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April 05, 2005

Planet of the Drapes - How to make easy curtains

Curtains_put_you_in_a_better_mood_than_y Railing at winter is fun for the first 8 months, and then it gets tiresome.  But I've heard that the best way to end anything painful is to build your emotional maturity to the point where you feel neutral. So today I ignored the great outdoors.  It must be working, because people tell me that the snow is melting. 

But if I'm going to be mature for an entire day, I need something to do with my hands.  So I made curtains, which is the ultimate mature act.  Why?  You're investing in your home, plus you get to jam on your sewing machine pedal until the feed-dogs are pulling so fast you feel like you're water-skiing behind twin Evinrudes. 

As it turns out, curtains are easier than I thought.  Here are some tips for making your own mature statement.  (If you need to know how to install curtain hardware, see my how-to article,and if you want to make the copper trellis that's hung on the wall, download the instructions here

Panel curtains are the easiest style of drapes you can possible make, other than taping a stylish sheet to the window trim01_square_the_fabric

TIP: The fabric width of your curtains should be at least twice that of the window width.  So if you have a 24-inch wide window, that means a total of 48" of curtain material, whether it's one 48" panel, or two 24-inch-wide panels.

1. Start by squaring the fabric.  It's easiest to do this with a rotary cutter.  It also helps to have a cutting mat with a grid so you can lay one selvedge along a line and then trim it so that everything lines up.  If you don't have a rotary cutter and cutting mat, try using a big metal carpenter's square to help even up the cloth.

If you're using a rotary cutter, get a blade that cuts a 'pinked' (wavy) edge - it'll stop the material from fraying.

2. Figure out how long you want your curtains to be.  Cut the fabric the finished length plus 8 inches for the bottom hem and another 2" for the top hem.  (i.e.  the lenth of the raw material should be exactly 10 inches greater than the finished length).  Lay the fabric out and turn up a 4-inch hem, followed by another 4 inches to make a double-fold hem.


Pin (and sew) the hem close to the upper edge. 

04_trim_the_lining_so_its_6_inches_narro3. Cut the lining material to length.  The length of the lining should equal the finished length of the curtains, plus 2-1/2 inches.   The lining must be 6" narrower than the width of your curtain material, so trim off the appropriate amount.    

05_turn_up_a_2inch_double_fold_hem_on_th4. Turn up a 2-inch double-fold hem on the lining.  Pin and sew along the top folded edge using a 1/8-inch seam allowance.

5. At some point the cat will feel the need to supervise.  This may be a good time to take a break.  (If you were born with good decor sense, avoid alcoholic beverages during your break, as they may compromise your esthetic judgment.  If, like me, you never had any design ability to start with, feel free to drink; you won't notice any change in your style sense.  It may even improve.)06_at_some_point_the_cat_will_need_to_su_1

6. Place right sides together.  Set the bottom edge of the lining 1-1/2 inches above the bottom edge of the curtain.  07_right_sides_together_set_the_bottom_e


7. Pin along one edge.

09_to_pin_the_other_side_tug_the_lining_ 8. To pin the other side, tug the lining across and line it up with the curtain fabric. 

10_when_you_finish_pinning_the_sides_tog 9. After you've pinned the sides together, the curtain fabric at the top edge should extend 2" beyond the lining. 

11_after_sewing_the_side_seams_turn_the_ 10.  After sewing the side seams, turn the whole thing inside out and iron it.  It'll take some manipulating to get an equal amount of curtain fabric to show on both edges, but it's easier than rebuilding a VW engine.


11.  Mitre the bottom corners where the lining joins the curtain fabric.  Use a fine needle and a single length of thread to blind-stitch along the fold line.

13_turn_a_1inch_double_fold_hem_at_the_t 12.  At the top edge, turn a 1" double-fold hem.  Pin and sew.

13.  Attach clips approximately 4 inches apart and hang that baby.



tamour allen

I am a writer and artist. I love your show Toolgirl, and now am very happy to see you have a blog with all the great ideas on one page! I also can sew, cut wood, and build very small projects - although I can "help" build an entire house as well- I did too, with contractor husband and it came out perfect - we are just putting the deck on the back.
Anyway - just keep up all the great helpful projects, and stay as you are. ;)


Thanks for the encouraging words, Tamour. Your site is amazing.

I'll stay as I am until they come up with a corrective drug. Keep up the great work.

Tamour Allen

Thanks Mag, glad you like our Moondance site! If you want to exchange links or even if you don't have a links page, I believe your site is one that celebrates creative women and we would love to link to you - if you are interested just drop me a line and I will direct you to our Cosmic Connections Editor - I think your site would fit perfectly in 'Home & Health' links section.
Keep the girl-giggles coming - and I'll keep reading and creating!


How long did it take you to make the curtains? A day? A weekend? I've got lots of windows that I need to make curtains for so I need to know how far in advance I should start making them before I move into my house. Thanks!


Hi Jessie,
If the window is big, it takes me a couple of days to make lined curtains. If the windows are narrow enough that I don't have to join 2 pieces of fabric to make each panel, it goes a lot faster. It also goes more smoothly if you install the curtain rods first and then take an exact measurement for the required length.

Good luck with your new house - you'll have a great time.


The curtains are good. The question is where to get a nice fabric for children room curtains? Help, please!!


Dear Mag,

Thank you so much for your hilarious columns and practical ideas and projects! I've laughed to tears reading your work. But, I was actually able to make the curtains you described WITH NO SEWING experience and a brand new machine.

I wish I could get your show in the US. Canadians always make the best programs, i.e. Neat, Holmes on Homes, How's That Made?, and Get Color.

Thank you again, Mag.

Warmest regards,

Parkton, Maryland


Good for you, Jan. I love letters like yours. Congrats on the curtains. Not so bad, is it?

Thanks again.



Thanks for the helpful info. The pictures were a great help. Love the part about the cat, mine though sitting on the fabric while I was trying to press seams would be most helpful. He looks alot like yours too.


Yup, the fatter the cat, the better they are at pressing those seams.

can't say too much, he watching but yes, Spud is um, well rounded. you need a bit of weight behind you to keep our three dogs in line.

Local Curtain Shops

Thank you for giving a free tutorial on how to make beautiful curtain. It's definitely not a simple curtain made of a single fabric but a curtain with a lining. One that definitely looks high quality and durable.


Dear Mag,

Thank you for this great web site. Your humour always makes a frustrating chore seem like good fun. I've made lined drapes (2 1/2 widths for each panel) using pleater tape with pleater pins, and have hung them up on a traverse rod. Can you tell me how to get the pleats to fall into nice neat folds? At the moment they just kind of balloon out and need to be tamed.

London, ON


Gosh, Louise, I've never made pleated drapes. My mum made millions of 'em. I think you have to insert the pins correctly or the balloon-y thing happens. Perhaps you can reverse the way they're installed so the pleats hang more compactly? Sorry not to be more of a pleat guru.



ToolGirl, I love these instructions and sooo appreciate that you took the time to write them. However, I found a minor error. Your offsets for the liner pinned to the curtain fabric are backwards. It should be a 2" diff at the bottom and a 1.5" diff at the top. If your offset is 2" at the top, a 1" double-fold at the top of the curtain fabric would come up to the liner but not actually overlap the top of the liner.

Gold Party

Thanks for posting the tutorial and photos. I've been looking for an easy way to change the look of my living room. Feels like it gets boring after having the same guests over a few times. Can't wait to go shopping and invite everyone to my "new" living room!


Gee Facebook Guy, thanks for noticing that - EGAD! I'll fix that. Thanks for the heads up.


Glad to hear it, Gold Party. Happy shopping.


Hi, just found this info on how to make easy curtains and I am so excited. I have unusually wide and long windows (old house built in 1904). Question-How much extra material on the sides of the curtains? I read that the liner needs to be 6 inches narrower, but how much for the outer material? And how much of a hem do you have for the sides? Thanks.


Hi Joy,
They say that your finished curtains should be 2 or 2-1/2 times the width of the window so that they have a generous drape even when closed. The side hem is determined by the width of the lining compared to the width of curtain fabric (the curtain material folds over the lining about 1-1/2 inches). Hope that helps - good luck with your curtains!


The last time I made drapes was 40 years ago - and then I had my mother to help. This time, while I felt I was doing the right thing, you helpful tips will make this pair much better. And you make it so simple. Thank you. Thank you.


And I love your funny comments. I tried to imagine rebuilding a VW engine. : )


I'm a little confused about the lining being 6" narrower. Do you center the lining on the decorative fabric or let it all hang off one side? I've looked at a few blogs and am having trouble figuring it out...


Hi Kelsey,
Until you're actually doing it, it does seem confusing. When you sew the wrong sides of the lining and the decorative fabric together on both edges, and then turn it all right side out, you'll see that because the lining is narrower, it forces the decorative fabric to fold over and make a nice finished edge on the side of each panel.
Hope that helps.


Hi, Mag. I am just now seeing your site/tutorials for the first time and I must say: you are hilarious. I've never made curtains before but I would love to try, although it seems a little daunting because I'm pretty sure my sewing machine doesn't like me. Anyway, I am curious about what type of fabric is ideal to use as a lining. Also -please forgive my ignorance- what is the point of a lining? Btw, you are correct about the curtains being easier to make than rebuilding an engine-the hubby & I are in the process of restoring (completely) a '76 Chevy Luv. NOT a piece of cake by any means. I'd much rather be making curtains. :)

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