all my own work by ann

Sewing and textiles with Ann

Making curtains

When I drew the curtain in my smallest bedroom last week, and the fabric tore, it was clearly time for new curtains. I thought about renewing them about 5 years ago, but didn’t follow through. I haven’t made curtains for nearly 30 years, but I made all of the curtains for my first two houses.

It was curtains that killed my first sewing machine! One day I plugged it in, and it smoked. That’s not a good sign! And I didn’t sew for about 20 years after that……

So this is quite a momentous step, going back to making curtains. And for once I have been sewing something that I really need, rather than something that it would be nice to have.

Off I went to the second floor at the Fancy Silk Store. I’m not well acquainted with the second floor, but there is a huge choice of fabric. Of course, the first fabric that I saw is the one that I bought, even though I went round every corner of the floor looking for anything with the right colour. It was also one of the most expensive, but it is right for the room. Much better than the old curtains.


I made the curtains ‘from memory’ i.e. without any instructions. They are quite easy to make; its all straight seams. The only real drawback is that there can be loads of material, and sometimes some of the seam joints can be quite thick, which is what I think killed my first sewing machine.

I think that the two most important stages are:

  • Measuring the fabric before its been cut to get the drop lengths right. I recommend you go with a whole number of pattern drops. I went with 8. Check, check and check again before cutting. I actually drew a line across the fabric at each cutting place, so ensuring that I was cutting across the same section of pattern each time.IMG_0966
  • Lining up the top of the curtains when you are folding and then sewing on the ruflette tape.

Other advice that I would give includes:

  1. Do your calculations at least twice… Measure your window and drop again etc, etc
  2. Ensure that you have levelled up the top of the fabric before you start measuring. Pull a thread right across the fabric to get this right.
  3. Cut whole pattern repeats. In this respect, a large pattern drop limits what you can do, or will require potentially a lot of extra fabric.
  4. Label the top of each piece!
  5. I did a ‘sort of’ flat fell seam to join fabric mid curtain. I say sort of, because I actually top stitched the front of the fabric when I had got the patterns nicely matched, so that I could see what I was doing. And then I folded over the edges at the back to enclose the raw edges.

So, I’ve got the join in the curtains nicely matching, but what about where the curtains will meet when drawn? Does that need to match as well? Slightly horrified at the potential complexity, I examined my Laura Ashley curtains. She has been my chief curtain maker in house number 5. Phew – they don’t match. In fact, its possible the pattern itself isn’t level across the two curtains. Have I ever noticed before? No. So that’s alright then!

I thought a picture of what the ruflette should look like when sewed might be useful. See below. Loosen the ends of the cord and fold in the end of the tape. When finished, tie the ends together and gently pull to gather the top of the curtain.


After a bit of fiddling to get the tops and bottoms lined up,

IMG_0970I wondered whether to hang the curtains before hemming, or not. I hemmed before hanging. The hem needs to be right with the pattern; hanging isn’t going to change that. So I hemmed. Posh curtains have weights in the hem. Mine don’t. I wonder who sells curtain weights. I wasn’t offered any at Fancy Silk Store.

So now they are hanging – after about 6 hours from checking my measurements and starting to measure the fabric.

What to do with the old ones, bearing in mind that the fabric tore, and is 25 years old? I have no purpose for the fabric, but maybe someone else has. So I washed them with a view to taking them to the charity shop. And they almost fall apart in the wash! They are torn all over the place now. No use to anyone really. Sadly they are in the bin. (Fabric re-cycling locally – can any Brummie followers help?)

I bought two sets of curtains at the same time. Maybe I should look to replace the others as well!

A final note: The shop calculated far more fabric than I really needed. I mean, better to have too much than too little. Then when the roll was measured it was slightly more than the calculated amount, so I have the whole lot, at a slightly reduced rate. Or did he know how much was on the roll and managed to convince me that I needed almost all of it? So I have loads of (quite expensive) fabric left. Here’s the first matching cushion!


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This entry was posted on April 29, 2018 by in Curtains, Handmade, Sewing and tagged , , , , .
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