We’re getting down to some home decor sewing basics today as I show you how to curtains.
What this isn’t is a no-sew curtains tutorial. I’ll get a little snobby here and say that using tape to make your curtains is not worth your time. You can sew DIY curtains easily in about 30 minutes.
That little bit of straight line sewing and time investment will give you a curtain that’ll last for years in your home. And since you have to look at it hanging on your window for years to come, do it the right way with a sewing machine! *end rant*
The thing I love about DIY curtains is how quick and easy it is to add a ton of color and personality to a room. Most pre-made curtains are out of not-so nice feeling synthetic fabrics and they’re pretty neutral. I don’t know about you but my philosophy on home decor is that neutral = boring. Just say no to boring!
So we’ll talk about what fabrics make awesome DIY curtains and the one specialized notion you should try. After that, I’ll show you the basics of how to sew curtains.
What kind of fabrics work well for DIY curtains?
Curtains need a little weight for them to hang on a window the nicest way. Any kind of medium weight woven fabric can work, and I would stick mostly to home decor fabrics. Upholstery weight home decor fabrics are too heavy for curtains, but canvas prints and cotton sateens are excellent choices.
Stick to 54-60″ width fabrics for DIY curtains. 45″ widths are typically too narrow for most windows. If you find a narrower fabric that you can’t live without, you can sew 2 lengths of fabric together vertically. Just know if you do that, you’ll need twice the amount of fabric.
Also buy quality. Curtains are a big focal point in a room, and designer fabrics are actually worth the money here. Save those coupons and watch out for sales. I once scored some Thomas Paul curtain fabric for about $16 a yard. That was a total steal given that I typically see it at the cheapest for 4x that price! Here’s my favorite fabric choices for DIY curtains.
- Cotton sateen
- Duck cloth
- Canvas prints
- Cotton/linen blends
Where to buy fabric for curtains
JoAnn actually has a really good selection of home decor fabrics. With their sales you can usually come out pretty well in price/yard.
Fabric.com also has an excellent selection of home decor prints for curtains. They have one of the best selections I’ve ever seen of canvas prints. Something like this Art Gallery canvas would make for some fabulous dramatic curtains!
Definitely check out the Ultimate Jumbo Mega Guide to Online Fabric Stores for some more great places to find home decor fabrics.
Where to buy fabric online
A definitive guide to help you find the best fabric online with more than 200+ shops in every category you can think of.
How much fabric for making curtains?
Before we get into talking about how to sew curtains, you need to know how much fabric to buy.
Use your tape measure to measure your window from side to side. Multiply that measurement by at least 1.5 times. For me, that’s 52.5″, so a fabric with a 54″ width is perfect.
Now measure your window from 6″ above the window to the floor. Why the floor? Because long curtains are dramatic and short curtains are going to make your window and your room look squatty. The only exception is in a kitchen or a bathroom where a long curtain might get in the way of everything.
Add about 10″ to your vertical measurement. That’ll give you plenty of space for hems and in case your fabric got cut unevenly.
For my windows, 2.5 yards is the bare minimum I’ve found. If I’m using a pricey designer fabric like this Marimekko I’m working with, I’ll show you a little trick later on for saving some money on the yardage.
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The one specialty notion you should try for sewing curtains
As I’m thinking about how to sew curtains, I’m going to recommend this curtain tab tape.
It will help you have a place for your curtain rod to slide through without having to having to waste a lot of extra fabric at the top of your curtain. The other reason why I love it is that it also provides some stabilization for the fabric. Curtains with some kind of heavy interfacing or curtain tape at the top hang better.
That the tabs are perfectly spaced and the mesh material helps you form perfect vertical curtain pleats is bonus awesome.
One pack of tape is enough to make 3-4 curtains.
How to sew curtains the easiest way
Now that we’ve gotten the fabric questions out of the ways, let’s sew some curtains!
Step 1: prep your fabric
To start off, pre wash your fabric and dry it. I like to use a cold cycle to preserve all the colors.
Next, iron the whole length of the fabric to get out any wrinkles.
After that, lay your fabric on a gridded cutting mat. Line up the selvages to on both sides so that they’re covering the same number of squares.
Next look at the cut end of the fabric. Is it even between the selvages? If not, cut a straight line that’s perpendicular to the top edges of the selvage ends. Repeat for the other end of your fabric.
Now we have a nice actual rectangle of fabric which will make the sewing much better.
Step 2: Sewing the sides
Next, press the selvages vertically in towards the wrong side of the fabric. The printed edge of most home dec fabrics is where the selvages start.
Press once that full width of the selvage, then fold the outer edge again towards the first press line that you made. This will make a double-turned hem.
Repeat for the second selvage edge.
From here, sew the curtain sides down from top to bottom with a 3.0 mm straight stitch. Try your best to sew close to the pressed edges. An edgestitching foot is a good choice to help you sew bang on that edge!
Taut sewing for easy sew curtains
The one thing I’ll say here is that taut sewing is the way to go. Curtains can create a lot of drag, and it can feel like you’ve gotta manhandle a lot of fabric to make it work.
Spoilers: pins are going to cause you grief. Home dec fabrics are thick and every pin you put in is likely to make for a lump of fabric as you sew down the edges. Instead, skip the pins and do this:
To taut-sew your curtains, position your hands on the fabric so that one hand is behind and one in front of the needle. Move your hands together as a unit towards the back of the machine as you’re stitching.
It’s going to feel odd, but doing this will help even out the drag on the fabric. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to sew without the pins here. For real. It’s life changing this!
Check out more thoughts I have on sewing without pins.
Step 3: add the curtain tab tape
Next, press the top of the curtain back towards the wrong side by 1/2″
Position the curtain tab tape close to the pressed edge. It should cover the bit that you just pressed back. Make sure that one of the tabs is close to the side of the curtain.
Start stitching the tape across the top of the curtain close to the top edge of the tape. When you get close to the end, cut off the tape a couple inches past the second side.
Fold the raw edge of the tape under so that it’s flush with the side. Continue to sew down the tape around the side and across the bottom edge of the tape and back up the second side of the tape. Really you’ve just made a rectangle stitching the tape to the top of the curtain.
That’s literally all you have to do for the top of the curtain. One step left.
Step 4: sewing the hem
First, hang up your curtain by slipping your rod through the tabs on the top. From here you can decide how deep you want your hem to be. Some people like their curtains to kind of pool on the floor. I personally like them to be just touching the floor.
I’m going to assume that you were smart and bought enough fabric so that you can hem the curtain as it is.
Press back the hem towards the wrong side by 4-5″. Fold back the raw edge by 1/2″ and press it towards the wrong side.
This extra deep hem will help that curtain hang so pretty! From here, stitch the hem down along the sides and across the pressed edge. That’s it. You just sewed a curtain.
But wait, maybe you didn’t have quite enough fabric….here’s a quick fix.
Cheater hem for easy sew curtains
Let’s say that your curtain looks a little short when you hang it.
That’s where a hem facing comes in. A hem facing will help you get a nice deep hem without having to eat into your nice pretty fabric. You’ll still get the drama of extra-long curtains, but you’ll save a little money on the curtain yardage.
It’s what I needed to do here because I could only order my Marimekko by the half-yard and another half yard was too much!
Cut a piece of another home dec fabric that is 5.5″x the width of the fabric.
Press one of the short sides and one long side of this facing fabric to the wrong side by 1/2″.
Next, match the facing to the curtain bottom right sides together. Sew the facing to the curtain with a 1/2″ seam allowance. Fold in the second side of the facing towards the wrong side as you get to it. Cut off any extra of the facing fabric about 1/2″ past the edge.
Press the seam towards the facing and flip the facing towards the inside of the curtain.
Finish off the hem by stitching the facing down along the sides and across the pressed edge of the facing.
Whether you hem the curtains outright or use a hem facing, this is one of the easiest ways I know how to sew curtains.
Give it try. I think you’ll love how your new DIY curtains will look!
Check out some more quick and easy home decor projects you can make.
How to make chair cushions
A piece of cake DIY tutorial that’ll spiff up all your dining chairs
How to sew a pillowcase
You + 15 minutes + this step by step = a new pretty bed
Make a simple envelope pillow
How to make an easy pillow with no zippers
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.