Curtains: gathers, ribbons and repurposing

by Gina.


Curtains 8.09 005


Curtains are one of the more common projects I have in mind when I'm looking at fabric to purchase for the store.  I don't know why, but for some reason I find myself thinking, "this would make lovely curtains."  We do get a lot of folks making curtains, so I suppose it's not all bad I'm seeing things that way.  I think one of the reasons I like envisioning curtains is that you get to see the fabric print in all its glory, uncut, a big piece.  For this reason I tend to go big with my print choice.  I know this isn't for everyone, and you need to be sure you really like the print, because it will mostly likely be a significant part of a room, especially if it's a big print.


There are a lot of different ways you can make curtains.  I tend to like mine to lay pretty flat once they are closed.  The general rule of fullness is to make a curtain 1.5 - 2 times the width of your window.  This gives you a bit of a ripple when they are closed.  I created a sort of hybrid of these two designs with the curtains in the store (shown above).  The top band is pretty much the width of the window and therefore lays flat when they are pulled closed.  I then used 1.5 times that width for the bottom portion.  I simply pieced the two sections together and gathered it to the top panel.  The lower fabric is a cotton lawn, so a bit more sheer than the top fabric.  Once I made them I realized that when they are finished as curtains they could move on to being a skirt...


Pillows and curtains 009  


There are a number of ways to attach curtains to the curtain rod (assuming you're using a curtain rod and not a track).  The store curtains are attached with the little curtain clips.  They're quick and easy.  You just hem your curtains all the way around and you're finished.  I appreciate their quickness and easiness, but get tired of their look after a while and feel like I need to get with it and make some tabs.  So, about tabs.  You can see my intention for my living room curtains above.  I did a quick pinning job for the picture, so the two ribbons are not perfectly lined up.  Our curtain fabric is so colorful that I felt the tabs needed to be just as lively.  I chose a broad red satin ribbon along with a cotton turquoise and brown ribbon to go over the red.  I tested the fastness of the red beforehand, so I was sure the ribbon wouldn't bleed onto the white of the curtains when washed.  I'm going to use Stitch Witchery to adhere the ribbons together as I don't want to see stitching on the ribbon and I don't want to hand stitch them all.  I'll check back in when I finish them and let you know how it goes.


Pillows and curtains 003 


Re-purposing.  Another reason I really like curtains is that they are so accommodating.  Let's say you fall in love with a fabric, but there isn't quite enough for your curtain measurements.  You try to imagine other fabrics in that space, but that one is the perfect one.  Easy fix, if you're open to some modifications.  The pillow covers above used to be my dinning room curtains.  The floral print (the one I fell in love with) was just a bit too narrow for my window (it's a 44/45" wide cotton), so I ended up figuring out a way to make them work.  With a narrow strip of dark grey and another, just wider strip of polka dots I had curtains that I enjoyed even more than I would have with just the floral print. 


We recently re-did our dinning room paint color and chose new curtain fabric (and yes, those still need tabs too).  I loved our old curtains way too much to just stash them away.  I also happen to have some big floor pillows that were in desperate need of new covers.  It was a match made in heaven.  The curtain panels were the perfect size, already hemmed, so in twenty minutes I had two new pillow covers.


Like I said in the beginning, there are a whole slew of ways to make curtains and ways to re-use them.  Here are a few ideas to pass along:



  • Wider hems (3-4") help weigh down the curtains and generally look better, especially on long curtains
  • Play around with ribbons for tabs, you can layer them or keep it simple.  There are some broad twill tapes and open weave, jute-looking ribbons at the store that I think would look great as curtain tabs, try rick-rack over another ribbon to dress up a child's curtains.
  • If you're concerned about privacy, but want the daylight to come in, try a light weight cotton lawn, or one of the new raffia fabrics we just received (see previous post).  You could even do two sets, with a heavier weight curtain in front of the lighter for at night when you might want a little more coverage.
  • If your favorite fabric is just a little shy of meeting your required measurements, look for some companion fabrics to do a strip down the side edge, or run a band horizontally to make them longer.  It's an easy fix and may make you love that fabric even more.
  • Hang onto your curtains when you change them out.  There is typically a lot of fabric involved in curtains, and you can use it for so many things when they are no longer hanging in your window.  Think tote bags, pillow covers, quilt backs, aprons, stuffed animals...I know it's a little Von Trap-y, but you could even make clothing.  Just an idea.


Happy curtain making.