Hokay. So. I may be going out on a limb here but after buying our VW Kombi and getting curtains made for her, I have to say that the former was the more straightforward of the two. However, I am now really good at explaining in Spanish what I want in Kombi curtains, yay!
The first thing I needed to do was find a good pattern to follow for the curtains. Something simple and that didn't require us to screw any hardware or curtain rods into the side of the van. Solution? Velcro! And Velcro in Spanish is Velcro—convenient. Here's the tutorial I used for inspiration.
After I took the measurements of the windows (and about a dozen separate measurements for the rounded opening between the cab and the "living" space), all that needed to be done was to buy fabric and find someone to make the durned things. Turns out this is easier said than done.
Recommendations from our B&B owner led me to two seamstresses (costureras) on our block. The first was closed indefinitely due to a death in her family and the second was incredibly sweet about not being able to make them. She invited me in for a chat and showed me her small machine which she said couldn't handle the thicker fabric. Womp womp.
At last, we decided to just hit up Independencia, THE hood for all things fabric and sewing, and see if anyone there could do the work. Armed with window measurements and copious drawings, I realized I had no idea how much fabric I'd actually need. Enter curtain-maker (cortinaje) numero uno. We talked through my designs and I explained exactly what I wanted, learning some new vocabulary in the process. Ultimately, I didn't go with her services (too pricey, around $70 USD) but I did finally know how much fabric I needed.
Now, if you're going to buy fabric in Independencia, give yourself at least a day just to browse around. There are blocks of shops, many with the same fabrics, but also a few that have real gems that don't pop out at you right away. We settled on a red and white geometric pattern (we later learned that it's Peruvian and has some religious symbolism in it). We also got enough blackout lining to be sewn inside—important if you end up sleeping in a gas station. Fabric in hand, we strolled up Independencia and walked into every shop that had "cortinaje" on the sign. We were turned down by a few (they would have done it if we bought the fabric in their shop), until we found our guy!
This was conversation number goodness knows what and my curtain-related Spanish was getting really good. We quickly agreed on a price (less than half what the first cortinaje wanted) and left our materials with him. Even though I was reasonably confident that I had communicated clearly what I wanted, we thought there might be a chance that when we went to pick them up a few days later, he'd have constructed a quinceañera dress instead.
Thankfully that wasn't the case! What we got was a set of lovely, very well made curtains. But my anxiety wasn't going to be relieved until I put them up in the van. And lo and behold, they fit! Even the tricksy one between the cab and the back. Granted it took a few tries with adhesive, super glue, and finally heavy duty outdoor double-stick tape to the get the things to stay up, but our Kombi feels like home because of them.
If you're going to make some of your own Kombi curtains, here's what you'll need:
- Fabric of your choice
- Blackout fabric (some have patterns but you just need the plain white or beige liner version)
- Cord, string, or ribbon to roll up the curtains
- Velcro (the soft side gets sewn onto the curtains and the rough side is what you'll stick to the windows)
- Scotch Outdoor Mounting Tape or similar
- Heavy-duty thread
Window measurements (we added 4-5 cm to the below measurements to make sure the curtains completely covered the windows):
- Door windows: 52 cm wide x 41 cm high
- Back window: 84 cm wide x 39 cm high
- Side window: 109 cm wide x 38 cm high
- Interior divider: 148 cm wide x 59 cm high
- 4 meters of blackout liner
- 6 meters of exterior fabric*
- 14 meters of cord/ribbon/string
*Note that your fabric lengths may vary. Fabric comes in 3 different widths in Chile and our fabric was the shortest width. We also wanted the design to show on both sides so we had to buy more than if we only had the design on one side.