Sunday, January 5, 2014

Panel Curtains

Now that winter has truly settled in for most of the US, cabin fever funk is around the corner. What better way to brighten up a room than by whipping up new curtains? Sewing simple panel curtains that are gathered at the top is not difficult, but getting a panel that hangs straight can be a little tricky....and the math to figure out fabric amounts can be taxing. But if you can give it a try, there are so many more fabric choices to make a curtain that is perfect for the room. Here are the steps I take to cut and sew simple panel curtains.

1.  First measure the width of your window and the length you want the curtains to hang. Determine where you want the rod to hang, i.e. how many inches above the window frame and how many inches past each side of the window frame will the rod extend. You will need to add these additional measurements into your length and width measurements. If you don't extend the rod beyond the window frame keep in mind that your curtain panels will obscure a good portion of the window. You can see this in the photo above. Since the panels were designed to be pulled back that opened up more of the window. If they were not pulled back you can see that much of the window would be blocked with the fall of the curtain, even if they were pushed more tightly back on the rod.

2.  Then determine the circumference of your curtain rod. Add 1 more inch to the circumference measurement for your rod pocket. Then add another 1/2 inch for turning the top down before sewing the rod pocket. Take that total number and add it to the length measurement you got in step 1. For example I added 3 inches for the rod pocket. The rod circumference was 1 1/2 inches + 1 inch + 1/2 inch for turning.

3.  Add 8 inches for a 4 inch double hem. In other words for the hem you will turn up the bottom 4 inches and then turn it up another 4 inches.

4.  Now you have the final length to cut one curtain panel.

5. Take your width measurement and double it. If you want a fuller curtain panel then add 2.5 to 3 times the width. If you are making two curtain panels for one window then divide your measurement by two to get the width of one panel. Add another 4 inches per panel for each side hem. So for one panel add 8 inches since there are two side hems. 

6.  From the number that you got for the length and width you can now determine how much fabric to purchase. Depending on your width measurements for one panel you may have to seam the material if the final width is more than the width of the fabric. If your fabric has a pattern then you will need to add extra material to account for the repeat. The repeat is the number of inches apart before a pattern is repeated in the fabric. Here is a good explanation of repeats and how to figure the amount of fabric for the repeats.

Hopefully you aren't cross-eyed by now. The math really is the worse and most difficult part of the whole process, but if you can work through it then you will have curtains that hang nicely and look professional.

7. If you are going to line the curtain panel then the length needed is 3 inches less than the length you got in step # 4 and the width is 5 inches less than you got in step #5. You want the lining to be shorter and narrower than the curtain. Now at this point you might be groaning and thinking this is way more work than you signed on for, but the lining really is easy AND it makes your curtain panel look so much nicer.

TIP:  If you are using the full width of your fabric and lining, cut off the selvedge. Selvedges are usually woven tighter and can skew your material if left on.

TIP:  If you are planning on laundering your curtains, prewash the material.

 So now you have your fabric and you are ready to cut your panel. How do you find the straight of grain to ensure that the panel doesn't hang wonky? One of the ways to do this is to pull a thread. Hopefully once you start pulling the thread, the fabric will gather up until you have the whole thread pulled out. The fabric I selected didn't work for this method.

So instead I used the design to cut a straight line. I lined up my ruler with the design and used my rotary cutter to cut.

There is a third method but I don't care for it as it can stretch your fabric. That is to make a snip in the material and then grab a side in each hand and pull to rip the fabric. 

Do make sure not to skip this step to have your fabric straight. It does make your curtains hang better.

Since I was making two panels I wanted the design to match from one panel to the next. To do this I lined up the cut panel on top of the rest of the fabric and then I was able to cut the 2nd panel so the design fell exactly the same. 

TIP:  If you don't have a direction to your design make sure to using a marking pen to mark the top of the panel.

Now cut the lining using the measurements you derived in step #7.

Hem the bottom of the lining by turning up 4 inches. Then turn up again another four inches. Sew along the top edge of the hem 1/4 inch from fold.

Do the same thing to hem the panel fabric.

Line up the top of the fabric panel with the top of the lining. Remember the fabric panel will be longer than the lining, because the lining was cut shorter so it would fit neatly behind the panel and not show.

Next sew your fabric panel to the lining along one long side using a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

Press your seam allowance. You can press the allowance to one side or press it open. Just make sure you press.

Now flip your fabrics to the right side and press again.

Now line up the fabric panel and the lining on the unsewn side and sew the 2nd side seam using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. This will form tube. Press the second seam and then turn right side out.

Pull the fabric panel adjusting the two side seams until the same amount of fabric shows on each side. Press the panel.

You will have a nice looking, finished side seam like the picture above.

Now turn the top (the fabric and the lining) down 1/2 inch. Press.

Turn again 2 1/2 inches. (The 1/2 inch turn down + 2 1/2 inches equals the 3 inches I allowed for my rod pocket in step #2.) Sew along the bottom edge to form the rod pocket.

To finish off the curtain panel take a look at your hem. See the bottom of the fabric that the arrow is pointing to? The side seam stitching ends at the lining leaving your fabric side allowance untacked. You can either just hand stitch along the side using a tunnel stitch to fasten it down or.....

you can diagonally fold the corner and then hand stitch it along the side and the diagonal to make a nice finished corner for your curtain panel.

If you made it to the end of this post pat yourself on the back. Hopefully you aren't so overwhelmed that you gave up. Good luck with sewing up some curtains. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and jump in!

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