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My Kingdom For Some Shade

Aunt Toby is not sure exactly when decks replaced porches but somewhere in the not so distant past, people got all hot and bothered to have a place to sit outside that wasn’t a patio and didn’t have a roof. And not being immune to this, when we did “the first big dig” on Chez Siberia (which consisted of a double dug, French-drained basement with its own separate sump and pump to take care of the amazingly huge hydrostatic pressure that we had), we put on this little deck at the back entrance (it is a RULE that all houses in the country must absolutely have a ‘back door’ or ‘kitchen door’ which is what everyone expects to use as the entrance no matter how lovely or appropriate the front entrance is. It is a rule, probably promulgated by Organic Gardening or Mother Earth News or some such publication, but I digress).

It got built on the South side of the house.

Why IS that? Why isn’t the back door on the North, West, or East Side? Because I can tell you that I figure at least 50% of all decks put on homes in the US of A are on the South side and none of them are usable by anything except for a monitor lizard from the months of June through mid-September. We never could. The only time I’d be out there would be to water (and water and water) the flower boxes because it was HOT. And it made that side of the house hot and the waves of hot air used to rise up the siding and roll in the windows of the bedrooms and the bathroom because of it. Awful.

So, when we decided to do “The Second Big Dig” on Chez Siberia (which started out as “just a little work on the kitchen and bathrooms” but you know how that ended up), we decided to rip off the deck and put on…ANOTHER deck only with a pergola (a shade structure) which would, I read, solve everything. didn’t. Two days ago, it was 86 degrees in the open air at Chez Siberia, but it felt much hotter on the deck under the pergola, so I hauled out my handy-dandy alarm clock cum thermometer and put it out there, in the center of the deck under the damned pergola and shazaam! It was 98 degrees F. Even with the shade structure on it, it was still hotter than Hades. And hotter than the open air surrounding the house. I had not cured my problem with heating up the house. We needed to slap some shade on that area and fast.

But Aunt Toby is nothing if not pragmatic. I have a lovely friend from college days who is amazingly creative and crafty. She also lives at the beach on the Delmarva Peninsula, where is is hot. All the damn time. And she had sent me photographs of curtains that she had made for her pergola. They looked lovely. They put things that I’d seen in those slick ‘livestyle furniture’ catalogs to shame. The engineering was amazing and clever but the way the cross-bracing was installed on my pergola, I was not going to be able to do anything even close to that to get a bit of shade so, I sat down and thought about what the whole goal was and worked from there.

This is a small series about sewing – but this is sewing ‘stuff’ rather than sewing clothing. I made some basic shades for the pergola and we will be installing them. Nothing could be simpler than this, though it took me quite a bit of time because I only had one arm to work with and the big pieces of fabric can be heavy, but if Aunt Toby can do this with one arm, then you can too.

As you can see from the photo above, the pergola does not cover the entire deck, so what I’m going to do will not either. I really only need to block the sun in two places: The south side between the cross pieces there and the roof area. In the later afternoon, the west part can get pretty hot too, and there are cross pieces there that I can put a shade in, so I’ll make a shade for that area also and we’ll see how we do.

Just for basics:
Tools: metal measuring tape, sewing machine and a heavy duty needle (like for canvas), polyester thread, and outdoor acrylic or poly-based fabric such as Sunbrella(tm).
Distance between the uprights plus 4 inches.
Distance between the bottom of the cross piece of the pergola and the deck floor (or however long you want the shade to be) plus 4 inches.

To Do:
Measure the area you want to cover plus 4 inches on both horizontal and vertical sides.
Cut out your fabric to match those measurements.
Take a coolish iron (this can be easier done on a rug) and iron over 1 inch on all sides and iron down. Then fold over (this is the other inch) and iron that down also.
Sew all the way around using your sewing machine (this is easier if you put the sewing machine at the right edge of something big like a kitchen or diningroom table so that the fabric is supported). Then, just for ‘belt and suspenders’ sake, sew it all around again.

That’s enough for today. In our next episode, I’ll show you how we are installing these. Other people use grommets; we are NOT.

Until then…

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