Hanging and hemming curtains

I love the look of curtains, especially paired with blinds for flexibility. I always hung curtains in the apartments we rented, knowing I could just take them with us when we left. Curtains always made plain rental walls and windows feel more polished and cozy. They have the added benefit of keeping out cold drafts in winter, and keeping out hot sun rays in summer.

And you don’t have to spend a lot of money. I’ve actually gotten all my favorite curtains on sale at JCPenny. They often have two for one sales, or 50% off sales. You may be able to find curtains secondhand, or even make your own if you are an experienced sewer.

I recently hung curtains in our second bedroom. Fortunately, I already had a pair of medium brown curtains that complement the lighter neutral wall color. I also had the hardware to hang the curtains left over from my last apartment. The curtains were way too long, so I did have to hem them. Here are the steps I followed:

1. Gather your materials. You’ll need your curtains, the rod and hardware, a drill, pencil, measuring tape, iron, sewing supplies, and something secure to stand on.

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2. Determine where you will hang your hardware. This is, perhaps, the most important step. My rule of thumb is to hang the rod about three inches from the ceiling or crown molding and at least ten inches out from either side of the window. This allows the curtains to fall from floor to ceiling and creates a polished, custom feel. Hanging the rod out ten inches on either side allows the full window to be exposed when the curtains are open. This does mean you need to order more curtain, both in length and width.

I placed the rod on the floor, determined the center of the pole based on ten inches on either side of the window and marked the center of the rod with tape. Then I carefully measured the placement of the hardware on the wall and marked the screw placement with pencil.

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3. Iron your curtains, hang them on the rod, and measure the hem. Don’t skip ironing! If you don’t iron, the fabric won’t lay or drape properly and your final hem could end up crooked. Measure the amount of excess fabric and subtract an inch. This is the amount you will remove when you hem. In my case, I had a whooping 14 inches of extra fabric. This meant I needed to hem 13 inches from the edge. Giving yourself the extra inch allows for imperfect measuring and creates a nice little pool of fabric (but not too much!) on the floor.

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4. Remove the curtains and iron the fold where the new bottom edge will be. In my case I measured 13 inches from the bottom. Make sure you get a nice, crisp, even fold.

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5. Cut away the excess fabric and roll the hem into place. I leave three inches of fabric from the fold. If the curtains are lined, be sure to cut away a bit extra of the liner to insure a clean hem. To roll the hem, fold the corner in at a 45 degree angle and roll, iron, and pin the length of the hem. Fold the other corner in at an angle when you reach the end.

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6. Sew the hem using a simple straight stitch. Once the length of your hem is pinned and ironed, thread your sewing machine (or needle if you are hand-sewing the hem) with thread that closely matches the curtain color. Sew a simple straight stitch along the inside edge of the hem.

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7. Trim the excess threads and give the curtains a final once-over with the iron. Voila! A beautiful, custom length curtain.

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Here is the final result. I think the height of the curtains makes the room seem taller. The  full window is exposed when the curtains hang to either side. The entire process took about three hours and was totally worth the investment. The curtains bring such a finished, cozy yet modern feel to the space.

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Tips and tricks review

  • If you are purchasing new curtains, measure from the floor to ceiling and order at least that length. Remember, you want the curtains to hit the floor to avoid the cut-off look. It’s better to order too long and hem then have to hang the curtains too low.
  • For width, double the width of the window to ensure a full drape. You may have to order more than two panels per window if your windows are wide.
  • If your curtains are machine washable, wash and dry them before you hang and hem to allow for shrinkage.
  • For a modern look, choose a color that matches or closely matches the wall color. For a more traditional look, choose a darker color in a tone that complements your other furnishings. Light tones, whites, creams, and linens are light and airy but may not provide enough coverage if you don’t have blinds behind them.
  • Remember that when the curtains are closed, they take up a huge section of the wall so make sure you really like the color or pattern.

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