"I love my cats because I love my home, and little by little they become its visible soul." Jean Couteau

Sunday, April 7, 2013


My latest project is blackout curtains for the sliding glass door in the basement. A basement was a pretty strong requirement for Zach in a new house as he is seriously into movies and needed a good, dark place to watch them. However, the basement we got is a walk-out, so although there's a deck out back that helps keep the sunlight down, it's still not as perfect as Zach would have liked. Plus, I get creeped out thinking that people can just peer in and see all the movies and action figures and other collectibles in there.

Awhile ago, we got a blackout pull-down shade for the window, but the sliding door is still uncovered. We did some looking at curtains and were unsuccessful in finding anything that was totally acceptable. It seemed like a simple request -- blackout curtains in a plain, light cream color to match the walls and window shade. However, many curtains that claimed to be blackout seemed too thin to really be blackout, and the ones that seemed like they might work there didn't come in the right color. The closest I got was some curtains I got (and then returned) at Home Goods, where were a good color and seemed reasonably blackout, but weren't nearly as wide as they claimed, and so didn't actually cover the entire doorway. At this point, I gave up and decided it would be easier to just make my own instead of continually buying, testing out, and returning curtains.

I don't really like the look of curtains with grommets or rings because they make me think of shower curtains, and I think they look cheap. Zach probably wouldn't have cared, but he'll get what I make him :-p I found this tutorial online of making curtains with back-tabs, which was exactly what I wanted: www.viewalongtheway.com. It's a good tutorial, so I won't go through the steps in much detail here.

I got my fabric from JoAnn. I like to buy fabric in person, so I can get a better sense of it. I especially wanted to in this case when I was really trying to match the color of the window shade. I had a swatch from when we had ordered that, so I took the swatch with me, which was super helpful as there are about a million different cream shades out there. However, I'm also a big fan of online shopping and optimizing my time in actual stores, so first I went online and picked out some top contenders. In the end, I went with this home decor fabric and this drapery lining, both of which ended up being on sale, which was a bonus. I was glad the fabric was a good color match because I really wanted to get the 45" fabric. The doorway is 78" wide, which becomes two 39" panels, so with the 45" fabric, I didn't need to cut it at all.

This is one place where I diverged from the tutorial I used -- she said to make your main fabric the width of the window and make the lining 6" narrower. However, as I read through all the steps, it was clear that the sides would fold in, so the total curtain would be narrower than the fabric by about 3". I had looked at some other tutorials, and they generally said to make the main fabric 4" wider than the window. Since I was lazy and didn't want to cut the fabric, I decided to make the main fabric 6" wider than the panel should be (45") and then make the lining exactly the width of the panel (39"). The lining came 54" wide, so I did have to cut that.

I also had to cut down the length of all the pieces. The curtains needed to be 84" long. Here I did follow the tutorial's measurements, making the outside fabric 10" longer (94") and the lining 2.5" longer (86.5"). I bought 6 yards of the outside fabric, leaving me with 28" extra, and 5 yards of the lining, leaving me with 7" extra. So after cutting the fabric and lining, I got started ironing and hemming. Besides ironing the hem to make it sit nicely, you'll probably also want to iron the entire curtain fabric. Mine was pretty wrinkly and had a major crease down the middle from being wrapped up on a fabric bolt for a long time. However, I didn't iron the lining as it was less wrinkly and sort of a weird fabric and we don't have to actually look at it.

Fold up the bottom of the main fabric 4" and iron, then fold up another 4", iron, pin, and sew.

Fold up the bottom of the lining 2" and iron, then fold up another 2", iron, pin, and sew.

Next, onto the fun part of actually putting the outside fabric and lining together. Even after reading on the tutorial how that she had to try multiple times to put the right sides of the fabrics together (both 'outside' sides facing each other), I still did it wrong the first time. I blame it on the fact that, not having any pattern, my fabric looks the same on both sides. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Luckily, I caught my mistake before I started pinning or sewing.

 First Side                                                                           Second Side

The hardest part about sewing the two pieces together was just the massive amount of fabric. I had to keep pausing to readjust to keep everything going through the sewing machine nice and straight.

After sewing the second side, remember to turn the fabric right-side-out. I started ironing the sides before I thought, "Something doesn't seem right here," and went back, re-read the tutorial steps, and realized I had my two fabric outsides still facing each other. I guess I'm used to sewing pillows, where you sew three sides together before turning it right-side-out.

I thought about not doing step 7, finishing the bottom corners. I thought it looked pretty good as-is, but then I folded the corner in, just to see how it would look, and it looked super fancy, so I decided to do it. Only the best for my hubby! The key to the blind stitch here is to not pull the thread all the way through to the front; only go through the top layer of the hem. This way, you attach the corner to the front of the fabric, but you don't see the stitching on the front. It's hard to tell in these pictures since I did such an amazing job of matching my thread to my fabric, so you may just have to trust me that the stitching doesn't come through on the front.

  Next came the back-tabs. Some other tutorials I found say to use "gross-grain ribbon." Not having any (in fact, not really knowing what that is) and not wanting to make yet another trip to JoAnn, I decided to use leftover fabric. I was a little uncertain about the sturdiness of the fabric, even though it's relatively thick, so I decided to double it up. Although the tutorial says to make the tabs 2.5" long, it doesn't really talk about how wide they should be. Looking at the photos, I saw that the bias tape used was 7/8" wide. However, even rounding up to 1", that seemed pretty narrow to me, so I cut pieces 3" wide and 2.5" long and folded them in half to be 1.5" wide. Then I just sewed around the edges to hold the halves together.

I estimated that the tabs should be about 5" apart, based on the fact that the tutorial mentions using 10 tabs for a 55" curtain and 9 tabs for a 44" curtain. Since my curtain was about 39" wide, I used 8 tabs. I put one tab at each end, then laid out my yardstick to measure and get the remaining 6 tabs as evenly spaced as possible. Then I pinned and sewed them, per the tutorial.

Then all that was left was to hang them and bask in Zach's awe and gratitude at my amazing handiwork!

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