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This feature is aimed at those of you thinking of making your very first pair of curtains. However, if you already have some experience but are keen improve your curtain making skills and progress onto something a bit more elaborate, then read on! 

Before you rush off to the shops to buy face fabric and the other materials you think you will need, take some time out to plan your task thoroughly. Our Design Index should be useful in helping you to make your initial design and colour choices. Making a successful pair of curtains involves a lot of planning, and getting things wrong can prove to be a very expensive business! Here we have highlighted a few key pointers taken from our practical 2 part guide TEACHYourself CURTAINS to help put you on the right track.

Consider your design options

You probably already have some idea of the style of curtains you would like to make. Before you make a firm decision though, take the time to look through your favourite homestyle magazine or visit a few ‘show homes’, as these are sure to give you some new and inspirational ideas. Remember that you should always consider each room in the context of your home as a whole, so with this in mind, begin by asking yourself the following questions:

In which room is the window located?
Consider this question bearing in mind both the type of atmosphere you would like to create and the function of the room. Drawing rooms are usually more formal, whilst sitting rooms are more relaxed and functional. Dining rooms can be dramatic and yet bedrooms can take a softer more feminine look. On the other hand, a window in a study can be very effective if given a more masculine, tailored look.

Cream curtains with reverse pleat heading and beige roman blind
Bronze satin curtains with single pleat heading
Eyelet headed curtains on a large set of french doors
Curtains on landing with matching stiff pelmet
Curtains with box pleat valance on wide windows
What size of window are you tackling?
It is important to take into account not only the function and style of the room but also the size of the window. Getting the scale of the window dressing right will help to guarantee success. See our top tips below:
  • When making a valance or stiff pelmet to hang above a pair of curtains, a sixth of the overall curtain drop is the ideal proportion. 
  • If you are dealing with a small window, curtains may not be the best option. You may wish to consider a lambrequin teamed with a roman or roller blind.
  • Remember that lambrequins are only suitable for small windows (usually involving only one width of fabric), and they are most effective when the height of the window is greater than the width.
In which direction does the window face? 
Always consider the position of the sun. South facing rooms get the sun all day and some fabrics will fade over time if exposed to strong sunlight. It is best to steer clear of using silk fabrics in very sunny rooms. North facing rooms are generally dark and can feel cold as they get little sun. In this case, a brighter colour scheme may be the answer. However, bare in mind that sometimes it is better to enhance what you already have, rather than to try to change it drastically!
What about colour and pattern?
Colour is really important as it affects our mood, so give some thought to the look and feel that you would like to create.
  • Beware of using a strong, plain, dark colour for your curtains next to a light coloured wall, as this can often create too strong a statement.
  • If you are set on a darker tone, but would like to reduce the impact, then why not select a contrasting border or trim that co-ordinates with the wall colour, or choose a fabric that combines the darker colour with a lighter shade.
  • It is also a good idea to avoid using large patterns on small windows in small rooms, as the scale can be overpowering.
  • Small patterns or self patterned fabrics work extremely well in smaller rooms, as do checks and stripes.
Are there any problems you might encounter with the position and design of the window?
Is there a radiator underneath the window sill? If so, is there a reasonable gap between the bottom of the window and the top of the radiator? Some modern fabrics are very unstable if positioned near radiators and will react adversely to heat. Such fabrics can become distorted or shrink. In this case think carefully before putting long curtains that will frequently be drawn over windows with radiators underneath them. Dress curtains and a blind may be a much better option.
How do I go about visualising my curtain design?
A handy tip is to sketch out your window treatment to scale on a piece of graph paper. This will help ensure that you have the correct proportions and is particularly useful when planning a valance or pelmet to complement your curtains. 

If you are looking for more design ideas we will soon be adding a new section to our Design Index focusing on understanding window dressing designs. In the meantime, don't forget to check out your favourite homestyle and interior design magazines for inspiration. There are also a number of great interactive design tools available online, we have highlighted a few here. Happy hunting! 

Next Steps
We hope these tips will help give you the confidence to take your curtain making project to the next stage. Firstly, you'll need to make sure that you have all the right sewing tools and materials including for example: a suitably large work surface, a metal ruler and/or L-square for accurate measurement, tailor's shears for cutting out (good quality sharp scissors are a must!), and the correct weight of thread. We have provided a handy check list of basic sewing equipment in our free introductory sewing guide which you can download from SimplyFurnishings.com in just a few seconds. The guide also includes practical instructions on how to achieve a range of basic but essential stitches and seams that you will need when making curtains or other soft furnishings. View and print the 30 page guide now or save it to disc for later, it should prove an invaluable addition to your sewing workroom!
If you would like some help with the more practical aspects of curtain making, our two part step-by-step sewing guide is available as an immediate digital download (PDF) or on our comprehensive CD ROM alongside other soft furnishings projects - it could be just what you're after. TEACHYourself CURTAINS can be ordered online in just a few minutes and delivered to you anywhere in the world! The guide provides comprehensive, easy to follow instructions and illustrations that will enable you to make your own lined or interlined curtains in a range of styles.
One last tip, make sure you take your time over the preparation stage and plan thoroughly to avoid mishaps!

Good luck!
Wendy Molnar

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  Last modified: January 04, 2009