by Liz P
I hadn’t really thought about how much light comes from our house until I read Survival Mom by Lisa Bedford. She mentions an elderly woman whose candlelight and flashlight power could be seen through her windows at night. When neighbors and others approached her home asking for lamps and oil she had none to spare. They were upset and angry with this woman because she wouldn’t share her preps.
That night I did a light inspection and wandered around our property. I was astounded at the amount of light coming from the kitchen window. It shone almost to the back of our quarter-acre property. I then did the same test with an oil lamp and a 100-hour candle placing them the farthest away as possible from the windows.
Even with all the light pollution from neighbors and the streetlights, I could still see the faintest light from the 100-hour candle in the front bedrooms through and through the patio door blinds and kitchen to at least 15 feet. This is with the “room-darkening blinds” and patio and kitchen curtains drawn closed. Imagine the amount of light emitted from a single candle through closed blinds/curtains without all the light pollution. Anyone living within proximity of us, out for a leisurely walk, or driving by could obviously see someone was home. And for some reason, CenturyLink likes to visit us after dark. Who knows maybe they wait until dark to see who is home. But I digress.
This light emitting revelation really got me thinking about what would happen if the power went out lasting well into the night and I have my 100-hour candles and oil lamps burning bright. During the summer when it’s light at 5am and doesn’t get dark until 10pm it wouldn’t make much of a difference. Early to bed early to rise. However, what if it was winter when darkness settles in at 5:00pm? Now, I know people have generators to run their lights but I don’t have the funds to invest in one so I came up with a fairly easy solution: blackout fabric, Velcro, and some magnets.
For my first test I started small; the glass in the front door. The door is steel or some metal that lets magnets adhere to it. I knew what I wanted to do and knew there would probably be no pattern available so I used my own sewing knowledge. First, I measured the window’s length and height. Taking those measurements to one of the big box fabric stores, I found some home décor material and blackout fabric and purchased those with store coupons. Because I wanted the “drape” to look like it belonged as part of the door and part of the house, I bought enough home décor material to make a front and back. Then purchasing some large magnets from a well-known discount tool store, I was ready to sew. I folded the material right sides together in half and then pinned the blackout fabric to one side of the material. Then I sewed pockets to hold the magnets, about 1 magnet every 6” on each side. When the magnets were in place I sewed the pockets shut and then sewed the front and back together leaving a gap to turn it right-side out. I quickly sewed up the bottom and tried out my new blackout curtain. The magnets held the curtain against the door and created a light seal. I had my husband turn on the hallway light while I went out to check for light leakage. It worked great. There was no light coming through and the curtain looked like it belonged as part of the door/house.
My next step was to tackle the two street-front bedroom windows.
One bedroom is the guest bedroom, the other our “office.” We use the office daily whereas the guest bedroom is used less often but still faces the street. The “room-darkening blinds” in both rooms do little to keep light in and I needed a way to make a curtain that would totally block out light. I looked at various curtain patterns but there are problems to the design if you want to totally block out light. The rods stand out from the wall so there is light let out at the top. If the curtains meet in the middle, there could be light gap there and then light at the sides depending on the rod style. I needed something to cover the inside of the window but look like a curtain. Roman shades were the closest thing I could find that I thought would work but I didn’t want to spend the money on the materials and I would still have some light seeping through.
I used the same premise as the front door, but magnets don’t work on vinyl, so I needed to come up with a different hanging solution. Velcro. Heading back to the fabric store I once again purchased enough material to make a front and back and then enough blackout fabric to cover the size of the window. I also purchased industrial strength, sticky-back, white Velcro (and don’t forget those coupons!). I sewed the fabric and blackout fabric together then cut the Velcro and stuck it to the new curtain. I also sewed the Velcro to the new curtain because I didn’t want the Velcro to come unstuck when taking down and putting it up. If you use the sticky back Velcro, you’ll want a couple of heavy duty sewing machine needles on hand. The adhesive quickly wears down needle not to mention, it makes it sticky. The other half of the Velcro also has a sticky back. I put this part on the very top on the inside of the window. The white Velcro matches the white vinyl and the top of the mini-blind covers up the Velcro strip anyway. I only did the top of the window for now. In case of a real blackout emergency, I can quickly add more Velcro strips to the sides and bottom of the window and fabric to create a complete light seal. Once again I did a test for light leakage. I put the curtain up and then used the room light. No light shone through. I then repeated this process for the office window.
I have some great neighbors that are on constant neighborhood watch on our little cul-de-sac street, but that also makes them highly aware of any changes to the houses on our street. I also have a new nosy neighbor that has taken a keen interest in what we do around our house (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen him looking over our back fence). I needed to acclimate our neighbors to the “new” décor, so once or twice a week I put the blackout blinds up at night and leave them up the next day. It definitely darkens that end of the house but it has become a “natural” part of the house.
I have added more blackout fabric along with the sticky-back industrial Velcro to my preps to cover all the windows in our house if such an occasion were to happen. The windows won’t have the home décor look but at least, I’d be protected from neighbors seeing light coming from my house and becoming angry that they weren’t prepared for when the lights went out.