Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How to make your own French-Belgian linen drapes

Well, the curtains are done.


If you'd like to make your own version of CB2's French-Belgian linen panels you just have to follow a few easy steps.

First, fall in love with an expensive fabric. The hallmark of a good sewing project is thinking you're going to save money by making it yourself, then spending a TON of money and wondering if you should have hired child laborers instead (kids with ADD can sew a straighter seam than me). I chose a Tencel "linen-look" fabric that drapes beautifully and can be dyed.

Next, cut off eight foot lengths from your bolt of fabric. Don't vacuum or swiffer the floors first. You want the fabric to catch as much dust and hair as possible. Ideally you should be muttering, "Oh my god, what is wrong with me?" every couple of minutes.

Starch and iron all your edges. The rolled hem foot on the sewing machine is a bitch to use and if all the stars are not aligned correctly everything will go to hell and you'll be ripping out stitches for hours. A crisp fabric really helps in this case. Practice using your rolled hem foot until you feel confident using it. I bought a smaller piece of my fabric and sewed the edge, cut it off, then sewed it again and again and again, for what seemed like forever.

Start sewing on your real fabric. So far so good.

Oh my god, what is wrong with me? Son of a . . . bitch . . . shit. I hate the rolled hem foot.

Rip out the seams and redo it when this happens. Start to wonder if it wouldn't be faster to use a regular foot, even with all the pressing you'd need to do. Run your finished panels through the washing machine before hemming the bottom, just in case they shrink (pros do this before they ever start sewing but I have issues). Notice that a lot of your seams now look like hell when they seemed just fine pre-washing.

What is wrong with with my rolled hem foot? Blerg.

Spend an exorbitant amount of time at JC Penney (sorry, JCP) trying to special order the stupid corner bracket for your curtain rods. They have a new system and the clerk is 1000 years old (but nice! so nice!). Pull up the part on your phone and show her, as you realize that you could've just ordered online, in your pajamas no less, and saved everyone the headache.

Wait for freaking EVER for your hardware to arrive. Learn that JC Penney screwed up charging your gift card twice, so your order never shipped. Also, they processed the order under the name "Haether."

Hem your panels. You'd think by this point you could reasonably sew with your rolled hem foot but YOU ARE WRONG. Decide that the lack of overhead light in the living room is probably a good thing.

Hang up your panels with simple clip rings and realize that you can't really see the shitty hems, so maybe everything's gonna be okay. And you know what? They do vaguely resemble the inspiration panels.

Congrats! When they are closed they look like you spent a lot of time and money to hang white bedsheets.

Also, you screwed up the length.

So. Greg thinks they need some color and I'm worried about the sun bleaching any color we put in them, which is why I wanted white curtains in the first place. We're going to live with them for a while and I'm going to get more Ikea Enje blinds so I can get rid of the current situation:

This attractive option was installed by the house stager from my reveal. She was *so* worried I'd peek at the room that she posted signs everywhere and glued (OH, SO MUCH GLUE) those awful looking blind inserts into the window casing.

And then she emailed me, admonishing over and over not to peek. My friend told me I should peek, just to spite her, but I am a rule follower. I didn't peek. And I didn't remove those god-awful blinds until now.

I have a couple of options now. The first, to dye the curtains navy. We have a lot of blue in the room currently.

Second: dip dye the bottoms dark blue. The blue wouldn't bleach out because it would fall below the window. This is on-trend right now but it will eventually go out of style. Of course, if that happens I can just dye them navy at that point.

It might look something like this.

Or this.

So I guess the last step in making these panels is crippling self-doubt. Tada! Any opinions are greatly appreciated.


  1. What about trimming them with some ribbon, either vertically or horizontally? I'd post a pic, but I can't figure out how to do it with my iPod.

  2. I can never get the rolled hem foot to work either. And I have them in three different sizes. They have brought me nothing but frustration. I pasted a technique below that works really well for making tiny, neat hems.
    As for the drapes, I don't think they look bad at all! I never would have thought about dip dyeing the bottoms, but I really like the way they look in your sample photo (where only the very bottoms are dyed). Good luck! -Audrey

    Stitch along the edge of your hem, 1/4" from the raw
    edge. Then press that to the inside, right along the stitching line.
    Stitch again, very close to the fold. You will now have two lines of
    stitching visible on the inside. If you want, trim the extra fabric away, very close
    to your last line of stitching (I found this takes time but doesn't seem to make any difference to the end result). Now press that again to the inside. This
    time, your fold (which is now your hem) is a mere 1/8 to 1/4" wide.
    Very tiny, very neat. Stitch again near the fold through all thicknesses
    (there will be 3). What makes this technique work is that your first
    two lines of stitching serve to stabilize the fabric, so that you can
    actually fold over the smallest hem and stitch.

  3. Thank you! I actually don't hate them, I think they're just missing something. And thank you for that hem trick--I still have more panels to sew and I'll definitely try this. I'll report back how it works.

  4. I would leave them as is. I like the way they pool slightly, and the change from where the light comes through the window to where they appear darker against the wall gives a similar effect to that of the dying of the bottom. To my eye, the white lightens the room and picks up on the fireplace and baseboards. Good job!

  5. Thank you Ricki! You're the best.

  6. Ack, the rolled hem foot! I got one thinking that it would save me oodles of time when making Blythe dresses, but alas, it did not. It frustrated me to no end and I ended up going back to my previous method of pressing a manual double-fold and then just stitching it with a regular-type foot.

    As for these curtains, I think they look great as they are! You totally can't see the hems unless you look at them very close-up, and who is going to do that? If anyone does, they deserve whatever feelings they get because they were being too judgey with their close inspection. Anyway, I'd leave them just as they are if it were me.

  7. Thank you, Anne! They are definitely growing on me, I think I just had drapery anxiety. It's a real thing.

  8. What about trimming them out with some ribbon? Either vertically or horizontally?

  9. I think they're purty. But I don't want to learn to make them. I want to learn how to make you make them for me ;] I currently have awful waffle tan curtains from walmart (i know) hanging up so we don't have to watch the 97 year old lady next door anymore.

  10. I suggested that and Greg was kind of meh about it. It would be tricky with how drapey the fabric is, too. The good news is I like them better today. :)