Made to measure velvet curtains
I made these curtains for my nephew’s bedroom.
It was easy since he knew exactly what style of curtains he wanted; floor length with the curtains drawings in different directions leaving easy access to his alcove during the day.
Once he decided what he wanted, it then became a family affair. My sister-in-law purchased the supplies, my brother installed the curtain tracks, with me the sewer taking all the glory!
Keep reading to know how I custom made my nephew’s curtains.
Before moving on to our measurements, we need to know a few things; which type of pole we will use to hang the curtains from, what kind of heading style we want, and how much flounce we want.
They decided to use a ceiling mount curtain track. The curtains will hang directly from the ceiling giving a nice ceiling to floor coverage. We couldn’t find a rail track for the entire ceiling length, so we got 2 rail tracks of different lengths covering the total required wall to wall measurement.
We will do a simple folded heading without pleats, using a stiffener heading tape to support the pin-on hooks.
How I measured for the curtains
The chosen fabric was a heavyweight cotton/blend velvet. Since gathering add weight to the curtains, and we want ceiling to floor curtains we will keep the gatherings to a minimum. (Without any gathering the fabric material would just lie flat stretched across the open space and have no folds or fullness). These curtains will be totally open during the day as we are not looking for extra fullness like we would for “plein jour” sheer curtains. Therefore three times the lengths will give us an extra panel and that extra panel will be sufficient for the gatherings.
(Note: I know that you probably don’t need the measurements of these custom made curtains, but the design and measurements will help you understand and visualize how I handle and cut the panels).
As purchased the left side track measures 52 inches (132.08cm) and the right side track measures 65 inches (165.1cm).
The fabric was 59 inches wide. I divided one length in 2 sections, to be sewn on each side to give fullness/gathering to the curtains width.
HOW MANY YARDS OF FABRIC DO WE NEED TO BUY
- (Imperial measurements) We need 107.5 + 3.5 + 3.5 = 114.5 inches per panel.
x 3 panels = (343.5 inches) 9.56 yards is the length of fabric we need to buy.
- (Metric measurements) We need 273.05 cm + 8.9 cm + 8.9 cm = 290.85 cm per panel.
x 3 panels = (872. 55 cm) 8.55 meters is the length of fabric we need to buy.
Now let’s square up the fabric.
Align the straight grain of the fabric (the side with the selvage) with your table side length wise, use fabric weights (canned food or rocks) to hold the fabric in place as you go.
Put the shorter part of an L-square ruler along the straight grain, hold in place with a weight. The long part of the ruler is now on the cross grain of your fabric. Mark along the ruler on the cross grain, with a tailor chalk or with sewing pin needles like I did.
Cut the fabric along your marks.
Now square-up the other end of your fabric length.
To cut your 3 panels; re-align your fabric with your table side, measure and cut your panels at the desire lengths, for us that was at 114.5 inches (290.85 cm) per panel.
(Note: Each panel weighed 4.5 pounds (2.04 kilos). Which reminded me that I had to tell my brother to install the curtain tracks with strong anchors to support the drapery weight and to buy drapery pull rods to reduce the strain when opening and closing the curtains).
We need to separate and divide the third panel in 2 parts that we need for the left and the right curtain panels. (I needed to cut this third panel in different widths to accommodate the two different length of tracks).
Align the straight grain side of one panel along the edge of your table (see the image above). Place your L-square ruler along the fabric straight grain, mark the width you need on the fabric.
Move the L-square ruler along the fabric length as you go, and mark your width measure.
I measures 39.33 inches( 99.91 cm) this is 2/3 of the fabric width that I need for the right side curtain panel. The remaining length of fabric will be 19.6 inches (49.78 cm) wide, and this is the 1/3 width needed for the left side curtain panel.
Cut the fabric on your marks.
Velvet has a definite nap (direction of the pile). I will assemble the panels with the pile going down. ( When the nap is brushed down, the fabric is softer to the touch). To avoid any mistakes, like sewing two panels with the pile facing opposite directions, I identified each cut panel with their size and the direction of the pile.
I cut off all fabric selvages as they were rolled up and thick and I did not want to risk marking the fabric with iron scorch marks.
Now lets sew join the panels together.
(Note: Velvet is a bit tricky to handle. Be sure to read a few online tutorials before you start sewing and always test on some fabric swatches and adjust the sewing machine stitch length and thread tension before sewing your actual project. If you have a Teflon foot, it would be best).
Change your sewing needle for a sharp 110/18
It is important to sew velvet in the direction of the pile, otherwise the pile of the fabric will slip against itself/stretch and you will end up with one seam longer than the other. To prevent this from happening you have to either hand baste your seams before sewing, or pin every inch of your fabric length, which is the method I chose.
Pin and sew the left panels together, then pin and sew the right panels together.
I couldn’t believe it myself, but I arrived at the end of my long 114.5 inches (290.85 cm) seam, and my two fabric layers ended up even and flush at the end. (see the picture on the right). The seams of the second panel also arrived equal at the bottom! Well this seamstress deserves a glass of wine! This was due in part to the “pin every inch” noted above. Try to keep a consistent tension as you pull the material while sewing. Only remove the pins as the sewing needle approaches.
Next let’s make the curtain heading and hem the bottoms. Since our curtain heading and our curtain hems have the same measure, the following explanations will apply to both.
I folded the top of the curtain right side together for the 3.5 inches (8.89 cm) heading allowance (or bottom hems) and marked my 1 inch (2.54 cm) side seam allowance with tailor chalk. Machine stitch on your marks along the side seam allowance.
In the above pictures you will see that I trimmed off the corner diagonally, (be careful not to clip your stitches) and I cut/reduced the folded seam allowance to 1/4 inch (0.64 mm). By trimming off the corner and the seam allowance you will reduce bulk and get a nice sharp corner.
Turn your corner right side out and gently push the corners with a point turner tool. Do not be tempted to use the point of your scissors or a seam ripper which risks punching a hole in your fabric. The only way to fix a hole is to sew another seam above the hole, therefore shortening the length the curtains.
Use the same technique to sew and turn all the corners of your two panels.
Next sew the panels headings and bottom hems.
To make your curtain bottom hems, fold the extended bottom edge over the panel, wrong side on wrong side. Measure your hem’s width by placing your sewing gauge sliding marker at 3.5 inches (8.89 cm) and pin your hem.
Machine stitch at 1/4 inch (0.64 mm) from the edge. Repeat these steps for your panel headings.
Next, now let’s sew the sides seams of the curtain panels.
Proceed the same way you did for your hems and headings; measure and pin 1 inch (2.54 cm) on the panel sides and stitch 1/4 of an inch (0.64 mm) from your raw edges.
(Note: At this point you could iron your curtains. But since velvet is a little tricky, I simply pressed the seams with a seam creaser tool and it looked perfect, no need for ironing).
Now let’s measure the placement for the curtain heading tape.
Beforehand we need to know the total height of the track with a pin-on hook inserted in the curtain eye drop. It is important to include a pin-on hook in your measurement because the heading tape has to be sewn at the proper height to ensure that the curtain track rail and the pin-on hooks won’t show when the curtains will be hung.
Now let’s prepare the heading tape.
Hum…. I have to say here that I was not satisfied with the heading tape the store clerk chose for my sister-in-law. I was expecting a woven tape with cords threaded along the tape that I simply would of pulled to gather the fabric to the proper width. Or at least a tape with woven pockets made to receive the pin-on hooks. Nope! none of that… It was a simple 2 1/2 inches wide (6.35 cm) non-woven interfacing band, and non-woven interfacing tear easily and we have heavy upholstery…
I had to solve that problem. First, I measured and folded a 3/8 of an inch (1 cm) in the middle of the heading tape to create a leveled placement for the pin-on hooks.
I then sewed near the edge of the fold for the entire length of the heading band.
Now I needed to reinforced the bottom of the folded pleat where the pin-on hooks will be inserted.
I opened the fold, and sewed a grosgrain ribbon over the middle of the fold. I used what I had on hand, the color of the ribbon is not important as it won’t show through the dark color of the curtain.
In the above picture you see the grosgrain ribbon sewn inside the fold.
This is a side view of the finished heading tape with a pin-on hook inserted into the reinforced folded pleat.
Next, let’s place the heading tape on top of the curtain.
First, we need to place and where we will sew the heading tape on top of the curtain leaving a 1/2 an inch (1.8 cm) from the heading top edge. I calculated that at this level the fold for inserting the pin-on hooks will be 1 1/2 inches (3.81 cm) lower from the curtain heading top edge. At this measure the curtain should hang from the pin-on hooks approximately 1/4 (.9 cm)of an inch from the ceiling. Before sewing I secured the heading tape in place with curved safety pins used for quilting.
(Note: Do not get frighted thinking that you won’t be able to have the curtains hang properly. Take 30 minutes to cut and sew a small 8 inch (20.32 cm) reproduction of the curtain heading, pin your heading tape on it, insert 3-4 pin-on hooks in the heading tape fold and hook it to the trail rack eye drop hooks. This will tell you if your measurements are accurate. If you see the pin-on hooks or the tracks simply pin the heading band at the different higher level on the heading seam until the curtain hangs properly).
Now let’s sew the properly placed heading tape to the curtain heading.
1– Machine stitch all around the heading tape; top, sides and bottom, pivoting at all 4 corners.
2-Machine stitch on top of the reinforced pin-on hooks fold.
See how the curtain heading arrives flush with the ceiling. Nice job!
Hum, now what to do with the selvages?
I know it might take decades before I can find a use for these selvages… but I couldn’t help keeping them as they looked so nice! Are you like that… keeping every single bit of left over fabrics or trims that you’ve cut, just in case you might one day need them only to find them at the bottom of your miscellaneous stash 20 years later?!
À la prochaine!