Making Lined Curtains

If you were following along with the One Room Challenge when I redecorated our sun lounge, and especially if you follow me on Instagram, you will know that making these curtains was nearly my undoing! The frustrating thing is that, if you can sew a straight line, making curtains is actually relatively easy ... if you know what to do. But all I could find were instructions for "no-sew" curtains, unlined curtains, or guidelines for random, disconnected parts of the process e.g. a lesson on how to make a mitre corner that wouldn't show how to incorporate the lining into that. What I needed was one resource that would guide me step-by-step through making proper, professional-looking, lined curtains. Well, now that I have figured it all out, that's exactly what I've put together here. 

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Materials

  • Fabric of your choice
  • Lining fabric (I used, and recommend, thermal lining)
  • Header tape
  • Curtain hooks
  • Lead bead tape
  • Measuring Tape
  • Sewing machine
  • Fabric marker
  • Basic sewing supplies - thread, scissors, handsewing needles etc.
  • Steam Iron
  • Curtain pole & fittings (brackets, screws, wall plugs)
  • To hang the curtain pole: pencil, drill, screwdriver, hammer, laser level/spirit level
  • Recommended: bulldog clips, large elastic bands

There are many types of curtains, and most are quite similar in their construction. What I am showing here are tube-lined curtains with a header tape.

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The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

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Measuring for Curtains

You will first need to consider the width and height of the curtain pole. Heightwise, the pole should be hung at least 15cm (6") above the top of the window. Interior designers often recommend hanging the pole close to the ceiling in order to give a greater impression of height in the room, although personally I prefer not to have too much window header visible when the curtains are open. You choose whichever you prefer. 

To determine the height of the curtains, measure from the bottom of the pole to where you want the hem of the curtains to fall (if using a track, measure from the top of the track so that the curtains will conceal it). My preference is for curtains to stop about 2cm (¾") short of the floor so that they don't become grubby from dragging along the floor. Then add 22.5cm (8⅞") to your desired curtain height to allow for the hem and seam allowances.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

For the width, the pole should extend at least 15-20cm (6-8") either side of the window. To make a small window appear larger, or to maximise light, you could opt to extend the pole even more so that the curtains hang alongside the window when open and cover a larger area when closed.

Measure the width of the pole excluding finials. Note the number, but know that we have some more maths to do before we can determine the width of fabric required. There are plenty of curtain fabric calculators available online if you want to avoid doing the sums yourself, in which case you can skip down to the sewing instructions below. But if, like me, you like to know and understand the ins and outs of everything, I've outlined all the calculations required below here.

The Return

Your lining needs to be shorter and narrower than your main fabric. This is so that the main fabric will wrap around the back to create the return. The return is the border of fabric that you can see along each edge of the back of the curtain. 

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Thermal lining should be cut 13cm (5⅛") narrower than the main fabric. This is different than for regular lining, which should be 23cm (9") narrower than the main fabric. The reason for this difference is because each lining will be attached to the return in a different way.

Regular lining is sewn by aligning the edge with the edge of the main fabric, and then the seam is pressed so that it faces away from the edge of the curtain.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

However, as we will see in a moment, thermal lining is too thick for the seam to be pressed flat like that. In addition, because thermal lining also acts as a blackout, we don't want to see a gap at the edge of the curtain where the light comes through. So in this case, the thermal lining will be tucked all the way inside the return, like this:

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Regular lining should be 7.5cm (3") shorter than the curtain fabric. Thermal lining is too bulky to create a double hem, so needs to be 17.5cm (6⅞") shorter than the curtain fabric.

I chose thermal lining for my curtains, so that's the method and calculations I will be using here. I allowed for a 5cm return on each side with a 1.5cm seam allowance. 

Fullness Ratio

For sheer curtains, or for a very minimal look, you can get away with curtains that only just cover the window opening. However, for heavier fabrics or a more luxurious look, having an excess of fabric prevents the curtains from looking too skimpy or mean. To calculate the appropriate amount of fullness for your desired style of curtain, there are fullness ratios available as multipliers, e.g.

Pencil pleat: 2
Tab top: 1.25
Eyelet: 1.5
Pocket top: 1
Flat panel: 1

So, for example, if our curtain pole between the finials measures 280cm, then each curtain needs to cover 140cm. We also need the curtains to overlap by 3cm in the centre when closed, giving us 143cm. If we want to make pencil pleat curtains, the multiplier is 2, giving us 286cm. And finally, we add on 13cm to allow for the return and seam allowances. So we need a piece of fabric 299cm wide for each curtain.

How Much Fabric to Buy?

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Take the desired width of the curtain (as calculated above), divide by the width of the fabric, and then round up to the nearest whole number. Multiply that figure by 2 to account for both panels. This is the number of drops of fabric needed (the drop is what we call the vertical pieces of fabric that make up the curtains). Then multiply the height of the fabric required (including hem and seam allowances) by the number of drops to determine how many metres (yards) of fabric to buy.

Taking the number above, 299cm, and assuming that our fabric is 150cm wide, then: 299 ÷ 150 = 1.99; which we would round up to 2. So we need 2 drops of fabric to make each curtain, or 4 drops to make the pair of curtains. If our desired curtain height is 245cm, adding the 22.5cm for hem and seam allowances gives us 267.5cm. We need 4 drops that height, so 267.5cm x 4 = 1070cm, or 10.7m of fabric. So we would need to buy 11m of fabric to make our curtains. 

However, if you are using a patterned fabric, and you need more than one drop per curtain (as in our example, where we need 2 drops per curtain), then you will need to buy extra fabric to allow for the pattern matching required (see below).

Pattern Repeat

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Any pattern on the fabric will be repeated at intervals along its length. The size of that interval is called the pattern repeat. So, if our pattern repeats every 30cm along the length of the fabric, then the pattern repeat is 30cm. If your fabric label does not indicate the pattern repeat, you can easily determine this by finding an easily recognisable part of the pattern, and then measuring to the next point where it repeats. 

So how will this affect the amount of fabric we need to buy? Well, taking the example above again, the required drop is 267.5cm. If our pattern repeat is 25cm, then we need to add that to each drop i.e. 292.5cm. So, for the 4 drops of fabric required to make our curtains, we would need to buy an extra 100cm of that patterned fabric.

Also note that, when cutting each drop, you need to round up to the nearest pattern repeat so that each drop is cut with the pattern starting in the same place at the top of the curtain. After pattern matching (see below), the excess can be cut off.

Curtain Lining

Due to the size, you will most likely want to measure and cut the fabric on a clean floor.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

I prefer using a cutting mat and rotary cutter, but a scissors is perfectly fine too.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

If your required curtain width is wider than your lining, you will need to join two drops of lining together. I chose thermal lining for my curtains, which is fleece-lined and extremely thick. To ensure that the seams would lie flat, I had to stitch them down on either side of the seam. For regular lining, simply pressing open the seams will suffice.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Note that when hanging the curtain later on, the seam should be closer to the outer edge of each panel rather than to the centre where the curtains meet. In other words, if you need 1.5 drops of fabric to make the curtain, the full drop hangs in the centre of the window and the half drop will be on the outer edge. I found it helpful to pin a label to the top of each piece of fabric and lining so that I could keep track.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Hemming the Lining

A double hem in thermal lining is too bulky, so simply fold up 10cm at the bottom edge and pin and stitch.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

For regular lining, you can make a double hem: fold up 20cm at the bottom edge of the lining fabric and press, then half that again by folding up 10cm. Press and sew.

Pattern Matching

For curtains panels that can be made from a single drop, or if you are using a plain fabric, you can skip ahead to the section entitled Hemming the Curtain.

As above with the lining, you may need to join two drops of fabric to make a wider curtain. If your fabric is plain, then it is relatively straightforward. However, if using patterned fabric, you will need to match the pattern to make the join invisible. 

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

The traditional way of doing this is to lay the pieces of fabric right sides together and then fold the top layer back. Slide the top fabric until the pattern matches across the two pieces. Then pin through all the layers to hold the fabric in place.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Next, remove those pins in short sections, open back the top fold and mark the crease with a fabric marker. This is your sewing line, and marking it makes it easier to stitch in exactly the right place to ensure a better pattern match.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Use pins to secure the fabric, while keeping the fold open.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Stitch along the marked lines. Trim and press open the seams. 

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

This method certainly works, but I found it very time-consuming and I sometimes had to make some adjustments to ensure that the pattern matched perfectly. So, I came up with another method.

I used a photographic lightbox to determine when the two were not matched ...

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

... and when they were.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Then I would just mark a sewing line using a fabric marker and stitch as above. I found this method much more efficient and effective, although it will only work for symmetrical patterns. And there's the fact that you need a lightbox of some sort. However I thought it was worth mentioning as I found it so much quicker.

Hemming the Curtain

Fold up 20cm at the bottom edge of the curtain and press. Then fold that 20cm strip in half again by folding over 10cm and press again to make a double hem. Do not sew yet!

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Mitre Corners

This bit is like origami! Now, technically, a mitred corner should meet at a 90° angle, so because of the offset here between the width of the return and the height of the hem, this is closer to a half-mitre - but the principle is the same regardless.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Start by folding the hem and the return over one another in the corner. Press to ensure that the fold lines become firmly creased into the fabric, as you will use those fold lines to guide your way.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Use a pin to mark the corner.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Now, open the return and one fold of the hem.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Next, fold the corner diagonally through the pin so that the fold line of the hem meets the fold line of the return.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Trim the excess fabric so that the corner isn't too bulky. Mark a line parallel to the diagonal fold.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Open the corner so that you do not slice through the front of the curtain, and cut along the marked line.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

We are almost finished the mitred corner now, but we'll pause here to do the next step and finish making the corner later.  

Adding Weights

Adding weights to the hem of your curtain makes it hang better. Many people add "penny weights" to each corner of the curtain to help it hang properly. This is basically a small weight, or heavy coin, that is sewn into a little envelope made of scrap fabric. Then the fabric envelope with the weight inside is stitched into the corner of the curtain. However, I opted to insert a lead bead tape along the entire length of the hem to add a greater and more consistent weight to the curtain.

The lead bead tape is a little chain of metal beads wrapped in a synthetic fabric tube. Begin by pulling back the fabric at one end to expose the lead weights.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Snip off the last 2-3 beads, and pull the fabric back over the end of the tube.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

As you can see, the fabric tube is prone to fraying. Now here's where you get to unleash your inner pyromaniac! Heat the end of the tube with a lighted match to melt the fibres, thereby sealing it.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

The tube should have a little fabric still extending beyond the last weight.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

We don't want the lead bead tape swimming freely within the hem of the curtain and potentially accumulating in one spot, so it needs to be secured. Start by placing the end of the bead tape near the corner where we placed the pin earlier. Stitch it a couple of times to anchor it. Then, making large stitches about 5cm (2") apart, put the needle into the fabric just above the tape and pull it out below, effectively wrapping the tape with the sewing thread. Be sure that the stitch is small enough not to be visible on the right side of the fabric. Every 25-30cm (10-12") or so, stitch through (instead of around) the fabric lining of the tape to anchor it again; otherwise, the rolling stitches will not be able to hold the weights in place at the bottom of the hem.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

When you get to the other end, trim and seal the tape as before and then stitch it to hold it in place.

Now we can get back to our mitred corner again. Fold the hem along the pressed folds to cover the lead bead tape.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Now you can stitch the hem of the curtain.The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Tube-Lined Curtains

Now it is time to join the lining to the curtain fabric. With tube-lined curtains, the lining is attached along each side of the curtain panel to form a tube, with the top and bottom left open initially (the top will be closed later on, but the bottom will remain open).

Start by marking the 1.5cm (⅝") seam allowance from top to bottom on the reverse side the curtain fabric using a fabric marker. This will help to guide our stitches and keep the curtain square when sewing it.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

I also found it very helpful to mark a line 3.5cm inside the edge of the lining. I used this line as a guide to place the edge of the curtain fabric, thereby making a 5cm return with a 1.5cm seam allowance - but don't start pinning or sewing yet until we discuss the next important element.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Now, after all our hard work making the mitre corners, our curtain will succeed or fail with the following little detail. It's all about forming the return and the mitred corner correctly when joining the lining to the fabric.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

With right sides together, start pinning the lining in place so that size of the seam allowance equals the height of the mitred fold above the bottom of the lining.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

It is also essential that the distance from the stitching line to the edge of the lining is equal to the distance from the stitching line to the fold for the return on the curtain fabric. Note that the edge of the curtain fabric is not important here: it is the stitching line that we marked that is key here.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Now you can pin the two fabrics together, using the guide line we marked on the lining. Then sew along the line marked on the curtain fabric. Repeat for each side of the curtain panel until you have two "tubes".

When you turn the curtain right-side-out again, the mitred corners should fall perfectly into place.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Now we just hand stitch each corner closed.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Header Tape

We are almost finished our curtain now, but first we have to close the top of the tube. We'll start by preparing the header tape that will be used to hang the curtain.

At one end of the tape (leave the other end free for now), pull out the ends of the draw cords.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Then tie the cords in a knot to prevent them coming loose later on. Thread the ends of the cords through a wool knitters needle (which has a very wide eye) or through the centre of a closed safety pin, and pull the cords through the loops to keep the ends tidy.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Trim the end of the header tape, ensuring that there is enough left to fold the raw edge underneath.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Now we need to prepare the curtain panel to receive the header tape.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Start by folding back the excess 2.5cm (1") at the top of the curtain fabric, and press. Then fold that flap over the top of the lining. 

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Starting at the side of the curtain that will be in the centre of the window, and with the knotted cords facing down, tuck the raw edge of the header tape underneath the flap at the top of the curtain.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Then fold back the header tape so that it lies right-side-up over on top, and pin it in place. Be sure to pin through all four layers: the header tape, the flap, the lining, and the front fabric.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

At the other side, trim the header tape, allowing 1cm (½") to tuck underneath the flap. 

Stitch all the way around the four sides of the header tape using a thread colour that will be easily concealed at the front of the curtain (don't be tempted to just reach for the white thread here just because the header tape is white!). Ensure that the draw cords at one end remain free (not knotted or sewn down).

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Pleating

To pleat the curtains, simply pull the loose cords on the header tape until the curtain is the desired width. 

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Now tie a knot in the strings and tuck in the loose ends through a loop in the tape, as before. The reason that we started sewing the header tape in the centre where the curtains will meet is because these dangling cords are more easily concealed at the outer edges. If you wish, you may sew a small pocket onto the lining to hold the strings. Don't trim them as you may need to loosen them again from time to time to wash the curtain etc.

Curtain Pole

Using the guidelines discussed under Measuring for Curtains, determine where you want the pole to be. Use a pencil to mark the placement of the bracket holes on the wall. If the wall is plasterboard, you should try to place the brackets on a stud if possible, as plasterboard will not take the weight of the pole and curtains. You can find studs using an electronic studfinder, or simply by knocking on the wall. Alternatively, there are special anchor bolts you can buy for fixing heavy items to plasterboard walls.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Use a laser lever/spirit level to ensure that all the brackets are level. Drill the holes using an appropriately-sized bit for the screws you will use, then hammer in the wall plugs (or use an anchor bolt). Screw in the brackets. 

If necessary, cut the pole to size using a hacksaw. Then secure to the brackets.

Hanging the Curtain

Count the number of ring on the curtain pole and allow half for each curtain. Then take that number of hooks and distribute them evenly across the top of the curtain, hooking them into the loops on the header tape. 

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Header tapes usually have multiple rows of fabric loops so that the height of the curtain can be adjusted, so be sure that all the hooks are fixed onto the same row of fabric loops.

Next, lay the curtains on a flat surface and fold the pleats created by the header tape at the top of the curtain so that they run all the way down the length of the curtain to the hem. I found it easier to secure the pleats with bulldog clips to prevent the folds from opening as I worked. 

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

To hold these pleats in place, tie a ribbon or wrap an elastic band around the curtain in several places, from top to bottom.

Then transfer the curtains to the window and slip the hooks through the curtain rings. It helps to have two people do this job: one to hold the weight of the curtain, and one to hook it onto the rings.

Ensure that one of the rings sits outside the curtain pole bracket to hold that edge of the curtain in place.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

Leave the curtains hanging open for a few days with the ties around them to keep the pleats in shape until they settle into the fabric. 

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

After releasing the ties, the curtains may still take some time to fall into shape properly, but they will do so in a few days.

The House that Will | Making Your Own DIY Lined Curtains with Thermal Lining

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And there you have it: your own homemade, but professional-looking curtains!

I have tried very hard to include all the details you may need to make your own curtains, but feel free to comment with any questions I may have overlooked. And, as always, please tag me on social media if you use this guide to make your own pair of lined curtains as I would love to see what you make!

Next I'll be sharing my guide to making Roman Blinds, so do check back next week for that.

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