Sew Your Way to a Great Pair of Curtains

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The idea of making your own curtains may be daunting, but doing so allows you to achieve exactly the style and colour you want. The cost of well-made, lined curtains can be staggering, but with the aid of a sewing machine you can make your own for a fraction of the cost – take a look at our guide below.

What's In Your Guide
Things to consider before making curtains
Choosing the curtain fabric
Measuring accurately
  – Width
   – Length
   – Patterned fabric
Lined or unlined?
Sewing it all together

Things to consider before making curtains

Accurate measurements are key to successful sewing, so make sure to double-check all your calculations. Will your curtains be lined or unlined, plain or patterned? A lot will depend on the style of your room, including any existing furnishings.

Choosing the curtain fabric

Choosing curtain fabricShopping for the fabric is the fun part of the process. Heavy, textured material will keep the heat in during the cold winter months, and may even help keep your heating bills down. Lighter, sheer fabrics, on the other hand, make lovely unlined curtains for the summer.
Choosing a plain fabric means that you don’t have to worry about pattern-matching, or anything more complicated than sewing in a straight line. With patterned fabric, the smaller the pattern, the easier it is to match. If you choose a large print, you will need to buy extra material to account for pattern matching, in a similar way to patterned wallpaper.

Measuring accurately 

First of all, you will need to measure the window, using a tape measure, a pencil, paper and a calculator. One tip for success is to make sure you measure twice, as making a mistake at this point can be costly.
Measure the length of the track or pole at your window and multiply the result by 1.5. This will give you enough fabric to create pleats, and make your curtains look full. Add about 20cm to that figure to account for the extra fabric you will need for side seams. This gives you the total width of fabric that you will need to buy.

How many widths?

To work out how many widths of curtain fabric you will need, divide the measurement for the total width of the window by the width of your chosen fabric.

What about length?

Measuring curatinsNow all you need to do is decide on the length of your curtains. If you are using a pole, measure from the bottom of the rings, but if you have a track, measure from 1cm above the track down to the floor.
Add 20cm for seams and turnovers if you want your curtains to touch the floor; if you want them to ‘puddle’ at the bottom, add 70cm – this measurement is called the cutting length. For plain or small patterned
fabric all you need to do is buy the number of widths you calculated at
this length, and you’re ready to go.

Dealing with patterned fabrics

For large-patterned curtain fabric it gets a little more complicated, as
each width needs to be cut at the same point so that the pattern will match horizontally across the curtains. Don’t panic – all you need is your calculator to perform a few simple sums. 

To calculate how much patterned fabric you should buy, add the length of the pattern repeat, which should be shown on the label, to the cutting length, then multiply the resulting figure by the number of fabric widths. Add 10cm per curtain and that’s how much fabric to buy.
If you are buying your fabric from a fabric shop or haberdashery and need help, the assistants generally have a lot of experience and will be happy to assist.

Lined or unlined?

Line or unlined curtainsNow you have your fabric, you have to decide whether you want to line your curtains. All you need to do is buy the same amount of lining fabric as curtain fabric, less any extra fabric for pattern matching. Then all that’s left to buy is the header tape, which will be the length of your pole or track plus 10cm, and matching, strong thread.
Another tip for really professional-looking curtains is to use curtain weights. You can buy them online or from a craft or fabric shop. Simply insert the weights into the hem of the curtains to make them hang perfectly straight.

Sewing it all together

First, measure and cut your lengths if this has not been done for you. To join the fabric widths, join and pin along the selveges (the pre-finished edges of the fabric) with the right sides facing together. Remember to match the pattern if you are using patterned fabric.
Stitch the two pieces together, leaving a seam of about 2.5cm,  then press the seams open so that everything lies flat. If you are adding a lining, join this in the same way, and you will be ready to join the lining and the curtain fabric together. Make sure the right sides are facing and stitch along either side of the curtain with the lining and curtain matching at the edges. Leave the bottom edge of the lining 'open' to allow the curtains to hang correctly, just hem it as normal.

Header tape

Curtain header tapeTo attach the header tape, turn under the top 3cm of curtain fabric and press. To stop your header tape cords from moving, tie them at one end then pin the tape close to the top of your curtain. A tip for achieving a neat finish is to tuck under the ends of the tape to hide any raw fabric. Then
just stitch along all the edges of the header tape and remove the pins.

Hemming your curtains 

All that remains is to hem the bottom of your curtains. Hang up your
curtain from the rail or pole so you can gauge the correct length, then
mark it with pins. Turn up the curtain fabric twice to create a double hem, and hand stitch in place. This is the point at which you insert the weights if you are using them. Turn up the lining and hand stitch that, too.
That’s it. Bespoke handmade curtains achieved in a couple of hours and a new skill learned in the process! Now you can make curtains exactly as you want them for any room in your house. 
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