Custom Window Treatments 101

HGTV Magazine shares advice on everything from measuring and buying fabric to where to go for custom window curtains, drapes, and shades.

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Marko Metzinger/Studio D


Where to go for curtains or drapes
Ask your local tailor if he or she can make drapery if you bring the fabric and provide the measurements. Many tailors can do the job if it’s simply hemming the fabric. If you’re looking for something more complicated, like pleated drapes or a valance, try a seamstress in your area who specializes in window treatments. Be sure to have a conversation with your pro before you buy the fabric so you’re both on the same page.

There are also online-based companies, such as alluring-window.com and superiorshades.com, that let you send in fabrics. They’ll send someone to measure your windows, make the drapes, and install them for you. Some can also make shades.

Where to go for shades
Many upholsterers can make Roman shades for windows. Look for one in your area who might be up for the job. You can also call seamstresses who specialize in window treatments to ask if they also make shades.

How to measure
Step 1: Measure for length, from the top of your window frame to wherever you want the panels to fall. They can go down to the floor if you want them to skim the ground with no puddling on the bottom (which makes them easier to clean), or down to the floor plus a few additional inches if you prefer a puddled look.

Step 2: Decide where you want to put the curtain rod. It’s typically placed midway between the ceiling and the window frame, but you can also mount it closer to the window frame or closer to the ceiling, depending on your wall space. To draw the eye upward so the ceiling appears higher, place the rod where the wall meets the ceiling. Count how many inches above the window frame the rod will be, and add that to your length measurement from Step 1.

Step 3: Decide how you want to hang the curtains on the rod—options include clip rings, which clip onto the top of the fabric; a pocket rod, which is a pocket sewn into the top of the fabric so you can place the rod right through it; grommets, which are metal rings that you place over holes made along the top of the fabric; or sewn-in rings, which are sewn into the fabric. When you know which one you’ll use, you’ll know if you need more or less fabric to make it work. Fabric on a clip ring or a sewn-in ring, for example, will hang about an inch lower to the ground than fabric hung with grommets, so adjust your measurement from Step 2 accordingly.

Step 4: Measure the width of your window from one edge of the frame to the other. If you’re using a tension rod, which you will set inside the window frame, measure inside the frame from one end to the other.

Step 5: Add an extra 2½ inches to each side to account for hemming. The result is the amount of fabric you’ll need.

Buy your fabric
Choose a fabric you like. Try bold prints for Roman shades, which have a flat surface, so it’s easier to see the full pattern. Smaller prints are easier to appreciate on drapes. Some of our favorite online sources for fabric are calicofabrics.com, fabric.com, fabricguru.com, fashionfabricsclub.com, hancockfabrics.com, housefabric.com, joann.com, kingcottonfabrics.com, lsfabrics.com, onlinefabricstore.net, spoonflower.com, and warehousefabricsinc.com.

Add a liner
Drapery fabric is typically thin, so it will look nicer hanging on the window if you make it more substantial with a liner—and it’ll give you more privacy. Liners are generally inexpensive, about $5 a yard, so you can buy it yourself or ask your seamstress. Some have suppliers for liner fabric, and they might include the liner in the price of the job.

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