Cheap and Chic Curtains Made From Canvas or a Drop Cloth
This simple sewing project is the perfect way to dress your windows without breaking the bank.
Custom window treatments are great, but who can afford them? For large span windows, especially those featured in modern spaces or in converted historic warehouse lofts, there is a DIY industrial solution that will add a chicness to the space and will fulfill the need for function as well as form.
- canvas or drop cloths
- cotton twill tape
- 5-inch pre-cut twill tape pieces per panel (for loops)
- 3-inch hinged snap rings
- measuring tape
- iron and ironing board
- sewing machine
- durable matching thread
Hanging from galvanized steel pipes and KeeKlamp brackets, canvas curtains counter the hard lines with a little softness, help anchor the room, and invite comfort to the living space. They are heavy duty, will keep the harsh sunlight out without blocking out too much light, they will not fade, and they will hold up wash after wash. Hinged rings make installing and upkeep a snap. Canvas on the roll can found in discount fabric outlets and is very inexpensive. If there are no fabric outlets near you, no worries—go to the local hardware store and buy painter’s drop cloths. They come in various sizes, so just pick the size you need.
Determine how many panels and how many yards: Don’t worry about accurate measurements this early in the process. If you are making these curtains out of stiff raw canvas, you’ll need to account for shrinkage (from prewash) and allow for hems. Measure generously. Since the curtain width will be the width of the fabric (usually 50-70 inches), figure out how many panels (width) you’ll need to provide the desired coverage. For the panel length, measure from where the curtain rod rests to where you want the finished curtain length to fall. Multiply that measurement times the number of panels you want to make. Add a yard per panel (shrinkage) to that total and you have the approximate total yardage you’ll need for the project. If you are using drop cloths, then buy the readymade cloths in the appropriate size.
Prewash/preshrink fabric: Whether you are using canvas drop cloths or canvas off the roll, it is important to prewash/preshrink the fabric. This way, if you want to be able to launder the curtains in the future, the curtains will hold their shape as well as their length. Using your home washing machine (for up to 10 yards), wash the canvas in hot water and detergent to remove the stiffening sizing chemicals from the canvas. Check to see after the first washing if it is soft enough. Sometimes it takes a couple of runs through the wash to achieve the right feel. Tumble dry on a high-heat setting. This will shrink and soften the canvas even more. If you have more than ten yards of fabric, you’ll want to go to a local laundromat and use the big machines.
Cut canvas into long runs: Again, don’t worry about precise measurements just yet. You’ll see, cutting to size and hemming after you hang the curtains will be easier this way! Roll the canvas on a tube to help manage while cutting. To cut away the frayed end of the canvas and to make a straight cut, fold the fabric end back onto itself and line up the selvage ends. Cut on the fold. Roll out the fabric to a length that is at least a foot longer than what you need the finished curtain to be. Repeat the fold-and-cut trick on the mark and make your second cut. Pick up the panel and lay it aside. Roll another length, lay the first on top and cut the second panel. Repeat using the top panel as a pattern for the remaining cuts.
Fold, iron, pin, and sew selvage: If you are using drop cloths, the edges will already be hemmed. If the canvas (off the roll) selvage is tight and not wavy, you might want to skip this step. Use your own judgement but usually hemming the selvage gives a cleaner, more professional looking edge. On the ironing board, fold fabric edge in a half inch and press. Continue folding and pressing down the fabric length. Fold over again, press, and pin. After pinning all panel edges, sew with a good durable matching thread with a medium stitch length. Remember, always start a line with a few stitches forward, reverse, and forward again to prevent stitches from coming apart.
Pin on twill tape header and loops: Repeat the fold-and-press step to the top of each panel, but this time, you’ll want to insert the twill tape underneath the fold. Pin the fold and twill tape in place. To figure out where the five loops go, first fold the top of the panel in half and mark the centerfold with a pin. Fold an end to the center pin and mark the center of that fold with a pin. Repeat on the other side of the center panel top. This will give you the ends and three marks, which makes five placements for the loops. Slip the precut loops between the fold and the twill tape and pin in place. On the ends, you’ll want to come in a little (with the loops) from the thick folded ends so not to be too thick for your machine.
Sew on twill tape header and loops: When you go to sew, carefully hand crank the machine to stitch through the thick layers at the start of the stitch run. Continue to machine stitch as your machine will allow. You will probably have to hand crank the other end as well to finish.
Hang curtains with hinged rings: Hanging the curtains is made easy with hinged rings. Simply open the rings, insert through the twill loops and close again around the rails.
Mark and cut panels in place: Spread curtain out to full width on rail. Decide where you want the finished end to fall. To the floor? Puddled? Just below the windowsill? If you want your curtains to go to the floor or if you want them to puddle, line a straight edge along the floor, and pressing the panel into the recess, measure or mark to include the hem allowance. For the shorter length, mark one side. Take the curtain down for the shorter length and use the fold-and-cut trick for a straight cut. If you want either of the two longer lengths, mark and cut while curtain is hanging.
Hem curtain: Using the same methods as you used for hemming the selvages, fold, iron, pin, and hem the curtains. No need to take them down to do this. Having them hang will help support the weight while you run them through the sewing machine. No, this does not make you lazy, it makes you efficient!
Coffee Sack Curtains
When Donna of Funky Junk Interiors needed a window topper in her kitchen, she turned to an inexpensive and unexpected material — burlap coffee sacks that she embellished with stenciled typography. She created treatments for three windows for a grand total of $3, including hardware.
Curtains That Hit the Nail on the Head
No one would ever believe that these curtains cost around $18, including hardware. Michael from Inspired by Charm found this cheery fabric on clearance and hung it using pieces of chain link hooked onto oversized nails.
Lindsay from Makely School for Girls customized her windows by creating a scalloped valance out of 99-cent bamboo placemats. She transformed them with spray paint, a hot glue gun and some black ribbon.
Simple + Chic
Window treatments don't have to be fussy. Karianne from Thistlewood Farms proves this by using a small piece of drop cloth trimmed with a bright pink grosgrain ribbon as a valance. Without pleats, ruffles or folds, this treatment is simple but chic.
Writing On the Windows
Roeshel from DIY Show Off made these no-sew custom drapes out of drop cloths embellished with handwritten script. Roeshel suggests making pencil lines first to keep the typography straight. Try writing a favorite poem or song lyrics to make it personal. At approximately $9 per panel, this is a big decorating bang for your buck.
All the Trimmings
Remnant fabric found at an upholstery shop is put to work as guest room drapes. They were lined with $5 of white twin bed sheets and trimmed with lengths of upholstery webbing cut in half length-wise and affixed with a glue gun. Mitering the corners of the trim polishes off the look.
No-Sew Drapes That "Hang" Beautifully
A canvas drop cloth, a coat hanger and some clothespins make this window treatment not only inexpensive but super easy to make. Donna from Funky Junk Interiors draped a drop cloth over a coat hanger and clipped it into place with clothespins. The hook of the coat hanger simply balances on the window trim for a fun, whimsical look.
Paper Garland Valance
If you're a little short on fabric, try making a paper garland to use as a window topper. Paula from Counting Your Blessings strung pages from vintage books onto ribbon, bunching them tightly to create a fluffy, unique and inexpensive valance.
Short + Sweet
Fussy, full-length drapes aren't ideal for bathroom spaces. Traci Hutcherson from Beneath My Heart proves that with a simple window treatment made out of a pillowcase. She tacked the pillowcase into place and added pleating for detail. Not only is it thrifty and quick, but it's well-suited in a humid space.
Hanging Mason Jars
Why should floral arrangements be limited to tabletops? Linda from It All Started With Paint created a simple, farmhouse-inspired window treatment with glass Mason jars and twine. She then filled the jars with seasonal fresh flowers.
Clever + Custom
After coming up empty in her search for inexpensive curtain hardware with a custom look, Karianne from Thistlewood Farms decided to make her own using a dowel rod, finials and brackets. She crafted these clever curtain rods for just $5 in materials from a hardware store.
While shopping at a local feed and farm supply store, Kendra from Creative Ambitions caught site of three rusty tractor steering wheels. While most people would pass them by, Kendra saw that the $3.00 wheels would make unique "curtain rods" for her porch. She mounted the wheels and then draped inexpensive muslin to complete the look.
Bring the Outdoors In
When Brittany from Pretty Handy Girl found some unused exterior shutters in the attic of her home, she decided to repurpose them as an interior window treatment. Since the shutters were originally made for the outside of the home, they were the perfect fit at the perfect price — free!
Foam Core Cornice
Rhoda from Southern Hospitality used inexpensive foam core to create cornices for her bathroom. Some remnant fabric and pretty trim make this budget-friendly design look higher end. Foam core is easy to cut with a craft knife, so the shape can be customized for any window.
Faux Roman Shades
Tension rods and leftover fabric are used by Beth from Home Stories A to Z to make these faux Roman shades for her living room. The fabric is held into each pleat by the tension rods, making a simple, no-sew window treatment.
Making Plain Pretty
Cheryl from New House to Home elevates inexpensive burlap fabric by folding it into deep box pleats and stapling it to a board to make an easy valance. A stenciled monogram adds even more detail.
Storage For Toys
Why allow unused space above a window to go to waste? Brittany from Pretty Handy Girl built storage/display space into the custom window treatments for her son's room. A wooden rod is hung from the shelf using rope, and the entire look is softened with grommet curtains found on clearance.
A Solution for Old Sheets
These ruffled ombre curtains—stitched together in an afternoon from rescued bed sheets—add a fun, feminine charm to a little girl's room. Try switching out the pink fabric for white to add texture to any space.
Fabric-Scrap Cafe Curtains
If you can tie a knot, you can make these curtains. We used white chiffon to brigthen this kitchen, but any fabric will work—try tulle for a girl's bedroom or burlap in a sunroom.