Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Easy Curtain Tutorial

After paint, one of the easiest ways to make a room feel finished is...


I am always surprised how expensive ready-made panels can be, and they're often not the right length... or even close to the right fabric.

In this post we'll talk about how to make "dummy panels." These are just curtains that aren't wide enough to cover the window if pulled close; they just frame the window.  They're so easy and a lot cheaper... every room that has curtains in my house has dummy panels.

Let's start with the basics:

1) Pick a heavier weight fabric.  I've paid anywhere from $1/yard (because it was the last little bit of fabric on the roll) to $24/yard.  Waiting for a sale is key.

2) Measure the length of fabric you need by starting at the baseboard and going up above the window.  As you can see above, I made them long enough to hang at the crown molding and go all the way to the baseboards.  The curtains in the dining room are a finished length of 86".  Hanging curtains higher than the windows and all the way to the baseboard makes the windows seem bigger.

3) Add about 6-8" to the finished length, and this is about how much fabric you need to get cut when you go the fabric store.  (You need the extra length to hem the curtain at the baseboards and to make a little pocket at the top for the curtain rod.)

4) Since we're just making dummy panels, you don't have to measure the width of the window.  Fabric sold on those big rolls (usually in the "home decor" section) are generally 54" wide.  Fabric sold on the small bolts are often 48-54" (-ish).  Whichever way the fabric is presented,  I buy the length of fabric I measured at home and cut it down the middle.  For example, when I bought the fabric for the living room (from Wal-Mart!), I bought about 94 inches.  The fabric was 52" wide, so when I cut it down the middle,  I had two 26" wide, 94" long panels.

First, pin about a 1/4" hem along the long sides of the panel. 

Use straight pins to create about a 2-3" hem along the bottom edge of the panel.

 When pinning, place the pins perpendicular to the line you'll be sewing so the needle in the sewing machine doesn't hit them and gnarl your pins or break the needle. I have learned this the hard way.

To the sewing machine!!!

First, sew the bottom hem. 
Then sew all the way down one of the long sides. 
Next, sew along the other long side.   
Sewing in this order ensures the bottom hem is sewn closed on both ends and that you don't sew the pocket for the rod closed :). 

(To sew in a straight line, I keep the presser foot lined up with the folded edge of fabric. See how the straight pins are perpendicular to the direction I'm sewing?)


Fold the top of the panel down a couple of inches to create a little pocket for the curtain rod, and pin in place.  
Measure the length of the panel at this point to make sure it is the finished length you want. Then sew across the top of the panel, but make sure not to sew the ends so that the curtain rod can go through the pocket. (I have also learned this the hard way)

Measure the finished length of your curtain so you can make the second panel the same length.  Again, pin the long sides first.   Ensure the second panel is the same length as the first by adjusting the width of the hem and rod pocket, then pin in place. Lather, rinse, repeat.  

Now you're a whiz at curtain-making!

To hang the curtains, measure the width of the window.  I like the dummy panels not to cover any of the window when pushed all the way to the sides, so I added about 10" for each side to the width of the window, so 20" in addition to the width of the window.  For example, the window in our living room is 70" wide. 70" + 10" +10"= 90".  So I needed a curtain rod that expanded to at least 90" to allow the dummy panels to leave the window uncovered when pushed to the sides.

All curtains are just variations on the theme.  For example, I cut a shower curtain down the middle  and hemmed up all the sides, but the panels weren't quite long enough, so I added some leftover green fabric.


Go forth and make beautiful curtains!


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