The Importance of Holding On!

I didn’t tie the straws on except at the bottom; it’s the bare string that causes tangles, so I thought that if the straws were loose-threaded, when the string was complete, they’d all slip down as much as they could, and any bare string would be at the very top, where there’d be least movement and so least chance of tangling.

But … as the straws aren’t tied on, if you let the end of the string slip, they all fall off. This happened on a monotonously regular basis at first, especially when tying on the bead at the base; I’d fumble, the string would slip free and all the straws fall off.

I tried putting a bead half-way up, so that at least if I fumbled I’d only lose half the straws, but that took up extra string, which made the finished length shorter.

Step 6: Blu-Tak to the Rescue

put a lump of Blu-Tak on the door frame; this way I could thread some straws, push them up the string and press the string just below them into the Blu-Tak, which would hold them in place while I threaded the other half. I had to take that down to tie the bead on, and there was still the chance of fumbling but I always made sure that I had some string wrapped around a finger so that, if I fumbled the tie, at least I was still holding the string near the end.

Another advantage of using Blu-Tak is that if you need to stop before finishing a string, it can be stuck up in seconds, leaving you free to answer the phone, open the door, or cut some more straws.

Step 7: Stoppers

I found that 9 straws per string was too many: it left me very little spare string at the end to tie the bead on; most of my fumbles and straw-dropping occurred while trying to tie a bead on with too little string to work with. That’s when I tried the nuts, thinking that, being thinner, they’d use less string, but it was still hard going, and I decided to use only 8½ straws.

[This is where a bodkin might have come in handy; to “sew” a knot might have been easier than trying to tie one.]

When tying the bead, I pushed all the straws as far up the string as they’d go, even to the extent of making them bend a bit at the flexible part; my idea was to leave as little spare string as possible, to give me the maximum amount of string to work with.

[As a bonus, the wooden bead or metal nut added a bit of weight to the strings so they’re not so flyaway as the bare strings would have been. A bit more weight would probably be needed for a front or back door curtain.]

Step 8: Job Done - More or Less

The finished product – well, finished for now. It does the job much better than the original did. It doesn’t tangle; the strands do get a bit wrapped up, but not nearly so much and are very easy to separate.

The curtain is a bit shorter than the original, because of the amount of string I needed to be able to tie on the beads. But unless insects learn to limbo-dance it should still be an effective screen.

There’s still those gaps, but I have the strings that I cut off, and more straws … this time I can do it in reverse: tie the bead on, string the straws, and then sew the string on to the heading material.

Step 9: Afterthoughts

[It might almost be worth me buying a couple more of these useless curtains just so that I can make more of my own.]

I took off almost half of the strings that were originally on this curtain; some I had to throw away because they were so tangled, but I might have enough left for another curtain …

My problem is: how to hang them: I’d probably try a piece of old net curtain, using the top hem with a small strip under it for attaching the strings.

Step 10: Options

When I first bought the straws, I’d carefully sorted them into their respective colours. Then I [thought I had to] mix up them for this.

It didn’t occur to me at the time that I could have used the straws in colour sets: by the time it *did* occur to me, I’d already done enough not to want to undo it and start again.

But I could have done:

[] one colour per string to make stripes, thin or wide, depending how many strings I did with the same colour; with four main colours, there could have been four wide stripes, or repeating narrower stripes;

[] bands of colour across the curtain: every first straw blue, every second one red, and so on. Using four colours would give 4 bands @ 2-straw height or 8 bands of repeated colours.

Patterning: I was never any good at counted cross-stitch, so the idea of making a single patterns across the entire curtain was never an option, even when it occurred to me after I’d finished. No doubt it could be an option for other people: but for me, even the idea of trying to work across 200+ strings, with 8½ straws on each, consulting the pattern chart to see what colour straw to use every time …

Other options:

[] cut the straws into smaller lengths – 4, 6, 8 pieces – and thread those to make a “beaded” pattern.

[] buy one-pattern straws: I’ve seen “bamboo effect” straws, so you could make a “bamboo curtain” – or flower, or any other pattern that you can get in bulk.

[There is one more option, but I want to try it before I mention it; if it works, there’ll be another Instructable.]

Step 11: Note:

This is an entry in the Creative Misuse contest: please vote if you liked this project

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    7 Discussions

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    HelenaTroy

    5 weeks ago on Step 1

    I've finally read the reviews, and the reason that the finished curtain is so short is that the original curtain was 4" shorter than advertised; never thought to measure it.

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    larry03052

    6 weeks ago

    Be careful about making one of these in California, you could find youself arrested by the Environmental Police, who will assume that you will sooner or later throw this thing out.

    3 replies
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    HelenaTroylarry03052

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    I meant to add that, if I get fed up with it, I'll take it back down and reuse the straws for other craft projects - which is why I bought them in the first place!

    They can be reused, and re-reused, almost to infinity. Eventually, of course, they'd be thrown away, but if I'm still around when that happens, |'ll try to do it responsibly. [If not, I'll make a note in my will]

    No doubt paper straws would be more eco-friendly; I don't know how much they cost in the sort of bulk numbers this needs.

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    RichardW11HelenaTroy

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    He's referring to the new laws passed in CA cities like Santa Barbara, where waiters can get 6 months jail time PER straw. I doubt you'd qualify, but on the other hand you have a life in prison amount of straws there.

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    HelenaTroyRichardW11

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    Oh! I hadn't heard about that. I hope similar penalties apply to those who make the straws, and those who sell them. Probably not, though.

    I'm in the UK, so at last for now I'm safe.

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    Penolopy Bulnick

    6 weeks ago

    Really nice job making the best out of a product that wasn't working for you :) I think it looks great!

    1 reply
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    HelenaTroyPenolopy Bulnick

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    Thank you! it was strangely addictive: I'd do a few strings, then think, just one more … and fifteen minutes later I was still at it.

    Shame I didn't think about bars or stripe patterns, though.