Pattern: Tutorial for Fully Lined Tab Top Drapes by Shelley Denton
Fabric: Hana blossoms drapery fabric from Hancock Fabrics
Machine: Janome Magnolia 7330 (16/100 needle)
The hardest thing about sewing is cutting. In knitting, if you make a mistake, even a catastrophic one, the yarn is still able to be unraveled and reused. When you cut fabric … it’s forever.
As soon as I unpacked my new sewing machine on Christmas Day I was looking forward to making curtains. Our house needs curtains badly. The original heavy insulating beigey drapes from when we bought the house are being shredded by kids pulling on them. Their rods are bent, their pull ropes are slack, their rings are coming apart. This house needs a lot of help, but curtains are a good place to start. Particularly because, unlike installing a fiberglass shower or replacing carpet, curtains are something that, in theory, I can do myself. I found a tutorial that seemed to be at my level. And I decided to start my drapery-making adventure in our bedroom, where any mistakes I made would not be so much on public view as in the living room or front room.
I measured (90″ x 50″). I converted measurements (54″ length including hems and seam allowances x 2 curtains = 3 yds). I bought the material from a roll rapidly nearing its end. And on Thursday, I cut.
The challenge of working with drapes is that the fabric is so very big. It won’t fit on my cutting table. To find the middle and cut it into two equal pieces of 54″ each, I decided to fold it in half, press it, and cut along the fold. But in refolding the other way to get it positioned on my mat for a rotary cut, I focused on a different fold line. I cut — and as soon as I picked up what was supposed to be half the fabric, I knew it was wrong. One piece was much heavier than the other. The smaller piece was too short for the window. Crap.
Back to the fabric store I went the next day. I could make one curtain out of the longer piece I still had, but I would need a yard and a half of the same material to make the other curtain. The roll was no longer in the display rack. I had almost resigned myself to starting over with 3 yards of a completely different material that I didn’t like as well, when I spotted the roll lying on a table near the home decor fabrics, apparently waiting to be turned into a remnant. At the cutting table, I found that it had just barely a yard and a half left on it. Saved.
That same afternoon I attempted my first curtain. Cutting was still difficult, but forewarned was forearmed. I found a way to square up the fabric and get it to the right size — probably more trouble than I would need to take if I were experienced, but it worked for me. I pressed, I pinned, I lay the whole thing out on the floor to get the lining aligned and the edges trimmed (my lining was about 3 inches narrower than the fabric). I sewed the wrong seam first and had to rip out 57 inches so I could start over. But I didn’t ruin my fabric with ill-placed scissors.
I used wide ribbon for the (invisible from the front) tabs, as the tutorial suggests. I sewed across the whole curtain to secure them at the bottom without a line to follow in the 8 inches between tabs, just eyeballing it as I went along. That took some courage. It was like sewing without a net.
I hemmed it with fusible web (using that for the first time). I put it up; it worked. The next day I made another one. Each one took me about 4 hours, which seems like a lot for a simple rectangle of fabric. But you sewists know what I’m talking about. Precision is everything. The hidden details are vital, and they take time.
The reward is immense. From deteriorating eyesores at our windows, to something functional and beautiful. I enter the room, and instead of feeling depressed about all the improvements waiting to be undertaken, I feel my spirits lift. From someone without the skills to effect this change, to someone with practice under her belt and expertise ready to deploy. Bring on the rest of the house.