We sat down with our friends at Rowan & Free Spirit several months ago to look through the dozens and dozens of beautiful collections on their drawing board. Each one seemed more wonderful than the next, and we were having a heck of a time narrowing the field for our upcoming series. Finally, we asked, “Why not widen the field?” Why not give our Sew4Home visitors the tools, inspiration and confidence to mix and match designers, fabrics and substrates (cotton versus voile versus laminate, etc.)?! The resulting blend could create a special kind of beauty within a single project or an entire room.” This was the inspiration for the Romantic Bedroom Retreat series with Rowan & FreeSpirit Fabric: nine tutorials, five techniques and one Great Giveaway. Three weeks of beauty and imagination. We start today with a set of lovely layered curtains and a tasseled valance. It’s a richly elegant look that is actually quite easy to make. The four panels and the valance are hung on a standard double curtain rod, and the panels are held in place with conventional tie-back hooks. What a great way to turn a plain wall into a picturesque backdrop for your bed!
The Romantic Bedroom Retreat features four collections from Westminster Fibers Lifestyle Fabrics: FreeSpirit Pagoda Lullaby by Tina Givens, FreeSpirit The Birds & The Bees by Tula Pink, Rowan Bromley by Victoria & Albert and Rowan Cameo by Amy Butler.
Today’s layered curtains feature Bromley Arbor Voile in Citron. The Bromley collection is based on copper-plated designs from within the pattern book of Foster & Co. of the Bromley Hall Works near London, which dates from circa 1760-1800. This pattern book resides in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design. Its collection spans 5,000 years of art in virtually every medium.
We’ve mixed the beautiful drape of the voile with coordinating lace panels for both texture and definition. The valance is home décor weight black velvet with dramatic tassel and crystal fringe. You’ll see touches of black velvet in a number of the series’ projects. The black is a main accent color that ties together the varied elements; the velvet adds “romance,” plus it absorbs light, which gives our black a solid, even tone that never washes out or looks weak. You want a strong romance, right?!
Sewing Tools You Need
- Any sewing machine (we recommend the Janome Memory Craft Horizon 7700 QCP – we selected this model because of its built in AucFeed Walking Foot and its large bed size for our large panels)
- Walking foot (optional but very helpful with these fabrics)
Fabric and Other Supplies
Our curtain rod spanned a very ornate king size bed. The width of the rod was 99″ and the height to the floor was 90″. See the Getting Started section below for notes on determining width and height for your unique situation.
- 5½ yards of 54-60″ wide voile to create two full-length main panels; we used Arbor Voile in Citron from the Bromley Collection by Victoria & Albert for Rowan Fabrics
- 5½ yards of 54-60″ wide lace, gauze or other sheer fabric for two full-length accent panels; we used a home decor weight lace (purchased locally) with a pattern that mimicked the motif on the voile panels
- 3 yards of 45″ or wider wide heavy velvet; we used an upholstery velvet (purchased locally)
NOTE: This amount allows for a full 103″ lengthwise cut. We used this same upholstery velvet in several projects within our series and so were able to use the large remaining piece for other cuts. If you are only making a valance, see the Getting Started notes below for cutting alternatives. You may be able to get away with a just 1½ yards.
- 3 yards of heavy decorative tassel trim; we used tri-tassel upholstery quality trim with accent crystals (purchased locally)
- All-purpose thread to match fabrics and trim
- See-through ruler
- Tape measure
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Since both the voile and the lace we selected were 54″ in width, we opted to use the full width of fabric for all four panels. After hemming, this gave us approximately 200″ with which to work to drape across the width.
- The rule of thumb for curtain width is usually two and a half times the width of the rod, which makes our 200″ slightly less than that standard optimum of 247½” for our 99″ span. However, the lovely drape of the voile gives additional volume, and so we didn’t feel as if there was not enough fabric. However, think about the finished look you want, and adjust accordingly. For a straighter hang, narrow your panels. For a fuller look, increase your panels and/or add more panels.
- Measure from the top of the rod to the floor. This is your finished height. Add 6” for a nice hem.
- Measure the circumference of your rod, then add about an inch for ease plus a ½” for the seam allowance. The rod on which the sheer panels hang in our sample measured just under 1″. So our equation was 1″ + 1″ + ½ ” = 2½”.
- A well-made drape has a full double turned hem at the bottom of at least 3″, which means you need a total of 6″ with which to work. This full-depth hem is especially important when working with sheers as it acts as balast to help weight the panel so it hangs down nicely.
- Your final cut length equation is: the rod to floor measurement + 6″ for a bottom hem + the rod pocket sum. In our sample that meant: 90″ + 6″ + 2½” = 98½”.
- We started with two lace panels at full WOF x 98½” and two voile panels at full WOF x 98½”.
- Our valance finishes at 12″ deep, which is a nice proportion for our panel height. If your panels are much longer or shorter, you may want to consider altering the depth accordingly.
- Cut one piece using the following equations: the finished depth times two plus 1″ for seam allowance (in our sample that was 12″ x 2 + 1″ = 25″), and the finished width of the rod plus 4″ for side hems (in our sample that was 99″ + 4″ = 103″).
- Our valance cut was 103″ x 25″.
- As mentioned above in the supply list, we purchased enough yardage to do a full-length vertical cut to avoid seams through the valance. If you are not planning to use velvet for any other projects, and would rather not end up with so much extra, you may want to consider cutting several horizontal panels and seaming them together to create your required length. Had we done this, we could have gotten away with just 1½ yards of 54″ velvet: one 25″ x WOF panel and two 25″ x 25½” panel. When seamed together (one shorter panel on either end of the longer panel), we would have ended up with the same 103″. We recommend the two seams rather than one center seam to avoid the rather awkward look of a seam smack dab in the middle of the valance.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Each panel is made in the same manner.
- Make an approximate 2″ simple hem along both sides of the panel. We say “approximate” because the easier way to do this type of hem when working with a full WOF is to make your first turn equal to the width of the selvedge. This is usually, but not always, about ½”. Turn in this width and press in place. Then, turn an additional 1½”, press again, and pin in place.
- Stitch the hem in place from top to bottom, staying close to the inside folded edge.
NOTE: Another option for side hemming is a Rolled Hem, which we have a tutorial on coming up later in the week. The benefit of this option is that it uses very little fabric, giving you as much fabric width as possible for your panel.
- For the top rod pocket, your hem will be determined by the figuring you did above with your actual rod circumference. Our equation yielded a 2½” pocket. With this measurement, we turned down the top raw edge ½” and pressed it in place. Then, we turned it down an additional 2″, pressed it again, then pinned the hem in place across the top.
- Stitch all the way across the top, staying close to the inside folded edge to form the rod pocket.
- As mentioned above in the cutting instructions, a well-made drape has a full double turned hem at the bottom. To do this, turn up the raw edge 3″ and press. Turn up an additional 3″ and press again. Pin in place. Stitch the hem in place all the way across the panel, staying close to the inside folded edge.
- The photo below shows the finished bottom corner of one panel.
NOTE: If you are worried about your measuring accuracy, finish the side hems and top rod pocket, then slip the panel on the rod and double check that a 3″ double-turn hem will still yield the correct finished length.
- Find the single valance cut or seam your panels together to equal your finished width as described above in the Getting Started section.
- Turn back each side 2” and pin in place.
- Stitch close to the cut edge on both ends.
NOTE: Velvet sheds like the dickens, but doesn’t ravel, so you don’t need to do a double turn along the raw edge. This also helps keep down the bulk.
- Fold the side-hemmed piece right sides together and pin in place along the long end.
- Using ½” seam allowance, stitch in place.
NOTE: Velvet wants to creep, which is why we reccomend a Walking foot. A Walking foot has its own built in top feed dogs to work in combination with the machine’s bottom feed dogs to keep tricky layers of fabric from shifting.
- This photo shows the top corner of the valance after hemming the sides and stitching the long seam.
- Turn the valance right side out. The folded edge is the top, the seamed edge of the bottom.
- Thread your machine with thread to match the trim (our photo shows pink thread in the Walking foot, which is just to show you contrast).
- Place the fringe along the bottom edge.
NOTE: This will become of the back of the valance. The tassels will hang down below the bottom seamed edge of the valance and the top of the trim will be hidden along the back. We preferred the look of the straight edge of the velvet with the tassels dropping behind. However, the top of the trim is quite lovely, and if you prefer a more ornate look, you could certainly hang the valance with the full trim facing front.
- Simply turn back the edge of the of the trim to start with a clean edge flush with the side edge of the velvet. For the best stability, stitch the trim in place with a top and bottom seam through all the layers. At the end of the trim, turn under that raw edge as you did at the beginning to finish.
NOTE: We used this approach rather than sandwiching the trim between the layers because we felt it would be the easiest option for a new sewer. It helps eliminate bulk in the seam, and keeps you from having to fight the tricky velvet and the tricky trim in one seam. This way, you make a velvet-to-velvet seam, then stitch the trim on top.
- The weight of the trim at the bottom of the valance also helps it to hang in place nicely from the rod.
A few notes on hanging
- As we mention above, we used a standard double rod. We purchased ours at Sears, but you can get them just about anywhere. Use the front rod to hang the valance, the back rod for all the panels. This process is best done with a two-person team.
- Attach the rod brackets to the wall. With any wide rod, you are most likely to have a center support.
- Put the valance on the rod and lift it into position on the three supports. From the front, carefully mark with pins where the center support hits the valance.
- Take down the valance and remove the rod.
- Using your front mark, transfer the pins to the back of the valance at the exact same point.
- Using a seam ripper, carefully cut a slot about ¾” wide along the mark on the back side of the valance. You are only cutting the back of the valance; do not make any cuts on the front. Because this cut will be hidden on the back, and because velvet doesn’t ravel, we didn’t worry about finishing the cut edges. If you want to be super fancy, you could whip stitch the edges with thread or embroidery floss or apply a bit of seam sealant to the raw edges.
- Slip the valance back onto the rod, and lift it up into position.
- Thread the center support through the slot, so the rod is directly resting on the support. The support will actually be hidden inside the valance.
NOTE: On our rod, the middle support stuck up slightly above the rod in the center. So, to avoid an ugly bump along the top edge of the valance, we used a hack saw to cut off this little extra bit. We realize this might be a bit too much for the average toolbox. Another option would be to cut small relief slot right at the center bracket and allow the bracket to stick out of the valance a bit. Not as finished, but certainly an option.
- The tie-backs we used were also quite standard. We purchased ours from Amazon. Our recommendation is to hang your panels first. Then, have one person hold up the panels in various “draping positions” while the other person stands back to check the appropriate “billowing” effect. Once you have the look you like, mark that point on the wall and attach the tie backs so they are even and directly opposite from one another.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever
Curtain hanging: Bob Johnson