A Simple Idea…
I found the most perfect fabric for my kitchen curtains (coffee themed of course) and decided I just had to make my own curtains. I thought, hey, nice lined curtains with grommets for my window over the kitchen sink. That’d be nice. Right? They turned out really great in the end. Come along with me and I’ll share what I learned.
The information here is based on my personal research and experience. There are many (expensive?) services out there that will construct custom drapes or blinds for you with quality (expensive?) drapery fabrics manufactured to last for years. This is not that.
What is Covered
You know, in the end, sewing curtains is an incredibly simple project, confused only by the amount of explanations, contradictory or half information out there. I have boiled down everything I researched (and tested) into this comprehensive primer for beginners: from fabric selection, how much to buy, what kind of finished look you want and how to actually space the grommets. I hope this serves as a good overview if you plan to make some simple lined curtains (drapes) yourself.
This project is covered in three parts. This is part one.
- Intro and Anatomy of a Lined Curtain
- Take Measurements & Calculate Amount of Fabric to Buy
- Curtain Construction with Grommets Placement
The difference is:
Curtains are single layer and mostly decorative.
Drapes are lined curtains and can have other functions, like added warmth.
Oh, and one more thing before we get stuck in. As so often with these learning moments, halfway through this project, I realized how much I absolutely and completely hated making ruddy curtains and would never, ever, EVER do this again! Okay, but now I really don’t feel that way at all, and I’ll tell you why. Stick with me.
The Project Details
My reference project is a window about 50 inches wide by 40 inches in height. It is above my kitchen sink, so halfway between floor and ceiling. I planned 2 panels out of the width of the fabric (60 inches wide) I found. This is not a very full curtain, but they will be usually open so I’m okay with that. Also, using grommets allows a less full curtain look.
My fabric choice did not have a pattern that I needed to match but it did have a “right-side up” (don’t ask). The curtains hung just below eye level in a prominent space so each panel had to fall at exactly the same finished length or it would be quite very noticeable.
My Way or the Highway – Not
I suggest that you identify at the outset the most important aspects of your project for you. Whether it is the exact length for both panels (like me), matching patterns across the panels, right side-uppedness, a certain fullness or another issue that if not done perfectly will be a failed project in your eyes. Tally ho!
Anatomy of Lined Curtains
Lined curtains are really just two rectangles sewn together on three sides and open at the bottom, like a pillow case. Both fabrics panels hang freely and independently of each other lengthwise. This is really essential since they are different weights and will fall differently. If they are sewn together at any point across the width (except at the header), it will cause visible bunching. Even 3 or 4 stitches towards the bottom will cause bunching. If a tutorial says sew across at any point other than the header, don’t do it. (I had to unpick).
So, you hem the lining and fabric separately before sewing them together. The lining is slightly shorter, anywhere from 1 or 2 inches shorter, and sits inside the main fabric. The main fabric is cut wider than the lining and then folds over itself and the lining all along the sides.
Some tutorials suggest folding the sides in and over the lining, pinning and stitching straight down both sides catching the lining and fabric in the seam. I went with the option of sewing the fabric and lining right sides together and turning it right side out. Then, I folded the fabric edges over with lots of pressing. There are advantages and disadvantage to both methods.
Pressing or Sewing?
My reasons for choosing pressing are because I preferred the look of lined curtains without a stitch line all along the sides and I liked the nice smooth finished edges. It requires a fabric that can take a press well though and a very good hot iron with lots of steam.
I saw one tutorial with someone working with huge velvet lined curtains (These must have been a nightmare to manipulate but she seemed at ease). I can see how the stitching down the sides in that case might have been easier than trying to get all that thick velvet to roll in over itself that way and stay with just pressing. So just see what you like and what fabric you decide on. I don’t think one way is better than the other inherently other than what your fabric can do.
The top of every curtain has a thicker wider header band usually 4-5 inches in height. A header is doubled fabric and can include sew-in interfacing or buckram if additionally stability is needed. You might want that stability for lighter fabrics or if you will be using heavy hanging hardware. In my case, I didn’t double the full header but rather pressed over an inch and then pressed over 4 inches for my 4 inch header.
Other Drapery Features
Sometimes, there is a pleat down the middle of the lining back which I think looks nice, but depends on whether you end up with loose lining fabric on the back. I did by just a small amount so pulled it taut on both side and made a small center back pleat. I think pulling it taut also helps the sides stay folded in. No one will ever see this though (unless you draw their attention to it). Makes me smile to myself though.
Drapery fabric is typically wider than other fabrics and comes on a roll rather than bolts so there are few creases. Wider widths of more than 100 inches are available. With patterned drapery fabrics, there is a horizontal and vertical pattern repeat reference. This is helpful if you need to start and end on a full pattern repeat or flow a pattern evenly across panels and these dimensions will help you select an appropriate pattern size and estimate additional fabric yardage requirements. Cutting out matching patterns is relatively easy as you place the first cut panel on top of the next to match up exactly before cutting. It can obviously take additional yardage as more will be wasted.
Quality drapery fabrics can be quite expensive. They can have ratings for “double-rub” testing and brush pilling. Double rub is a test for durability over time use. Pilling, well, how much and how easily the fabric will pill. The best quality fabrics are linen and linen blends.
Prepping your Drapery Fabric
Drapery fabric frays. A lot. Seriously. I have used drapery fabric in other projects, such as bags and hats and so, yes, it continues to fray even after sewn. Huge strings of thread sheer off all cut edges. I serged the edges of all the panels making it much easier to work with. Many tutorials recommend removing the selvage edge because it can add bulk at the sides, so this can be another reason to serge it off.
If you have a serger, I highly recommend serging the edges after cutting to or marking your size. Using a pencil, I drew straight lines that were more easily squared up and simply followed the line with the serger. Zooming down four long straight edges with the serger is actually completely fun and satisfying. Have at it.
The lining of the curtain is not just a pretty facing (wow, I am on a roll!). It can do a lot of work to add to the functionality of your drapes. You can get black out lining or heat resistant lining fabrics (such as foam backed) to help darken or insulate your room. It is also possible to add a third inner lining to your curtains for even better insulation from cold winter glass. The lining will also protect your expensive main fabric from moisture and sun damage.
Linings, as far as I could tell in my research, come in basically solid colours only. You can see the lining from outside the window. For the liner, I used a simple woven cotton fabric in a neutral white. It had a great weight and was really nice to work with.
The Curtain Rod
I needed to install a rod since the previous window treatment we had was a simple blind. The general advice I found for rod placement is to install the rod about 2 inches above the window casing. The rod hanging hardware should to be placed about 2 inches up to the right and left of the window casing. I was unable to do this in my case because I had kitchen cabinets in the way. For heavy curtains or older homes, some recommend to install your rod hardware directly into the window casing for best strength and stability. However you go, you do you.
Be sure to install the rod before taking measurements so you have your exact configuration for measuring your dimensions.
My next post is going to get into the nitty gritty of how to measure and calculate the amount of fabric you need to buy and what sizes to cut. I will include a downloadable worksheet I made to help with this calculation. See you there.