Thursday, November 6, 2014
Curtains for my kitchen
I'm so excited to share my new kitchen curtains! I just finished making them and I think they turned out well. I used the fabric I shared recently, a design from Moda's Milk Cow Kitchen line of cotton quilting fabrics. This pattern is called Strawberry Jam. My kitchen happens to be strawberry-themed; the fabric doesn't exactly depict strawberries, but the creamy background color and bright red floral pattern work well with my kitchen's theme.
Here's one of the old curtains. The new curtain fabric feels a lot more modern, though it is actually in the style of 1930's feedsack fabrics. The old curtains served me well and I had them for a long time. They were made from heavy polished cotton and fully lined; their quality was very good. I bought them used on eBay. I already had a bolt of the floral fabric, also from eBay. It was incredibly cheap and I bought it thinking I'd use it to make placemats, napkins, a table runner, curtains...oh, so many potential kitchen textiles. Then I had my first baby and the bolt languished in a closet. I decided to buy matching curtains - for inspiration, maybe. I was getting tired of them lately, though. They looked dated; they are probably from the late nineties, after all. The curtain in this photo fit the window, at least; the one on the window over the kitchen sink wasn't wide enough and didn't gather nicely on the rod. And the green trim was bothering me; the counters are greenish-gray and they reflect on the walls, creating an underwater effect. The curtains only enhanced this. I loved these curtains once but they just weren't doing it for me anymore.
This is the same window with the new curtain. I like this much better. For one thing, it's just a single layer of cotton fabric. Light comes through and it doesn't look as heavy or stiff. The color is cheerful and I really like the lightness of the whole look - it's more casual and fresher too. It's just a simple valance design, which is really the limit of my curtain-making prowess, but I'm very happy with my new curtains. The window above is 48 inches wide, the one over the sink is 60 inches wide. I actually made two curtains for the larger window, pushed together at the center. You can hardly tell it's not one big curtain, but it was so much easier to make two smaller ones than one humongous one. A valance curtain should be about twice the width of the window, to account for all the gathering space, and that smaller one was unwieldy enough for me at 96 inches.
I've made valances for a lot of windows, and I have a pretty simple way of doing it. I've made them from scrap material, mostly, running up a quick little curtain to freshen up bedrooms and kitchens in most of the places I've lived. I've even made a few valances from bedskirts; I just cut the drapey part of the bedskirt off the flat part and added hems and a rod pocket. Would you like to see how I make a valance? It only takes a few straight seams.
How to make a valance curtain
First, you'll need to measure your windows, and your fabric. Valances are used to decorate a window, but also to hide fittings such as the windowshade rollers and blinds headers. You can make a valance as long or short as you like, but a standard length is about 14 inches from the top edge to the bottom hem. You can also choose your rod pocket size, depending on the look you want; my old curtains actually had, I think, a 2-inch rod pocket but I was using them on a narrower rod because, well...I'm cheap. I had those rods already and didn't want to invest any money in new ones. They would have hung more nicely on the correct rod, though, and with this in mind, I made my new curtains to fit the narrow rods properly.
I wanted to make valances for two windows of different widths, a 48-inch and a 60-inch. I bought four yards of fabric to be safe; I knew I'd have some left over and I might even make something else with it - this time. Your valance needs to be twice the width of the window to gather properly on the rod. If you have a huge window like I do, you might like to make two smaller valances to use together. For 60 inches of window, I needed 120 inches of curtain, so I made two 60-inch ones instead. You need to account for hems too, half an inch on each side.
This is my crude attempt at a schematic drawing. Imagine the above rectangle to be your piece of fabric, after cutting to size. It isn't drawn to scale (shocking, I know). But I hope you can get the gist of my technique. I've marked off 1/2-inch seams on all four sides, along with a horizontal fold line. You'll want your fabric to be about 18 inches from top to bottom (the end-to-end measurement depends on the size of your window). 18 inches will account for an inch, total, of hems and the fabric needed to create your rod pocket at the top (3 inches including the hemmed edge; your rod pocket section may vary depending on the width of your curtain rod. I'm giving directions for rods like I have, which are about 3/4 of an inch wide).
Start by making 1/2-inch rolled hems on all four sides of your fabric. A rolled hem is easy and creates a nice, neat effect. Just fold your fabric in 1/4 inch, press, then fold in another 1/4 inch, press and pin in place.
Stitch your hem in place.
When you get to the corner, just stitch straight through to tack it down. (You could do fancy mitered corners here if you like, but I don't think it matters much; I'm just happy to have it neat and pointy).
After you've got all four sides hemmed, start creating your rod pocket. If your fabric has a definite up-and-down pattern, make sure you're working at the edge you want to have at the top of the curtain. Fold that edge down three inches, with the wrong sides of the fabric together. Press the folded edge and pin in place. Stitch straight down the width of the curtain, right over the hem stitch of that side's edge. Do you see this in the photo above? I'm just following the same line I've already made with the hem stitching. You will only see this second line of stitching on the front of the curtain because the hem stitching is now on the back side.
Once you've made that first seam, you're almost done. Just one more straight line and you'll have a brand-new curtain! Now you're going to sew your last seam, which will be made closer to the fold. This will create the rod pocket, or tunnel, into which you will insert your curtain rod. I made my rod pocket about an inch wide, to fit my rod with a little bit of wiggle room.
To make it super-easy on myself, I just lined up the folded edge with the outermost measurement on my sewing machine's needle plate. This gave me a 1-inch rod pocket and left about 1 3/4 inches above the pocket to create the top edging of the valance.
Your pocket should be ready to go. Stick a curtain rod in there and hang it up!
Here's the window over the kitchen sink. It isn't a great photo; the light on that side of the house doesn't cooperate this time of the year. But I'm sharing it because I want to show you a couple of things. This is the window with two shorter curtains on it. I took this photo the same day I hung the curtains and you can just see a line down the center. After two days, the fabric relaxed and I was able to tuck the ends into the center to hide them better. Also, notice that this window is under a soffit, so I needed to make sure the top edge of the curtain was short enough to fit there. I made both curtains the same because of this, even though the other window has open space above it.
I hope my little how-to makes sense! These valances were quick and easy to make. I made all three pieces in just a few hours on a rainy day. A few cups of tea later, I had a fresh, new look for my kitchen. I love them and I hope you'll try making some for your house too.