Making window treatments that measure up

I was playing single parent this past weekend, so I’m not done with all the window treatments for the living room. But it didn’t stop me from squeezing in every second I could during naptimes and after bedtimes to cut, stitch, press and hang some of the curtains in the living room. It’s not done yet, but one set of windows is completed and I should have some pictures for you to check out soon as the progress is documented. In the meantime, I thought it might be interesting to take a peek into how the measuring and calculating shaped up.

(And in the interest of full disclosure, math is not my strong suit. I will not pretend to be good at it. Because I’m not. That is why I not only subscribe to the “measure twice, cut once” axiom, I measure closer to six times before blade touches fabric.)

Measure twice? Try measure a half-dozen times. And then cut once.

First, measuring the windows. I rely on an old pattern book I picked up years ago when I was considering some window treatment ideas for my old bedroom in my parents’ home. And the first bit of advice is pretty logical: hang the darn curtain rod you’re planning to use and measure based on that. That’s the actual width you want to cover, and that width may not always be the same as the window or the trim framing the window. You also get a realistic idea of how long your curtains should be, depending on where you want them to hang by the window.

Now the math starts. Industry standard dictates you should then multiply your width by 2.5 to create the usual fullness you see, whether it’s a gathered pole-top panel or a pinch pleat top. I tend to disagree with this standard, and often opt for a narrower width. It’s my preference, but you’ll be able to see in the first window the decision to not-quite-double the width of the window and judge for yourself.

Next math step: addition. If your panel is unlined, you’ll want to add 8 inches to the overall width to accommodate two two-inch double hems. A double hem means that you’ll fold the fabric over 2 inches, press, and fold and press again so the edge maintains a smooth finish and doesn’t fray. If your panel will be lined, it’s a smaller amount: more like 5 inches, meaning that you’ll fold the fabric sides over 2.5 inches, press, and then attach the lining.

Addition to length: you’ll want to account for a hem and for finishing the top of your pane. Here are the additions you’ll want to make, based on finish type:

  • Unlined panel: add 8 inches for a 4-inch double hem.
  • Lined panel: add 6 inches for a 3-inch double hem.
  • Panel top: this will vary based on how you’re planning to hang your curtains. If you’re stringing them on a curtain rod, the typical length to add is 2.5 inches. You’ll fold over a half-inch, press, then fold another 2 inches to create a rod pocket. If you’re using a wider or narrower rod, you may want to modify this number. If you’re using a pleating tape on the top of your panel, then simply add the number of inches to accommodate the width of that tape and you’re good.

Now like I mentioned, I am not that strong of a mathematician.  I kept measuring throughout the cutting and assembly process, making sure I didn’t short-change myself. I even measured the panels after hemming them, and wound up trimming a half-inch off the top before making the rod pockets for the first window set.

One wrinkle to consider: pattern repeats on the fabric. Those of you who are truly type-A will want to also take some time to make sure your patterns all match and line up as you’re cutting. I’m cheating a bit in this case, because all the long panels are cut from the same width of fabric. So I’ve idiot-proofed myself there.

What if you’re lining your panels? I am this time, for the first time, and was pretty nervous about it. But, following my old pattern book, I measured and cut the same width and length as I did for the drapery panels. I hemmed the length using a 1.5-inch double hem, so roughly about half the width as the drapery panel’s hem. The guidance then is to trim the panel to the same width of the panel, minus 3 inches. This is because you’re stitching the sides of the drapery front and panel together, and the seam should only “show” on the wrong side. I trimmed the length down so that the unfinished edge would disappear into the pole pocket, creating a finished look on both sides of the panel.

And, that’s pretty much it for measurements to consider if you want to make your own curtains. How did it turn out? Stay tuned for some pictures of the first window set. And be warned: it’s not the same as the other two sets of window, for a good reason. These curtains I just made have to accommodate a window seat. And that was a challenge in and of itself!




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