Curtains with a matching valance are the perfect start ... or finish to any room decor. As the Big Lebowski would say, 'They really tie the room together.' The valance is also a great way to add a dramatic dash of color or pattern in your room decor, and because the valance is narrow, you can accomplish this without making the room look too busy.
Our nursery window already had blinds to control the light in the room, so the fashion weight fabric choice was perfect to add style and provide a semi-sheer effect. If you want your curtains to block the light, consider doubling the panels, lining them, or choosing a heavier decorator weight fabric.
Our sample was made for a baby girl's nursery, using the stunning Patty Young Andalucia collection. For information on where to buy, read Stylish Baby Nursery: Designing with Bold Colors & Patterns. This article also includes suggestions for creating an alternate fabric palette that would work well for a boy's nursery.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Any Sewing Machine (we recommend the Janome 3128)
Fabric and Other Supplies
- Fabric for valance and curtain ties: 2 yards of 45" wide fabric PER WINDOW: we used Patty Young's Andalucia in Fire Flowery Stripe
- Fabric for curtains: 10½ yards of 45" wide fabric PER WINDOW: we used Patty Young: Andalucia in Kiwi Flora
- All purpose thread
- Four 1" plastic D rings
- Two curtain rods and associated hardware for hanging curtains
NOTE: Your curtains will hang on one rod and your valance on another. You can also find double rods at most hardware stores
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Straight pins
- Hand-sewing needle
- Based on the measurements of your windows, you may need to cut your fabric and piece together in order to yield a great enough width for your two final panels. The initial fabric width should be approximately two times the width of your window plus about 12" for seams and side hems. The height will vary depending on how long you want your curtains (to the sill, to the floor, etc.), but you should add about 5½" - 6" to the finished height to accommodate top and bottom hems. For this project, we wanted each curtain panel to finish at 62" x 84" because our rod was trim-mounted at 62" in width and the full measurement to the floor was 84". We cut our yardage into four panels, each measuring 34" x 89½". For more about measuring, read our tutorial: How to Measure for Curtains.
- Cut your valance fabric to finish at the same width as identified above (124" in our sample). As above, it's likely you'll need to piece together your valance fabric to create the necessary width. When calculating, factor in 1" for each seam, and 2½" for the hem of the two outside edges. Our fabric is striped parallel to the selvedge, so we will cut along the 45" side. To achieve the final 124" we cut three 43⅔" x 20" panels to piece together (43⅔ x 3 = 131" less 2" for two seams and 5" for the two side hems = 124). The total length of the valance will be 20", which includes a finished valance length of 12", a 5½" top hem for the rod pocket and crown, and a 2½" bottom hem. You can always round-up in your calculations to save your sanity and avoid the crazy fractions. You're working with gathers, so you don't have to be exact on the width.
- For the tie-backs, cut two strips of fabric 5" x 17".
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Sew the panels and hem sides
- Using a ½" seam, stitch two curtain panels together along the 89½" edge to make one curtain panel that measures 67" x 89½". Repeat to make a second panel.
- Determine which long edge (89½ in our sample) will be the inside hem of the curtain (the edge in the center of the window), and which will fall along the outside edge. The inside hem is sometimes referred to as the 'lead edge.' You should make a wider hem on the inside edge of the curtain, because this edge is more visible. In other words, the hem needs to be wider to allow you to tie back the curtain with less chance the back of the fabric will show as the curtains are pulled back.
- To hem your lead edge, first fold in your raw edge ½" and press. Then, make another fold 3". Your first fold rolls inside the second and you end up with a nice folded edge on both the top and bottom. Press this double fold and stitch down, sewing close to the fold in the fabric, being sure to encase the ½" hem as you sew. Repeat to create the inside hem of the other curtain panel.
- To hem the outside hems of each curtain panel, fold in your raw edge ½" and press. Then, fold an additional 1" and press. Stitch in place, again stitching close to the fold and making sure to encase the ½" hem as you sew. Repeat to finish the outside hem of the second panel. For more information about hemming, read our tutorial: How to Make a Simple Hem.
Make the rod pocket
- To make your top hem, fold in the top raw edge ½", Then, fold an additional 2" and press. Stitch along the folded edge, being sure the original ½" fold is completely encased in the hem. Be careful to keep your layers flush along the finished side hems
- Stitching about ½" in from the outer folded edge of the fabric, make a second, parallel line of stitches. This creates the 'rod pocket'; the curtain rod goes through this tunnel to hang the curtains.
Hem the curtain panels
- Your final step is to create a simple double turn bottom hem on both curtain panels. It's always wise to be careful with your measurements, but during this step it's crucial your measurements are accurate or the bottom of your curtains won't be straight, and believe me, you will go slowly insane if you look at crooked curtains every day.
- You already worked to calculate your panel length when you figured your original fabric cuts. Now, we double-check. Based on your window measurements and how you want your curtains to hang, confirm your final curtain length (ours was a finished length of 84"). Add 3" to this number (that would make 87" for our sample). Measure from the top hem of your curtain to the bottom raw edge of your panel length, and you should get that total (87" in our sample). Ours works great! We figured an original length of 89½' (see Getting Started) and used 2½" to make the top rod pocket. So, we're now at 87". If your story problem didn't work out quite as well, and your panels are too long, then trim to the correct length. If you're too short, you're kind of stuck, because you already made your top rod pocket. But I'm sure you were paying attention during math class above, so you shouldn't be too far off, and it probably will be fine. However, you can always make a slightly narrower hem in order to take up the difference.
- On the first panel, fold up your bottom raw edge ½" and press. Then, fold an additional 2½" and press. Stitch in place, staying close to the folded edge, and making sure to encase the original ½" fold as you sew. Repeat to finish the bottom hem of the second panel.
NOTE: If you're looking for extra assurance your curtains are exactly the same length, when you are finished with the hem on first panel, put it and the unfinished panel on the curtain rod and hang them. Pin the second panel based on the length of the first. It's also helpful, and looks the most professional, if you are able to line up the stitching from one panel to the next. Make a mark on the unsewn curtain with a fabric marking pen at the actual stitching line of the sewn panel.
Sew the tie-backs
- Fold the 5" x 17" fabric strip right sides together along the 5" edge.
- Stitch along one short edge and one long edge, using a ½" seam allowance.
- Turn the strip right side out and press flat, with the seam running along the edge.
- Tuck in the remaining unsewn edge ½" and press.
- With thread matching the fabric in the needle and bobbin, topstitch around the perimeter of the tie-back, being sure to encase the ½" hem in the stitching.
- Using your hand-sewing needle, stitch a 1" D ring to each end of the tie-back.
- Repeat steps to create a second tie-back.
- These tie-backs are designed to wrap around each curtain panel with the D rings hooking over a decorative wall post mounted on your wall or window molding. If you have an eagle eye, you'll notice that's not exactly they way it looks in our photos. This is because we decided after our photography was done to simplify these tie-backs. Here's what yours should look like when they're on-the-job holding back your curtains:
Sew the valance
- Using a ½" seam, stitch two valance panels together along one 20" edge. Press seam open.
- Take the third panel and stitch to the two-panel unit in the same manner to create one final valance panel that measures 129" x 20".
NOTE: you may have more or fewer panels to piece together based on the width of your window.
- On EACH side, fold in the raw edge ½" and press. Then, fold in an additional 2" and press. Pin. Stitch in place, staying close to the folded edge, and making sure to encase the original ½" fold as you sew. Your valance now measures 124" x 20".
- Fold in your top raw edge ½" (the long edge) and press. Then, fold an additional 5" and press. Pin. Stitch in place, staying close to the folded edge, and making sure to encase the original ½" fold as you sew.
- Stitching about 2" in from the outer folded edge of the fabric, make a second line of parallel stitches. This creates the "rod pocket" you will use to put the curtain rod through to hang the valance. It also creates a 2" crown that will stick up above the rod. You can adjust this top measurement to make a taller or smaller crown.
- For the bottom hem of the valance, fold up the bottom raw edge ½" and press. Then, fold an additional 2½" and press. Pin. Stitch in place, staying close to the folded edge, and making sure to encase the original ½" fold as you sew.
Hints and Tips
For a truly professional finish on the bottom hem of your curtain and valance, you could use a blind hem. Many machines come with a blind hem foot standard, and you can consult our article, How to Make a Blind Hem for pointers on using this great technique.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Aimee McGaffey
Instructional Editing: Alison Newman