Your step-by-step DIY guide to making curtains

It’s easier than you think (Photo: Marc Sethi /

Do you want professional standard curtains, but don’t want to pay the price?

Believe it or not, you can make your own with best tips from Gemma Moulton. And no, they won’t look like the product of a casual DIY project.

If you follow this step by step guide, you will be surprised at the final result. What are you waiting for, take out your fabrics!

The DIY project: Making curtains

The expert: Gemma Moulton is the founder of East London Cloth and one of the newest and most sought after soft furnishings manufacturers in the UK today.

She just launched her first online course, How To Make Beautiful Curtains, with Create Academy and launches her fabric collection
this summer.

The reason: Custom-made curtains can be expensive, but with the right guidance, you can make your own.

What you will need: Fabric, pins, chain weight, fabric scissors, clamp, ribbon and hooks.

Your step by step guide to making curtains

Here, Gemma reveals how to make a very simple, unlined, machine-stitched curtain with a pencil pleated ribbon header.

Step 1: Measure the width.

You don't need much (Photo: Marc Sethi)

You don’t need much (photo: Marc Sethi)

With curtains it’s about gathering. As a general rule, your flat, uncollected tent should be 1.5 to 2.5 times the width of your pole, depending on what look you’re trying to achieve. A more detailed equation can be found via my Create Academy course.

Step 2: Measure your fall

But you will need one of these (Photo: Alamy Stock Photo)

But you will need one of these (Photo: Alamy Stock Photo)

Measure from the base of the curtain ring to the floor. For each “drop” of fabric, add another 12 ” to allow for hems.

Step 3: Join your pieces

Use one

Use a “French seam” (Photo: Marc Sethi)

Since your curtain is unlined, you won’t want to see the raw seams on the back,
so I use a “French seam”.

This involves sewing the two pieces together, face to face, with a small seam allowance; folding the curtain back so that the back is facing the back and sewing another line, enclosing the first seam.

Step 4: side hems

Accuracy is the key (Photo: Marc Sethi)

Accuracy is the key (photo: Marc Sethi)

Add a simple side hem to each side of the curtain (typically double 2cm.) You can hand sew it, using a slip stitch, or machine stitch along it.

Step 5: add weight

Make sure they hang properly (Photo: Marc Sethi)

Make sure they hang properly (Image: Marc Sethi)

Your curtain will need some weighting to make sure it hangs well. The easiest way to do this is to use a “chain weight”, which can be purchased by the meter or on a roll – you will need just over the total width of your curtain.

Replace the sewing machine foot with a piping foot and roll the weight of the chain into the curtain base, sewing it into place the same way you sew a piece of cord for a pillow.

Step 6: bottom hem

Feel the weight (Photo: Marc Sethi)

Feel the weight (photo: Marc Sethi)

Trim away the excess fabric and press a 5 cm double hem. This will leave the weight of the chain closed, positioned neatly at the bottom of the curtain. Pin in place if needed and machine the hem in place.

Step 7: Measure your fall

You need to know whether or not they will fit (Photo: Getty Images / EyeEm)

You need to know whether or not they will fit (Photo: Getty Images / EyeEm)

Set the curtain on a table. Keeping the hems nice, straight and flush, use a tape measure to measure in a straight line and add a pin to mark the total drop of the curtain.

Add pins at 10cm intervals across the width of the curtain. Fold and iron the line formed by your pins.

Step 8: Add the ribbon

Watch the fall on these (Photo: Marc Sethi)

Watch the fall on these (Photo: Marc Sethi)

Trim the excess fabric above the pin line, leaving a clean 5cm flap. Prepare your ribbon (a more detailed lesson can be found on the course): essentially one end needs to be sewn into place and the cords at the opposite end need to be free to move.

Pin and sew the ribbon to the back of the curtain, following the line drawn by your pins.

Step 9: Pull the ribbon

Gemma also involves patterns, but maybe you take one step at a time (Photo: Marc Sethi)

Gemma also involves patterns, but maybe you take one step at a time (Photo: Marc Sethi)

Tie the threads together, making sure to keep them even. Secure it with a knot once the curtain is pulled to the same width as your pole. Add hooks and hang the curtain.

These are simplified instructions. Refer to Gemma’s online course with Create Academy – How To Make Beautiful Curtains – for in-depth advice and help videos.

Gemma’s best advice

  • Measure twice, cut once.
  • Choose the right fabric. Cotton is ideal for beginners as it does not stretch and does not move too much, making sewing easier.
  • A simple but laborious sewing machine is bestyou just need to sew straight lines, but it must be able to sew multiple layers of fabric.
  • Steam. If you have a hand steamer, you can steam the folds of your curtain once it’s hung and it makes a huge difference. If not, flatten the curtain and spread it out well before hanging.
  • Invest in your tools– Clamps can be picked up at home improvement stores and will help keep your tent in place. Fabric scissors are a must and I love using darning needles for hand sewing.
  • Reuse. Shorten a curtain by cutting off the header, remeasure and secure your drop, and add a pencil pleated ribbon. Pencil pleated tapes can also be stretched or tightened to fit windows of different widths.
  • Use what you have. Most of us don’t have a table big enough to make a curtain, I started by using a 1.2 x 2.4m piece (but smaller will work) from a DIY store and placing it on top of mine table.
  • Understanding the mechanics. Take apart the old curtains and see how they are made. Each curtain manufacturer will have different methods, but if you learn the basic structure, it will simplify the process.
  • Practice getting straight, even hems. And test each step first with a piece of fabric. This will help you get it right and avoid costly mistakes when doing the real thing.
  • Relax. If you’re not doing it professionally, it doesn’t need to be an exact science. There is always a DIY way to get around something, for example if you are missing a chain weight, a dime in each joint and the angles will be enough. The side hems don’t have to be perfect and if you make the curtain with a lot of extra length, no one will ever see if it’s not perfectly straight.

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