The Tale of the Traveling Shoji Screen


I’m a big fan of Shoji Screens, the light-weight room dividers originating in Japan.  In my alternate universe, the one without cats and boys and a clumsy gardener (that’s me) I have a house with sliding paper walls.  In my real world, I almost pulled it off…

The Screen:

Damaged Shoji Screen

Damaged Shoji Screen

My son created a “technology corner” in the living room a few years back, a cozy place to hang out and to store his hand-held gaming system.  It was an unsightly collection of cords and blankets, but who was I to stifle his creativity.  That said, I was desperate for an attractive way to hide it from view. His upended gym mat did the job but offended my sense of aesthetics.

On the other side of town, my friend Barbara was ready to part with a paper Shoji screen.  Lucky me!  It was the perfect solution.  For months the lovely white screen hid things from view and everyone was happy.

The Deck:

You’ve no-doubt heard that boys become young men. Sitting at a desk with a real computer suddenly has more appeal.  In a flash, the Shoji screen was no longer necessary.  Happy to use it elsewhere, I took it outside to use on the deck.  It looked so pretty with the sun shining through, while effectively filtering the heat.  Within minutes a breeze upended the screen, toppled it over the settee and tore a gaping hole in the paper-like covering.  No!!!

The Dye:

Tie Dye at Laura's

Tie Dye at Laura’s

My crafty, self-described hippie friend Laura took one look at the damaged screen and suggested I re-cover it with a panel of tie-dyed silk.  What a great idea! She hosts a tie-dye party in her driveway each year, setting up assorted dyes for a free-for-all.  It’s great fun.

We shopped for silk, but found it pricey at $25 a yard. Instead, I bought an end-piece of cotton muslin wide enough to cover all three panels for less than $12 bucks.

The Shift:

Re-covered Garden Swing

Re-covered Garden Swing

After dying, setting and re-washing the fabric, it was ready to go. I was nervous tackling this new project, so I kept putting it off.  Yesterday, as I cleaned and prepped for my book club, I had a garden epiphany. While brushing pine needles off the garden swing I remembered the extra fabric. In early May I re-covered the swing and planned on making toss cushions with the remnants. I wondered if I had enough to make a matching screen instead?

Re-covered Shoji Screen

Re-covered Shoji Screen

Kismet!  I had exactly enough fabric to cover the screen.  The heavy-duty, sun-friendly Sunbrella fabric would be the perfect complement to the swing, while at the same time providing a sturdy panel. The leftover pink trim was just enough to cover the sideboard.

I had a similar mental shift when I realized that my tie-dyed panel would make a beautiful, one-of-a-kind, softly draping table-cloth.

Oops! Cheese-Lover

Oops! Cheese-Lover

I glued and stapled my way to a paneled screen, then hauled out the iron and the pinking-shears and by days end I was able to entertain my book-loving friends in style.

Call me crazy!  Then share a story of your own in the comments below.


6 thoughts on “The Tale of the Traveling Shoji Screen

  1. Ok Alys, I’ll call you crazy. Crazy sweet! I’m sure your friends must have felt really really special seeing how hard you worked to put everything together. I can almost see you flying around with staple guns and fabric….they do that on those 1 hour reno show’s but I’m pretty sure they’re edited. It all looks awesome, If you lived here you’d use it in the boudoir for 7-8 months then patio for 4. I like how it would create nice privacy (if you wanted it) on a patio. That Sunbrella fabric is indistructable isn’t it ? I sewed some cushions for Adele’s outdoor furniture years back and I’m pretty sure they’re still kicking.


    • How nice of you to sew cushions for Adele. It sounds like you are a close-knit extended family.

      My sister saw the screen today and really liked it in the house, too.

      I used to enjoy a show called Decorating Cents but it went off the air. They had a small budget and a short window of time to put together amazing things. I was sorry to see it canceled.


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