Help me make some curtains

I’m fairly experienced at garment sewing, but I’ve never done curtains before, and I’m a little nervous because this fabric is a ton more expensive than anything I’ve ever worked with before. So I’d like you guys to troubleshoot and offer suggestions on my plan.

I’ve got very large dining room windows that let in a lot of light, heat, cool, etc. I want curtains both for privacy and for climate control. In other words, they have to really open and close. There is already a curtain rod above the window. The window itself is 104 inches wide and it’s about 94 from the top of the curtain rod to the floor.

I’ve purchased fabric and lining, both about 56 inches wide including selvege. The fabric is vertically striped, so as long as I can do a straight line I don’t really have to worry about pattern matching. I can’t remember how much fabric I bought, but I think I decided to be happy with about 110ish for the total width and not add another panel, because of bulk. If I did get another panel’s worth, I’d just put all three together and cut down the middle so the seams would be even.

My plan was this. I figured I could hem the bottom edges of both the lining and the fabric and then sew the other three sides together wrong side in and just turn it inside out. That way I wouldn’t have to miter any corners or anything, right? Just make the lining a little shorter than the fabric.

My questions are these:

  • What’s the best way to fasten the finished panels to the rings? I have some rings that match the rod, and they have little clips. Obviously I don’t want to just clip them to the fabric. I want a relaxed, modern-yet-classic-and-it’s-a-formal-dining-room look - not pleated, but not completely structureless either. And I want people to say, “Wow, who did your drapes?” instead of “Yeah, I used to sew too”. Should I sew rings to the back of the liner? Which leads me to:

  • Should I reinforce the top somehow? With what, and how?

  • How do I figure out exactly how long to make them? The rod is already up, like it or not, but the rings take out a little of the length, plus however I’m fastening this whole shebang. I don’t want them to puddle, although I guess a little shorter than floor-length would be okay if I had to pick.

  • How closely should I space the rings?

Are there any other issues with my plans I have not considered? It’s helpful to consider the fact that I could screw up two sets of drapes and as long as I did the third set right I’d still come out cheaper than buying custom drapery sizes. :slight_smile:

I suppose that sewing the curtain fabric and the liner all around and then turning inside-out could be okay… I think you would want to then sew around the edges again, to make sure that the curtains don’t puff out and the lining doesn’t show. I realize that you don’t have much leeway with the width of the fabric, but I much prefer to fold the edges of the curtain fabric twice over the edges of the lining, and then sew down.

Something you should consider if you want them to look really good is that they will need weight at the bottom. You can do this by making a very deep double hem–four or six inches. I think that there are metal chains you can buy to thread through the bottoms, too.

I would space the rings about every eight inches. My own curtains have hooks in them, that attach to the rings on the rod. I’m not awfully fond of this system–they tend to come unhooked.

Measure them to end an inch or two above the ground. If they touch they ground, then you’ll be worrying about sucking them into the vacuum cleaner.

The main contribution I can give to this is to do everything but the hems, hang them, and wait a week or two, allowing the fabrics to adjust (and stretch) to their new role as curtains. This is especially important for either A) fabrics with linear patterns (like stripes) and B) lined draperies. The weight of the fabric at the bottom stretches the fabric at the top and the linings and drapery fabrics do not stretch at the same rate. Rather than hemming with reference to the other end of the curtains (the top), hem – after a decent interval – with reference to the floor. I generally hem draperies by hand, pressing the hems on a small, portable ironing board as I go, with the draperies still in place on the rod (and with my mother hovering over me, second-guessing me and factoring in the gravitational forces as understood under general and special relativity…and correcting for the curvature of the earth).

Oh, yeah, and use a reinforcing tape at the top of the drapes, so there won’t be a lot of sage from the top. There are some really clever and fairly newly designed ones available that completely take care of the pleating question. I’m thinking you will need another panel or two to make the tapes work, but they are worth it. (The have little nylon or plastic buckle-y things built into the tape. You sew the tape to the fabric, then buckle the buckles and the bunchy-pleaty things just appear.

There are benefits and drawbacks to either side of the “How attached (other than at the top) should the lining fabric and the drapery fabric be?” discussion.


And by “sage at the top”, I mean ‘sag at the top’.

Have you thought about some sort of valance instead of the rings? Or will that send you completely over the edge? That might look nice for a formal diningroom.

Do you ever watch Room by Room on HGTV? She always makes great curtains and makes them look so easy.

Great idea. I helped my sister make curtains for her den and that’s what we did. We made tab-top curtains with really cute buttons but she has more of a country look. It took us forever but they turned out good.

I admire the OP and everyone who sews.

(hijack, but this thread reminds me) I had this question too, over 3 years ago, but never pursued it because I’d never sewn a lick before then. The fabric I bought then is still wrapped up in its original plastic, in the closet. It’s a black velvety fabric used by magicians. It’s expensive fabric and my “how hard could it be? it’s a bunch of flat panels!” attitude back then dissolved when I saw the bill for the fabric, and I lost my nerve about doing it myself. We slapped some wood up to keep out the light (it’s a home theater and we only go in there to watch movies so it’s always dark) and it’s been like that ever since. No one ever goes in there but us anyway, and our standards aren’t that high. We wanted curtains as a step up from the black plastic we had on the windows at our former apartment. I guess wood is a step up. Anyway, my new (bought at the same time as the fabric) sewing machine sits lonely on its shelf, barely touched since then.

I live in a very ethnic working class neighborhood. My question is, how do you translate a call for help? Something along the lines of “I need help from a woman who sews, to make curtains for me. Fabric, thread, and sewing machine provided.” in Spanish, Thai or Japanese, and Arabic, so I can make posters to put on the telephone poles around the neighborhood. There must be some grandmamas around here who sew by second nature and who could use some extra money. Any thoughts on how much I should charge? (/hijack, sorry!)

Equipoise, I usually charge $10/hour for sewing or knitting, that being the standard rate for skilled labor in my head. (Though I do charge flat fees for things like hemming pants or skirts.) For curtains, I would think something between $50 and $100 would be fair, depending on the fabric. When you locate someone, ask how much time s/he will think it will take to make the curtains and base the price on that.

Thanks Miss Purl, I appreciate the response. I see you live in Wisconson. Too bad you don’t live near northwest Chicago. My husband got given several pairs of nice pants, but they’re all too long for him. If I tried to sew them up they’d look as if a 3rd grader got ahold of them.

Yes, he does wonder why he spent the money on a sewing machine. My grandmother and mother were avid sewers (my grandmother made all my clothes as a child), but everytime I got near their machines I’d get yelled at, because their machines were really nice. Sounds terribly silly, but I developed an aversion to sewing and it just has never interested me.

But again, I do have the utmost respect for those who do sew. Those who cook too. I’m a hopeless non-domestic.

Sorry for hijacking your thread Zsofia.

Equipoise, check out your local dry cleaners or tailor’s shops. Hemming pants usually costs between $10 and $15. I charge around $10.

If you’d like to start sewing, I’d suggest getting a sheet of notebook paper and practicing sewing along the lines printed on the paper without any thread in the machine. When you’re comfortable doing that, draw some spirals on a sheet a paper and practice following curves. Then thread the machine and make something simple like a throw pillow or an apron. It’s okay to muck things up – it’s all about learning.

And to get this back to topic, Zsofia, if you can’t find the curtain chain, you can use metal washers for curtain weights. And for lining, I’d suggest flat lining* the curtain fabric, letting it hang, and then then hemming all the edges, treating fabric and lining as one layer. I find this much easier than bag lining, which is what sewing it together and then turning it inside out is. The results are usually smoother for me.

*Cut lining and fabric to same size. Pin wrong sides together and baste around all edges. Make sure to pre-wash and iron all fabrics before this step.

Urgh, but if I flat lined I’d have to, you know, hem. Actually hem, not just fake it. :wink:

I was thinking of using washers for weights.

Hadn’t thought of hanging them and letting them “settle” - that’s probably a great idea.

I’ll have to hit the fabric store and see what they’ve got in terms of reinforcing drapery tape. Thing is, I don’t really want pleating and such - I kind of think it wouldn’t look as modern with the striped fabric.

And no valences. Not the look I want.

For the lining, you can totally fake the hem, with iron-in fusible hem-webbing stuff, or move the sewing machine along the width of the window, machine hemming as you go. For the hem to the actual drapery fabric, it’s worth it to hem by hand, for a blind-finished hem. Just do your measuring and pressing all in one focused pass, then set up a TV in range of the drapes, get a dining room chair, a needle, a lot of thread. Big stitches are best for hemming drapes, anyway – more forgiving, less likely to pucker. Put in an engrossing DVD , then hem-scoot-hem-scoot-hem-scoot yourelf along the width of the window.

The tape comes in an assortment of styles, so it shouldn’t be hard (or really expensive) to get a flat one with places for ring hooks to go. The reinforcement is the structurally important part.

I assume that your intent is to never take thses drapes down or, if necessary, to experiment with having them dry cleaned when the time comes. Some people say to have the fabric cleaned by whatever means you will use to make the curtains before you make it into curtains. Screw that, I say. Unless a dog lifts its leg on them or somebody spills a pot of spaghetti sauce against them, I assume you’ll be sick of them or have moved away by the time they are really desperate for a cleaning. And sometimes having raw yardages dry cleaned is nearly as expensive as the fabric.


Make sure you pre-wash the material if that wasn’t mentioned. We added extra fabric to the width for a richer, fuller look and length for a nice wide hem. In fact when I buy curtains I always get extra panels.

In some of the fabric stores like Joann’s they have instruction sheets in the back of of the store for curtains and things like that.

Seriously? I wash my kitchen and bedroom curtains at least every 2-3 weeks. Same with all the sheers and other curtains. I wash them and hang them to dry. The curtains that need to be drycleaned and that’s only in the livingroom and diningroom because they’re pleated and expensive to clean I have them cleaned at least 2 times a year.

I’d definitely make sure I bought material that you could wash.

Tabby, please don’t take that to mean I think people should was their curtains that often.
I have OCD’s when it comes to cleaning and I’m always amazed when I read about other people how truly nutty I am. I seriously need to go back to work.

Wow. Could you come live with me, for, like, a week?

I don’t believe I’ve ever so much as thought about washing curtains of any kind.

No offense taken. And, um, none intended, but you’re not invited to my house. You wouldn’t like it, anyway.


P.S. I’ve given up on curtains while the kids are little (wooden blinds, instead).

Caridwen, I mean.


Zsofia, is the curtain fabric you bought suitable for curtains or was it meant for garments? You might have problems with the fabric if it’s not upholstery fabric, which is much sturdier than dressweight fabrics. I hope everything works out okay.

Oh, no, it’s drapery stuff. Didn’t get a chance to shop for reinforcing tapes yet, but when I do I’ll let you guys know what I found and what I decided to do with it.