Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

If I had a Needle and Thread: How to Make Curtains

Written by Marguerite Nowak
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Being self-sufficient is not only handy, but can help give you the confidence to feel like you can tackle almost anything, and it gives you another avenue to express your individuality. Making curtains may seem like something only your grandmother would do, but it is one of the easiest sewing/craft projects out there, and it’s a great way to transform your living environment on your terms.


Being self-sufficient is not only handy, but can help give you the confidence to feel like you can tackle almost anything, and it gives you another avenue to express your individuality. Making curtains may seem like something only your grandmother would do, but it is one of the easiest sewing/craft projects out there, and it’s a great way to transform your living environment on your terms.

Supplies:
• Measuring tape
• Sewing machine or needle and thread
• Chalk
• Pins
• Scissors
• Tension rod
• Fabric of your choice

Before you get started, think about the look you want to create. What kind of fabric do you want? Do you want one curtain or two? Curtains that drape to the floor, or just come to the windowsill?

Directions:
1. The MOST IMPORTANT step: measure the window! This is critical! You need to pull out the tape measure, yardstick, or ruler and find out how wide and how long your window is. If you want the curtain to come all the way down to the floor, then you need to measure from the top of the window to the very bottom of the floor. And if you want your curtain to end at the windowsill, then measure to that point.

But wait, we’re not done here yet. The trick is you’re going to need more fabric than just the exact dimensions of your window, or the area you measured for your curtain to cover—that way you’ll have room for the hem. For instance, if your window is 50 inches long by 40 inches wide, you will need at least 56 inches of fabric (4 extra inches bottom, 2 top) if you want your curtain to touch the sill. But if you want your curtain to go all the way to the floor and the window is 3 feet up from the floor, you need to remember to measure the distance to the floor (rather than stopping at the window), and then add on 6 inches to that.

You might also want some gathers in your curtains, so if you do, then add on a couple of inches to the width as well. If your window is 40 inches wide, you probably want to make sure the fabric is at least 10 inches wider. (If your window is really wide, you might want to make two curtains, one on either side. For example, if your window is 60 inches wide, you might want to make two 40-inch wide curtains.)

2. Curtain rods. A lot of people get freaked out when it comes to rods—they can be expensive and a pain to hang. I like to make it easy…and cheap! Go for the tension rods; you can usually find them in a hardware or craft store and you don’t need nails, screws, or power tools. Rods come in a range of widths. Pick the one that best fits your window and follow the instructions it comes with to set it up.

3. So, you’ve calculated how much fabric you need, you’ve got your rod, and now you’re ready for the fun part—picking out your fabric! What do you want your curtains to look like? There are tons of options out there. Sheer fabric is flowy and will let a lot of light in, yet it’s still difficult for people to see through. If you want something really basic, you can go for plain muslin and stencil it, or regular ole white cotton and dye it. (If you haven’t noticed yet, tie-dye has recently made a comeback!)

Another note about fabric—it can sometimes be expensive, so look at the remnants of fabric that have already been cut and are usually on deep discount. Lastly, when purchasing, ask if the fabric is 60 inches or 45 inches wide. If the fabric is only 45 inches wide and that’s how wide your window is, then you may need to buy twice as much. And don’t forget to pick out matching thread!

4. Now that you have your fabric and supplies, it’s time to take the leap and make a cut! Lay the fabric out on the floor, or on any large, flat surface. Measure the length and width you need for your window and use chalk to mark a line on the fabric. Remember, you need another six inches: 4 inches at the bottom for the hem and at least another 2 inches at the top to make a channel to feed the rod through. Cut straight along the line you just drew.

Depending on the fabric you bought, it may need to be sewn up on the side so it doesn’t fray (which would mean an extra inch or so on either side). If this is the case, fold over the fabric by about one inch and pin it down. Personally, I’m always impatient when it comes to this step, but my friends who are more experienced seamstresses than I am, always point out that the longer you spend on this part (if necessary to begin with), the better your creation will look.

Now, sew up the sides of the curtain panel. Next, fold up the bottom of the curtain by 4 inches and pin in place. Do the same for the top but fold and sew the fabric over by 2 inches. You’re almost done! Now, put the tension rod through the tube you made at the top, and then follow the directions to place the tension rod into place. There you have it, a new homemade curtain that reflects your personal style and great taste!

5. Get sassy! This is not a necessity, of course, but it very well might be the cherry on top of this curtain sundae. You might want to consider getting a cool cord or rope in a fun color so you can tie the curtain to the side or gather it in the middle. Mix it up by tying the cord in a knot or in a bow—whatever you like! You can make it as simple or as fancy-pants as you like. And remember, have fun and experiment—you never know what fabulous, uniquely-you creation will evolve!
 
Illustrations by Eamonn Donnelly

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