This is just a quick post to show you a little sewing project I embarked upon recently. When we moved into our new home in February last year, I had to think of an affordable way to dress the windows, and no more so than in our drawing room, which is dual aspect, meaning two sets of curtains were required. Each window is fairly tall and wide so I knew I would either have to buy a load of fabric to make curtains with (the expensive option) or source readymade ones which I reckoned would be nigh on impossible given the window dimensions.
So I took myself off to Ikea, the big blue and yellow friendly giant offering solutions to many a décor problem, where I found a lovely set of readymade, long curtains (here) with a nice linen-like look and feel to them. I knew they’d be perfect for the job in hand, EXCEPT that they were tab top, which I’m not a huge fan of. Unless you live in a country cottage or student flat, I don’t really think tab tops quite cut it on the style front…
Not one to be beaten easily, I thought about how I could make these work as I did really like the fabric! After some deliberation, I decided I would sew each curtain pair together so that they would be double width and then convert the tab tops to a pencil pleated top. So, determined to make it work on a budget, I bought two pairs of curtains for each window and here’s a rough step by step of what I did, in case you want to take on a similar project in your own home!
What you’ll need to complete this project (for one window):
· 2 pairs tab top curtains (or 1 pair if you don’t wish to double the curtain width)
· Fabric scissors
· Needle & thread
· Sewing machine
· Tailor’s chalk (optional)
** If, like me, you wish to make your curtains fuller, you can double their width by sewing a pair of curtains together. Each of the curtains in the pair will therefore become the curtain panels for one fuller curtain. I will explain how to do this in the second step, however, ignore this part if you are simply using one pair of curtains to convert to pencil pleat and move from step 1 straight onto step 3 **
// 1 //
Measure down the length of each curtain (starting at the bottom hem) to the required FINISHED length (i.e. the length you want your final curtain to be from the curtain pole to the floor) and mark this spot with a coloured pin (or coloured tailor’s chalk if you have it). I have used a red pin below to mark this spot.
Then, measure another 15-20cm along from this point and insert another coloured pin or chalk mark to allow for the curtain heading. This is the point at which you will be cutting your fabric (also known as the ‘cutting length’). Repeat these measurements for each curtain.
// 2 //
At this point I joined my curtain pairs to make one curtain of double fullness. Lay the curtains on top of each other, right sides facing in (i.e. the ‘front’ of the curtain laid onto the front of the other curtain). Pin along the length where they will be joined as shown below, ensuring the hems are carefully lined up (top and bottom) and the joining side is neatly aligned too. If you insert the pins as shown below, at right angles to the curtain length, you will be able to stitch over them when it comes to sewing up. It’s hard to tell with my fabric, however you can just about see that the side facing up here is the back (the ‘wrong’ side) of the curtain fabric.
Using your sewing machine and starting from the bottom hem, sew down the length of the curtain panels, about 2.5cm (1″) in from the edge where they are joined. Make sure the bottom hems are neatly aligned so that the final hem is even along its edge. If you wish, you could pop a few pins along the bottom hem to hold the curtains together and avoid any slippage whilst stitching with the machine. Continue all the way to the other end, right through the tab tops (this top section will be cut off in the next step anyway).
Repeat this step for the second curtain using the other pair of curtain panels.
// 3 //
Now to cut off the tab tops. Remember in step 1 you made a mark on the curtain panels to show where the finished length would be and then a second mark for the cutting length? Check your measurements another time to make sure you are happy with them, then draw a line with chalk or mark with pins across the width of the curtain at the point of the CUTTING length (ensuring you have left 15-20cm beyond the finished curtain length to the point of cutting to allow for the heading).
Cut carefully along this line, repeating this step for each curtain. As you can see below, the white pin marks the point of the finished length of this curtain – on the other curtain I made it was the red pin you saw in step 1. As you can see, I have allowed 15cm/6″ for the heading.
// 4 //
At this stage, you fold down the curtain heading allowance at the point marking the finished curtain length that you made in step 1 (remember where the red pin was?). Fold back the top of the curtain with ‘wrong’ sides facing (i.e. fold onto the back of the curtain fabric) as shown below and pin along to secure, making sure the pins are inserted pointing down the curtain so that they can be easily removed from under the heading tape at the next stage. The pink pin marks the fold at the finished length of the curtain, i.e. the curtain top or heading. This is the section we will be sewing the heading tape along in the next step.
// 5 //
Take your length of heading tape and loosen out the strings from the first 5-10cm of tape, then fold this first section under itself so that the strings emerge at the new edge. (See the picture below if this is unclear!) This is done to ensure there is no raw edge of curtain tape at the edge of the curtain, thus preventing fraying.
With the header tape carefully aligned approximately 5mm from the top and side edges of the curtain, sew along the length of the tape – there is usually a dotted line for you to follow, however if not, then 5mm in from the edge of the tape is fine. When you reach a point of around 15cm from the other end, stop stitching and cut the tape at around 10cm beyond the edge of the curtain, then fold the end of the tape under itself as before, pulling the strings out at the point where they emerge from the tape at or close to the curtain’s edge.
The point at where the strings are pulled out will depend upon where the natural end of the tape is after it has been folded under – sometimes the strings emerge right at the edge, other times (like below), they’ll be a couple of cm in from the edge. It doesn’t make much difference to the finished look of the curtain.
Finally, tie the ends together to secure – see below.
Nearly there! Continue sewing along to within 5mm of the edge of the tape, then down the side (watch you keep the strings out of the way so that you don’t sew over them!) and along the bottom length of tape all the way to the other end. (You will see the line of stitching I sewed in the picture above.)
// 6 //
That’s the heading tape secured to the top of the curtain – feel free to trim away any excess fabric hanging under the tape to neaten things up, but be careful when doing so in case (like me!!) you cut through the curtain – doh!
The last task is to pull the three untied strings at the ‘beginning’ of the tape so that the curtain begins to pleat across its width. Working gradually across, keep pulling the strings and evening out the pleats until you reach the desired curtain width. At this point, tie the strings together to secure – you should try to plan it so that this edge is the outside edge of the finished curtain – this means you won’t have long strings hanging down between your curtains when they’re drawn across.
Here is a pic of my curtains hung up in the drawing room – at some stage I plan to put up a heavier, better quality curtain pole with more curtain rings along it so that the pleated top doesn’t sag as much, but I need to line the curtains first. Taking it one step at a time!! These do the job perfectly for now.
I’m pretty pleased at how they’ve turned out. The room has huge windows and I have managed to dress them (albeit temporarily) for less than £50 per window!
Later in the year I will show you how they look when fully lined and some new poles are up.
Hope this tutorial has helped you if you’re trying to decorate your windows on a budget, too!
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