Sunday, February 23, 2014

DIY Pleated Ribbon Curtains

Several months go I was in search of some curtains for a guest room that I was redecorating in yellow and grey and I had the hardest time finding any that went with my new color scheme.  Yellow and grey is becoming popular, but it it still hard to find a lot of things that actually match this new color trend and I was starting to get frustrated. 
Then...I went to Hobby Lobby and saw the perfect fabric for my new curtains!  Yellow chevron duck cloth fabric!  This fabric is a little thicker than standard cotton and so it made perfect sense to use this for the curtains in my new guest room.  They didn't have much on the roll that day of course and so I went ahead and ordered an entire bolt for myself and they said they would call me when it came in.  I didn't even know that you could do that...
I still wasn't sure exactly how I wanted the tops of the curtains to look...I have several curtain rods with rings hanging throughout the house and I wanted something different.  I really like grommet curtain tops, but that just wasn't what I wanted in this room.  Then I found what I wanted...pleated curtains.
Oh, and after my fabric came in and I was ready to get sewing I found out that this new guest room was now going to be a new baby room. Yikes! I decided to use the same color scheme since I had already painted the walls and ordered the fabric so no big hiccup there, except for I was in that super tired phase which took away a lot of motivation to get anything done, much less sewing.
Now to get them made...with a full time job, new baby on the way and Miss Priss going on two (but thinking that she is fourteen) I didn't get a chance to sit down and get them whipped up all at once, but I did get them completed and hanging and here is how I did it. 
DIY Pleated Curtains
You will need:
  • fabric of your choice (measurements depend on the size of curtain you are making)
  • thread to match
  • sewing machine
  • 2" ribbon for back of curtains (old ribbon is great to use here)
  • iron (or hair straightener)
  • straight pins
  • 5/8" ribbon for the 2 ends (this could be 1" or whatever else you choose)
  • hot glue gun (if you don't want to sew on your ribbons)
  • Fray Check
First of all you need to decide how long you want your curtains to be.  84" is a standard size of curtains panels that you can buy in a package at the store and when I measured from slightly over the top of my window to the floor that was exactly how long I wanted my panels to be. 
But wait, don't cut yet!  You have to make sure to add to the top and bottoms for the hems.  4" hems are pretty and I really like the way that they turn out, but I wanted waste the least amount of fabric that I could to make sure that I would get two panels and have some extra left over for pillows, lamp shades, etc. at the end of my bolt so I cut down my hem sizes a bit.
I accounted for a 3.5" hem at the top and a 2.5" hem at the bottom (since no one will really be looking there anyway) and then 0.5" on both top and bottom to fold under to give it a smooth, finished look although this is not a necessary part of the procedure if you ware really want to save some fabric.
With these additions, I cut two panels approximately 91" long x 46" wide (this was the wide of my bolt of fabric, I didn't have to cut this).  My window is 30" wide and so this give me plenty of room to pleat my curtains when I get them hanging.
In some instances you may want to fold over 0.25-0.5" and then fold it over again on the side to hide the frayed or glued parts of the fabric, but since I had such a smooth side on my curtains straight off the bolt, I just folded them over once and sewed straight down to hold them in in place.  On one side I only folded about 0.75" of fabric and on the other I had to do 1" to hide the sides of the fabric (see the pictures above and below for each side). 
When both sides of both panels have been sewn straight down the edge, you are ready for the top and bottom hems. 
Before we start talking about hems, let me tell you what I have learned about ironing.  First of all, I don't iron...I don't have time, I don't have room for or want to store an ironing board, and I just don't want to do it!  Instead, I will plug in my hair straightener in the morning and do my hair and if my shirt or pants need a little ironing, I use the straightener for that too.  I just put it on there and squeeze it together and then guess what?  You get heat on both sides and no big iron or ironing board is needed.  I still do own an iron though and so if it is a big project I will use it in the floor with a towel, but in some instances, like hems on can just squeeze that straightener on it and run it down your hem and voila, you are much faster!  And easier to keep out of reach of kiddos too.
Now back to sewing, for the bottom hem, I folded it over about 0.5" to start with and ironed it down flat. On this hem, since it is at the bottom, I only made a 2.5" hem and put in a few pins to hold it in place.  You can try to use the design on your fabric to make sure you are folding it over evenly, but a lot of times fabric isn't printed straight and it can throw you off. I get out my sewing tape measure and just move it along the fabric every couple of inches and make sure that at each movement the folded fabric at that point is equal to my intended measurement, which is 2.5" on this hem. 
I really started trying to line it up perfectly at one point and was starting to stress out a little and then I told myself that it was at the bottom, it would be touching the ground anyway and NO ONE was going to know if it was just a little off and to quit trying to be a perfectionist! This made the rest of the project a whole lot easier...and faster. Once you are confident in your measurement, sew straight across your hem.  Do the same with your second panel.
Now for the top hem, again I folded over about 0.5" and ironed it out flat and this time folded over another 3.5" using my sewing tape measure to make sure that it was 3.5" all the way across. 
In the picture below I actually folded the bottom hem of the curtain up to this one and used it to somewhat line up my bottom hem and check for straightness, but again, using a sewing tape measure every couple of inches or so to check your measurements is the best way to check for errors.

This time, before sewing your hem, you have add your ribbons for the pleats at the top.  Start by measuring and marking where you want your ribbons to be.  You can try and do some kind of engineered calculation for how big you want your pleats to be, etc. or you can do what I did and space them out evenly across your fabric the way I did below.  Note that on the ends though, I used a 5/8" ribbon so that it wasn't so bulky there.
I put the 5/8" ribbon 1" from the edge on both sides of the panel and then measured out about 4" to 5" across the rest of the panel and marked with a fabric marker (or straight pin if you so choose).  I did this to both panels and then counted the number of ribbons I would need to prepare.  This gave me 4 of the 5/8" ribbon pieces and 8 of the 2" ribbon pieces.  The length of your ribbons will be determined by the method of attachment that you choose below.
Now, there are two different approaches that you can take here:
The first option is to sew the ribbon onto your curtain (which is what I did and I think the best option in the long run, especially since I might have a little girl tugging on them at some point).  To do this, flip your hem out as shown in the picture below so that you are looking at the right side of the fabric to allow you to pin and sew on your ribbons correctly.
I cut my ribbons about 4" long so that I could fold them under to make them look finished, but this does take a little more time and is not necessary since they are on the back of the curtain and no one will probably ever look at them.  I folded the top and bottom of the ribbons to make them the same length as my hem, which was 3.5" and pinned them onto my markings. 
You can them sew across the edge of the ribbons that is closer to the inside of your fabric (which will be the top of your curtains).  By sewing them on now, you won't have that thread showing on the right side of your curtain once you hang them.
Here is a close up of what they will look like at this point.
 Flip your hem back over so that you are again working on the wrong side of the fabric and pin the hem and ribbons down for your final hemline.
This way, you can sew across your hemline and the bottom of each piece of ribbon all at once and only have one hemline showing on your curtain.
Your curtains are now done and your ribbon is securely attached to your hemlines with a clean, finished look and no additional hemlines are showing on the front of your curtain.  Do this with you other panel and you are ready to hang them up!
The second option is hot glue your ribbons onto the back of the curtain. I don't recommend this option, but it is there for those of you that are not comfortable with sewing or in a time crunch.  For this method of attachment, you should have already folded and ironed your hem to the size that you want and marked for ribbon placement.  Sew across the hem just as you did for the bottom and then use a hot glue gun to glue your ribbon onto your markings. 
This is by far the easiest option, but not the most stable. IF you do decide to use this option, I would recommend that you use Fray Check or some other product to keep your ribbon ends from fraying and falling off. You can also use a lighter to burn the ends, but they won't look as nice.
Hang your curtains and then scrunch them together like this to get your pleats and you are done.  The ribbon allows you to open the curtains easily and maintain the pleated look when closing them again.
The window that I put these curtains on is very narrow and right up next to the other wall.  I wanted to make the window look larger and so I moved my curtain rod out about 8" from the edge of the window and hang my curtains there instead.  The curtains are essentially covering up a portion of the wall as well, but when someone sees them, they can only assume that they are covering the window itself.  Even when the curtains are open, they are scrunched on each side and you can't see that they are actually covering part of the wall!
I am so glad to have this project completed and I love the look that these curtains give!