Why I NEVER Buy Ready-Made, Store-Bought Draperies or Curtains

I’m cheap.  If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, then you already know that about me.  And I thrive on the challenge of finding ways to DIY and decorate my home on a budget.

But there’s one area where I’m a complete snob.  :)

Draperies.

When it comes to draperies, I’m willing to spend the extra money on custom draperies made specifically for my windows, and I will never, EVER buy ready-made, store-bought draperies or curtains for my home.  Of course, I do have the advantage of knowing how to make them myself, so that saves quite a bit of money.  But sewing draperies isn’t difficult at all, so let me explain why you should also become a drapery snob like me.  :-D  (Caution:  This is a very wordy post!!!)

1.  Drapery length

Today, most designers and decorators hang draperies high and wide on a window.  Erin at Elements of Style even issued a design “public service announcement” about this last year demonstrating the “do” and “don’t” of hanging draperies.

How to hang draperies, from Elements of Style

From Elements of Style

Here are a few examples from rooms I’ve decorated over the past few years:

John and Alice’s bedroom, where I used canvas drop cloths, but I actually lined them and pleated them, just like drapery workroom-quality window treatments.  I also added a ribbon trim detail along the leading edge of each panel.  But you’ll notice how high I hung them — just an inch or so below the crown moulding.  Hanging draperies this way adds visual height to the ceiling.

My mom’s house, with the draperies hung (once again) just a couple of inches below the crown moulding.  Again, this creates visual height to the room.  The ceiling in my my mom’s house is only eight feet high.

 Julia’s kitchen, with the draperies hung high and wide, making the window look much larger than it actually is.

Anyway, you get the idea, right?  High and wide, people!!

Just for reference, in a room with an 8-foot ceiling and crown moulding, my standard length for draperies is 92 inches.  High and wide.

Well, evidently curtain manufacturers still haven’t gotten the memo, because their “standard” drapery lengths are completely outdated.  If you have an 8-foot ceiling, you can choose between the 84-inch panel, which is way too short, or the 96-inch panel, which is too long.  Either way, in order to hang the panels high, you’re stuck having to either sew on extra fabric to the short ones, or hem the long ones.  And if you’re going to have to break out the sewing machine anyway, why not just make custom panels for your windows?

Even at places like Restoration Hardware, where you pay a fortune for their super high quality ready-made Belgian linen draperies, you still have to choose between the too short 84-inch panels, or the too long 96-inch panels.  And at $340 to $375 per panel for their linen draperies, that’s quite a price to pay for something that won’t quite fit your window.

2.  Drapery width

Ready-made curtain panels are generally somewhere between 45 and 54 inches wide.  If you have a window that’s no wider than 36 inches, and you use two 54-inch panels on that narrow window, that’s perfect.

But what about when you have a very wide window, like the one I have in my living room?

living room makeover phase 1 - 20 percent complete - 6

My living room, currently at 20% complete

That window is 100 inches wide.  And because I hang my draperies high and wide, I generally hang my drapery rods 10 inches past the outside edges of the window.  So visually, that makes my window 120 inches wide.

Now I know a lot of people would simply purchase two panels, and put one panel on each side…even on a window this huge.  Please don’t do this.  Please.

Drapery workroom standards say that the width of your draperies should equal 2.5 to 3 times the width of your window for proper fullness.  Now I know that many people don’t actually use their draperies these days.  They’re just there to give color, softness, and height to the window.

But you still want them to look like they’re functional, and not look like some cheap, skimpy drapery panel from Bed, Bath & Beyond, right?  Just like you want your fake eyelashes to look real, and not to shout, “Hello!  I’m fake!”  And just like you want your hair color to look natural, and not like something out of a bottle.  You want your draperies to look like they’re actual, functional draperies, even if they’re not.

So according to the drapery workroom standard, the draperies for my 120-inch window should be a minimum of 300 inches wide to allow for proper fullness on that wide window.  (FYI, for stationary panels, I do skimp on that number a bit sometimes, but not too much.)

So some of my choices would be:

  1. Purchase six 54-inch wide drapery panels from a place like Bed, Bad & Beyond at a price of about $50 to $90 each, and hang three panels on each side of the window.  Total cost, about $300 to $540 for the correct amount of fabric to give the proper fullness to my draperies.  They would still be the incorrect length, and I’d have three separate panels on each side unless I actually took the time to sew them together.
  2. Purchase six 46-inch wide “high-quality” drapery panels from a place like Restoration Hardware at the cost of $375 each, and hang three panels on each side of the window.  Again, too long (or too short, depending on which length I order), and three separate panels on each side unless I take the time to basically remake them into one panel.  But when you pay $2250 for draperies for your window, isn’t it kind of foolish to have to remake them?
  3. Have my choice of any drapery fabric out there (within reason, of course — I’m m not going to pay $100/yard for fabric.)  Order the exact quantity I need for my window.  Sew my own custom draperies that are the precise length and width to fit my specific window.  End up with custom, drapery workroom-quality window treatments at a comparatively decent price.

Number three is the obvious choice.  Even at $22/yard for my living room drapery fabric, those 18 yards of fabric were a much wiser choice than buying some ill-fitting, cheaply-made, ready-made drapery panels from a place like Bed, Bath & Beyond, or purchasing some ill-fitting, incredibly expensive, ready-made panels from a place like Restoration Hardware.

3.  Drapery lining

Drapery lining can make or break your window treatments.

I remember in our very first house, when I was just learning how to decorate my house, I made my very first pair of curtain panels.  I chose a fabric with a small red plaid pattern, and got to work.  I didn’t know anything about drapery lining at the time, so I didn’t line my curtains.

When I hung them, my heart sank.  The beautiful red turned to orange when the sun streamed through the fabric.  I was so disappointed, and I hated those curtains.

I have since learned about drapery lining, and unless I’m specifically wanting something soft and flowy, I always use blackout lining on my drapery panels.  This way, there’s no sun streaming through my fabric to distort the color.

And because I hang my drapery panels high and wide, the blackout lining doesn’t actually block out the sun from the room when the draperies are open.  It just makes the draperies look like they should, and like I intended for them to look.

Have you ever seen the stuff that passes for “drapery lining” on most ready-made drapery panels these days? The last time I looked at “lined” ready-made drapery panels, I was shocked at how thin and cheap the cotton lining was. It did little or nothing for the draperies, and only gave the manufacturer what they needed to label their product as “lined,” which, of course, they charge extra for.

If you want actual, usable lining on the back of ready-made drapery panels, you generally have to purchase that separately, and then it just attaches to the back of your panels with snaps or pins of some sort.  On custom panels, the drapery lining is actually sewn into the panel, giving it a nice, heavy weight, as well as a quality, custom look.

4.  Drapery quality

I don’t care where you purchase them or how much you spend, ready-made, mass-produced drapery panels will NEVER be made with drapery-workroom quality.  Ever.

The last time I purchased ready-made panels, I ironed them and hung them, only to find that the side hems were pulled and puckered, causing the edges of the panels to be raised off the floor about an inch or two.

When you make your own, you control the quality of the finished product.  And I personally love that control.  That way, if something puckers or pulls, I know I only have myself to blame.


So have I convinced you yet?  Are you ready to become a drapery snob with me?  :-D

Hang ‘em high and wide, and just say “no” to ready-made, mass-produced drapery panels!!  Dust off that sewing machine, purchase some fabric, and learn how to make your own drapery-workroom quality draperies that are custom made for your specific windows.  You’ll be amazed at the difference it’ll make in your room.  And once you go custom, you’ll never go back.

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Comments

  1. Andrea says

    I can definitely appreciate the snobbery, however I want details on how you launder, iron and pin all that yardage. Fabric Wrangler? Drape Whisperer? I gave up at our old house and purchased panels from a large Swedish furniture retailer, LOL. I thought I was doing well to avoid using the iron on hem tape by attempting to hem them in a small house with no significant table top area and black cat hair everywhere even though it was on the market clean. I attempted to pin and hem and honestly gave up after ironing them and took them to a local alterations place and had them hemmed. So, yeah I can appreciate your snobbery and I’m so there… but I need more details. Do you pre-wash? Dry Clean your fabric before you proceed? What kind of surface area do you utilize to hem and how do you manage/ wrangle all that yardage?! But I so want to do this at our new house.

    • says

      Well, you have certainly hit on the single, absolute most challenging thing about making your own draperies…

      SPACE!!

      You need either lots of floor space, or table space, or both, to make your own draperies. In the condo, I didn’t have once single room with enough space to make draperies. It was so frustrating!! So if I wanted (or needed, for a client) to sew draperies, I had to go to my mom’s house and spread out.

      Generally for lined draperies, I purchase dry clean-only fabrics. That way, when they need to be cleaned (which really isn’t all that often — generally a good vacuuming on a regular basis will keep them looking great), the dry cleaner is responsible for getting them looking perfect, and perfectly pressed. You just have to hang them, perhaps steam out a few wrinkles, and enjoy.

      Right after making them and hanging them, I do find that steaming them while they’re hanging is much easier (and really, just as effective) as trying to iron them before hanging.

      • Andrea says

        I hereby christen you “Drape Whisperer”… lol I was seriously beginning to think I was crazy for wanting to make my own- I did not want just any set of panels from as you mentioned BBB… lol So space it is… space I shall have once said house is complete. I am totally digging the blinds you use though- so that might suffice until I take the leap. Good point on the steaming. Duh. :) THANK YOU!!! :)

  2. lysa says

    Oh, I would so love a tutorial on how you line the drapes. I’ve added blackout liner to ready made drapes and they were all wonky. I’ve made a few Roman shades with black out that look amazing, minus the needle holes that show through.

  3. Jan says

    I, too, am a drapery snob. With that said, I am not a good enough seamstress to make my own and have found what I like/love and quality with Pottery Barn. My dining room and living room both have PB drapes, different patterns – and I saved and saved and saved for them. I could not find anything else that I liked as well – and when I say saved – two years of saving in order to get what I wanted, and I love them and still walk into both rooms and almost swoon – hung high and wide!

    I certainly do agree with the challenge of lengths offered….by most ready-made. It’s difficult to even locate 96″ a lot of times. But I concur with all that you’ve said, the lining, etc., as it all creates the beautiful effect that is readily noticed upon entering a room and therefore making the impression.

  4. Natalie Ramirez says

    I love beautiful drapes. Un fortunately I have nor the money or sewing skills to make any! But I love gawking at yours! A friend of mine manages a fabric warehouse and I could look at the fabric ALL day long. In my head I pretend this is where you shop! lol. I cannot wait to see the drapes or the couch for this room!!!!

    • says

      Natalie, the best part about making your own is that you don’t have to spend a fortune. Like in that first picture of John & Alice’s bedroom, I literally used canvas drop cloths that I bought at Home Depot. And I got them when they had a 2-for-1 buyer’s special. :) So they were incredibly cheap. Then I bought the lining from JoAnn Fabrics using a 50% off coupon, so it was about $2.75 yard.

      As far as the skills required, making draperies is mostly ironing (and lots of it!!) and sewing straight lines. It’s not difficult at all!!!

      • Jan says

        My bedroom, which is NOT a showplace as it’s my retreat, as well as the cats…..has twin bedsheets from Walmart that I hung on rods – cheap, easy, and functional. Unless I told you that, you would never be able to tell – however although my blinds are light blocking, I still get light around the edges. I have two HUGE drop cloths and you have inspired me to try this for my bedroom as a replacement. My sewing machine has been listed on Craigslist with no takers, so I guess that’s my ‘sign’ that I shouldn’t get rid of it…it wants to make drapes for me!!!!!

      • Natalie Ramirez says

        That is true Kristi! I go to JoAnn’s at least once a week! Maybe I will try it soon. But I do have a question. What about windows that don’t have the space on the sides for high and wide? I have two thin windows in my living room that are right next to the mantel and on one side a door and the other the wall. How are you supposed to hang those?

        • says

          I wouldn’t necessarily hang draperies on those windows, Natalie. Keep in mind that draperies are just one kind of window treatment. There are other options for challenging windows. You could make some custom Roman shades for those windows, or just use some bamboo Roman shades, or use bamboo shades along with custom valances.

  5. Sarah says

    I was thinking of buying two white full size sheets, fold each in half and sew edges together (for a thick “lining”) and add some Greek key trim. That way I can avoid the expense of all that fabric… Who knows? If I find some clean white sheets at the thrift store I might be able to save a buck that way too. Lol, I’m probably not going to qualify as a drapery snob with my tactics but we’ll see how it turns out.

    • says

      You can certainly make gorgeous draperies with sheets. Heck, I used drop cloths. It’s all in how you finish them. I used drop cloths (very cheap!!), but then lined them, added ribbon detail on the leading edge, and added pinch pleats. They were drapery workroom quality construction using very cheap canvas. If I found some beautiful sheets, I wouldn’t hesitate to do the same thing with them.

    • Ron Harris says

      Back when I got my first apartment, I discovered that even simple curtains for all the windows would cost a small fortune. One day, as I was rummaging through some sheets in a bargain basment, it hit me! ONE queen sized sheet for $7.00 gave me an entire apartment’s worth of window coverings. Nothing fancy, but they were great.

  6. Marci says

    Your info is posted just in time. I’m about to make drapes for a room!

    Where would you recommend hanging drapes with a sloping/pitched ceiling? Still go as high as possible?
    (In my space,there is also a bump out along the curtain wall the top of which is about 98″, but it is possible to hang the curtains at about 102″).
    Thank you for sharing your inspirations and projects!
    blessings

  7. Carla says

    Kristi has an awesome tutorial on this site you can follow. AND if you can sew a straight line you are enough of a seamstress to make drapes that look designer. I know. I’ve done it and you can too.

      • Carla says

        The first time I made a custom lined balloon shade with all the strings on the back of it by using one I already had as my tutorial. My mother did not believe I had made it because she knew I was a sewing novice. But I wanted matching window treatments with my bed spread and that was the only way I could afford them. You will feel so good because people are truly amazed. If only they knew how easy it is!

  8. says

    Thanks for confirming what I have always believed in my head, that it’s just stupid to buy curtain panels if you can sew. Space is definitely the problem and it seems to take me forever to get things straight, but I am usually much happier with the ones I’ve made over the ones I’ve bought when I run out of time. Thanks!

    • says

      Space is definitely a problem for me as well. So glad we have more space in this house now. Making draperies in that tiny condo was almost impossible. When I was decorating for clients, every time I’d pick up an order the drapery workroom, I’d get so jealous of those HUGE tables they had to work on. They were massive, and they could walk all the way around them, and even get on top of them if they needed to. I’d LOVE to have that kind of work space!!!

  9. Ahliah says

    I too am a cheapskate. But less of a snob. I’m great at hitting thrift stores at the right time. We just bought a house and needed living room and dining room done. A large bay window in each and a single double hung in dining and two short double hung in living room flanking fireplace. I paid $15 total for the dining room. That was three sheer panels. Two wide panels of lined drapes. Three half circle lined swag valances and two slanted lined valances. Cream color mint condition jc Penney top of the line fully lined. Score! Windows look fabulous!

    Living room was $20 so far. Taupe lined drapes on bay. Burgundy scarf above them. Two short windows have taupe panels with burgundy valances stopping them. Still need sheers. But it will do for now.
    Question…. Two short smallish windows flanking fireplace. Should I use floor length panels like the big bay window? Short ones fitting the window look odd. :/

  10. Genelle McDaniel says

    Oh, dear, this is one place where I’ll have to let you be the drapery snob without me. At my age (64) and in my health, I will not be tackling this job. So proud of you.

      • says

        So, Kristi, I’m a bit confused – are we supposed to hang curtains high, and wide? ;) Teasing you of course! I can hear myself chanting “high and wide, people, high and wide” next time I walk into a friends’ home that has curtains. They of course will think I’m nuts, but I’ll just tell them it’s the mantra of The Curtain Guru.

        I just had an idea for a large table surface for you. What about using plywood or some other type of smooth wood or melamine covered MDF panels and joining them on the backside with piano hinges to create a large, portable work surface? You could place it on top of a smaller table and use velcro straps to anchor it to the table top, or even use those screw on/screw off legs and make it a large surface with legs. Saw horses might work, too. The panels could be folded up a bit, and the legs removed for storage in your craft room or garage. You could even use locking drawbolts like these http://www.rockler.com/locking-drawbolt to join the panels together on the underside so they would come completely apart and could be stored more easily. That way you’d have your own large work surface and wouldn’t have to use the floor or go to your mom’s anymore. Just a thought!

        • says

          I love that idea! I definitely want to have a very large work surface somewhere in the house (in my office, of course). After seven years of not having any space for things like that, I’m ready to take full advantage of the space we have now!!

  11. says

    This is so timely, Kristi. My keeping room is creating a big dilemma. I want to hang high and wide, but I’m not sure just how high I can go without it looking disproportionate. My window frame is at 83″, the ceiling is at 126″ – the windows are about 36″ wide. I want to use stationary curtains (short rods on one side of each) because they are all in awkward spots- corners and butted up against the fireplace mantel. Ack! Sooo, what do you suggest for curtain height?

  12. says

    I love all your posts. Read the tutorial on drapery making but decided to have someone make mine. Keep the wonderful info coming. My grandson and I are thinking about trying to build the bed you posted.

    • says

      You can do it!! Someone yesterday sent me a picture of the bed she had made using my tutorial. It was her very first wood and power tool project ever, and it looked great!! You can do it too!! :)

  13. says

    I want to know how on earth you choose a length of carpet when you have 12′ ceilings and a (roughly) 7′ window height? Where on earth do you put the rod? 1′ above the window? 2′? I do NOT want to put them to the ceiling – I don’t have THAT Much money.

    I’m at a loss… and ready to redo my living room curtains because, well, just because. They have been there for 10 years, isn’t that reason enough?

    Thanks – Donna

      • says

        As a custom drapery professional if customers don’t want to put the panels right below the ceiling we usually hang them about 4 or 6 inches above the window frame. Basically we set the bottom of the bracket right at the top of the trim. It makes it easier to when measuring and installing the and the rod hangs at a very nice height.

  14. Sue says

    I’ve found over the years that taking your time to measure twice, cut once is also a huge plus. : o I will look forward to your tutorial on drapes as I’m sure I will learn a lot more. I’d also like to know if you’ve ever made roman shades as I’ve never found a tutorial that made them look easy to do?

  15. Diana W. says

    Been a drapery/bedding snob for YEARS! I cannot abide paying the prices for the quality you get. I am a far cry from a ‘seamstress’ but I can sew a straight line, so if I can do it, ANYONE can do it!! I’m with you and want to thank you for encouraging everyone to take it on, because it can be done by each of us! And you’ve done a beautiful job in each of your examples. Keep up the good work, the house looks lovely.

  16. says

    Great to hear the voice of reason, and an impassioned voice it is!

    I have sewing skills and I have space, so I make my own. You are 100% correct on all counts.

    One problem I’ve had with dropcloths is often there can be a seam in the middle, and you don’t know that until you open the package. Also although a company can put out drop cloths with the same label and measurements, the weave and weight and color can vary ever so slightly, just enough to drive you nutso. After all, they are packaging these things as cloths to throw on the floor to catch paint, not something you’d use as a decorative object. Like most cheap fabric, they don’t always have a correct “straight of the goods,” where all threads are running at right angles. Do you have a secret source for good dropcloths?

    My other problem is that whenever I lay fabric on the floor, my dog wants to lay on it.

    • says

      Yes! I should have mentioned that. I would actually never, ever, EVER recommend that someone making draperies for the first time use drop cloths. They don’t lie flat, they do often have seams right down the middle. There’s definitely a reason they’re so cheap.

      A first-time drapery maker should definitely use decorator fabric only, IMO.

      And my problem with working on the floor isn’t my dog, it’s my two cats. :) They always think I’m bringing them a new bed. :-D

      • Veronica says

        My three cats are my dilemma when it comes to drapes. Are your cats declawed? How do you keep them from snagging the drapes?

        Also, what would you do with 22″H x 35″W bedroom windows? Would you still hang curtains high and wide? They are also trimless thermal crank windows. Right now I have lace curtains on tension rods that were in the house when I bought it a couple of years ago.

  17. says

    Ms. SpoolTeacher is a drapery snob to the hilt and believes wholeheartedly that they make a room; but she always had her draperies (curtains is the correct technical term) custom made for her rather wealthy clients by a workroom. She has, however made her own and was able to wrangle the fabric, if she “held her mouth just right” and wiggled in and around the tables in her cramped little house, on two fold-out tables crammed in her living room either running long together or side by side (for different stages of “manufacturing”). (Also, using a hollow core door atop a folding table will create up to 36-42/48?W and raise the height and length of a single table.) She did have a work table in her shop at one time and the most important part is having it tall enough that you aren’t bending over wrong. That will WEAR YOU OUT! (here’s a scene from one ordeal: http://spoolteacher.com/about/spool-party/spooling-around/) Kristi, you are one amazing lady! Really. Totally inspiring.

    • says

      Haha! I can relate to the “holding your mouth just right” to wiggle around the tables. I tried making draperies in the second bedroom in our tiny condo. It was so cramped in there that it was just impossible to spread out all of that fabric.

        • says

          I’ve seen so many different definitions. I think the two words are largely interchangeable, and I also think the definitions are somewhat subjective.

          I personally use the word “drapes” or “draperies” when talking about a panel that is lined (and possibly interlined). To me, the word connotes something that is more high-end, luxurious, etc.

          I use the word “curtains” to describe anything that’s unlined, more casual, etc. Just a panel of fabric with the edges turned under and sewn. Things that you’d purchase at IKEA, that are unlined and the light streams through, are curtains.

          But again, I think it’s largely subjective. I remember a couple of years ago reading a blog post from a well-known designer who was convinced that they were all “curtains” and that they word “draperies” or “drapes” should no longer be used. I really can’t remember his reasoning, but he did NOT like the word “draperies”. So to him, they’re all curtains. Needless to say, I disagreed with him. :-D

      • Gilmer Gal says

        Hey, how about getting a hollow core door, make something fantastic on one side and sort of hang it on the wall like artwork. The other side could be your ‘working’ side. When you need a large surface, take the door off the wall, flip it and put it on some sort of base or on a table. No hinges and it is lightweight. How about putting a nice fabric on the art side, or covering it with some fantastic wallpaper? Just a thought. Love your stuff, Kristi!

  18. says

    Kristi, loved your post and can’t wait to see your drapes when you make them..Thanks so much for teaching us how to do this..I love how you go about wording it..It makes sense to me..I want to do some for my living room and I have two windows like yours, on each side of my living room..it’s long and narrow..I want to do a French Country look, but I am stuck on what kind to do. Could you suggest some and what kind of fabric..I love your style, I know it’s not French country, so what is your style? lol one more question..I have a rod like yours on your window, when I bought them, I didn’t get the double ones, what can I do or buy to put behind it to put sheers behind my drapes because I can’t afford to buy new rods, and when you put the rings on the rod, how do you put them on without putting the clip part on the drape I have noticed a lot of people don’t do like I do…I take the ring and open that little clip on the ring and put it on the drape. does that make sense..So if you don’t do it that way what other way is there..Thanks girl and by the way I think your a crazy drapery snob..and I love following you..Have a great evening..Debbie

    • says

      I think that you can’t go wrong with pinch pleated draperies. They’re classic. And the fabric that you choose will give you the style you want, so just choose a fabric that says “French country” to you.

      My style is just more traditional — especially in this house. I’m not sure what I’d call my style in the condo.

      For the sheers on the one window, is there a way you can hang one of those small white rods behind the existing rod? With the sheers gathered on it, it would be covered up, so the white color of the rod wouldn’t show. And those generally don’t stick out from the wall as much as regular drapery rods.

      • says

        I have thought about that just don’t want it to look tacky, but as you say it will be covered up..what about those rings, did you understand what I was talking about? thank Kristi

        • says

          On draperies, I never use the clips that come on the rings. I always use the wood drapery rods and rings from either Bed, Bath & Beyond, or the Allen + Roth line from Lowe’s. Then I pull the clips right off of the rings, which leaves behind a tiny little eye screw. I use standard drapery hooks (one on the leading edge, one on each pleat, and one on the return), and place the hooks through the eye screws on the drapery rings.

  19. Nancy says

    Kristi-
    Your drapes look great! One suggestion I would have for those who haven’t made drapes/curtains before is to this- do not buy poor quality fabric! It will never hang correctly even if you line it. I can’t cut on the floor- my cats object to something being on their floor they can’t play with- I use my cutting table a 6ft banquet table on risers, before I cut on my kitchen table. The key to cutting on a small space is to not let the fabric hang off the table- it will stretch and your measurements will not be accurate. Have fun and create what you want.

    • says

      Very good point, Nancy. When I made those draperies out of the drop cloths, I was about ready to pull my hair out. And I was quite experienced at making draperies at that point. That fabric was awful to work with.

      For someone making draperies for the very first time, I would suggest a high quality decorator cotton fabric.

  20. says

    Kristi:
    Thank you, thank you! I’m a custom drapery workroom and cringe when I see some of the window panels on home décor blogs. So happy to see someone advocating either custom or making your own, but please ladies please no more drop cloths! You can buy a cheap cotton solid for very little money sometimes as little as $5.00 a yard or less and it looks so much better.

    • says

      I totally agree. No more drop cloths. They’re really not any more economical as some of the decorator cotton fabrics you’ll find at JoAnn Fabrics, especially if you have a 50% off coupon. (And I NEVER purchase fabric without a coupon!!)

      Do the no-sew curtains put together with iron-on tape make you as crazy as they make me? Every time I see something like that, I think to myself, “That takes way more effort than just sewing a stitch right down the edge!” :-D I don’t know why sewing machines scare some people so much, but so many people go to reeeealllly great lengths to avoid them! :-D

      When I write my tutorial for the lined drapery panel, you’ll have to give me your input and tell me if you do them differently.

      • says

        Kristi, I’ve seen blogs where the ladies have actually used hot glue to hem the sides and bottom of their drapes! I just … can’t … understand why anyone would bother with that? I mean if you just want to toss fabric on a window opening, maybe it would work, but surely that cannot be anything more than a short term fix. There’s no way hot glued hems can look professional, be laundry or dry-clean worthy, or have any durability at all. I need my stuff to be “real” if you know what I mean. Temporary fixes that look OK in a photo on a blog but will not wear well in the long term is nothing but a waste of fabric and time to me.

      • says

        Kristi:
        Yes Iron on tape makes me crazy. But, I have to confess that even some high end workrooms use iron on tape to finish their hems, but not stich witch. They are using a boiler iron and the tape that goes with that. I don’t ever do that because if you need to fix it for your client your are now out of luck with the iron on tape. I don’t know what the fear factor is with sewing machines. People are perfectly happy to pick up a saw and cut away – on their fingers – but not use a sewing machine. Maybe it’s the fear of threading them, although if they’ve ever threaded an industrial serger they’d think a regular sewing machine was a piece of cake. Serger’s are a NIGHTMARE to thread.

  21. Peggy says

    I have a drapery workroom, so of course I’m a drapery snob. I remember when I first got started, I read about a woman who started her workroom at home, in her bedroom. She would set up her sewing machine at the foot of the bed so there would be a place to put all the yardage while she was sewing on it.
    Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

    • says

      Peggy, your comment reminded me that when I first started sewing draperies for clients, I would sew in my bedroom in our tiny condo. Each day, I would lift up the mattress and lean it against the wall, and then use the boxspring (that had a very flat, firm surface) as my work table. At the end of the day, I’d put my sewing stuff away, and put the mattress back on the boxspring. :-D Oh, how thrilled I am to be out of that tiny condo and have more room to spread out here!!!

  22. says

    White lining will help keep the fabric colors true. Ivory will add “yellow” to whatever color the primary fabric is; turning blues to green, reds to orange, etc. If you contrast line, say for a tent style, interlining keeps the patterns separated and adds luxurious volume. All things are design decisions. There may be a time when you want red more orange??

  23. Kelly says

    Please Please Please have your tutorial before the Christmas holiday! That is when I am attempting my first lined draperies for my master bedroom… ALL BECAUSE OF YOU!!! Thank you for this post, it has explained a lot. Can’t wait to see your drapes in the living room go up!

  24. Mellani says

    Love the idea of a drop cloth but desperately need some pattern / texture in my living room.
    I have ONE small, sad and lonely window and would love to do draperies with pinch pleats.
    Since there is only one window I could do something “special” here.
    The window measures 71×31.5 and ceilings are 8ft near the window. Our ceilings
    are “coffered” (I think that’s the word) and angle in and go up to 10′.
    Question is … With this small narrow window how wide does each panel need to be, and how do you do pinch pleats?!????
    Any help is appreciated!!

  25. V says

    This post could not have been more timely, as I have a ton of questions regarding custom draperies.

    My most pressing one is with regards to fabric width. Standard fabric width seems to be 54″, but my windows are 6′/72″ wide, and since I like my drapes to have the traditional folded/pleated look, that means I need each panel to be at least 90″ wide. However, the only fabrics I have found that are that wide are all solid colors and, well, boring. I realize I could simply sew together 2 fabric lengths, but I just know that seam down the middle would most likely bug me. Is there some secret magic place that people go to to get nice, heavyweight, patterned, drapery fabrics?

    • says

      Not really. You just have to sew together two widths of fabric. That’s very standard (that’s even how the professional drapery workrooms do it), and you’ll be surprised at how the seam will disappear, especially if you’re using patterned fabric. (Just be sure to match up your patterns at the seam!!) Then you just plan your pleats so that the seam is in one of the folds (between the pleats), so that when your draperies are stacked back (open), the seam will disappear.

      • says

        I read through every single comment looking for this question because I didn’t want to ask a question that you already answered. You have convinced me to return the Target Threshold drapes that I purchased over the weekend and I’m going to attempt my second pair of drapes. My first pair were drop cloth which I washed a million times and ironed within an inch of my life. I added silk color blocking to the top and bottom. They came out really nice and people don’t believe they are dropcloths. I have two windows in my master. One is 48″ wide and I want 100″ wide panels on each side. I like the inverted pleat look or even the hidden back tabs. I was wondering how to pull off the double width panels. Thank you so much for your tip.

    • says

      Except for sheers, which are usually 118″ wide most drapery fabric is 54″ wide. In order to get a fuller width you would add a second width to the first width. So you don’t see a seam in the middle of your panels you calculate out your pleats so the seam falls right next to a pleat and it will disappear when you hang it. You can always change the size of your pleats, to make sure the pleat lays next to the pleat rather than in it. One pleat can be 3 1/2″, and the next can be 4″, but you never change the size of the spaces between the pleats. I’d give you the exact calculations, but I just came home from “wine night” so tonight’s probably not a good time to get into this.

      • V says

        Thanks for the tips, Kristi and Sydney! It’s interesting to hear that even the professionals sew 2 widths together to get the right panel width. The reason I assumed that all decorators were going to some secret magic place to get their wide-width drapes was because my mother has custom drapes on her large windows (heavyweight, patterned), and I’ve look at them and each panel is one piece of fabric. That being said, she did have them made in China, and I’m assuming she used a factory-scale professional drapery workroom and they’d have access to wide fabric widths. Actually, I’m thinking I may just go that route, just because the designs I’ve seen them produce are way fancier than anything I could come up with on my own (seriously, more bells and whistles than you could shake a fist at).

  26. SG says

    I will never be a drapery snob because I don’t sew. Actually, I can’t sew. Really. Sewing Machine??? I can staple gun some, or hot glue or use stitch witchery in small areas, but sewing and I do not mix.

  27. Cking says

    Ok this might not be up to your standards :) but for those of us who are “sewing” challenged (I couldn’t sew a straight line if my life depended on it) I got fabric from Jo-Ann’s and made my own panels by using “Stitch Witchery” aka the no sew iron tape… Which works incredibly well… I however didn’t line the panels I just made another layer of panels (with blackout liner) behind the “pretty panels” with a double rod… It ended up looking great because it blocked the light and added fullness… And it was soooo easy! Just hem all four sides and hang with drapery clips…

  28. Sally B says

    I went to a TJ Maxx and got some mid-range panels and then to cut the light, I pinned up (since I never open my BR curtains) some light blocking fabric over the windows using simple thumbtacks. I haven’t had the time to add it to the back of the curtains (and I didn’t buy nearly enough anyway:)
    I love the look of your drapes, but for those like me with no time/money/not too great of sewing skills, you can do fairly well buying fairly good curtains on a budget and cheating on the lining…;) Sally

  29. Tina says

    I really enjoyed this post! I am also a drapery snob, and I always prefer to make my own curtains.

    However, when I was decorating the guest room I was on a very tight budget (the guests weren’t unwelcome, but they planned to come a little sooner that I anticipated).

    It was cheaper to buy curtains at a large Swedish furniture retailer (I know! Mass produced at it’s worst) and hem them. The curtains where 3 m (118 in!) and our ceilings on the second floor only 98 inches. With the fabric I cut off I could make two cushions, so I consider it quite a bargain.

    Since we don’t use the guest room that often, I am really happy with this solution. For areas that we use more and that has odd shaped windows, I much rather make my own lined curtains.

  30. says

    Completely agree with you Kristi.
    That reminds me before 20 years (I was student) in my first rented room I designed beautifully simple draperies and mom sew them for me. For our new (nearly ready) house mom is going to purchase for me a sewing machine- what a dowry!!! and then….just to choose fabrics, kilometers of fabric. How can one rely on ready made curtians. I defenetely belong to the exclusive Curtian Snob club :) love it, will consider your sewing advices from your blog.

  31. says

    I’m a drapery snob too :) When we first moved overseas we rented a house where the former patio had been enclosed and had wall-to-wall windows on two walls and another on a third wall. That was when my husband finally acknowledged my fabricaholic tendencies paid off because it took 25 yards of a solid blue damask and 12 yards of a coordinating plaid to make floor-to-ceiling drapes for that room! Plus an equal amount of liner.

    Last year we moved into a tiny 2 room casita on property we will build a house on, and with only 2 small windows I decided to use ready made for now. I’m not happy with them but decided to leave it for now; we have other priorities. But I admit the curtains bother me every time I open or close them. At least the bedroom ones are floor-to-ceiling, and with sheers behind, they don’t look bad at all. But the kitchen curtains are another story, and I have a feeling I may have to break down and do something about it. Haha

    Sadly the drapes I made for the last place would not work here. It would be like “putting lipstick on a pig” as we say down south :) Our casita takes wonkiness to new heights. There isn’t a square corner or a straight wall anywhere — in fact our walls undulate so much we can’t install baseboard! Pretty sure the guy who built this stayed drunk the entire time :/ My husband had to pour a new floor because it was all uneven too — up to 7 cm in spots. So you can see why my nice drapes would be completely out of place here :)

    • says

      Oh wow, Kim! And I thought that my house was unlevel!! :-D That would certainly be quite a challenge to decorate, trim, etc., with no 90-degree angles or level floors. But you seem up to the challenge. :)

  32. Crystal says

    I love the idea of hanging drapes high and wide and to the floor. However, as I prepare to make some flour the bedrooms in my house, I noticed that I have a heat register under each window. I would like tobeable to close the drapes at night, but I live in the frozen north and need to have the heat coming into the house instead of it the window. Is there any rule of thumb that I can follow to make it work or am I stuck in a world that makes drapes just around the window frame?

    Thanks so much for the teaching!

  33. says

    Well said – THANK YOU so much for writing this post! I am continually educating my customers on the benefits of custom made draperies. Even the most expensive ready made draperies from Horchow, look sad next to a beautiful lined and interlined pair of custom made.
    Nine out of ten times the ready made draperies are made from a less expensive ground cloth than what you would buy from a retailer, which cheapens the look even more.

  34. Monica says

    Kristi,
    Thanks for the tips on how to hang draperies but I have a question. We have an older house that has baseboard heaters and I struggle with what to do with the window coverings. I have cut them just below the window so they don’t fall on the heater but I always think it looks like a motel curtain. Any suggestions?
    Thanks!

  35. says

    This post is timely, as I have finally found the correct green velvet for my library drapes. It’s been a bit more of a search than I’d originally expected. I’ve been following the high (maybe not so much on the wide, forgive me!) rule for years, but I have a problem here.
    The window in the library is against the corner, in the basement, and against the ceiling. So, I do have to hang them high regardless; might have to create a rod so that it mounts on the wall 90 degrees from the window; and in front of the window, but don’t really know how wide I can go on the side that leads into the room.
    And I’m not sure any of that made sense to anyone but me!

  36. says

    What a timely post! I am making drapes for my living room this weekend. Oddly I sew all the time but haven’t bothered to make my own curtains, I usually just shorten the too long premade drapes. We’re redoing our entire house and I am so tired of fixing drapes I’ve spent a ton on and having to settle for whatever prints/styles are available that I’d decided to make my own. Your guidance on how wide of a panel I’ll need will be a huge help when I head to the fabric store tomorrow…I was just going to make a wild guess on the necessary yardage and hope for the best lol.

  37. says

    I have some of your tutorials on drapes bookmarked I would love for you to explain how to cut on a bias. I learned to sew at 13 in home ec. I want my home to look custom. So I decide to make my own drapes and shades. I study work-room products as friends and I also order M’fay patterns. I wish I could figure out the blind stitch. I am pretty proud of my work, I sure you could tell they are not made by a professional, but most people can’t. :)

  38. Lucy says

    Great post. I have used an online workroom to make the drapes for our curtain home and did not not notice until the last purchase that I could have ordered them a little longer @ no additional cost. Ugh !! So live and learn. Fabricworkroom is who I used and they prices jump according to certain lengths and silly me never thought to look at that. I also did not use blackout lining on pinch pleated drapes (wish I had), but I did order them with an interlining. I keep them pushed together on the sides so in that scenario I don’t see any light filtering through.

    Another DIY idea for the budget minded.. My sister does not have the $$ to do any of this, but she wanted a pretty room. I can sew and offered to make her drapes when we redid her room and ended up buying 2 king size quilts and cutting them in half that we picked up on sale @ $70 each. Something I’d definitely do in my own home someday if I found a design and color that I liked, but I’d probably add a blackout lining to them. We didn’t for hers but she’s happy with them. Here is a link with a few pics..

    http://hereslucy.squarespace.com/journal/2013/9/15/redo-pics-from-my-sisters-home.html

  39. LI gal says

    This post has been so informative! I have a small cape cod home with windows that for the most part only have blinds on them. I don’t have the space to accommodate curtains but would love to add some. Unfortunately, the two places where I do have floor length curtains they are 84″ and touch the floor only because I hung the rod above the window.
    My question is, one of the ‘curtains’ are for the sliding glass door that leads to the backyard. I have space to go ‘high’ but not wide. Also, there would be no way to accommodate a sheer as I need the access to get to yard and need to be able to move the curtain for light as well. What would you do in this situation? Also, the room that has the sliding door also has 4 windows. For now, I have wood blinds and valance that is just above the window. Would that look funny with a sliding door curtain that goes close to the ceiling molding?
    Sorry for the wordy post. This is my first time ever commenting on a blog. I’ve been following you for a bit and love all of your work. Very inspiring!!

  40. says

    Hi Kristi -

    I may have a solution. What if you could purchase high end luxury fabrics, unavailable in any retail store, fully lined and crafted into finished drapery panels (complete with sewn-in tape)? What if you could buy them at a fraction of designer cost? I am talking fine French and Italian fabrics from $150/panel. I have been importing such fabric for years for leading designers nation wide and will soon offer them at: http://www.kenisahome.com. Check us out!

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