How to Sew Drapes (Curtains)

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Drapes are among the easiest things to sew, perfect for children to learn to sew on and perfect for the holidays.  I love using flannel for draperies because it’s heavier weight and keeps out the cold air.  This season, our drapes have saved us over $130 per month in heating bills.  That’s a lot.  If you doubt it, try it.  In the past, I’ve used broadcloth, gingham, drapery fabric, and various cottons as drapery fabric.  None kept the cold out like flannel.  Here’s the lowdown.


If you’re one of those sewers who washes and dries fabric before sewing, DON’T this time.  Flannel shrinks and shrinks unevenly.  It also frays badly.  Once you have sewn your draperies, you can wash them on cold and hang them to dry, but don’t ever dry them in the dryer.  They will shrink and not necessarily evenly.  There’s nothing more tacky than uneven draperies.

Fabric Needed

The typical window living room window is 50″ high and a little less wide.  That’s measured inside the window frame, edge to edge.  Each drape will have a pocket at the top for the drapery rod and another pocket above that to lock in cold air.  This little tuft makes the drapery more attractive and helps keep your heating costs down (the same goes for your air conditioning bill).

Drapery Rod Pocket
Drapery Rod Pocket

If your window is longer than 50″ high then add those extra inches to the length of the fabric needed FOR EACH PANEL.  It takes two panels to cover a window, the left panel and the right panel.

For each panel:

  • 44″ wide flannel (or wider) cut to 72″ (2 yards long)
Measurements for Curtain Rod Pockets
Measurements for Curtain Rod Pockets


  1. Make sure your fabric is cut to the measurements above (or longer if your window is longer) and that it is squared.  By squared I mean all uneven edges are trimmed off before you measure and cut the fabric.  Few fabric stores cut evenly.  You’ll need to do that at home.
  2. Starting on the sides of each panel, fold in the edge about 1/2 to 3/4 inch and hem using a straight stitch.  Fold again, sewing another straight stitch.  This is what’s called a double hem.
  3. On the bottom of each panel, fold in the edge about 1/2 to 3/4 inch and hem using a straight stitch.  Fold again, sewing another straight stitch.  Again, this is what’s called a double hem.
  4. On the top of each panel, fold in the edge about 1/2 to 3/4 inch and hem using a straight stitch.  Fold this hemmed edge down to make a pocket 4 1/2 inches from the top edge.  Use a straight stitch to sew the hemmed edge down at the 4 1/2 inch mark.
  5. Measure down 2 inches from the top edge of each panel.  Pin along this 2 inch measurement.  You are going to sew a straight stitch along this line to make two pockets, the top pocket and the rod pocket.
  6. Hang two panels on each drapery rod, threading the rod through the rod pocket (the pocket that is 2 inches down from the top of each panel).
Wrong Drapery Rods
Wrong Drapery Rods

Drapery Rods

There’s a huge assortment of drapery rods out there, all pretty ugly and obtrusive.  I like to see my walls and my draperies and my photos.  I don’t like to see big bulky iron rods protruding from my walls.  Those decorative rods have several other drawbacks as well:

  • heavy and fall from plaster walls
  • don’t keep heat in or cold out
  • leave large gaps between the window and the drapery

The purpose of draperies is to keep cold out, heat in, and sunshine out.  If you have expensive paintings on your walls the last thing you want to ruin them is harsh sunlight.

The correct drapery rods to purchase are the cheap ones.  Yes, I said the cheap ones.  They cost about $5 per set (get the 48-84″ set) at Target.  They curve around so when you put the drapes on them, they lock out the cold and lock in the heat.  They also block harmful sun rays from your artwork and photos on the wall.

Correct Drapery Rods (Curtain Rods)
Correct Drapery Rods (Curtain Rods)

How to Install Drapery Rods (Curtain Rods)

Each curtain rod comes with two brackets, a left bracket marked L and a right bracket marked R.  You screw these into the wall along the outside edge of the window frame, making sure to leave enough room that you will not hit the frame itself which is usually metal.  Screws will go through plaster, but they won’t go through metal.  If you hit something hard and the screw doesn’t go in all the way then you’re too close to the window itself and have hit the metal frame.

A Right (R) Curtain Bracket
A Right (R) Curtain Bracket

From the upper left corner of the window go up 2 inches and to the left 2 inches.  Screw in the L bracket there.  From the upper right corner of the window go up 2 inches and to the right 2 inches.  Screw in the R bracket there.  There is a middle support that looks like a long hook with a screw on the other end.   This goes in the middle of the drapery rod.  Hammer it in just to get it started and then screw it in the rest of the way.  The drapery rod should fit snugly in the curve of this piece.

Drapery Rod Protective Cover
Drapery Rod Protective Cover

Each drapery rod has a smaller end that fits inside of a larger end.  The larger end has a protective cover.  That’s the one you use to slide the curtain on.  The protective cover prevents the metal from damaging your drapery fabric.  After you’ve slide the two drapery panels onto the rod, you can slide the smaller rod back inside the larger rod.  Now you’re ready to place the rod on the brackets.

Voila, you now have a beautiful set of drapes and are saving money.  😉

Originally published on December 4, 2013.


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