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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New-ish Curtains...Finally!

Last, but not least, is my final project to date.  CURTAINS!  We've lived here almost a year and I've been living with the sheers (I have a thing against wall to wall pleated sheers) that were left here by the previous owner.  I only have one picture of them from when I was doing the last walk through of the house before purchasing.  Here's what they looked like then...

So, pretty much standard wall to wall sheerness.  After about nine months I got tired of the cat getting tangled in them while jumping on and off the windowsill and other bothersome things and I chopped them off at the height of the sill which prompted people to ask if I was OK or not because my curtains looked as though they'd been attacked by rabid shears.  The other day I reached the point where I'd just had enough.  Enough staring at those ragged, chopped up ugly sheers, enough of people thinking that I was happy to just live with curtains that looked like that, and mostly enough of having to choose privacy or light, never both.  I wanted to be able to see the sky and let in light and NOT have anyone and everyone be able to watch me like I was a zoo exhibit!  It didn't matter that I didn't have a sewing machine, I wasn't going to wait around to borrow one.  I went out and bought some sash rods and was determined to fix the window one way or another.  Originally I had planned on using tension rods.  Actually, originally I had planned on sewing some gorgeous bottom up and top down roman blinds but not only was that so low on the money list it would have taken forever to get the green light, it would have required a ton of time and tools.

So, on to plan B.  Gathered curtains that left the upper 1/4 of the window open to let in light and allow me to see the trees and sky and not make me a zoo exhibit.  As a side note let me say this; curtain rods vary in price, sometimes quite a lot.  Shop around before buying or you may feel ripped off later on.  The fabric store by me had sash rods for $12/pair, including mounting hardware.  The tension rods in the same size were about the same price for just one.  I needed a total of 8 rods (or 4 sets of 2 pairs).  Luckily I found them at a very large chain store for $3.50/pair.  I saw them later at the dollar store for $1/pair but they were not available in the size I needed so I didn't feel bad.

I have PVC window frames, not wood and I didn't really want to do anything permanent to them (like drill holes for mounting hardware) which posed a dilemma for hanging the rods.  I had a moment of inspiration and decided to try out using 3M adhesive strips to mount the hardware.  I trimmed the strips to fit and they looked like this...
   Then I just measured where I thought I wanted them to be height wise and stuck them to the window frame the same way you'd hang a hook or picture hanger and being sure to clean the area with rubbing alcohol before I started.  Hard to believe but it actually worked!  I love, LOVE 3M products!!  I knew I'd made the right choice when, after I'd hung the curtains to check for fit, I realized I'd mounted the top rods lower than I liked.  I was able to remove the hardware, stick on new adhesive strips and voila, all better.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

On to the curtains.  I decided that to really be thrifty, save money and recycle all at the same time, I'd re-use the sheers that were already on the window.  I'm so glad I did, saved me money and I doubt you'd be able to guess when you see the finished window.  I chopped them off right below the header tape that made the pinch pleats, trying to be a straight as possible without actually measuring anything.  Then I got out the iron and fished out the iron on hem tape from my sewing crate.  I hadn't used that in years! I don't have any photos of this part but basically all I did was cut each curtain (there were two panels) in half to create four panels, one for each small window that makes up the bow window in the living room.  Then on each panel I folded over the top edge 1/2" and pressed with the iron.  Then I folded that over again about 2-3" (still no measuring) and pressed with the iron.  Like this...
Then you insert the hem tape between the top and bottom layer, keeping it right at the edge, and iron the fabric sandwich.  There should be a bottom layer of fabric, hem tape then top layer of fabric.  Don't iron directly on the hem tape itself or it will just melt all over your iron.  Once you've done this there should now be a pocket at one end of your fabric.  This is where the curtain rod goes.  As someone who used to run a business sewing home furnishings, this project was so much fun.  It broke every rule I ever made for myself and took so much less time to complete than actual sewing, plus not measuring took a lot of the stress away.  Now, put curtain on one of the rods and hang it on the window.

Thread the fabric between the lower rod and the window and it will look like the photo above.  This is how you'll get the correct measurement for the lower hem without actually measuring.  Now, pull the lower edge of the fabric up (not too hard, just snug) and pin in place over the lower rod.  It will look like this...

Take the curtain off the rods carefully and, without removing the pins,  iron the folded over lower edge.  You now know how long your curtain has to be.  Take the pins out, trim off the excess fabric eyeballing about 2-3" from the folded lower edge and follow the same steps used to make the rod pocket for the top.  You now have a curtain that should be exactly the right size for your rod placement.  You can also hem the sides of the curtains but if they're gathered as much as mine are no one will notice if you leave the edges raw.   It just so happened that when I cut the curtains into four panels to make this project, each panel was almost exactly three times the width of individual windows.  That's perfect for this type of curtain.  Less fabric width means less gathers and more see through.  More fabric width means more gathers and less see through.

If you want a more casual look you can just use a rod at the top and the bottom pocket just becomes a hem.  Here's what the two different versions look like finished.

I like the more formal look using two rods, plus it keeps the dog, cat and my daughter from crawling under the curtains to watch squirrels, bark at passing people or draw on the windows with window writers (you can figure out who does what).

Of course, since this is my life, less than 24 hours after deciding to go ahead with this project I was out shopping and saw a deal on sewing machines that simply could not be ignored and I came home with this...
The new sewing machine meant that I could now go back and sew over all the seams that I had just made using hem tape.  The good news is that now that I've sewn everything, these curtains are completely washable.  I'm not entirely sure if you can wash items attached with hem tape or if the glue simply dissolves in the water.  I guess you'd have to check the package.  Plus, since all the hard work was already done, it didn't take long at all to get the sewing out of the way.  The 3M adhesive is still hanging in there, over 48 hours later, so I think it's on there for good.  I wasn't sure how it would hold up with the added tension from the curtain, but it's been remarkably strong.  Total cost for this project (not including the price of the sewing machine) was $15.  I already had the hem tape on hand as it comes with certain curtains you buy and I don't throw anything out if I think I'll use it some time before I die.  I have privacy, I have light, no more ugly ratty curtains and I spent next to no money.  How great is that? 


  1. Hi,

    I loved the look of your curtains when I saw them... and wanted to know the 'how' you made them. Not so much the sewing of them (which I assumed was done on a sewing machine!)... but the 'how' to measure so accurately that they were perfectly straight and 'tight'. Thank you for the how to... I'm going to convert my own 'left in the house after sale sheers' to hopefully turn out like the window coverings you've made and described :) GV

  2. Good luck on your DIY sheer conversion. There's nothing like the feeling of making something better out of things you already have on hand! Can't wait to see how it turns out, let me know.


  3. Thanks for the post. I got my sheers done quickly last night, and didn't make it more complicated or expensive than needed. Thanks for the inspiration.