Sunday 31 August 2014

Curtains, part 1

Do you ever find yourself wishing that you’d never started a project?

The spare bedroom is the sunniest room in this house, and Mr Tulip frequently used it as a sitting room. Most days that was where I’d find him when I got in from work, and as a result I hate to go in there now. So I decided to ring the changes a bit, and redecorate.

It all seemed so simple (which, in retrospect, is never a good sign). The walls are painted a pale green, and the lower part is covered with textured wallpaper, with a border along the top. The plan was to strip off the wallpaper and border, paint over the green, and make some new curtains. Easy.

The room, before I started

When I started I soon discovered that unlike pretty much every other room in the house, the walls are covered in lining paper. And between the lining paper and the textured wallpaper there is at least one other paper and with another border on top of it; five layers in all. Thank goodness a friend lent me a wallpaper steamer!

I was able to keep the upper section intact, but the lower section will need covering with fresh lining paper before it can be painted; and I’ve never hung wallpaper in my life. Eeek.

On the plus side, the room is now a couple of millimetres wider in each direction, plus all that steam means that my pores have never been so deeply cleaned! Oh, and that frizz-ease which I dutifully apply to my hair, despite suspecting that it doesn’t do a blind bit of good? Let’s just say that I now know that I was wrong. Very wrong.

Anyway, back to the curtains. This is one area where I do know what I’m doing. However I had thought that it would be a bit boring to post about making curtains. But then a friend asked me a few questions about curtain-making, because she couldn’t understand some of the instructions in the book she’d got, so I decided that a post might be helpful to anyone who normally sticks to dressmaking.

First of all, dimensions and fabric allowances. I am keeping the existing curtain track, but I were replacing it I’d go for something a bit longer, so that the opened curtains didn’t cover so much of the window.

The length of the track, and the length that I want the curtains to be, are as shown.

Track and curtain length

The fabric is 140cm / 55⅛” wide, excluding the plain white selvedges. Curtains should normally be at least twice the width of the window they cover, so in this case I should make each curtain out of 1½ widths of the fabric. However, as I mentioned above, the track does not extend much beyond the width of the window. Then as well as the attached lining, these curtains are going to have a separate blackout lining behind them, which will make them bulkier when pulled back. As I prefer good light to aesthetic appearance, I’m going to stick to a single width of fabric per curtain.

The curtain length should be the length that you want the finished curtain to be, plus 30cm / 11¾” for the hem and heading. So for my curtains, the length should be 175cm / 69”. If you are using a plain fabric, those are the only calculations you need to make. But my fabric has a pattern.

If you are using patterned fabric, you want the two curtains to line up and be easy on the eye, like this.


And not jarring, like this.


To do this you need to know the length of the pattern repeat. Lay the fabric out, and find a distinctive point in the design. Then find the repeat of that point, and measure between the two.

Measuring the pattern repeat

In my case, the distance between the tops of the dark purple leaf shapes is 63cm /24¾”.

Divide the length of the full curtain piece by the length of the repeat, and round the result up to the next whole number. For me that is 175 divided by 63, which comes to 2.78, which is rounded up to three. Therefore each curtain length needs to be three repeats long, which is 189cm / 74½“. The curtains will be shortened to the correct length during the making-up process.

If the curtains are to have a lining, cut the lining fabric to the same dimensions as the curtain lengths.

Well, that’s as much as I’m going to do now. I’m off to start filling holes in the plasterwork!

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