how to sew curtains (tutorial)

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how to make a curtain (tutorial)

Our basement/rec room/man-cave has been in desperate need of some privacy curtains. Curtains that will allow light to come in through the small windows, but also keep people from seeing us in our pyjamas when we watch television. When you’re this cute, you live in constant fear of kidnapping.

You’ll need:

  • fabric
  • thread (which matches your fabric)
  • scissors (your nice, fabric-only kind)
  • straight pins
  • measuring tape
  • iron, ironing board, sewing machine

I’m not a sewer. I don’t make my own clothes or anything like that. (Mostly because when your mother did make clothes for you when you were a kid, you develop a fear of quilted vests and gauchos.) But making curtains is really easy. If you can cut and sew in a relatively straight line, you’ll do just fine.

First, find some fabric. If you’re like me (a non-professional sewer), you’ll probably want  to avoid anything too sheer or fancy-like. I chose a medium weight, cotton blend fabric – easy to work with. You’ll have to decide what kind of fabric will suit your needs – do you want to block light? Are you hoping for privacy? Are you going to want to wash them easily? Choose your fabric accordingly.

Calculate how much fabric you will need. For the length you’ll want to measure from the curtain rod to where you would like the bottom of the curtain to fall. Depending on hem depth, you’ll need as much as an extra 8 inches in length (on top of the measurement from the rod where you’d like the bottom of your curtain to be). As for width, it depends on how much gathering or fullness you’d like. If you want a full curtain, many people double the width of the actual window, but you could go anywhere from 1.5 to 3 times the width.

Pre-wash and iron your fabric. Of course, you shouldn’t do this if you’ve chosen a non-washable fabric. That would be silly. I washed my fabric on the delicate cycle and tumble dried it with low heat. Pre-washing (and pre-shrinking) your fabric will prevent a shrinkage disaster down the road. Ironing your fabric before you begin sewing will make the whole job easier, and allow you to make neat cuts and hems.

Trim off the selvedge edge. This edge is usually white or off-white and might feel slightly thicker than the rest of your fabric. Trim it off to avoid puckering when you are sewing. Do it. You want your curtain to look right, don’t cha?

Cut your fabric. Measure three times, cut once. For my little basement window, I measured the length from the curtain rod to where I wanted the bottom of the curtain to be (16 inches) and added 5 inches. This allowed for a 2 inch curtain rod pocket at the top and a 2 inch hem at the bottom. You’ll see. Keep reading. If I were making a longer curtain, I might have wanted a deeper hem at the bottom of the curtain, and I would have adjusted my measurements accordingly. Each of my hems starts with a 1/2 inch tuck under, so that is always accounted for. So, for my 16 inch curtain, I needed my fabric to be 21 inches long.

I use a self-healing cutting mat on my craft table for cutting. It has a nice grid to help me line up my fabric. I also use a clear crafting ruler and a fabric marker that fades away like magic. That’s right. You draw the straight line with the marker, cut, and then the line just disappears. Awesome.

Hem the sides of your curtain. First, turn your fabric under 1/2 inch to the wrong side (or back) of the fabric, pressing with a hot iron as you go. You want a nice, crisp fold.

Then turn the fabric under another 1/2 inch, pressing with the hot iron as you go. (You can adjust the depth of these hems to your liking, this is just what I did. You could, for example, do a 1/2 inch fold and then a 1 inch hem.)

Pin the double-folded hem in place. I like to pin every few inches, and I like the heads of the pins to point in a direction that makes them easy to pull out as I sew.

Sew the side hem. Sew a straight seam along the side that you have just pressed into place. I always secure my hems with a little backstitching at each end of the seam (just sew a couple of stitches, stop, use the reverse stitch function on your machine to back up a couple of stitches, and then proceed.) When hemming, I like to run the foot of my machine right along the pressed edge. It helps me keep a nice straight line.

Repeat on the opposite side. Yup. Repeat the two 1/2 inch folds on the other side of your curtain and sew.

Sew the curtain rod pocket. I like to do this before the bottom hem, as I can then hang the curtain to double check the measurements for my bottom hem. As with the side hems, turn your pocket edge under 1/2 inch to the wrong side and press. Then fold under an additional 2 inches, pressing as you go. Pin as you did for the side hems, and sew the straight hem. Once finished the rod pocket, do a little test hang of the curtain, and then proceed to the bottom hem.

Sew the bottom hem. Turn the bottom edge under 1/2 inch to the wrong side and press. Then fold under an additional 2 inches, pressing as you go. Pin as you did for the side hems, and sew the straight hem. Again, if I were making a longer curtain, I would have made a deeper hem – up to 5 inches deep. This would help weight the curtain and give it a nice hang. But with wee curtains such as the one I was making, I wanted a more subtle bottom line.

You can adapt this method for any sort of curtain you might want. One panel, two panels, long, short… whatever you like.

I made one for the man-cave:

And one for our office:

Yah, I know the pictures are dark. It’s a basement. And I’m not a professional photographer. Cripes.

Next, curtains for the craft room. I’m seriously cute when I craft. It’s a security risk.



  1. Marsha Sefcik Interiors on February 4, 2011 at 10:59 am

    I love the fabric. Where did you find it? It would look great in my dining room.

    • movita on February 4, 2011 at 11:41 am

      Fabricville – and I just bought more for the remaining naked windows in the basement. I think it was about $19.99/m in the drapery department.

  2. Rosie Beaucoup on February 4, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    I resent that gaucho remark! Quilted vests, yes. In fact, don’t you wear an outdoor quilted vest now??? But gauchos! Never!

    • movita on February 4, 2011 at 6:09 pm

      Does the name Holly Hobby ring a bell?


  3. Lisa on June 29, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    “When you’re this cute, you live in constant fear of kidnapping.”
    This had me cracking up.

    • movita on June 29, 2011 at 4:49 pm

      I wasn’t kidding.

  4. Tricia Melendy on November 1, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I’m making curtains for my son’s daycare center. I chose striped fabrics and all is working well except I feel that sides do not hang straight. I thought of the tension being too tight, but I have a Bernina and there’s no adjusting tension on it.
    I cringe when I see these curtains and my son tells me that they are fine.
    Any clues? I have pressed them and just decided to try curtain weights in the corners. They are 36 inches long.
    November 1, 2011

  5. movita beaucoup on November 1, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    I must say, it does kind of sound like the tension. Unless you didn’t cut/hem in a perfectly straight line? But I’m guessing that’s not it. Did you press them before hemming? Pre-wash? Oh dear. I’m asking more questions and not giving many answers…

    • Tricia Melendy on November 2, 2011 at 11:16 am

      Thank you for responding. I have not worked on the last two windows of the daycare since I am afraid of “messing them up” again.

      I will wait for husband to get home and use his metal ruler and ck for unevenness. I have yet to find any website from Bernina regarding the adjusting of tension on their machine. I have an 801. Was always told the tension was “adjusted at the factory”. I’ll try again.

      Tricia M.

  6. symphony on December 8, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    I live in San Diego and would love to learn Window treatment sewing.
    is there any suggestion?where to go or what to do?.

    • movita beaucoup on December 8, 2011 at 7:17 pm

      I live in Canada. You’d need to search in your area – try the yellow pages or online. I’m sure there are lots of classes!

  7. crafternoons. » The Laughing Medusa on January 28, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    […] I made a simple curtain from velvet burnout fabric for my bedroom, in hopes of letting in whatever teeny tiny bit of natural light can find its way into my little underground home. Two seams and a piece of wooden doweling is all you need. However, if you’re a little bit apprehensive, this is a great tutorial. […]

  8. Jennifer Broadwater on August 13, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Thank you so much for this. It’s been awhile since I sewed in school ages ago! Time to get my supplies out and pick a certain material! Can’t thank you enough for this little gem!!!

  9. movita beaucoup on August 9, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Comments on this post are now closed as it was published in February 2011. Good luck with your projects!