Making Your Own Curtains

Windows are focal points in rooms so it is important that you think carefully about what you use to decorate them. Because a window allows you to show off your fabric over a large area, a curtain project is an excellent opportunity to make the most of your creative flair and imagination.

However, before  you let your imagination run wild take a close look at the proportions of your room – your window dressings should complement, rather than obscure, its style and size. In general, small motifs such as a simple geometrics and more adaptable than large, pictorial designs.

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If you do settle for a bold, pictorial pattern, make sure that you choose a curtain or blind that shows off the design to its full extent. Like traditional toiles de Jouy, modern pictorial prints are best used flat in order to appreciate the full value of the design. For this reason, it is probably the best to limit their use to plain curtains or roller blinds, all of which will display patterns to full effect.

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Roller blinds are good for beginners because they are stiff and easy to work on. Blinds can be decorated using many of the textile surface design techniques – including hand painting, stencilling and silkscreen printing – and using a variety of fabric paints, including crayons, opaque paints and fabric pens. Because blinds are large and bulky, the most efficient method of fixing the paints and dyes is to blow them with a hairdryer 15 cm from the surface. After installation, they can be cleaned periodically using a hand-held vacuum cleaner or duster.

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The variety of fabrics available for making curtains is enormous. In general, natural fibres are most suited to this purpose since they absorb the dyes readily and tend to hang, drape and feel better than their synthetic equivalents. One important point to bear in mind when decorating textiles for curtains or blinds is that the design will fade if it is exposed to light for long durations. With curtains, the easiest way to prevent undue fading is to line and interline them.

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Not only will this protect the fabric, the extra weight will also encourage them to hang better. Cotton sateen is often employed for lining curtains since it is hardwearing and drapes well. It also has a shiny outer surface which helps resist dust and dirt. However, if you don’t want the formality of fully lined curtains and prefer to work with sheer fabrics such as natural calico, it is worth experimenting with vat dyes since these are colour- and lightfast.

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When decorating a large area of fabric, it is important that you find an appropriate surface on which to work. Make sure that you have a helper if you plan to do it on the protected floor, since you will need someone to help you to manipulate the cloth and move it to the suitable place for drying. Fixing is often the problem when decorating a large piece of fabric and for this reason it is important that you consider the fixing method before you start work. While most paint and dye manufacturers state the appropriate fixing instructions on their products, it is often impossible to carry out their recommended techniques successfully on a large expanse of cloth.

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For example, the most popular method of fixing, and one that has been employed extensively in practice, is to press the reverse of the fabric for five minutes using a hot iron setting. If you need to fix a pair of floor-length curtains, this method would prove too slow and laborious. For this reason, it might be worth checking with the paint or dye manufacturer to see if it is possible to fix the paints or dyes using another technique. A quick and efficient method is to blow the cloth with a hairdyer. Steaming is another popular method for fixing cloth and is widely used for finishing discharge-printed items and handpainted silks. If you don’t have steaming facilities at home, make enquiries at local dry-cleaners and colleges, which may be equipped with a large, industrial-sized steamer.

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