Pleated window panel tutorial

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Since the rest of my craft/laundry room was getting a face lift with new bookcases and laundry basket dressers, I decided to make a new curtain to go along with it.  There isn’t really anything wrong with my existing curtain, and I really like the little fabric flowers I made, but I just wanted something with a little more color.  I bought this curtain from Goodwill (originally a Simply Shabby Chic panel from Target) and dressed it up a little with ribbon and pinned on fabric flowers.  Since I’m taking it down,  I now have a bunch of fabric flowers to use for something else.  I’m thinking purses…

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I found this fabric by Premier Prints called "Harmony" that I just loved. I thought about using it in our rec room/playroom, but while the colors would be great for a playroom, it doesn’t mesh so well with the rest of our house, and it’s highly visible from other places.  However, it’s perfect in my craft room.  I found the zig-zag print first, called “ZoomZoom” and then also bought a few of the coordinating prints to use for accessories and basket liners to help tie everything together.

I wanted a simple panel with something cute along the top, so I went with fabric covered buttons and made a pleated “bell” type gather every few inches.  I attached it to the rod with clip rings, which can be found almost everywhere.  Mine came from Joann’s.  For the tie back (I really need one of those because of the window A/C unit in the summer), I just made a long strip of fabric and tied it in a knot.

This panel was quite easy, especially if you skip the lining part.  Here’s how I did it:

TUTORIAL

1.  You need to measure your window length and width.  My window was very narrow (about 20 inches, not including moldings), so I only wanted one panel, but if yours is wider, you can just make two panels instead of one.  In general, fabric should be twice as wide as the window so you have some fullness, but this isn’t an exact science, so you can give or take a little width depending on how full you want your curtains to be.   For the length, first decide where your curtain rod will be and how much length your clip rings will add, and measure from there to the floor, or wherever you want your panel to end.  This will be the finished length of your panel.  I wanted mine just above the floor, and my finished length needed to be exactly 84”.  I added four inches to the top and three to the bottom to account for  hem allowances.  So, I cut my fabric 91” long x the width of the fabric (selvage to selvage).

2.  If using lining, do the same, except make your width about 3” less than your printed fabric.  My fabric was heavy enough that it didn’t really need lining, but I had some on hand and decided to do it anyway.  It will help with insulation in the winter.  If using lining, at this point you should sew your fabric, right sides together, on each side seam.  When you turn it right side out, you’ll have about an inch on either side where your printed fabric folds over and creates a nice finished edge.  If you aren’t using lining, sew a side hem on each side about 1” wide.

3.  Top and bottom hems:  Iron down 4” along the top and 3” along the bottom.  I then turned under about 3/4” to make a clean edge to sew:

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At this point, you’ll want to sew your hems either by hand or by machine.  My machine has a nifty function that does a blind hem without having to hem by hand.  I used this.  Basically, you fold it just as you would for a hem an then fold the long fabric part back about 1/4” (you’re working from the back at this point).

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Basically, the machine sews a straight line for about a centimeter, and then it does a zig zag left where it “bites into the top layer.  It looks like the above picture on the back, but from the front, it’s an “invisible” hem,  better than I could do by hand and much faster.  I honestly think you could do this with the zig zag function on any machine.  You would have to get your spacing right, it would be a bit more difficult, and you would have more frequent “bites” on the front, but it would work in almost the same way.  Here’s the view from the front:

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The green zig zag is where my hemline runs, and you can’t even see it in the photo and can barely see it in person.  After you’ve hemmed the top and bottom of the panel, it’s time to make you’re pleats.

4.  I decided my pleats should span about 3”.  I pinned 4” from each end (you will still only gather a 3” section, but the extra inch on each end allows for making our bells later), marked off a 3” section in the middle, and then I had four more sections to mark (I always choose an odd number because it’s more pleasing to the eye).  In my case, I have seven bell pleats.  For the other two, they’re harder to space correctly, so I just used trial and error with a ruler until I got them approximately the same distance apart.  This is why I used pins instead of a marker—pins are easily moved.

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5.  After I got the pleated sections marked, I took one strand of heavy duty thread and hand sewed a straight stitch, using big stitches, between the two pins across the 3” section.  Clip the thread, leaving a tail, pull tight, and tie a knot with the two ends.  This gives you your pleat.

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6.  After all your pleats are tied, sew a straight line along the back to complete the bell look and make it more stable.  I couldn’t sew all the way down, but sewing 3/4 of the way from the top toward the bottom of the hem will do what you need as far as holding the pleats in place.  You won’t see this sewing line from the front once you’re finished.  On the ends, I sewed along the very edge of my fabric.  If you remember, we left an extra inch on each end to allow extra fabric for making the bell on the ends.

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7.  Now it’s time to make your fabric covered buttons.  I bought a kit just because it’s easy and professional looking.  I have heard of people using existing buttons, sewing a gathering line around the edge and then pulling tight to cover the buttons.  This works, and I even used it for my little boy’s ring bearer vest because it would be worn once, and I didn’t want to buy the kit.  However, for this, I wanted a more professional look, and I also didn’t have buttons to cover anyway, so I would have had to buy something no matter what.  I used the Dritz Cover Button Kitin the 1 1/8” size.  They come three in a package, so unfortunately I had to buy three packages just for one extra.  You can also buy refill kits without the pusher and mold, which is what I did after the first package, since those are cheaper.  This is a very easy process, and there are directions and a pattern for your fabric circle on the back of the package.

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8.  After your buttons are all covered, simply sew them on where you tied your pleats, and you’re done!  I used seven clip rings, one for each pleat, and clipped them to the backs of my bell pleats. 

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For the tie back, I cut a fabric strip 6.5”x width of the fabric, cut the ends at a 45 degree angle, and sewed along the edges, leaving a space to turn.  I then turned the strip, hand sewed the opening closed, and tied it in a knot.  You can do all sorts of different things for your tie back, providing you even want one.  I’ll use this mostly in the summer when the window A/C unit is in place.  In the winter, I don’t need one, really.

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I hope this works for you!  Leave a comment with any questions.

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  1. [...] are the curtains I started making nearly a year ago! I saw this pleated window panel tutorial on Stitch Fancy, and immediately fell in love. I liked the curtains so much that I even chose to [...]

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