It’s easier than you think (Picture: Marc Sethi / Metro.co.uk)
Do you want professional standard curtains, but don’t want to pay the price?
Believe it or not, it’s possible to make your own with Gemma Moulton’s top tips. And no, they won’t look like the product of a haphazard DIY project.
If you follow this step-by-step guide, you will be surprised at the end result. What are you waiting for, get your fabrics out!
The DIY project: Making curtains
The expert: Gemma Moulton is the founder of East London Cloth and one of the newest and most sought-after makers of soft furnishings in the UK today.
She has just launched her first ever online course, How To Make Beautiful Curtains, with Create Academy and launches her own fabric collection
The reason: Bespoke curtains can be expensive but with the right guidance it is possible to make your own.
What you’ll need: Fabric, pins, chain weight, fabric scissors, clamp, tape and hooks.
Your step-by-step guide to making curtains
Here, Gemma reveals how to make a very simple, unlined, machine-sewn curtain with a pencil pleat tape heading.
Step 1: Measure your width.
You don’t need much (Picture: Marc Sethi)
With curtains it’s all about the gather. As a general rule your flat, ungathered curtain should be around 1.5 to 2.5 times the width of your pole, depending on the look you’re trying to achieve. A more detailed equation can be found via my Create Academy course.
Step 2: Measure your drop
But you will need one of these (Picture: Alamy Stock Photo)
Measure from the base of your curtain ring to the floor. For each ‘drop’ of fabric, add an additional 30cm to allow for hems.
Step 3: Join your pieces together
Use a ‘French seam’ (Picture: Marc Sethi)
As your curtain is unlined, you won’t want to see the raw seams on the reverse,
so I use a ‘French seam’.
This involves sewing the two pieces together, face side to face side, with a small seam allowance; folding the curtain back, so the back is facing the back and sewing another line, enclosing the first seam.
Step 4: Side hems
Precision is key (Picture: Marc Sethi)
Add a simple side hem to each side of your curtain (typically double 2cm.) You can sew this by hand, using a slip stitch, or run a machine stitch down it.
Step 5: Add weight
Make sure they hang properly (Picture: Marc Sethi)
Your curtain will need weighting to ensure it hangs nicely. The simplest way to do this is by using a ‘chain weight’, these can be purchased by the metre or on a roll – you will need slightly more than the total width of your curtain.
Change your sewing machine foot over to a piping foot and roll your chain weight into the base of the curtain, stitching it into place in the same way you would sew a piece of piping for a cushion.
Step 6: Bottom hem
Feel the weight (Picture: Marc Sethi)
Trim away any excess fabric and press in a double 5cm hem. This will leave your chain weight enclosed, sitting neatly in the bottom of your curtain. Pin in place if needed and machine stitch the hem into place.
Step 7: Measure your drop
You have to know if they’re going to fit or not (Picture: Getty Images/EyeEm)
Clamp the curtain square on to a table. Keeping the hems nice and straight and flush, use a tape measure to measure up in straight lines and add a pin to mark the total drop of your curtain.
Add pins at 10cm intervals along the width of your curtain. Fold over and press the line formed by your pins.
Step 8: Add tape
Look at the fall on these (Picture: Marc Sethi)
Cut away excess fabric above the pin line, leaving a neat 5cm flap. Prepare your tape – a more detailed lesson can be found on the course – essentially one end needs to be stitched into place and the strings at the opposite end need to be free to move.
Pin and stitch your tape on to the reverse of the curtain, following the line made by your pins.
Step 9: Pull the tape
Gemma also involves patterns, but maybe take it one step at a time (Picture: Marc Sethi)
Tie the strings together, being sure to keep them even. Secure in with a knot once your curtain is pulled to the same width as your pole. Add hooks and hang your curtain.
These are simplified instructions. Refer to Gemma’s online course with Create Academy – How To Make Beautiful Curtains – for in-depth advice and videos to help.
Gemma’s top tips
Choose the right fabric. Cotton is ideal for beginners as it doesn’t stretch or move around too much, making it easier to sew.
A simple but industrious sewing machine is best, you only need to sew straight lines, but it needs to be able to stitch through multiple layers of fabric.
Steam. If you have a hand-held steamer, you can steam the creases out of your curtain once it’s hung and it makes a huge difference. If not, lay the curtain flat and give it a good press before hanging.
Invest in your tools– clamps can be picked up from DIY shops and will help to keep your curtain in place. Fabric scissors are a must, and I like to use darning needles for hand sewing.
Reuse. Shorten a curtain by chopping off the header, re-measure and pin your drop and add a pencil pleat tape. Pencil pleat tapes can also be stretched or tightened to fit different-width windows.
Utilise what you have. Most of us don’t have a table big enough to make a curtain, I started out using a piece of 1.2m x 2.4m ply (but smaller will work) from a DIY shop, and laying it on top of my table.
Understand the mechanics. Take old curtains apart and see how they’re made. Every curtain maker will have different methods, but if you learn the basic structure, it will simplify the process.
Practise getting hems straight and even. And try out each step with a scrap of fabric first. This will help you get it right and avoid costly mistakes when you make the real thing.
Relax. If you’re not making professionally it doesn’t need to be an exact science. There’s always a DIY way around something, for example if you’re lacking a chain weight, a penny in each join and the corners will suffice. Side hems don’t need to be perfect and if you make the curtain with plenty of extra length, no one will never see if it’s not perfectly straight.
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