Mom always said, "Never do things halfway." But I don't think she was talking about curtains, because you can do curtains halfway with very beautiful results. The cafe curtain is designed to be hung at a window's halfway point, covering up the bottom but letting in light from above. It's a great solution that gives you privacy while still letting the sun shine in.
Curtain panels are a perfect beginner project. They're fast, super simple, and give the new sewer a great sense of satisfaction when she/he hangs them up and instantly transforms a window from plain and boring to pretty and bright.
We originally used two prints from the Nature's Palette collection by Marjolein Bastin for FreeSpirit Fabrics plus an accent solid. Nature's Palette is a and older collection that is no longer readily available. As an alternative, we found the very pretty Little Sweethearts collection by Andover at Fabric.com.
The supplies listed below are for TWO finished curtain panels measuring 40" wide x 25" high each (excluding the 1½" hanging loops). These were created for a 40½" wide x 49" high window, using the rule of thumb for a softly gathered width of two to two-and-a-half times the window width; we used two times (one half for each panel). If your window(s) are very different in size, check out our tutorial: How to Measure for Curtains.
The drawing below shows the finished measurements of one of our sample curtain panels:
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Quarter Inch Seam foot; optional, but helpful for precise seaming
- Quilting Guide Bar; optional, but helpful for the horizontal stitching through the upper accent band
Fabric and Other Supplies
Yardage shown is for TWO curtain panels and allows a bit extra for fussy cutting.
- 1¼ yards of 44-45" wide patterned fabric for the main curtain panels
- 1⅛ yards of 44-45" wide coordinating patterned fabric for the bottom accent panels and tabs
- 1¾ yards of 44-45" wide coordinating solid fabric for the top accent panel and lining
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- Accent thread for top panel topstitching; we used a rose-red
- See-through ruler
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- From the fabric for the main curtain panels, fussy cut TWO 18" high x 41" wide rectangles.
- From the fabric for the bottom accent panel and tabs, cut the following:
TWO 9" high x 41" wide rectangles
FOURTEEN 2½" x 14" strips
- From the fabric for the top accent panels and lining, cut the following:
TWO 9" high x 41" wide rectangles
TWO 18" high x 41" wide rectangles
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the tabs
- Find the 14 tab strips.
- Fold a strip in half lengthwise, right sides together. Pin along the long raw edge. Leave both ends open.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch along the long edge. We used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot.
- Press the seam open. Turn right side out. Roll the seam around to the back to create a flat front. Press well.
- Repeat with the remaining tab strips to complete 14 tabs.
Place the tabs and attach the top panel
- Find one of the main panel pieces. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Evenly space seven of the tabs along the top edge. We used the trellis motif on our original fabric to determine our spacing, placing a tab on every other column of roses. This resulted in the tabs being 4½" apart and 2½" in from each raw side edge.
- Place the tabs right sides together with the fabric panel. The right side of the tab is the flat side, which means the seam side is facing up. The raw end of each tab should be flush with the top raw edge of the panel.
- Repeat to add the remaining tabs to the remaining panel.
- Find the top accent bands. Fold each in half lengthwise (so each is now 4½" x 41"), wrong sides together. Press.
- Place one folded and pressed top panel across each main panel, aligning the raw edges and sandwiching the tabs in between the layers. Pin in place.
- Bring the free end of each tab up and over the top panel. Align this free end with the end already pinned in position. The top panel is now in between the two sides of the tab. Pin in place.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch across the top through all the layers.
- Press the tabs up. Press the seam allowance down towards the main panel.
- The "loops" of the tabs should extend beyond the top fold of the top accent panel by about 1½".
- Re-thread your machine with accent thread in the top and bobbin. We used a pretty rose color.
- Pin each tab in position, making sure it is perfectly straight up and down.
- Run a vertical line of machine basting along each tab. This insures the tabs won't shift during the topstitching process.
- We attached our Quilting Guide Bar to keep our topstitching lines straight and evenly space. You could also draw lines to follow. If you choose to draw lines, make sure you use a fabric pen or pencil that will easily wipe away or vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron; you are working on the right side of the fabric.
- The first line of topstitching should be ½" from the top folded edge of the accent panel. The next three lines are 1" apart (1½", 2½" and 3½" from the top folded edge). The final line should then end up ½" up from the top panel/main body seam.
- Increase your seam allowance for the nicest topstitching look. We increased our stitch to 2.8mm.
- Remove the basting thread from each tab. Press well.
Attach the bottom accent panels and press side hems
- Find the bottom accent bands. Fold each in half lengthwise (so each is now 4½" x 41"), wrong sides together. Press.
- Place one accent band right sides together with the bottom of each main panel.
- Pin in place along the entire bottom edge.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch together. Press the seam allowance up toward the main panel.
- Along both sides of each sewn curtain panel, fold back the raw edge ½" and press well.
- Along just the top and bottom accent bands, Tuck in the raw edge of this ½" hem, creating a double-turn ¼" hem - again this double turn is just on the top and bottom bands; in the middle section, leave the single ½" fold. You will have a bit of an odd transition at the panel seams as the hem goes from double to single, but not to worry; we'll be covering that with the lining. Press well and pin along both sides of both panels.
- Find the two lining panels. On each panel, press up the bottom 41" edge ¾" and press back both sides ½".
- Unfold the sides so the crease line is visible. You have one remaining 41" raw edge. Place this edge right sides together with the seam allowance of the top accent panel/main curtain. Align all the raw edges and pin in place.
- Measure 1¼" in from both side edges and mark with pins. These marks are the starting and ending points of your seam.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch across the panel, remembering you are starting and stoping 1¼" from the sides. You are stitching alongside your orignal seam within the seam allowance.
- Fold the lining down into position and press flat.
NOTE: This is a bit of a "non-traditional" way to do a lining, but we chose it for two reasons: one) it's super easy, and 2) it allows the lining panel to lay super-duper flat!
- Re-fold the side and bottom lining hems along their original crease lines.
- Fold the remaining loose ends of the top horizontal seam to match, creating a pretty top corner (this corner covers the transition from the double turn hem to the single hem along the side edge). Pin in place.
- Make sure your two bottom hems also fold together to create a nice corner. The bottom of the lining should sit right along the bottom seam line of the accent band, hiding the seam allowance. The folded side edge of the lining sits approximately ⅛" back from the folded side edge of the main panel.
- The final stitching in done in three easy steps. Breaking it into steps allows you to do thread changes so your thread matches each of the sections.
- We used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot for all topstitching and lengthened our stitch again to 2.8mm.
- Step one: Re-thread with a color to match the top accent band (pearl white in our sample).
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch the hem in place from the top of the band to the bottom. Lock your stitch at the beginning and end. Do this on both sides of the top accent band on both curtain panels.
- Step two: Re-thread with a color to match the bottom accent band (rose in our sample).
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch the hem in place from the top of the band to the bottom. Lock your stitch at the beginning and end. Do this on both sides of the bottom accent band on both curtain panels.
- Step three: Re-thread with a color to match the main panel (cream in our sample).
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, topstitch in a big square (I guess it's really a rectangle if you're being fussy). You are stitching down both sides and along the top and bottom horizontal band seams. All topstitching is within the main panel and you should pivot at each corner.
- Below are close-ups of the top corner and bottom corners to show the stopping points of the band topstitching and the corner of the main panel topstitching.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild