Monday, April 6, 2009

Sewing for the clueless.

When we signed the lease to the new place, we were told we'd have to get our own curtains since the ones in there were of sentimental value to a previous owner. Not a big deal. We thought we'd go to the store, pick up some cheaply, and move on. Oh contraire! The windows in the apartment aren't a normal size, and purchasing curtains is very pricey when you're picking up 8 or so.

The next logical step was for me to put on my craft prowess and do it myself. Although one of my goals this year is to learn how to sew on a sewing machine, the lack of sewing machine in my life makes it difficult. How do you make curtains without a sewing machine, you ask? With a little elbow grease, you can do it. Just note, too, that you can make them lined if you want, but because I used white fabric and take care to make things look even, I didn't.

- fabric (style and size to your taste and needs)
- bondable webbing
- ribbon
- an iron
- scissors
- measuring stick/tape

First, pick your window. I purposely chose one that was a little differently sized. Once you pick one, measure the length and width of the window. Then, measure the fabric, ensuring you leave between 6-8 inches extra both length and width wise from the window itself (you'll want it to make two panels and to tie back, as well as ensure the curtain rod will fit at the top). Cut your fabric, and don't worry too much about cutting a perfectly straight line. 

Then, set yourself up at a clean, long table or ironing board. You will want to put your fabric face down. Have an iron at its highest heat setting ready to go.

Next, make yourself a fold that will be large enough to slide your curtain rod through, plus an inch or so of slack to be safe. Make it as even as you want, though since it's at the rod end, it probably doesn't matter if it's not perfect.

And iron the fold you've just made. It makes the webbing much easier to iron in the next step if you pre-iron. 

After you've ironed the crease, measure out the webbing to reach end to end under the fold. I found it much easier to actually do this in pieces. Instead of cutting a long piece of webbing, I cut 2-3 shorter pieces. 

Next, you will want to put the webbing as the center of the sandwich between the fabric you just ironed to a crease. Since this will be your seam, you will want to make sure you've left yourself enough room between the top of the webbing and the top of the crease to slide in your rod. This is why it is a good idea to have a little slack room - having more space for your rod to slide in will give the top more movement and make it easier to slide your curtains open. Your webbing will likely be closer to the edge of that fabric rather than near the fold you ironed. Once that's in place, iron the sandwich you've made. 

Voila! You've just made the top of your curtain without sewing a thing. 

Once you're confident that the webbing is holding (and it does it very quickly), you can make the long sheet into two panels. If you want to keep it one long curtain you can, but you will likely make something that isn't as flow-y or moveable. If you're having trouble with the webbing sticking, make sure your iron is clean and at its highest setting. I had stick problems when I had it set at 3 or 4 rather than 7 or 8.

Start the process of creating two panels by folding your long sheet in half length-wise and cut it in half. Again, you don't have to be perfect, but the smoother and straighter the cut now, the less you have to perfect ironing later.

Now, take one of your panels and put it back on your flat surface. You will cut a small slit directly beneath the top of the curtain (where you have just made the seam). This allows you to more easily fold and iron down the side.

Like the top, you will crease a seam. Since you are doing this simply for aesthetic purposes, you can make them if you wish or you can stop your process here. I like the clean look, so I prefer to "sew" the sides. The size of your seam depends entirely on your window's width, and if you left a couple of extra inches (as in step 1), then you can make your seam anywhere between 1/4 and 1 inch. Fold and iron. 

Again, cut and insert your webbing. If you're making a smaller seam (which I did on the other side of this panel), you will definitely want to cut your webbing into smaller sizes so that you can ensure a smooth iron/seam melding. 

Repeat this process on the other side of this panel, as well as on the other panel. Do not do it on the bottom of either of them, though, without measuring them precisely. I chose not to do the bottom at all, since the length ends up perfect (see the step where you cut the large sheet in half) and it allows more movement. If your bottom end isn't perfect for some reason, you can fix that after you hang them up with some simple scissor snips.

Grab your curtain rod now and slide your panels both on. Since you've left slack room, they won't fit on there without bunching at the top. That's what you want!

Finally, hang those puppies back up onto the window. Check the bottoms to make sure they're even enough for your taste and preferences, and either leave them be, alter, or iron on a bottom seam.

Ta da! You've just made yourself a set of curtains without sewing a thing. And since you're making them, they can be altered to any length, shape, size, or design. You can pick up some ribbon, too, or add in a wall hook to tie back the curtains when you want to let in the sunlight, since you've actually created two panels. 

Total cost
Fabric: $7.99/yard (my window here required about 1.5 yards)
Ribbon: $2/spool for the pricier stuff
Bondable web: $2 

Much cheaper, much more customizable, and more satisfying by doing it yourself. And you don't have to feel too guilty about changing them when you wish!



  1. I am very impressed.

    I also think you should know that it is very very difficult for me to resist being VERY obnoxious about the game, but I am trying my best.

  2. Now make curtains, darn it!

    You're not obnoxious, and I've got thick skin. That's what happens when you're an Iowa football fan, MichState basketball fan, and White Sox fan. Thick & thin, through it all.