With soft furnishings you can add attractive and uniquely individual touches to your home. As in other areas of home-making, professional assistance is expensive. Doing it yourself will save you much money. It will also avoid weeks, even months, of delay.
Do not use dress fabrics. They may fade, shrink or prove unsuitable in other ways. Furnishing cottons, plain or printed, including reps, seersuckers, cretonnes and chintzs, are ideal. Linen and wool fabrics may also be suitable, if not too heavy. Suitable, too, are fabrics made from synthetic fibres, including rayons, nylons and acrylics, often used in brightly coloured open-weave fabrics for sheer curtaining. Velvet as such is not suitable for first attempts at curtain-making. Nylon “velvets,” plush-pile fabrics with bonded backings, hang well.
When buying fabrics, tell the shop assistant how and where you intend using the material. Obtain advice at the time of purchase on washing and cleaning the fabric. Buy a little extra for, perhaps, matching cushions.
Simple unlined curtains
For beginners these are easiest and can be made quickly by machine, with some hand-sewing. Below are basic instructions for making curtains with standard tape simple gathered headings.
Materials and aids.
You will need: fabric — for quantities see below under Measuring and estimating; heading tape — allow 1 in. (25 mm) for each curtain width; hooks— to find out approximately how many, divide the curtain track length by three and add one extra for each curtain; thread — a shade darker than your fabric; sew synthetics with synthetic thread: pins: steel rule: large sharp scissors; sewing machine — if you do not possess a machine, you can make curtains for small windows by hand. Measuring and estimating. Accurate measurements are essential. Use a steel rule: cloth tapes sag. Curtain measurements depend on the size of the curtain track, not on the size of the window. If possible, extend the track at least 6 in. (15 cm) beyond each side of the window for maximum daylight. Make a diagram of the window and track. On it fill in relevant measurements based on the guide that follows.
Curtain length. For full-length curtains, measure from the track to 1 in. (2.5 cm) above the floor. Curtains must clear the floor to prevent soiling and wear along the hems. For short curtains, measure from the track to the window sill, which the curtains should just clear. They look ungainly if they droop below the sill. Whatever the length, you must allow for these extras: plus 3-4 in. (7.5-10 cm) from the bottom hem; plus 1 in. (2.5 cm) for turning under gathering tape; plus 2-3 in. (5-7.5 cm) for heading, making a total of 6-8 in. (15-20 cm). Curtain width. Measure the width of the track, allowing for any overlap. Curtains with standard tape should be at least 11 times the track width to look attractive. Standard width for furnishing fabrics is 48 in. (1.21 m). Some fabrics are narrower, some wider — up to 72 in. (182 m). Allow 11 in. (3.8 cm) for hems for each curtain and 1* in. (3 cm) for fabric joins.
These examples should help you to work out curtain widths.
Example 1. Say the curtain track is 60 in. (1.52 m) wide. It needs a pair of curtains 90 in. (2.28 m) wide. A full width of 48 in. (1.21 m) fabric for each curtain is suitable giving allowance for side turnings.
Example 2. Say the track width is 78 in. (1.98 m). The pair of curtains should be at least 117 in. (2.97 m) wide. Therefore each curtain should have a finished width of 58 in. (1.48 m). A width and a half of 48 in. (1.21 m) fabric per curtain gives generously more than this. The pair of curtains will need the length (including turnings allowance) multiplied by three: the third length to be divided and half to be added to each full width.
Repeat patterns. Matching repeats require extra fabric and are more costly and difficult to use. Patterns must match across a pair of curtains and for all windows in the same room.
Say the repeat is 12 in. (30 cm) — the distance between one motif and its repetition. And say the finished curtain needs to be 43 in. (1.09 m) long, including the turning allowance. You need four 12 in. repeats — i.e. 48 in. (1.21 m) in all — for the length of 43 in. (1.09 m). Thus there is a wastage of 5 in (12.7 cm) for each length of fabric.
Working tactics. Press the curtain material before you start cutting so as to eliminate creases. Before cutting the fabric, double-check all measurements and draw a thread. On some printed fabrics the design may not be straight. If so, cut to the design, not to the drawn thread. Cut off selvedges or snip them at regular intervals to prevent puckering. Tack, press and measure at every stage. Lead-weighted tape inside the bottom hem helps heavy curtains to hang better.
Joining widths. Part widths should always go to the outside of the curtains. With unlined curtains use neat flat-fell seams. Method: Place right sides of fabric together, and join with -1 in. (1.9 cm) turnings. Press turnings down the same way and closely trim away the under turning. Fold it under the raw edge of the upper turning. Stitch it down flat.