Sunday, February 3, 2013

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How to Make Cheap Curtains Look Custom


Frank bought our house from an 87-year-old man. He apparently had a thing for pastels. And, apparently, Frank does too, because he did nothing to remedy the situation. The living room was a tricolor Easter egg of pastel peach, mint green, and cream. In other words, a nightmare. I promptly began redecorating. One of my first tasks: removing the vertical blinds (who ever liked those anyways?), which featured the same hideous trio of colors as the walls. 

I envisioned a sweeping pair of linen botanical print panels. Yeah, couldn't find those. Unless, of course, I wanted to drop a grand on the four panels the room requires. 

Curtains are tricky. I'm too budget-conscious to blow hundreds of dollars on custom curtains, yet I hate the generic look of store-bought panels. Alas, I settled on Nate Berkus curtains from Target that have an Aztec-inspired border. (I told myself this made them unique.) But when then I hung them, I realized I'd made a novice mistake: They were hovering about a foot above the ground, like flood pants. That's completely unacceptable. 

Original panel (left); altered panel (right)
My solution: I purchased muslin in the same off-white color as the curtains, sewed it to the bottom, then decked out the new addition with rows of fringe. The extra panel looks completely seamless and allows the curtains to puddle beautifully. The total cost of all four panels? $160. Not bad.

Want to upgrade your own curtains? Start by measuring the distance, in inches, from the bottom of your existing curtains to the floor. Add 10 inches to that. This allows enough for a 4-inch hem and about 1 inch of puddling, and also accounts for the seam between the addition and your present panels.

Example: 12 inches to the floor + 10 inches = 22 inches

Now measure the width of each curtain panel (in inches), add 2 inches to that (to allow a1-inch hem on either side), and multiply that by the number from above. 

Example: (54 inches + 2 inches) x 22 inches = 1,232 square inches

This is the area of fabric you need to purchase per panel. 

Now translate that to yards. One yard of fabric is 36 inches long. The width will vary according to the size of the bolt; most bolts are 45 inches, but can range anywhere from 30 to 60 inches. (Hint: Bring a measuring tape to the fabric store!) Assuming the bolt is 45 inches wide, a yard of fabric is 1,620 square inches. Divide the area of the fabric you require by the area of a yard of fabric to determine the yardage you require per panel. 

Example: 1,232 square inches / 1,620 square inches = .76 yards per panel

Whew, lots of math!

But you're not done. Now, you need to calculate the amount of fringe to purchase. Add 2 inches to the width (in inches) of each panel, then multiply that number by three. 

Example: (54 inches + 2 inches) x 3 = 168 inches (or 14 feet) per panel

Finally, you're ready to start sewing! Well, almost. Iron your fabric, then cut it to the appropriate size for a panel, making sure all four corners are completely square. (Remember, you want each piece to be 2 inches wider than the actual curtain.) Now hem it: Fold the sides over by 1 inch, pin, and sew straight across. Then, fold the bottom up four inches, pin, and sew straight across (align the presser foot of your sewing machine with the raw edge, not the crease of the fabric).

Now you're ready to attach your new fabric to the existing curtain. Spread out the curtain panel, pretty side up, and pin the unhemmed edge of the addition, pretty side down and upside down, to the bottom of the curtain. (So the front of the addition should be facing the front of the curtain.) Like this...

Unfold the fabric, iron the seam, and begin pinning the first row of fringe to the additional panel. Allow two inches of fringe overhang per row, and fold an inch around each side of the fabric before sewing. Make sure to use a thread that matches the color of your fringe. 

Not sure how to space your rows? I aligned my top row with the seam between the curtain panel and the fabric addition; then for my bottom row, I aligned the base of the fringe with the seam of the 4-inch hem. Finally, I centered the middle row between the top and bottom rows. 

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  1. These curtains panels are beautiful and a very rich color. It is a good value for the money.

  2. Your curtains are so cute, I love how you made them your own! I love how you added muslin to make them reach the floor. Plus, the little bit of fringe at the bottom was such a darling addition! It isn't over the top, which I really like.

  3. It's like that pattern was custom drapes made just for you and your living room & dining room. Great colors and patterns! Drapes are very fantastic!

  4. Really your curtains have very nice designs and colors. I like custom curtains. It saves a lot of money. I'm looking for curtains for office.