Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

Posted on February 1, 2012. Filed under: Hobbies, Home |

I’m back with more curtains. You’d think I wouldn’t be so eager to go through this again after I lost 30 hours of my life on the last set of curtains. But here I am. It’s almost like I have a sick addiction.

We have a bay window in our breakfast room and window over the sink. That equals 4 curtains.

Don’t mind the clutter in this picture. We were still doing pre-move renovations.

Some people might say: “Meredith, that equals 2 curtains.” Yes, it could. I debated doing a tension rod across both openings with panels, or a ruffle, or a swag; Adam said no. I don’t think he has any idea how much easier that would have been. Boo! That’s okay. I like Roman shades better too. I’m just not fond of the labor they require. (Note: I started this project at Thanksgiving.)

I’ve been looking for the perfect fabric for months now. I’ve scoured every fabric website and hit up a few stores around Atlanta. I finally found something that I really liked.

Better Homes & Gardens Jayda Bramble

It was 50% off. And I had a 10% email coupon. Score. I bought 6.5 yards of fabric and 6 yards of lining and crammed it in my Honda.

The oversized floral print is nice and airy for a kitchen. It has bits of the wall color in it along with limier greens, blues, browns, and linen. It’s purty. But since the pattern is so large and open, I knew it would be less forgiving. This fabric was tricky to get lined up across all three side-by-side windows. And the folds had to be even across all three shades as well. If it wasn’t, it would look weird. My mom came over after I bought it and gave me that valuable advice. Thank goodness I hadn’t already started. The drop on the fabric is quite large too – about 20 inches.

To make sure I had enough fabric, I decided to fake it with the shades. I planned all along to make fixed Roman shades – meaning they won’t raise or lower. We have blinds on these windows, so the shades would more or less serve as valances. Since they are phonies, I cheated the lengths. The bay windows are 55” long. I cut the fabric at a yard – 36” including hemlines. I planned to have 17” in final length – about 1/3 down the window. I made the center shade first since it would require the whole width of the fabric anyway. Then I made the left and right windows. Lastly, I made a panel for the window above the kitchen sink.


  1. Fabric
  2. Lining
  3. Scissors
  4. Chalk pencil
  5. 1×2 mounting board for each curtain cut to width of curtain (we had to use 1×4’s for our windows. More on that later…)
  6. Staple gun
  7. L brackets (we had to use Molly bolts and screw the boards into the ceiling. Again, more on that later)
  8. Screws
  9. Drill
  10. Thread
  11. Sewing machine
  12. Dowel rods (optional)
  13. Spray paint (optional)

Cutting the Fabric:

This fabric is dry clean only, so I did not pre-wash it. I cut my fabric to length allowing 2” for hemlines on all sides. The last curtains I made had bigger hem allowances, but I didn’t think I had the luxury of extra fabric with these shades so I skimped. Plus, they will be stapled to a mounting board at the top and folded at the bottom, which will weigh them down and hide the hems. I didn’t make them to hit the inside of the window like other Roman shades because our blinds are mounted on the outside of the window. They had to be wider than the blinds.

I cut the lining a little smaller than the fabric pieces: it was the same width as the finished shade and 1” shorter than the fabric. By doing this, I will have a ½” overlap of fabric on the wrong side of the curtain on all sides and ½” disappears to the seam allowance. That’s 1” of fabric on each side. That equals 2”. See now why I had an extra 2” for the width of the fabric? And because I wanted a ½” overlay of fabric on the wrong side, I cut the lining to the width of the finished curtain so ½” of lining on each side would disappear due to hem allowances. Make sense? No one should see any lining peeking through from the right side.

Let’s Get Sewing:

1. Lay down fabric right side up. Lay lining down on top of fabric right side down, wrong side up. Line up lining on fabric along the right side and pin with ½” of fabric margins at top and bottom.

2. Sew with a straight stitch with a ½” margin down the right side of the curtain.

3. Lay fabric and lining back down with the lining side up. Pull the lining over flush to the left side of the fabric. Pin making sure the ½” margin of fabric at the top and bottom is still there.

4. Sew left side of curtain with straight stitch, ½” margin.

5. Lay fabric and lining down and play with it until you have ½” of fabric margins down the sides of the back. I pin these margins in place and press the sides with a hot iron to create a stiff crease for your sides.

6. Press fabric and lining if wrinkled. You want everything to be smooth before you sew the top and bottom hemlines.

7. With your curtain lying right side down, fold the bottom of the fabric in a ½”. Pin and press. Fold it in another ½”. Pin and press. It should overlap your lining.

8. Sew bottom hemline of curtain with straight stitch as close to the fold as possible.

9. Repeat 7 through 8 for the top hemline.

Creating the Folds:

And this is where it gets a little organic because there is no right way to make these folds and no set formula for how they should be spaced out. It’s all about your taste. It took me a lot of experimenting to get it right. And then I still had to tweak everything once the curtains were mounted… Ugh. It was frustrating.

1. Lay your shade down right side up, preferably next to a tape measure or cardboard ruler mat.

2. Play with the folds until you get the curtain looking the way you want it at the length you want it (that’s why the tape measure is there).

3. Pin the folds in place across the width of the curtain.

Use the first curtain as a template for the others if you are making multiples. Measure your folds to make sure they are even across all curtains and the pattern matched vertically.

4. By hand, sew the folds. I tried to avoid sending thread through the front of the curtain, but after sewing across all layers but the top, I knew I had to do it for proper reinforcement. Luckily, my thread was a perfect match to the buff-colored background color, and there were a lot of places to sew the folds together all the way through without the thread showing on the front side.

***I can safely say that I wouldn’t labor over sewing the folds too much until the curtains are mounted and in their vertical position. I sewed all the folds by hand, so it wasn’t that difficult to stand on a step stool and make adjustments once they were hung side by side. I really regretted all the time I wasted sewing them while they laid flat. You just need to sew enough to roughly hold the folds in place before you mount them.

Bring it On Home (for Windows with Plenty of Wall Above Them):

1. With your sewn and folded curtain, staple the top hemline on the back of your mounting board. You want to staple it on the narrow side. If you’re using a 1 x 2 or a 1 x 3, you staple your curtain right side up to the 1” side.

2. Pull your fabric over the top of the board like so:

3. Screw L brackets into the wall or window frame for the mounting board

4. Mount your shade!

5. For added structure, you can insert dowel rods into the folds of the curtain

Bring it On Home (for our unique situation):

We have bay windows that are under a drop ceiling. There is only 1 ½” of wall above the window frame and the drop ceiling. It blows. It really makes window treatments űber complicated. Because of the shortage of wall, we had to mount the window blinds onto the window frame. Therefore, the body of the blinds sticks out pretty far – about 3”.

In order to have the Roman shades come out over the blinds, they had to be mounted to a bigger board: a 1 x 4. It would look weird if we mounted them on a 1 x 2 or 1 x 3 and there was a bulge where the top of the blinds were. When you mount a bigger board, you have to have a bigger L bracket. We simply did not have enough space between the top of the window frame and the ceiling to mount a large L bracket and a 1 x 4. Wop wop.

So we bolted our valance boards into the ceiling with molly bolts. We were scared. We’re still afraid they’re going to come crashing down. But we had no other choice. Here are our steps:

  1. Pre-drill holes into your valance board
  2. Line up your finished curtain around the valance board where you want to staple it. Mark on the curtain where the pre-drilled holes are.
  3. Sew button holes on the curtain where the bolts will come through to prevent strain and tearing of fabric.
  4. Staple your curtain to the valance board right side out on the back side of the board – the narrow side making sure that your button holes line up with the pre-drilled holes.
  5. Bolt your valance board into the ceiling.
  6. Make adjustments as needed.

So there you have it. It was a long process, but not too painful. The hardest part was getting the folds sewn evenly across all 3 bay window curtains – even folds and making sure the pattern matched up vertically all the way across. I think I got it lined up!

Sorry about the lighting in these pictures. I couldn’t seem to get it right…

You may notice that I sprayed the ends of my mounting boards with white paint so no one would catch sight of raw wood.

And here’s the window over the sink! I went for a simple abbreviated panel. It’s on a tension rod that fits snugly between the cabinets

And I’m not sure why the fabric looks so grainy in this picture. It is not like that in reality.

We are toying with the idea of inserting dowel rods into the folds (the width of the curtain) to give them a more rounded definition. The wide shade is a little wavy simply because it is so wide and heavy. I think if we put dowel rods in it, it will straighten it out a bit. Right now, I need a break from these babies.

I love how this room is coming together! Yes, we plan to re-do the kitchen a few years down the road, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t decorate it now. And who knows? We may keep the paint color and window treatments. The kitchen has come a long way in a few weeks: kitchen table, chairs, and now curtains! Next up is building/finding a wall-mounted plate rack and hanging some artwork.


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[…] to see my pregnant girlfriend. That sounds weird. My friend that is (and now was) pregnant. I made kitchen curtains. We hosted a dinner party. We raked and raked and raked leaves. We decorated for Christmas. We […]

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