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Donna Babylon: Quick Tip – Joining Fabric Widths to Make an Extra Wide Panel

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I call it, 'The Great Divide.' Your window valance needs to be 82" wide, but your home decor fabric is only 54" wide. If you just sew an additional 28" onto one side, that'll make the fabric's design repeat look totally wacky. So... do you put off sewing the valance until they come out with 82" wide fabric? No, because then you'd also have to give up sewing duvet covers, curtains, slip covers and anything else requiring fabric wider than what comes off the bolt. It's time to ask our friend, and home décor expert, Donna Babylon. She explains that when you join fabric widths to make an extra wide panel, you need to make sure it's added to either side of the center fabric piece and it's done symmetrically – the same on both sides of the center point.

For example, say you need a panel that's two fabric widths wide. Instead of just sewing two pieces together, you cut the second one in half and sew each half to either side of the full width piece. Using this method, you can make a panel as wide as you like, and it will always look dandy.

The following tips and techniques, along with the helpful drawings, are excerpted from Donna's latest book Decorating Sewlutions: Learn to Sew as You Decorate Your Home , which you can order directly from Donna's website, More Splash Than Cash® .

How to make a half width

For large home décor projects, such as curtains, a duvet cover, or a shower curtain, you'll almost always need more than one fabric width. Sometimes, you need both extra full and half widths. A half-width is just what it sounds like – a full width of fabric cut in half lengthwise. This should not be confused with a 'half-wit', which is someone who randomly cuts his/her fabric into itty-bitty pieces.

Here is the easiest way to cut a half-width of fabric.

  1. Fold your cut length of fabric in half lengthwise with wrong sides together and selvages perfectly even.
  2. With an iron, press a hard crease on the fold.
  3. Open the fabric. With the fabric flat on the work surface, use large sharp scissors and cut exactly on the pressed crease.

Joining multiple widths so they look symmetrical

When joining multiple widths or half-widths of fabric, you need to determine the seam placement. This depends on what type of project you're making. Don't worry if the combined widths are slightly wider than you need. You can trim them to the correct measurement after you've joined the widths of fabric.

Duvet covers

  1. Usually, two widths of fabric are needed to make a duvet cover.
  2. Place the full width in the center and stitch a half-width to each side of the full width.

Full length curtains

  1. The number of fabric widths needed for a window treatment is based on the width of the window and how full you want the curtains to be. To create the fullness, you simply sew one or more widths together.
  2. If one and one-half widths are required to make a curtain panel, the half-width is stitched to the outside edge of each full width.
  3. If two full widths are required to make a curtain panel, stitch the widths together side by side.
  4. If three full widths are required to make a curtain panel, stitch the widths together side by side... by side.

Window valances

  1. If two full widths are required to make a valance, one full width should be the center piece with a half-width stitched to each side.
  2. If three full widths are required to make a valance, as with the curtains above, stitch the widths together side by side... by side.

You can also use this method to join fabric together when you're running short and are either not willing or not able to buy more of the same print.

Excerpted from Decorating Sewlutions by Donna Babylon .

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Comments (15)

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Rachel - We can't really give you a definitive answer long distance as there are so many variable regarding what type of panel, gathered or flat, how disruptive it would be to see a seam, etc. But in gerneral, think about it in the same general way as shown above. For each panel, you'll be working with 2.5 widths. Try laying it out with one full panel as the center. Split the second panel in hal and attach to either side (as shown above), then split the half width in half again and put those quarter widths on the outer edges. So, going from left to right, you have: quarter, half, full, half, quarter.

RACHEL Z said:
RACHEL Z's picture

Thanks for the reply  - these will be simple pencil pleat lined curtains in a fairly random patterned medium weight cotton canvas type fabric with 2x fullness.

I thought from the examples above it would be two full joined widths ( as in the 4 width example) with an additional added 1/2 width ( as in the 3 width example). I was just unsure about what it meant about keeping the joins symmetrical  - whether each panel should be symmetrical  ( with the 1/2 width in the middle of 2 full widths) or symmetrical across the full span of both panels ( the 1/2 width added at each side of 2 joined full widths). I have taken into account fabric amounts for pattern matching along the repeat length but how do you work it out for pattern matching across a 1/4 width???

Probably me just having a brainfart moment but have to admit to feeling a bit confused now ...:/

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Rachel -- with a random pattern as you describe, you get to do whatever you want  - my suggestion was just that: an option. You could certainly put the two full width panels side by side and then the half width at the end. By symetirical, you simply want to be sure all panels (just two in your example) are identical. The size of the repeat is yet another variable in what to choose; if you have a large repeat, you would want to keep your panels as wide as possible to make matching easiest. With a random pattern and pencil pleats, it sounds like anything you do will be pretty much hidden within the motif. Have fun!

Connie Z said:
Connie Z's picture

I am making a relaxed roman shade with dowel rod at the bottom.  It will hang on the outside of the window molding.  The window is 42 1/2 inches wide. I have 44" wide fabric.  I think it would be okay to make the shade 44" wide as I don't think it would look professional to have it the exact width of the window trim.  (maybe 1/2" wider or so on each side.  What I want to know is since I don't have enough fabric for the side seams, is it best to sew a 5/8" seam to the lining on the side or do I want to add 3 " more of the same fabric on each side and then fold it over for the side seam to make the 1 1/2" seam.  I am using cotton fabric with a sheen and an interlining, plus drapery lining.  I am worried that adding the extra fabric for the seam may make my sides bulk when finished.  What do you think about the width being a bit wider than the window and the side seam issue?  Thank you for helping

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Connie Z - We're not necessarily window treatment experts here at S4H, but in general, if you want to maximum the width, you certainly could just use the 5/8" seam but having the seam right along the edge may not give you the most professional look. On most window treatments, the hem is wide enough so the front fabric can wrap to the back (we have several curtain panel tutorials that are similar, which you can find in our Project Index) and you'd need ore width to make that happen. You could grade the seam to reduce any excessive bulk, but wiht the fabrics described, a good steam pressing might be enough to keep thing crisp and flat. And, being wider than the window opening is quite common. One good way to test it for your eye is to pin up the fabric at the finished width you're considering and see if it looks okay to your eye. 

Joe said:
Joe's picture

im using a stripy fabric which I need to join,it's multiple stripes,can I make the joint anywhere or does it need to be added either sides to the centre panel. I'm making a roman blind which is 171cm wide and 111cm drop.its my first project so need some assistance. Many thanks

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Joe - I can't give you guaranteed recommendations long distance, but can emphasize that the idea behind this technique is to give you a nice center panel with an uninterupted motif. This is because it is usually the center of the project that is most visible. So, yes, it would be most likely look best if you piece two side panels onto the wide center panel. 

billh said:
billh's picture
thanks for the advice, but how do you sew the two pieces together? What stitch do you use? (A real novice!!)
orangesugar said:
orangesugar's picture
This is super easy if you are using solid fabric; fabric with a print not so much. Do you have any tips on how to join widths of patterned fabric so that it looks like one continuous pattern?
KarenQ said:
KarenQ's picture
It would be helpful, especially for those new to sewing, to remind people to remove the selvages before sewing. Otherwise, this makes a lot of sense and I can see how the finished product will be more appealing.