How to Master Curtains!
Everything you need to know about sewing a pair of curtains, from measuring and lining, to getting the perfect pleats and that all important ‘drop’.
Nothing beats new curtains to give a room an instant refresh, and sewing your own pair of curtains is easier than you might think. The obvious bonus when you sew your own curtains is that you can choose the perfect fabric to suit your room. We bet you spend more time deciding on the fabric than actually making the curtains!
We have an exclusive offer from Curtain fabric specialist Terry’s Fabrics, open a free account with them, let them know in the little drop-down box you came via Love Sewing and they will add £7.50 credit onto your account for use with your next order over £25!
Curtains may look really tricky but they are easy to sew!
If you think about it the seams of curtains are all straight, so if you can use a tape measure and sew in a straight line, you can make curtains. Successful curtain making is all about accurate measuring and cutting – get both of those right and you’re on your way. Curtains are only as complicated as you want them to be. Just start simple, ideally with a plain fabric, and progress as your confidence improves.
How to save money when sewing a pair of curtains
Firstly, look out for sales and offers (like the one above from Terry’s!) Also, choosing a plain fabric will mean you don’t have to faff about with pattern matching, which can get complicated If you do choose a fabric that has large motifs or a bold repeated design. You need to buy extra to accommodate the motifs and allow you to match up any prints on the separate curtain panels. It’s a good idea to take your window measurements into the fabric shop so you can make any additional calculations.
The cheapest (and easiest) curtains to make are tab top. The panels aren’t as gathered so they use up less fabric than a pair made with header tape.
Top tips for making curtains
We share our top tips and techniques needed for making a traditional lined pair of curtains with a tape top.
Sizing and measuring is the most essential aspect of curtain making. Accuracy is vital if you want to avoid results that are too short, long or just plain sloppy looking. The measurements that you need to take depend on the final appearance that you are looking to create. You will also need a notepad and pencil and a metal tape measure. Here’s how to get it right.
The measurements for curtains that will sit on a pole or run on a track will be taken on the wall surrounding the window. A track or pole is usually 10cm longer than the window on each side – this space is to accommodate the volume of fabric when the curtains are pulled open. For symmetry, this track or pole will usually sit around 10cm above the window. Measure the length of the track or the pole, or the position where the track or pole will be affixed – 10cm wider on each side, and 10cm, above the window.
Place the tape measure in line with the top of the track (or where the track will be positioned) and measure to the position you would like the lower edge of the curtain to fall – either on or just below the windowsill, or to the floor.
CALCULATIONS FOR THE FABRIC
Starting with the width measurement, add 2.5cm to each side to accommodate hems – if you are having two curtains, you will need to add this to each side of both the curtain panels. To the length measurement, you will need to add 5cm-8cm to accommodate the upper section (which will be secured to the heading tape) and 15cm to accommodate the lower hem.
When cutting your fabric, it’s vital that your fabric is lying flat, and is absolutely straight and square to the grain before you begin. Take care not to stretch the fabric out of shape while you work
Want pleats? For pencil or French pleats, the width of your fabric should be two and a half to three times your measured width. For French pleats you will also need to add 20cm to the drop.
Adding a lining will give a proper professional finish and provide better insulation against light and noise. The calculations for lining fabrics are also made from the initial measurements. This is worked out by adding 5cm to the upper section and 15cm to the lower section. The width of the fabric needs to be around 2-5cm narrower than the main fabric, to ensure that the lining sits neatly to the back of the curtain when it is seamed into place. If you are making two or more curtain panels for your window, simply repeat this process for each panel.
ATTACHING THE LINING
Place the lining on to the fabric with the right sides facing. Align one of the side sections and pin in place. Secure together with a 2.5cm seam allowance. Repeat for the second side. The lining fabric is narrower than the curtain fabric, so draw the lining fabric over to meet the second raw edge of the main fabric. Once the lining has been secured on both sides, turn through and press neatly. There will be a neat band of main fabric at each side on the back of the curtains to prevent the lining from rolling round and being visible on the front when the curtains are hung.
SECURING THE HEADING TAPE
The heading tape, the woven strip stitched to the top of the curtain fabric, needs to be around 5cm longer than the measurement for each curtain panel. Along the upper edge of the curtain, fold over 4-6cm of fabric towards the lining, turn the raw edges under and pin in place. Position the heading tape along the lower edge of the folded section with 2.5cm of tape extending at either end of the curtain. Hold the cords of the heading tape away from the woven band and pin into position. Use a straight machine stitch to secure into position along the upper and lower sections of the woven band, being careful not to catch the cords in the stitches. When stitching the header tape, take care not to catch the cords
For floor-length curtains, we suggest curtains 1.5cm longer than floor-length. If your floors are uneven, make sure you measure each side of the window and choose the longest measurement. For sill length curtains, we suggest either 15cm below the sill or 1-2cm above it.
GATHERING AND HANGING
Once the tape is secured, knot the cords on the edge of the header tape that will be the outer edge when the curtain is hung, and begin to pull the cords. This will draw up the fabric along the heading tape. Check with a tape measure to ensure that you draw up the curtain to the correct width for the curtain panel for the window and tie a loose knot – you can always make adjustments to the amount gathered later. Distribute the gathers in the fabric neatly along the length of the curtain and insert the curtain hooks along the length of the heading tape. Once the hooks are in place, secure to the curtain track.
Once all the panels are gathered and hung onto the curtain track, secure and neaten the lower hem. There will be around 10cm of fabric extending beyond the desired position of the hem. Fold this fabric in towards the lining and pin in place. Remove the curtains from the track, work along the length of the hem, measuring to ensure that the fabric folded for the hem is even along the length. To reduce bulk along this lower edge, trim the lining fabric so that it sits neatly inside the crease at the base of the hem, and turn the raw edges of the main fabric in to neaten. Work along the fold with a neat hand or machine hemming stitch to secure along the length to finish the curtains. Press the lengths of the curtains – being careful not to press creases into the gathers. Tuck the excess cord neatly into the loops on the heading tape and re-hang the finished curtains.
THE PERFECT DROP
Taking the time to hang curtains before hemming ensures they fit the window exactly as you want them to, and allows you to make any adjustments while they’re in position. To get the best results, let them hang for a few days before pinning. This allows any creases to drop out, so the fabric is relaxed into position ready to hem.
Three Free Curtain Tutorials Online
We have gathered a few great free curtain tutorials together for you to try.
These three curtain tutorials are perfect for beginners, let us know how you get on if you are planning to make your own curtains. We also have a Pinterest Board packed full of tutorials for making curtains and blinds that you may want to check out for even more inspiration and some more challenging curtains with ruffles and panels!
Three curtain tutorials to try
In this hidden back tab curtain tutorial from Kelly of ‘View Along the Way” – Kelly takes you step by step through sewing up a pair of curtains just like this. They look great and she has a great method for creating the tabs at the back of the curtains using wide bias tape.
Just read all the comments on her post to see how many people have loved her fun but very detailed tutorial!
Tab top curtains are perhaps the most simple curtains to make for a novice. Amanda from the fabulous UK dressmaking blog ‘KitchyCoo’ says of her own tab top curtain tutorial “It will take you longer to figure out the measurements than make the actual curtains!” whilst Amanda doesn’t show step by step images as she had already sewn these curtains up, she does explain the process so even a beginner making something on their machine for the very first time could keep up!
In this tutorial blogger Gina makes sewing up curtains even more simple than sewing tab top curtains by using curtain clips, she shows on a small scale piece of fabric exactly how to create a neat finish to your curtains, effectively just sewing two rectangles and adding clips – what could be easier (well all easy except ironing so much fabric which is never fun!) Be sure to press any curtains you make properly so they look the best they possibly can – really simple curtain tutorial