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  • Neyir Urminsky

How to Customise Store Bought Curtains

In the dream house that exists in my head (you know the one where my children are always tidy and never break anything!) all my windows are covered in the most exquisite, silk custom curtains, to get as close as possible in real life I have focussed on how to personalise store bought curtains.

The slate blue curtains and the old layout

A few months ago when I changed the living room layout I also switched the curtains from the silky slate blue voluminous set to the lovely but more understated greyish/creamish DKNY curtains I purchased a few years back at HomeSense. I have always loved how well made they were and the subtle iridescence of the fabric with their inverted box pleats and button detail but the narrowness of the panels meant that I had 4 on the rod and they always looked a bit piecemeal. I couldn’t find my exact panels for sale anywhere but Two Pages makes something similar and their curtains are semi-custom. I have been hearing amazing things about them, be sure to check them out!

Current layout with inverted box pleat curtains

Buying curtains pre-made is always tricky because you are limited in the sizes. Often you can’t find exactly the length you want and to get the right width you may have to buy more than you would if you were making them custom. Having said that, it is almost always less expensive to buy pre-made window coverings. Custom curtains are expensive, they take a lot of fabric and the act of making even simple curtains requires a lot of space as I reminded myself when I was working on these!

The age old curtain questions are always; what size curtains do I need? Followed swiftly by, what height to hang my curtains? Generally the right sized curtains are at least 1.5 times the width of your window and ideally 2 times to get a full, rich look. When the curtains are closed there should still be some gathering and softness; you don’t want your window looking like it is covered by a tight fitted sheet!

Office curtains, brackets installed on ceiling

What about height? What is the ideal height for curtains? In almost all circumstances the higher the better! Please, please, please never attach your brackets to your window frame. If your frame is close to the ceiling then follow what I did in the office and attach the rod and brackets to the ceiling. The saying goes when hanging curtains to go ‘high and wide’ and this is the best advice I have. The higher you hang your curtains the higher your ceiling appears and the more gracious your room appears - yes even if said room is the home of marauding boys! If you have double height windows and cathedral ceilings then often there will be an architectural detail that can help you determine ideal curtain hanging height.

I raised the rod as high as I could, almost to the ceiling at the lowest point of the slanted ceiling

The other thing to take into consideration is how you want the bottom of the curtain to touch the floor. Yup this is totally a thing! In fact you can have your curtains not touch the floor at all - these are cafe curtains, you know the ones that are a few feet above the floor. In this case make sure that the bottom of the curtains cover the entire bottom of the window frame - no belly wood peeking out the bottom please! Some other popular options include curtains just grazing the floor, slightly off the floor, slightly puddling or left extra long to properly puddle on the floor. I love seeing a slight puddle at the bottom of curtains, particularly with a flexible and beautiful fabric. The slight break is glamorous and luxurious but not great for higher traffic areas, in fact you won’t find any in our current house with 4 boys!!! Proper puddling works beautifully in certain circumstances but you need the right type of fabric and definitely a low traffic spot.

Curtains just grazing the floor

In the case of our living room I moved the rod as far up as I could taking into account our sloped roof line and the length of the curtains.

I’m not sure where the inspiration came from, I thought it was from the wonderful book and fav resource, ‘Perfect Curtains’ by Stephanie Hoppen but I can’t find the inspo shot that is stored in some part of my memory. In any case I love dressmaker details and my vision was pleating on the leading edge wrapping along the bottom of each panel. For the rod I was excited to ditch my telescoping rods and instead tried a simple copper pipe, I love it! I'll still trim it down a little and add some DIY finials. Following the copper look I grabbed these hooks and eyelet rings and these fantastic rod brackets. I am super impressed by how well made and solid the brackets are, these are heavy curtains and the weight of them bent the previous brackets.

Edgingfabric pined into the pleats, last check before sewing it all together

Many years ago when I was shopping for the

fabric for my wedding dress (it was silver with coloured crystals - blue of course) a lovely friend who is a fashion designer took me to a store that specialized in silk and Indian Sarees. Since then I have sought out these stores in nearly every town in which I have lived, they always have the most amazing selection of solids, in silk to be sure but other fabric types as well and the most glorious decorative trim. My latest trip had me leaving with a turquoise silk lightweight taffeta at a fraction of the price it would have been at the local chain fabric store. I’m chomping at the bit to go back!

I love the relaxed organic movement, exactly the feel that I wanted!

Once home I cut my fabric into 4 long strips and then folded each in half and ironed the crease, which saved me heming the fabric because I sewed the raw edges directly to the back of the curtain. It took a little trial and error to decide how I wanted my pleats, I didn’t want to echo the inverted box pleat at the top because frankly it is more work and also I wanted something that was more flowy. Once I decided on the size I made myself a rectangle of cardboard to use as a template and started pleating.

I am super happy with the result, it gives exactly the colour and look that I wanted and I love the gentle movement in the trim. Now I just need to make the slipcover for the wing chair and this living room refresh will be done. Surely the slipcover is an easy job right….

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