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How To Be A Decorator:
Principles Of Decoration
Painting Points
Wallpaper Points
Wall Points
Floor Points
Colonial Living Rooms
Veneered Paneling
The English Room
Spanish-Italian Living Rooms
The Living Room Without A Mantel
Living Room Points
Dining Rooms
Dining Rooms Points
Combination Living Room - Dining Room
Living Room - Dining Room Points
Halls, Sun Rooms And Porches
Points For Halls, Sun Rooms And Porches
Colonial And Modern Bedrooms
Bedroom Points
Colorful, Comfortable Nurseries
Nursery Points
New Fashions In Draperies
How To Make Curtains And Draperies
Drapery Points
Slip Covers
Slip Cover Points
How To Make Slip Covers
How To Paint Furniture
Finishes For Natural Wood Furniture

How To Make Curtins And Draperies

( Originally Published 1930's )

French Headings, Valances, and Valance Boards

One of the first and greatest essentials in the making of curtains or draperies is accuracy in measuring. Not only must the window or door be accurately measured, but also the material, before even one length is cut off. All measurements should be made with a yard stick or rule, not with a tape measure, as accuracy is difficult to obtain with so pliable a guide. When working, have at hand for quick reference the sizes of your windows, the sizes of the finished curtains, and the lengths to be cut for each piece. A long cutting table is almost indispensable for the making of professionallooking curtains. It should have square ends which form perfect right angles to be used as a guide. A portable table may be made by using a piece of heavy wall board, measuring four feet by eight or nine feet. This can be placed on top of another table, even pressing the dining-table into service, if necessary.

Spread the material out on this table using the straight edge of the table as a guide, and fasten it securely with pins.

The fact that pins may be stuck into the heavy board table top saves much basting. Cut the pieces the required lengths for the unfinished curtains. Allowance for headings and hems depends upon the style and material.

For the top of unlined curtains allow twice the depth of the heading, the raw edge being turned in the full depth of the heading, instead of the usual half inch far an ordinary hem. This triple thickness is necessary for the heading if it is to stand up properly in place. The depth of this heading may vary, but three inches is correct for a moderate sized window when the material is taffeta, thin silk, sunfast, or casement cloth. For cretonnes, chintzes and mohairs four inches is about right and six inches is not too much for velours and other heavy fabrics.

The length of the curtains depends upon the windows themselves, as well as the type and function of the room. Short curtains should be the full length of the casing, probably about six inches below the sill. Full length curtains should be measured from the top of the casing to the floor. In figuring the amount of material required for over-curtains, consider that fifty-inch fabrics can usually be divided, using half width to each curtain. It is hard to divide narrower materials satisfac torily so that the curtains will not be too skimpy. Be careful to note whether the pattern is one that can be split in the center without ruining it. There are no definite rules as to the fulness of over-curtains. The full fifty-inch fabric is best for some, thirty-six inch for others, and the split fifty-inch (that is, twenty-five inch), quite sufficient for most single windows. If the curtains are to be drawn there must, of course, be more fulness, so that the appearance of the curtains, when pulled across the windows, is not too scant.

The difficulties of design must also be taken into consideration. It is imperative with a large or spreading design that the pattern in each curtain exactly match that in the other. For instance, if the design includes a bouquet of flowers or a bird it is most confusing to have the one in the left hand curtain a few inches higher or lower than the one in the right. They must match exactly or the result will be disturbing. This necessitates some waste in cutting for which allowance must be made when buying such a pattern.

For simple unlined draperies, a one and one-half inch hem on the inside edges and a two and one-half inch hem on the bottom is sufficient. With the many possibilities for trimming with applied hems, bands, braid or narrow fringe, the hems can be adjusted. The outer edge is best finished with a narrow hem, though it is possible to leave the selvage. To make your curtains truly professional-looking, these hems should be put in by hand for machine stitching does pucker and the handhemmed edges lie perfectly flat. When a valance the width of the window is used the top of the curtains may be finished with a single pocket through which the rod is run. However, they hang better, with the fulness more evenly adjusted, when the top is French plaited. When there is no valance, a French heading, or flat box-plaits should be used if the material is inclined to be stiff or unwieldy. To the back of each plait a hook or ring is fastened which in turn is fastened to or slipped over the curtain rod. In this way the fulness of the curtain can always be controlled and adjusted at will.

Lined Draperies

If your over-curtains are to be lined, the upper edge should be turned down the depth of the heading, leaving the raw edge exposed as the lining will cover it. If an interlining is to be put in, turn in the drapery material just enough for a good hem. If fringe is to be used on the inside and bottom edges, the hem must be narrow enough to be concealed by the heading of the fringe. This hem serves as a base to which the fringe can be sewed, without the stitches showing on the wrong side. When a band of another material or ribbon is to be used as an applied hem, there need be no extra allowance as the raw edges will all be concealed. Before turning in any hems, the selvage edge should either be cut off or notched every three or four inches so that it cannot draw.

The Interlining

When an interlining is necessary, the outside fabric, the lining and the interlining must all be tacked firmly together. Spread the drapery material, cut the correct length, on the table and turn in all four edges, pinning them securely in place. Use a catstitch to fasten them down. Pin the material firmly on all four sides with edges straight to the table top and spread the interlining of single-faced canton flannel smoothly upon it. This interlining must be cut one-half inch smaller than the outside fabric at the top and sides and one inch shorter at the bottom, as the edges are not turned in. Fold the interlining back on itself lengthwise of the curtain exactly at the center. Using a stout linen thread a little longer than the full length of the curtain, tack the interlining loosely to the curtain material. Be careful that this stitch does not go through to the outside, knotting it. Take these stitches five or six inches apart, leaving each one loose so that it will not interfere with the correct hang of the curtain. After finishing this first row of tacking, again fold the interlining lengthwise, halfway between the center and the edge and put in another row of tacks. Do the same on the opposite side making three rows in all. If the material is fifty inches wide, the best result will be obtained by using two, rows each side of the center, that is, five in all. Smooth out the flannel and catch the raw edges loosely to the folded back edges of the curtain fabric, leaving the bottom loose.

Then lay the lining in place and tack it to the interlining, following the same rows of tacks, beginning in the center. The edges of the lining are fastened in the same way whether an interlining is used or not. Turn in the raw edges and hem down blindly to the folded-in edge of the curtain, except across the bottom. This should be hemmed separately and left loose, as it helps to make the curtain hang more softly.

Sateen is generally used for linings, either neutral in tone, if it can be seen from outside the window, or matching the chief color note of the fabric. Portieres used in doorways may be lined with sateen or cotton taffeta or silk, or they may be alike on bath sides, or made of equally important fabrics, each harmonizing with the room into which it faces. Weights are needed to hold the front edges of the curtains straight and to keep the lower edges from curling up. For cretonnes, chintzes, taffetas and other light materials, a single heavy weight (such as is used in coats) should be fastened to the lower edge at the inside corner. For heavier materials, velours, damask and rep, sew a weighted braid or tape across the entire width of the lower edge. To hold the outer edges of the curtains firmly in place, sew a small brass ring to the outside edge about six inches from the bottom, the corresponding screw eye being fastened into the casing at the same height. A similar ring fastened four inches from the top helps to keep the outer edges straight. This emphasizes the structural lines of the window.

French Headings

As many valances and nearly all curtains are finished at the top with a French heading, it is well to know how to make them most easily. In making curtains with this type of heading the spacing of the fulness is first to be considered. For instance if you want to use a thirty-six inch material for curtains which are to cover the casing and a part of the window to the width of fourteen inches and a return of three inches, you would need only seventeen inches of material to cover this space if there were no fulness. The return is always to be figured in, for it is the space from the front straight edge of rod or valance board back to the wall. Too often curtains are made without allowing for this space, which is then left unfinished and so detracts from the well-made look you want to give to your curtains. Subtracting this straight seventeen inches from the full thirty-six of your material you have left nineteen inches. With hems off each side this is reduced to sixteen inches which is to be converted into plaits. One plait must be just inside the hem and one where the rod turns back to the wall, with the others spaced equally in between. These headings should not be closer together than three inches nor farther apart than six inches. For the fourteen-inch space which we want to cover, four plaits are adequate. As there were sixteen inches of material to be used for fulness this allows four inches to each plait.

The drawing at the top of this page shows the successive steps in the making of these plaits. As there are four inches for each one, when folded, it makes a two-inch plait. After spacing the four plaits evenly, pin or baste them firmly in place. Each one should be stitched down from the top a distance of about four to six inches depending upon the weight of the material. Each plait is then made into three small ones as shown in the drawing. These small plaits are then sewed through and through very firmly about three inches from the top. If the French heading is to be covered by a valance the open material at the top may be flattened out and pressed into one plait as indicated in the last drawing of the series. This may even be stitched in place if that seems desirable.

Drapery Hardware

Modern drapery hardware has made it possible for any amateur to hang curtains and to do it successfully. Just below the French headings on the opposite page are shown various devices for fastening curtains and draperies to the curtain rod. The first is a brass hook, one end of which is a brass ring which should be sewed flat to the back of each French plait. The second hook is similar except that the ring is so turned that it can be hidden within the plait as it is being sewed in place. The third is the ordinary brass ring which must be slipped over the rod, and the fourth is a hook attached to a sort of safety pin which requires absolutely no sewing. The last device to the right seems far more intricate, for it is designed with a loop below and prongs above which will hold the headings in place. This type of thing is especially desir. able for fabrics as heavy as velours, though they may also be used on light weight materials which have a tendency to droop. All of these various hooks are designed to be hooked into rings which slide on the curtain rod. The hooks and rings allow of easier adjustment, though the simple brass rings shown in the center of the drawing are quite sufficient for practically all glass curtains which are not made with a pocket for the rod.

Either round or flat rods may be used, and there are now available on the market many specially designed rods and hooks and rings which are built solely for the women who can make and hang their own curtains. Double rods with space for both curtains and valance are a great convenience, and there are triple rods which will care for the glass curtain, too. It is usually far better, however, to hang the glass curtain as near the glass as possible, and that is usually inside the sash. These double rods are usually made with a three-inch return, the so-called "goose-neck." These curved rods are necessary only when you are not using a valance board. When there is no valance, short rods may be used at each side of the window, cut just the length that you want. For casement windows that open in, there should be separate rods for each sash, and two for each, if the curtains are to be fastened at the bottom as well as the top.


There are almost as many different types of valances as there are of curtains, but they may be divided into two general classes-those that are shaped and stiff because they are lined with buckram, and those which hang in plaits or gathers. The latter are quite as simple to make as any curtain, for they are made in much the same way. They may be box-plaited, French headed, shirred, or made straight and slipped on a rod, but the important thing is to have the length correct. There are no definite rules as to how deep valances should be, for the depth depends on the window, the height of the room, and the fabric. It is safe to say that high windows and high ceilings need deeper valances than broad low windows in a low-ceilinged room. It is best to experiment with your own particular window, using brown paper patterns until you are sure of the desired length. The valance which covers the full width of the window is structurally correct and therefore is usually better, though it is possible to use the short frill valance placed between two curtains in some informal rooms, where the curtains are short and the windows wide. In many instances this type of valance has been used because only one rod is needed then for both curtains and valance, but that at best is a makeshift, and is not recommended for the window that is correctly curtained with good material.

The shaped and fitted valance is more difficult to make, for it must be done accurately. Select the design you want and, having measured your window, make a paper pattern. Pin this in position on your window to make sure that your proportions are good and then lay it on your material so that the design, if there is one, will also cut to advantage. When quite sure that your pattern is as you want it, lay it on a piece of buckram and cut it out, with no allowance for seams. Pin the buckram pattern onto the valance material and cut this out with a wide allowance for seams. Turn the edges back over the buckram edge and tack it in place. If the outer fabric is very thin, it is sometimes best to have a thin interlining of sateen or muslin between the buckram and the outside. This should be cut and fitted at the same time as the outside of the valance. Next apply any trimming, bands, or fringe which is to be used. The drawings on the previous page show three different types of trimmings for valances; the first, a narrow fringe; the second, an applied hem or band of contrasting material; and the third, a flat galloon or ribbon sewed a short distance from the edge, and conforming to its outline. The last thing to be cut is the lining of sateen which should be the same size and shape as the outside. Turn in all the edges and blindstitch. A broad tape should be sewed across the top, fastening its lower edge to the upper edge of the valance. This leaves the top' of the tape free to be tacked to the top of the valance board, fitting the top of the valance to the top of the board.

Tke Valance Board

All valances, except shirred ones of thin material, look better when mounted on a valance board. For fitted and shaped valances, boards are essential, the simplest method of making them being shown in the drawings at the top of this page. The upper sketches show a five-inch board cut the width of the window. At each end are fastened to it short pieces which form the return. These valance boards may be held firmly in place by means of screw eyes inserted near the ends of the returns which can be fastened over long hooks screwed into the casing of the window. The tap of the valance board should be level with the top of the window casing. The other type of valance board shown is screwed into the top of the casing, its width, three or four inches, forming the return. This is the type marked C in the drawing above. Any valance which can be fastened to a tape as already suggested may then be fastened to this easily made valance board.

Glass Curtains

The making of glass curtains is quite simple, for the plainer they are the better. There are no arbitrary rules as to fulness, though it should not be less than fifty per cent and with very sheer materials double fulness is not too much. Glass curtains should be hung as close to the glass as is possible and not interfere with the working of the roller shades. The length is always the same-they should just clear the window sill. The tops may be finished with or without an extra heading above the pocket for the rod. When only one set of curtains is used this top heading is almost a necessity.

Hems of the same width may be used on all the vertical edges, or the inside edge may have a wide hem matching the bottom, while the outer edge is finished with the narrowest of hems, or in some instances only the selvage edge. As the selvage does not always shrink or stretch as does the rest of the fabric it is usually wiser to cut it away entirely and use hems on all sides. If the "handkerchief hem" is used it should be about two inches wide. A two-inch hem may be used on the bottom, with only one-inch on the inside edges and a narrow half-inch hem on the outside edges. If the top hems are made the least bit wider at the outer corners, the curtains are much less likely to sag. If glass curtains are to draw, then they may be French headed and mounted on rings, but otherwise it is more satisfactory simply to shirr them on the rods.

Mounting Draw Curtains

When only one set of curtains is used these curtains are frequently adjusted so that they can be drawn across the windows at night. Some people use their over-draperies in place of roller shades and so draw them at night, while others have specially made curtains which are hidden by the over-draperies during the day, but which come forth at night to protect the windows in place of shades. This type of curtain is nearly always used on casement windows. Although the method of mounting seems complicated it really is not, if directions are followed carefully. The curtain rod is held in place by brackets, to one of which is fastened a double pulley and to the other a single pulley. Put the rod in place with the required number of rings already slipped on it to correspond with the number of hooks on the curtains. Cut off a length of curtain cord which is sufficient to reach across the width of the window and down the side about half-way and back to the starting point. Refer to the drawing at the top of page 02. Note that the double pulley is A, the single pulley D, and the two center rings are marked B and C. These two rings should be placed at the exact center of the rod. Having run one end of the cord through one side of the double pulley, knot it tightly to the ring B. Then pass it through the single pulley D and bring it back to the ring C and tie another firm knot. Pass it back then through the other half of the double pulley and at each end fasten a weighted ball or drop. It is usually easier to have one end longer than the other, so that in reaching for the balls, you may be able to distinguish which one to pull.

The cord may be run through all the rings, though it should be knotted only to rings B and C as indicated. In the drawing the cord is shown as hanging loose between the pulleys and the rings, but with the ends properly weighted it cannot do this. It was drawn that way in the picture to show you how to progress from one point to the next. The curtains are then ready to hook onto the rings, the right hand edge of the left curtain being fastened to the ring C and the left hand edge of the right curtain to the ring B. The curtains themselves should have the fulness properly adjusted by means of box plaits or French headings so that when drawn across the window the fulness is evenly divided. If you use a rod with curved ends, the last plait or heading on each side should come exactly at the point where the rod rounds back to the wall. There should be an `extra ring at the extreme upper end of the curtain to hold it trimly in place against the wall.

Roller Shades

Shades which are fastened to rollers similar to the usual window shade may be made of a wide variety of fabrics. Glazed chintzes and cretonnes are especially popular, though they may also be made of the crinkled Austrian cloth. The material for such curtains should he at least two inches wider and several inches longer than the measured dimensions of the finished shade. It is safest to cut off the selvage edge and turn back the side edges for an inch-wide hem. The upper edge is also turned under and tacked to the spring roller. The lower edge may be trimmed in various ways or finished plain with only a pocket for the curtain stick. This lower edge may be scalloped and bound with tape or ribbon, this scallop being either double or single. If it is single a wide tape or band of the same material may be stitched across the back of the shade to hold the curtain stick, or if it is double, two rows of stitching across the top of the wide hem will suffice. A tassel and short cord may be used in place of the ordinary cord and ring pull.

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