Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Experimenting with Curtains, Part 1

Since I've never made curtains before, I figured I should start with one of the easier rooms. The nursery only needed one curtain, and John of Merriman Park had already written a detailed tutorial on balloon shades, which seemed like the perfect solution for the tight corner. The last time I posted, I was torn between using white batiste or this flowered pink cotton. While I love white in a nursery, I thought it would be too similar to the white canopy I plan to put on the crib, and I couldn't resist the way the pink fabric picked up the flowered sconce shades.
I don't have a sewing machine, and dislike sewing by hand, so I knew that I was going to have deviate from John's tutorial a little. While I did stitch a few gathering threads, I relyed more on pins and fabric stiffener to make the the right look. In the end, this worked, but I definitely wasted some time fussing with pins when I should have used a needle!

 A few days ago, I measured and drew a window from my house, then made several copies. I pinned all my fabric directly to the photocopy, letting me see how the curtains would look on the window as I went along.
After some looking at a few photos of balloon shades, I decided I only wanted my shade to have one swag. My window was 3" across, and about 5" high.  I used a piece of paper napkin to double check the size fabric I would need. John recommended multiplying the width of the window by three, but since I was going to have a lot less draping, I made my shade only 5" wide.

 After I turned under the sides and bottom edges (I used the fabric selvage for the top of the curtain) , I drew a line 1/2" from each side, using an air-erasable fabric pen. Then, I hand stitched a quick gathering thread down each side from the selvage (couldn't figure out a way to completely avoid using a needle!)
I used a piece of Styrofoam covered in tin foil (the tinfoil was to stop the foam from flaking and creating a huge mess) to pin my fabric. Over the top of the tinfoil, I taped a copy of my window drawing. I began pinning the top of the shade panel to the foam, gathering the fabric a little with the pins so that the 5" width was reduced to the 3" width of my window. I may have gone a little overboard with the pins, but it helped keep the top straight and the gathers small. An easier/faster/better way to this would be to run a gather thread along the top and glue it to a piece of stripwood (as I ended up doing later).  Once the top portion was secured, I started using the gathering threads to bunch up the shades. I used a few more pins along the gather threads to keep the pleating even.

At that point, I could have sprayed the curtain with fabric stiffener and been done. But it was looking a bit poofy to me, and I didn't like the way the side ruffles were sticking out rather than hanging gracefully. So I borrowed Mom's extra-thin pins and got to work pinning the draping into smaller folds.
This was the longest part of making the shade.

There's no such thing as too many pins!

Almost done! After I had the fabric arranged the way I wanted it, it was just a matter of spraying the fabric with fabric stiffener. My squirt bottle was accidentally set to a heavier stream, so this fabric was soaked with stiffener. Even though I used a hairdryer to speed up the drying time, it took a while to dry.

Just to recap, this was the way the shade looked with just a gathering thread...

and here it is after pinning and spraying! I think it made a huge difference.

At this point, I tried the curtain in my nursery in my house and realized I had a problem. I'd let the shade go a little over my 3" wide window drawing, forgetting how little space I had to the right of the the nursery window. As a result, my shade was a quarter inch too wide. To eat up the extra width,I ran a gathering stitch along the top  of the shade to help gather it in, and then glued the top to a piece of 3" piece of strip wood. Then, I cut a piece of 3" wide white fabric, and glued the shade firmly to it.With a little coaxing, I was able to get the shade to the right width. Since the nursery window is along the back wall of the house, I didn't worry about what the shade would look like from the outside. The only problem I had was that reducing the width made the shade dip a little lower, so now it covers more of the window than I intended. It doesn't bother me enough to redo it (at least not now) but I do wish it was a little shorter.

And finally, here's the shade in the nursery. Please ignore the fact that it's hanging a little crookedly. It's just waxed up there temorarily, since I still need to fuss around with the top a little. Now I just need to finish dressing the crib, and make curtains for all the other rooms. Between the nursery and kitchen, I have four windows (nearly) finished, and sixteen more to go!


  1. For somebody who hasn't made curtains before, you did a fantastic job, the curtain looks really good and I think going for the pink fabric was the right choice, I like it with the lamp shade.

  2. Bravo with the curtain making! It looks very successful!! I think you chose the right fabric... it adds a cheerful warmth to that room! I have only made a few curtains for my Lovely Old Dollhouse... I am having a hard time getting my courage up to try those pinning and spraying methods! The only curtains I have made are stitched from a piece of embroidered silk... I don't want to ruin it by mistake... so they are only stitched and no "shaping" has been done. So they don't look as realistic as they might...!

  3. I think the pink was the right choice too - it looks lovely and very impressive for your first attempt.

  4. Your curtain is perfect for this room.
    Bye Faby

  5. Wat een kunstwerk is je gordijn geworden.

    Groeten Xandra

  6. I also prefer the pink fabric. Your curtains are a success!

  7. The curtains and the whole room is lovely. :-)

  8. great tutorial, thanks! I will have to look for those smaller guage pins.