DIY linen curtains!

DIY linen curtains

I’ve been quiet on my blog lately, and here’s why: MOVING DAY. Yeah! We’re settling in the house now, and it feels like staying in a hostel that happens to have all of our furniture in it. Everything is half-unpacked, and the cat is distraught and only comes out of the bedroom closet sometimes. But we’re happy, and the place is slowly getting furnished. I made a set of linen curtains for the living room, five panels in total. Progress!

empty room 2

Anyway. Curtains.

After finishing the walls and floors in the living room, I really wanted to do something about the windows. The “window treatments.” Guh, that term. So formal and decorator-y. But yeah, fixing up things makes me want to change all the things, and next up was our naked windows.

empty room 1

Well, okay. There’s vertical blinds in them. Yes on light control and privacy. No on insulation and aesthetics. With the inside-mount blinds, these windows look a bit dinky in the living room, especially with the natural trim. They’re just these squares, mismatched, floating in the space. Curtains will ground the windows in the room and play down the difference in size.

I don’t know what the deal with curtains is, but I can’t find any readymades I like that aren’t patterned, or shiny, or too sheer, or a bajillion dollars, or straight up not available in Australia. So many of them are these shiny polyester things and yeah, nah. I like unfussy materials. I also have the “why buy when you can make” compulsion, which is totally obnoxious and kind of dicey, but hey, I still learn stuff even when the results don’t turn out so great.

linen wall

I considered plain duck canvas, and when I searched for canvas fabric, I got a ton of results for making curtains out of canvas dropcloths. Huh. That’s a much smarter, cheaper idea. Let’s do this. But then I went to have a look at canvas fabrics, and even the fabric-store bolts seemed kind of… ordinary. Especially next to the linen. Oooooh. DIY linen curtains are gonna be it! This stuff is admittedly a linen-viscose blend, but it will hold up well and it won’t look perpetually creased.

This is the “natural” colour, a light, neutral greyish beige. I really like the texture. Feels nice, looks nice, but not going to steal the show. Good.

linen lining

I followed these two tutorials:

Sewing 101: curtains (Design*Sponge)
How to make curtains from canvas or dropcloth (DIY Network)

And this was my shopping list:

Curtains: five 1.2 x 1.8 panels

  • 9m linen/viscose blend fabric, $15 p/m (reduced from $23 p/m)
  • 9m blockout fabric lining, $11 p/m
  • 6m curtain pleat tape, $3 p/m
  • Upholstery thread in light grey
  • Machine needles, 16 regular

Hardware

  • Self drilling plasterboard anchors, mini metal – $5 per packet of 4
  • Hooks (100/pk) and 50 black rings – $45 total
  • 16mm black metal brackets x8 – $25
  • 16mm black metal curtain rods; 2m, 2.5, 3m – $35
  • 16mm acorn finials x6, $2.50/pack of 2

DIY is not cheap, curtains are not cheap, Australia is not cheap, don’t do it yourself, the end.

sewing machine

This machine originally belonged to Jamie’s nan, and his family kindly gave it to me when she passed away. It’s a Necchi 544, and this is what I know: it’s from the late 60s or early 70s, it was made in Italy, and it was used for a lot of sewing. It’s a big metal beast and it owns.

Making curtains feels way easier in theory than in reality, especially for someone like me who only uses her sewing machine twice a year. Four straight cuts, four straight hems, attach hooks on top, all done. Or so it should be. I like the results of sewing a lot more than the process.

I paid attention to the details, like taking the time to iron my hems, using the right needles and following a straight line. (The guides on the machine itself are so useful.) I also added a blockout lining, for insulation, fade-resistance and privacy. I really did try to do things right. If I’m putting these dumb things together myself, they’re damn well going to be functional.

curtain pleat tape

I made my curtains non-pleated, because I wanted them to look more casual than fussy. Also, once you start adding pleats and really planning to make drapes rather than curtains, it gets complicated and exacting. You need to use more fabric widths ($$$) and be dead-set on not screwing up what’s going to be a formal showpiece. I can’t guarantee I can sew something that well.

However, I added pleating tape anyway, which helped make it look a little less like a slouchy DIY botch job. Not that I’d know anything about that. The tape reinforces the top of the curtains and it holds all the hooks and rings, which might be a little weird for non-pleated curtains, but they’re way easier to handle than tab-tops or rod pockets and less ugly than giant grommets. That was fun when I mentioned my plans for non-pleated curtain panels at Spotlight and it turned into a full-on teachable moment with the ladies at the desk. I totally got schooled on pencil pleats! Good times.

curtain hardware

As for hardware, I chose the thinner rods, 19mm (¾”) or less. They’re more modern and understated. I used those cheapy all-in-one rod kits in our apartment, but I’ve decided never again on extendable rods, so I had to source all this stuff separately.

These cheap-looking brackets and finials were the best of a bad bunch. Yep.

hanging diagram

I’ve seen this diagram in a few places now, but can’t find the original source? It’s appeared on Apartment Therapy and Elements of Style, among countless others.

Anyhow, this simple diagram illustrates a good approach to hanging curtains. High and wide really is the way to go. I didn’t want to put these rods in the living room all the way up to ceiling height, though, since these windows are plain and boxy and a bit small for the space. Ultimately I hung the brackets about 8” above and 12” out on either side.

If you want to read more words and see more diagrams on hanging curtains, this blog post ‘The Right Way to Hang Curtains and Drapes’ covers the matter in significant detail.

curtains corner 1

All up, I made five 1.2 x 1.8 [4’ x 6’] panels. Like my short curtains?

It seems like every interior designer and blogger has strong opinions on curtains being too short if they don’t reach from the ceiling to the floor. All the images I’ve seen involve very grand, very expensive living spaces with tons of light and massive, ornate windows. I dig it, but channeling that sort of grandeur is going to look silly in this living room with its plain, boxy, short, mismatched windows. Floor-to-ceiling blockout curtains would look uncomfortably formal and make the place feel like a hotel. So there. I figure the short length works with the un-pleated linen to keep things looking relaxed around here.

This corner window has three panels: two for the larger window, one for the smaller one. I’m going to pick up a curtain rod connector doohickey from IKEA on my next trip there, unless I find something locally stocked or shippable before then.

It’s true, we’ve got a long way to go on settling in. Eventually we’ll have a dining table and chairs in that big blank space, and the cabinet will have its doors back.

curtains couch

At least we can say: floors did, walls did, windows did. Feels good.

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