Curtain Making for Dummies - by a Dummy

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Introduction: Curtain Making for Dummies - by a Dummy

This instructable documents my first attempt (which I'm quite proud of) at making curtains.

Disclaimer: I don't know any of the proper terms for what I'm doing, or if I've made some grievous error somewhere. :-) Now you have been warned, read on...

I have a kitchen window that faces out into the common area of the apartment complex, and two other kitchens can see into ours. The curtain that's there now doesn't block anything much, so I wanted a nice block-out curtain. Unfortunately nothing commercially available was the right size!

Step 1: Preparation

Before you can start, you need A PLAN.

-Write it down!
-If you don't already have a curtain rod in place, figure out where it will go, and plan how to keep it there. (note - this is not a curtain-rod-installing instructable, but mine is supported by a 3M hook and a screw)
-Measure the position of the curtain rod.
-Write it down!
-Figure out how much cloth you need. There are two pieces - together about twice as wide as the window width, and are each as high as the distance from the bottom of the window to the curtain rod, with a few cm extra for some fudge room.
(I bought a single piece of cloth that was 112cm by 212cm, so it's about right - look at my measurements)

Step 2: Acquiring Stuff

You'll need to get:
- Non-stretchy cloth in your favourite colour. I used black drill cotton... which looks very nice in the kitchen and blocks out light well, but is very difficult to photograph well for instructables purposes.
- Curtain-making strip. I have no idea what this stuff is called... at least as long as the total width of the 2 sides.
- Curtain split-rings. These are just like normal split-rings, except that they have little tabs on each side to make it easier to add and remove them. I bought a box of 100, ideally 1 ring per 4-5 cm of window width. They need to be large enough to fit on your curtain rod.

You'll need to have:
- Sharp scissors
- Pins
- An iron
- A sewing machine (bonus points if it's a relic, belonging to a relative)

Step 3: Cutting the Cloth

I bought a single large piece of cloth, so I had to cut it in half.
- Fold it in half
- Iron over the fold
- Unfold - you can see the fold still!
- Cut.

You may find that some of the edges of the cloth aren't that straight. If you have a large straightedge rule a pencil line along it, and cut. (If not, do your best anyway)

Step 4: Hemming - Pinning

I may be a dummy, but I did (sorta) know what a hem was. The ragged edge of a piece of cloth is folded down, folded again, and sewn shut. This stops the cloth from fraying. In the diagram below, you can see how this should look.

My cloth pieces had a closed edge at the top and bottom (so hemming was not required) but a ragged edge at each side.

The cloth was placed on a flat surface with a towel underneath, and a ~1cm edge was folded down and ironed flat. (of course it does not stay flat). Starting at one end, fold it over again, check the width, iron it flat, and put a pin through the whole thing to keep it in place. Then move over a little, do it again, and place the second pin about 10-15cm away from the next one. Continue until the entire edge is pinned in the right position, and iron it flat again.

Repeat for all ragged edges (or until you run out of pins)

There are no photos of this step, because photographing black cloth against black cloth is very very difficult.

Step 5: The Sewing Machine

These notes show the parts of the sewing machine.

Be careful of the needle. Don't yank anything out from under the foot without lifting the foot, and checking that the needle is out of the way, or you'll probably snap it.

Step 6: Hemming - Sewing

Lift up the foot of the sewing machine (and move the needle out of the way)
Line up the pinned cloth on the sewing machine, just under where the needle is, and drop the foot. (take out the first pin if it's in the way)
If you have a little ruler on the machine like I do, great! If not, a piece of tape and some permanent marker is a good idea to keep you lined up.
Put the needle close to the inner edge, but not so close that the stitching might fall off the hem.

Holding the cloth so that it can move away from you in a straight line, GRADUALLY depress the footpedal until the sewing machine starts moving. The cloth should start moving away from you under the foot, and you should see stitching on the cloth that's already sewn. If this does not happen, you should probably consult a non-dummy to see what's going wrong.

If the stitching starts to wander, gradually move the cloth so that it stays in the right spot.

When you begin to approach a pin, stop the machine, pull out the pin, hold the cloth so that it doesn't come unfolded, and continue.

When you reach the end of the cloth, you need to stop the thread from fraying. (Same at the start, but this is an instructable by a dummy, remember?). Before you hit the end, use the reverse switch on the sewing machine to make the needle go BACK OVER THE EXISTING stitching. Go back a cm or two, then let it run forward, then reverse it again - do this three or four times. Finally, let the sewing machine run all the way forward, so that the cloth is completely free.

Lift up the needle and the foot, and gently pull the cloth away from the machine. Get your sharp scissors and cut the thread off (leaving plenty of length on the machine side) Congrats, you made a hem!

Now for the boring part, repeat this for each ragged edge.

Step 7: Curtain Tape - Sewing

In this step, I aim to be a little foolish, and sew BOTH a hem-of-sorts and the curtain tape at once!
My cloth has a closed edge on the top where the curtain tape goes, so it only needs to be folded once. If your cloth has a ragged edge at the top, you should hem it properly first, so this step would be easier.

Roughly 1cm of cloth is folded over, and the curtain tape is placed over that. The whole thing is put under the foot of the sewing machine, with the cloth in front of you, and the tape running over the top of the sewing machine so it's not in the way. Make sure that the tape is facing as shown, or there'll be nothing to attach the rings to

Sew slowly, making sure to feed in the tape in straight, keep the fold in the cloth the right width, and the needle in the right place. It's not particularly easy, but I managed to avoid making a fool of myself. Reverse back and forth a few times at the beginning, and again when you reach the end - as discussed last step.

Once this is done, put the cloth under the needle again, and sew the other edge of the tape on.

Step 8: Should Disaster Strike...

You may find that at one point, your sewing machine stops sewing - the needle is moving, but the thread doesn't *stick* to the cloth.

Strange as it seems, there are *two* sources of thread. One is on the top, and there's a small one under the sewing machine. If the small one runs out (quite likely) the stitches won't hold. How to fix this? Open the front of the machine, and you should see a little metal contrivance like the one shown. Gently pull it out, and you can see it contains a little thread-holder, quite likely empty.

Get a large roll of thread (best if you have one other than the top thread source, so you don't have to re-thread the machine), and wind a few turns onto it. Somewhere on the sewing machine (probably the top) there's a little spindle designed for the thread-holder to fit onto. Place it there, and have a close look at the wheel on the side of the sewing machine - there should be something you can move to unlock the engine from the needle, and just turn the spindle. Gently start the motor, and the spindle should start spinning, and the thread winding onto it. (but the needle shouldn't move) Gradually increase the speed, winding more and more thread onto it, until the thread holder is full. (not too full, or it won't fit back in)

Take the thread holder out, and lock the motor back to the needle. Put the thread holder back in the metal contrivance that held it, and thread it. With at least 15 cm of thread hanging out, put the whole thing back under the sewing machine. Slowly turn the wheel, and hopefully the needle will plunge under there and pull up the second thread. Pull them gently until there's plenty of extra, and go back to sewing.

If the thread doesn't come up, a couple of things could be wrong - you might not have enough loose thread above, make sure there's plenty. You might have threaded the holder incorrectly - check that. You might (don't laugh) be turning the wheel in the wrong direction. If all else fails, find a non-dummy, who will no doubt sigh and roll their eyes at your ineptitude, then fix it.

Step 9: Curtain Tape - Gathering

The curtain tape now needs to be pulled to gather the curtains. Each piece of tape has two strings running through it - at one end, pull the strings a little bit, and tie them together.

At the other end, pull the strings out, tie them together, and keep pulling. Distribute the curtain material evenly so it's not bunched up at just one spot, until the curtain is the width that you want it - don't make them too narrow or they won't close all the way. Tie the other end off with a loop, so that you can adjust later if necessary.

Step 10: Final Assembly

Thread the curtain rings into the curtain tape, every third loop or so. Too far apart and the curtain will sag, too close together and it'll be hard to open.

Put up the curtain-rod-mounting hardware. That is an adhesive strip, curing. (come back in an hour)

Finally, thread both curtains onto the rod, put the end-caps on, and put it up!

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9 Discussions

I am making my blackout curtains asap I feel like people are watching me at night! Well , only in one room. THE BEDROOM.

There's an easy way to change the thread to a different colour, but it only works if it's already threaded.

You cut the thread that's already threaded at the top of the sewing machine, then tie your new colour to the piece that's already threaded, place the new spool in place and pull the old thread through from behind the needle (or however the needle is threaded), you'll pull the entirely new colour through the mechanism and it'll thread itself. Quick timesaver :D

True, although you don't want the knot to become caught in the mechanism.

There is that. I suppose you just have to make it tight enough :) Wouldn't work for all sewing machines and needles but I figured I'd put it out there :)

Nice Job!! Being the lazy sort who likes to do it the fast way--I never bother with the curtain tape. If you make your top hem the right width the curtain rod slips through it and you don't have to bother with all that--plus it's nicely gathered and fits closer to the wall to block light. You also might want to shorten your bottom hem to where it's just off the window sill. In some weather windows will have condensation and it will run down onto your hem there with unpleasant results. It will also have a tendency to get dragged into whatever is on your sill if it's too long. An extra quick curtain if you are in a hurry for coverage is bed sheets. Get them at a thrift store and either fold them over the rod or cut to fit the window and hem the sides. They have ready made hems on the top and bottom! They will block a lot of light and vision, but if you're worried about someone seeing in you can add another for a nice decorator effect.

The bottom is a little low - it's not hemmed. (closed seam, no need) I might put a hem in at some stage, but for now it works nicely. My biggest issue is the dish-washing things on the sill.

Check out this link for storage and stuff :)
<img src="http://www.organizeit-online.com/images/757.jpg" alt="Suction Shelf">
SuctionShelf
I have these and am extremely happy with the results. (no drilling n stuff)

You could try safety pinning the hem up as a temporary measure--put the pins in the back and space the front to be decorative. That way your hem will be already pinned in place when you feel like finishing it. Or the really lazy is use a strip of iron in web interfacing. Not a good permanent solution but okay for a quick fix!