Sewing Instructions for Curtains

First things first. Before you start you may want to go to our “Designing Window Treatments” Page to get ideas on what your final look can achieve. Then you may wish to consider what type of rod you wish to use. The most frequently used rod is a plain white rod where when the lace is just gathered and the rod is not seen. You can also use a decorator rod but once up the finials at the ends are all that can be seen.  If you have purchased lace by the yard, have basic sewing knowledge of and access to a sewing machine, you can make a beautiful curtain in a short amount of time. Learning how to sew lace curtains is a very easy matter. We currently have thirty one Nottingham Cotton patterns imported from Scotland that can make a big difference in the “look” of your room, adding color and style to your decor.  You might want to read our article on “Four Easy Valances“.  At Olde Worlde Lace we try to make ordering curtain lace by the yard very easy. Once lace yardage is made into lace curtains, it is easy to hang them just where you want them. With these simple step-by-step Lace Curtain sewing instructions, you can: (1.) Measure your window and (2.) purchase the correct amount of fabric; and (3) install the curtains on your windows.

Equipment and Supplies

As in any project, it helps to know what equipment and supplies you are going to need before you get started. To sew a lace curtain you will need the following equipment and supplies.

First you will need the following tools:

  • Tape Measure
  • Paper and Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Calculator
  • Work Table
  • Iron and Ironing Board

You will need these sewing items:

  • Sewing Machine in good working order
  • Pins
  • Lace Fabric
  • Clear Polyester Thread
  • Fabric Marker

To install curtain: 

  • Spring Tension Rod or Outside Mount Rod
  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • Cafe style Curtain Rod and Brackets
  • Screw Driver
  • Screws or Molly Bolts
  • Drill
  • Level

You are probably ready to start sewing right away but there is a certain order of things that needs to be accomplished first.

  • Measure the window.
  • Purchase the curtain lace fabric and rod
  • Cut the curtain pieces out of the fabric
  • Decide what type of curtain rod to use. 

A simple curtain can be hung with a cafe style curtain rod or a spring tension rod. Mounting a spring tension rod does not require any hardware and installs the curtain inside the window frame. A wall mount cafe style curtain rod must be hung with brackets that are affixed to the wall side of the window frame and hangs the curtain outside of the window frame against the wall. Before you go any further you must decide where on the window you want the curtain to hang and what kind of curtain rod you will need.

Measuring the window

The measurements you take here will determine the success or failure of your curtain making project. We have included an article on the proper measuring of curtains that you should review. Remember the old saying “MEASURE TWICE AND CUT ONCE”. 

  • You need your pencil, paper and measuring tape.
  • Decide how long or short you want the curtain to be.
  • Measure the width of the window.
  • For a curtain that will fit inside the window frame you measure from the inside of one corner to the inside of the other corner.
  • For a curtain that fits outside the window frame you measure between the width from outside the window frame as wide as you wish.
  • Write down your measurement in inches.
  • Measure the desired length of your finished curtain, in the case of an outside mounted curtain, above and below the window where you want the curtain. For an inside the frame curtain measure from sill to the top of the rod.
  • Always figure your width(side to side) and length (up and down) measurements in inches.

To determine how much lace material you will need:

Time to purchase the fabric and curtain rod. You will need to figure the amount of material you will need. Be sure to read our article on allowing for a pattern repeat before ordering.

Get your pencil, paper and calculator.

Determine how full you wish to have the gather of material. As an example, all of the Heritage Lace Curtain pictures are shown as 1 1/2 fullness. This means that if your rod is 60 inches you would need a curtain that has a finished width of 90 inches (1 1/2 X 60 = 90). You would need two widths of 45″ to 55″ fabric. You can use a fullness up to as great as 3 times as in custom lace window treatments if you wish. If your rod size is larger and your answer is wider than the width of the fabric that you are using you will need at least two or even more widths sewn together.

Add additional inches to the length of the finished curtain to allow enough material to make the rod pocket and bottom hem. As an example if you want a 1 1/2 inch rod pocket, a 1 inch top ruffle and a 3 inch bottom hem you will need to add 1 + 1 1/2 + 3 = 5 1/2 inches> Double that to 11 inches (see article explaining hems) which would be 11 inches. You need to add this to your desired finished length to give you the total cut length (before allowing for a pattern repeat) you will need.

Pattern Repeat Calculation

You then need to adjust for the pattern repeat so that the same pattern shows across the 2 or more widths you will sew together. When you sew widths together it is just like when you use wallpaper. You have to cut each width a little longer (cut length) in order to match the pattern across the lace curtains (as you do with wallpaper). To do this you divide the total length in inches by the pattern repeat. Round that number up to the next highest full number and multiply that amount by the pattern repeat to get the actual cut length of each width. You then match the pattern across two or more widths and cut back to the original cut length. For example if you have a length of fabric that is 102 inches and a pattern repeat of 12 inches it would be 102 / 12 = 8 1/2. Round the 8 1/2 to 9. 9 X 12 = 108 (cut length) which is the amount you need for each width in order to allow for a pattern match.

Total Yardage

To get the total amount of yardage you need to multiply the amount of widths you need by the cut length and divide by 36. For instance if you need 2 widths as in the above example and the cut legth is 108 then it would be 108 X 2 = 216 / 36 = 6 yards.


Cutting the curtain pieces (widths)

Let me remind you to MEASURE TWICE AND CUT ONCE. Follow these steps to cut each width to length:

  • Lay the material out on your work table (floor or whatever), wrong side up, making sure to smooth out all of the wrinkles.
  • Measure the cut length (the length after adjusting for pattern repeat) of each width (if more than one) with your tape measure marking the edge of that width with pins or a fabric marker.
  • Check your measurements one more time. Make sure you cut exactly where you figured the length because it will affect how the pattern repeat comes out.
  • Cut out the curtain piece along the pins and/or markings.
  • Sewing the Curtain

After all that preparation it is finally time to start sewing. Remember that the wrong side of a fabric is the side which you do not want to show. The fabric design and pattern are usually not as attractive on the wrong side. In any case decide which side is up and always use the same side up on all pieces. Here are the steps involved in sewing your curtain:

  • Choose a time to sew when you can work without interruptions.
  • Set up your iron and ironingboard, setting the iron at the proper setting for your curtain fabric.
  • Set up your sewing machine on your work table and thread it with your chosen thread.
  • Sewing the widths together in order to match the pattern after cutting off the borders (selvedge) on each side of the fabric.
  • Place one width on top of the other with the right sides facing each other.
  • Slide the top width up or down until the pattern on each matches the other. Part of one piece will be longer than the other on top and the other will be longer on the bottom.
  • Cut off the excess at the top and bottom of each width.
  • Measure in 3/8 inch and sew widths together.
  • Repeat this for as many widths as are will be included in the finished curtain.
  • Hemming the sides and bottom of the curtain. If you want your curtain to have a finished professional look you should hem the sides and bottom first and then the top pocket and ruffle.
  • Follow these steps to hem the sides and bottom of the curtain:
  • Fold the edges of the fabric in 1 inch along each side, wrong side to wrong side pressing the fabric with your iron as you go until the fabric stays down by itself.
  • Turn each side edge in one more time creating a double 1 inch side hem pressing in the newly made fold. Sew the finished double hem.
  • Next do the same for the bottom hem which can be any size up to 4 inches.
  • Hemming the top rod pocket and ruffle. To make this combination:
    Sewing the rod pocket and top ruffle. The rod pocket will form the part of the curtain that fits over the rod and the ruffle will be above the rod pocket. To make this combination:
  • For a 1 inch ruffle and 1 1/2 inch rod pocket turn down the top edge of the fabric 2 1/2 inches wrong side to wrong side. For larger ruffle and/or rod pocket change the sizes accordingly. Press the fabric with the iron as you go until the fabric stays down by itself. Fold again so that you end up with a triple layer of fabric. Sew at the lowest fold and 1 inch down from the top. This create the rod pocket and the ruffle.
  • You are finished with the curtain and can now mount it on the wall.

Installing the Curtain Rod and Hanging the Curtain

The way you install the curtain rod will greatly affect the look of your new curtain. After all the effort you put into making the curtain you do not want it to hang crooked or fall down.

Note: If you are mounting the curtain rod outside the window frame on a part of the wall that is not backed by a wooden stud or header I strongly recommend that you use molly bolts (or similar device) instead of screws to affix the brackets. This will prevent the curtain rod brackets from pulling out of the wall.

Note: Make sure you really want that molly bolt where you are placing it because once it is in the sleeve can not be removed without making a large hole in the wall.

To use a molly bolt:

  • Drill a hold that is slightly smaller than the metal sleeve at the desired location.
  • Insert the sleeve into the hole by gently tapping it.
  • Place the curtain rod bracket over the hole.
  • Put the washer on the screw and fasten it into the metal sleeve.
  • Installing the curtain rod. Installing a curtain rod need not be difficult or time consuming. If you choose to use a spring tension rod all you have to do is place the curtain on the rod, push the ends of the rod together until the rod is short enough to fit inside the window frame. Place the rod inside the frame and let the rod expand until it fits snugly against each side of the window.

To install a cafe style curtain rod, you need the following tools:

  • Measuring tape
  • Curtain Rod and Curtain Rod Brackets
  • Screw Driver
  • Level
  • Drill
  • Pencil
  • Screws or molly bolts

Now you are ready to install the curtain rod using the following steps:

Hold one of the brackets against the wall where you want the edge of the curtain and mark the holes in the bracket onto the wall with a pencil.

Pre-drill the marked holes.

Insert molly bolt sleeves or mount bracket with screws.

Measure the distance of the bracket from the edge of the frame to the bracket

Repeat the this on the other side of the window making sure that the corresponding bracket is level with the first.

Hanging the curtain. Now you are ready for the last and easiest step of all which is hanging your new curtain. Just follow these steps:

Insert the curtain rod into the casing at the top of the curtain just below the ruffle.

Gather the much wider curtain alon the rod until the rod ends ar visible at both ends of the curtain.

Attach the rod to the brackets.

Arrange your curtain along the length of the rod so that it gathers evenly along the entire length of the rod.

You may want to continue on and make 3 or 4 inch wide tiebacks and valances to further enhance the look you want. Give yourself a big pat on the back for taking the time to make your curtain and then relax with a cup of coffee while you plan your next home decorating project.

We wish you the best of luck in your decorating endeavors.

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