We don’t always want curtains covering our windows. There is nothing more calming than a sunbeam shining through a window. It offers warmth and comfort, and helps to make the room feel welcoming. However, when that same window allows too much heat in, it can get almost unbearable. That’s the time we really want curtains we can close.
To add curtains to every room in the house can get expensive. In my kitchen alone, I have 3 single windows plus a double. By the time I purchase curtains for that room alone, my budget would be shot!
In order to overcome the high cost of covering my windows, I make my own. A simple café curtain made from bleached muslin turns out perfect for my farmhouse kitchen, and is about as inexpensive as you can get. Plus, I can add any embroidery or trim I choose to help it blend with the rest of the décor.
Are you ready to make your own curtains? Here is a simple tutorial on how to do just that!
Bleached Muslin (see below for how much you will need)
Gauge Ruler & Yardstick
Scissors – or – a Self-Healing Cutting Mat and Rotary Cutter
Iron & Ironing Board
Paper & Pencil
Measuring For Your Curtains
In order to determine how much fabric you need, first determine the placement of the curtain. For mine, I wanted to hang them on rods on the outside of the window, so I measured from the outside edge of the trim from side to side.
For the length, I knew I wanted café curtains, but I still measured the total length of the window. From there I determined what I wanted for the finished product. I measured from the point where I wanted the bottom curtain to start, which is roughly one half of the length. Then I measured to the point where I wanted the curtain to stop, which was even with the trim. I also measured where I wanted the valance to stop, so I measured from the top of the trim to that point.
As you can see in this diagram, I measure both sides, as well as the top and bottom of the window. This way I get a true measurement.
These were my final measurements:
Valance = 35” wide x 11” long
Curtain = Total Length of Window – 40” long
Bottom Curtain = 35″ wide x 22” long
Now remember, this is simply the size of the window, not the finished curtains! You still need to figure out how much you want your curtains to gather, if at all, and allow for the seams, ruffle and rod pockets.
A standard seam allowance is 1/2”. The rod pocket needs to be wide enough for your curtain rod to fit in smoothly and easily. If you want a small ‘ruffle’ at the top, (this is a bit of extra fabric at the top where the curtain gathers – not an actual added ruffle) your rod pocket will need to be deeper by that measurement. (If this sounds confusing, just bear with me – I promise it will be explained!)
Since I wanted to use an embroidered embellishment on the hem, I didn’t want the curtain to gather to the point where you couldn’t see it. So I chose a ‘half’ gather. This means I multiplied my width by 1.5.
Width = 35” x 1.5 = 52.5”
I now know I need at least 52.5” of fabric, just to account for the width.
My curtain rods were small, so I needed a 2” rod pocket to accommodate its size. I also wanted a 1” ‘ruffle’ at the top. I also wanted to add an embroidered embellishment to the hem. In order to accommodate this, I measured the design and needed to add 1.5” to the hem. I chose a 3” hem to allow for centering of the embroidery. My figures looked like this:
Length = 11”
Rod Pocket = 3”
Hem = 3”
Seam Allowance = 1/2″ at the top + 1/2” at the bottom
Total = 18”
Length = 30”
Rod Pocket = 3”
Hem = 3”
Seam Allowance = 1/2″ at the top + 1/2″ at the bottom
Total Length = 37”
Wait! Before You Buy your Fabric!
Bleached muslin comes in sizes starting at 36” and going to as much as 120”. The super wide widths are special order, and usually only ordered by decorators or makers of furniture. Fabric stores usually only offer in widths of 36” to 54”. The width you choose needs to be taken into consideration before you purchase it.
If you choose 36” bleached muslin, then you cannot get both pieces out of one width, as you need a total of 55” (18” + 37” = 55”). You would have to purchase 60” width, and I can tell you from experience, unless you special order it, this width is hard to find.
This means that you need to get at least 3 yards of 36”, 45”, or 54” width fabric to make this size curtain.
52.5 x 2 = 105” /36 = 3 yards
If you do get at least a 60” width, then you will only need to purchase 1.5 yards.
52.5 / 36 = 1.5
When purchasing fabric by the yard, always get a little extra, as all too often the cut ends from the bolt have not been cut straight. This is why I always round up a bit when I purchase my fabric.
So, to purchase your fabric, you simply need to figure it this way:
Width of window + seam allowance x gather = XX”.
Length of curtain + seam allowance + hem + rod pocket + seam allowance x gather = XX”
XX” /36 = XXX Yards
Before you begin cutting out your curtains, it is strongly advisable that you wash and dry your fabric first. Bleached (or even regular) muslin is 100% cotton, and will shrink. Without washing the fabric first, shrinkage will affect the way your curtains fit your windows when you wash them after they are finished.
Once the fabric is washed and dried, it will need to be ironed. Use a hot iron with steam. I like to use a spray bottle filled with distilled water when ironing. A slightly damp fabric seems to iron more smoothly.
Cutting Your Fabric
The standard rule of cutting anything definitely needs to be applied here: Measure Twice – Cut Once. Considering you are trying to cut out a length of 52.5” of fabric, the measurements can easily get skewed. To help, I measure the length and mark it with a fabric pencil. Then I measure the width, and mark that on each end.
From there, using a yardstick, I measure the width down the entire length of the fabric, moving my yardstick approximately 9” to 12” each time, until I reach the mark at the end. I then use my yardstick to line up all the marks and draw a line from one end to the other. This assures me my width is the same for the entire length of my cut piece.
At this point, you can use scissors to cut out the fabric. I prefer using a self-healing cutting mat, a ruler and a rotary cutter. It is easier on the hands, and much quicker.
Mark Your Seams
Once both pieces are cut out, then you need to mark your seams. Do the side seams first. Measuring carefully, fold your fabric at one end to 1/4”. Press into place. Gently fold, measure and press the seam the entire length of the side. Once you have finished, then go back to the starting point. Again, fold the pressed 1/4″ over 1/4″. Press. Fold, measure, press. This doubles your seam for a sturdier, cleaner edge. Repeat this process for the other side.
For your top and bottom hems, fold the top edge of the fabric over 1/4″, and repeat the process above. Once you have your seam pressed, then you need to fold it over again, this time measuring 3”. Press, fold, measure, press, just as you did above. Do the same with the bottom.
Now you have your seams ‘marked’. If you have chosen to do an embroidery embellishment, now is the time to do it. You can either hand draw your image, or use an iron-on transfer. For mine, I chose Aunt Martha’s Iron-on Transfer, #4009 . I used the heart and vine section of the Prim Blessings pattern. For my colors, I chose DMC Embroidery thread in colors that matched my kitchen.
Once you have the embroidery completed, you will need to iron out the wrinkles. Now it is time to assemble your curtain.
Get Started Sewing
Always work on the ‘wrong’ or inside of your project. As you move around your fabric, always double check to make sure you are sewing on the correct side.
Sew your side seams, guiding your needle approximately 1/8” from the inner edge of the seam.
Sew the 1/4″ seam in place.
Fold the top over to the 3” mark. Sew along the inner edge, as you did for your seam. Make sure your fabric is folded smoothly, to prevent wrinkles and gaps. You want your pocket to lay flat.
Once the pocket is sewn in place. Measure 1” from the top edge. Sew a straight line completely across the length of your pocket. This creates the ‘ruffle’ at the top, and leaves plenty of room for the rod to fit through the pocket.
Repeat the process for the top, omitting the step for the ruffle.
These steps apply to both the valance and the curtain. If you have embroidered the bottom, make sure your embroidery is centered before you sew. If it isn’t, then make the needed adjustments first.
The Finished Curtain
Both your valance and curtain are now completed. You may want to give it another once-over with the iron, so it will be wrinkle free and crisp looking once it’s hung.
All you have to do now is install your rods and hang your curtains. Now, applaud yourself for a job well done!
The Final Notes
These are the instructions to make one set of curtains. If you are like me, you have several more windows to go. Just follow the same directions for measuring each window.
It is advisable to purchase enough fabric to do all the windows in a room at the same time. Fabric often comes in color lots. If you purchase half your fabric now, when you purchase the remainder, the colors may be slightly off. Sometimes you can’t tell, but all too often it makes a big difference.
When you cut your fabric, you may have a leftover strip that seems too small for anything else. Instead of throwing it away, try making small sachets with it, or use it for other small projects. Muslin is a very versatile fabric, and a little can go a long way!
Did you make curtains? Be sure to show them off by adding a photo in the comments. And if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask. You can comment below or email me. I will be happy to walk your through the process!!!
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