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Sleeping in the van has made car camping easier, but since we’re talking about a mini-van rather than a slick Sprinter-type thing, it lacks a roof vent fan. Not wanting to open the windows and invite in the bugs on hot summer nights, I decided to make some window screens.

First thing I did was buy the wrong kind of screen, the kind of material used to make screens for house windows. Stiff. Unyielding. Must be kept flat or will kink up.

Second trip to the store, I bought soft mesh screen, the kind used in tents. Then I spent about a week trying to figure out how to attach it to the inside of the van. Soon I discovered I could attach it to the outside of the van with magnets, so I bought some extra strong magnets, sewed wide bias tape around the screen and inserted the magnets at the screen corners and midway along the edges. This worked about twice, but the neodymium magnets stuck to each other when the screen was not deployed and made storing the screens when we weren’t camping and deploying them when we were, a nightmare. Rare earth magnets really do not like to come away from each other.

I bought new screens, cut them to size, sewed bias tape around the edges to keep the mesh from fraying and then sewed in small wood dowels that sit in the door grooves and hold the screens in place. Magnets, not the rare-earth kind — hold the whole thing against the car. I keep them separately in a small bag. The screens wrap up neatly around the dowels when not in use. Deploying and storing just got simple.

The thing to remember about making things from scratch — whether it’s a work of fiction, a van window screen, or an original embroidery design — is that creativity is iterative. You start with an idea, you work on it. The flaws in your idea become apparent and you work to refine the design. It’s messy in the middle. But the only way to something better is through making something that’s going to end up in the trash.

Post script: There was also an unfortunate duct tape iteration, but I’d just as soon not go into detail…