Make Your Own Draw Drapes

Thinking of custom-sewing your own curtains or designing your own drapes? Here are some tips to help you plan your project.

Ready-to-purchase window treatments come in more variety all the time, increasing your chances of finding the perfect drapes for your home on your next shopping trip. But making them yourself remains the surest way to get what you really want. If you want to create your own curtains, but you're not sure where to begin, read on.

Getting the right measurements

The basic dimensions of your drapes, of course, are the width and length of your window, but other factors will play into this stage of the project. How far below the window do you want the drapes to hang? How far above will the curtain rod be? Make sure your length measurement includes these distances.

If you're using a rod that attaches across the window (rather than a tension rod that fits inside the nook) your width measurements will include a "return" on either side. This is the extra curve of the rod between its main length and the point at which it attaches to the wall. You'll probably want your drapes to cover this area.

Drapery width will also increased based on how much "fullness" you want. This is the amount of pleating that results from having more curtain than curtain rod. It's measured in ratios or percentages. For instance, a curtain whose width is double the length of the rod will be said to have "200% fullness" or "a fullness of 2:1."

Finally, don't forget to measure every window. Don't assume that each conforms cookie-cutter-like to the others; it's common to find differences as great as several inches between windows that appear very similar at first glance.

Picking the right fabric

What do you want your drapes to do? Will they simply accent your interior decor, or will they also filter incoming light and/or afford privacy? Your answer here will inform your decision as to which fabric to use.

A sheer material will soften incoming light but won't darken the room entirely. This is usually enough to slow or even halt the destructive effect of direct sunlight on your furniture. It also mitigates the passive heating of a southern exposure. If you want these advantages without decreasing the natural lighting in a room, you may only need a lightweight fabric, or even lace.

However, if privacy is your concern, sheer fabrics will only serve that purpose during the day. At night, when interior lighting casts silhouettes, they can be downright revealing. You may want a heavier, more opaque material. Such fabric can also block all light, a useful effect for those who sleep during the day or need to keep glare from obscuring the TV during a movie screening or a video game tournament.

You may consider using both types on a single window, installing two curtain rods (or a single rod with two tracks) to hang a lightweight curtain closer to the window and heavier draperies inside. This will give you the flexibility of both functions. If you are concerned about the inevitable effect of sunlight on the drapes themselves, you might wish to hang plastic or wooden blinds instead of sheer cloth on the window-side track. These will withstand the sun's constant assault longer. To add extra protection and opacity to your heavy drapes, sew a layer of interfacing or sheer lining on the window side. Over time, you'll need to rip out and replace the lining, but that's an outcome far preferable to replacing the entire curtain!

Hanging your drapes

Now we get to the step that separates draperies from tablecloths: enabling the drapes to hang from a curtain rod. Three basic attachment styles you might consider are rod-pocket, tab, and ring.

Rod-pocket drapes are probably the easiest style for a beginning sewer. All you have to do is fold over the top edge of your drapes to make a casing for the curtain rod. The casing should be an inch or two wider than the rod itself to allow for easy movement. The rod-pocket can then be accented with a decorative "heading" such as a lace runner attached along the top edge of the casing. Rod-pocket window treatments have the advantage of covering the curtain rod entirely.

Tab-top curtains are an option for when you want to show off the curtain rod rather than concealing it. They are simple to make but require a bit more effort. First, decide how far below the curtain rod you want your drapes to hang. Then cut out and narrow-hem strips of fabric such that their completed length equals twice that distance, plus the top width of the curtain rod, plus two inches for a sturdy attachment overlap. You'll sew these strips to the top edge of the curtain at regular intervals, forming loops through which you'll send your curtain rod. Your seams need to be extra secure, doubled up at the very least, as they will bear the brunt of the curtain's weight. And make sure that the tabs are of a durable material, or are lined protectively; they'll need to endure a lifetime of friction as they slide along the curtain rod.

Ring-top drapes--drapes attached to the curtain rod by a series of metal, plastic, or wooden rings--also go nicely with decorative rods. Additionally, they offer the most ease of movement, less friction, and more durability. However, the rings do require an extra purchase, so they may raise the price of your total project. The size of the ring is determined, again, by how far a gap you want between drapes and rod, and also by how heavy the drapes are. Heavier drapes need more support, and thus a wider margin above the ring holes. Line the holes with a buttonhole stitch to prevent tearing and fraying.

Good luck, and congratulations--no store-bought, ready-made draperies will match your unique home as well as those you make for yourself. You'll feel proud of your creations every time you look out the window.

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