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Aug 6, 2014

Measure Once, Cut Thrice -- Home Dec Caveats!



Yesterday, MPB reader Corey Hill asked:

"How did you like your home dec project? Having done a lot of home dec myself, just curious how you like it compared with making garments."

The answer, Corey (and others), is "not very much."  I mean, sure, making living room curtains is OK, but I wouldn't want to have to do home dec on a regular basis.  If this is what you decorators do, I kiss your hem -- which I can guarantee looks better than mine.

I'm not what you would call a "math person."  I mean, I got as far as calculus, so I should have been able to measure these curtains correctly.  The problem is that I approached them the same way I approach Cathy's dress hems: I eyeballed them.

The way I see it, since we're ultimately going to view things with our eyes, what difference does it make what the ruler says?  It's like body weight and bathroom scales: Who cares what the scale says if I can't button my pants?  Unfortunately, my reluctance to measure -- except for the single time I measured the width and length of my old curtains so I'd have an idea of how much yardage I'd need for my new curtains -- resulted in my having to do a LOT of extra work.

First, instead of figuring out the exact length of each panel I'd need (with hems figured in the measurement), I just cut my six yards of fabric in half, thus creating two even panels, but both too long.  So I had to trim both of them when I was ready to hem.  I could have avoided this on one of the panels if I'd known the exact length I needed -- does that make sense?  I don't think you have to be a math person to figure that one out.

The bigger problems occurred in hemming: getting the length of each panel exactly right, and matching them to each other.   I never measured the length of my panels, I just eyeballed everything.  The first time I hemmed the first panel, the hem looked great.  The only problem was that it was 1 1/2" too short.  I had high-water curtains!



I had to rip the seam out and lower the hem an inch.  Fortunately it didn't take all that long to accomplish, but it was a PITA.  The new hem is much better, and hangs approximately 1/2" above the floor.  The hem depth is narrower than I'd have liked (I was hoping for a 4 1/2" hem), but it's fine.



The real headache was hemming the second panel.  I had to match the length of the first panel, and the hem also had to be the same depth.  I hung the two curtain panels and simply lined up the edge of the first (hemmed) panel next to the second panel.  I marked the bottom point in blue pencil.  I knew that if I added roughly 3 1/2" (the depth of the first hem), plus 1/2" (the turned-under edge), I'd be good to go.  Not so -- and I'm embarrassed to admit that I can't even tell you why.  Like I said, I'm not a math person.

I pinned before I sewed this time so there was no seam ripping involved, but on my first attempt, the hem was the correct depth but the panel was too short.  I tried a second time -- still too short and the hem was now too narrow.  I could think of only one solution: I grabbed one of my fabric remnants from when I'd shortened the panel (the first time), cut a 2" strip, and sewed it onto the bottom of the second panel.

Was it painstaking?  Yes, it was.

Did it work?  Yes it did.

Is the surgery invisible?  No, it is not (at least by day).

But I can live with it! 



Most of the time the curtains will be open, and nearly all of the time there will be things blocking the hem, like sewing machine tables, dog crates, and assorted clutter.  Plus, who will even notice the hems of my curtains except for me?  (And you)

I'm done with these puppies.  (I forget to mention that I also hemmed the sides for a more finished look.)  Tomorrow I will clean up a bit so I can take beautiful photos.  Nobody will ever notice that extra seam and I know none of you will rat on me.



In closing, readers, how are your measuring skills?

Are you more apt to eyeball a measurement than use a ruler or measuring tape?  (If so, join the gang.)

Have a great day, everybody!

37 comments:

  1. I told you the hems would drive you nuts! That's why I have unhemmed bedroom drapes hidden by furniture. Somehow I got my living room drapes to match but they are lined and not transparent and that makes it way easier if the actual fabric turn up isn't exact. But, you did make them so "our deal" is still on although it will take me a Lille longer than it took you to make these. Oh, what about the extra line of stitching under the rod? Too late now as it will make them rise a bit.

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    1. Lille! Where did that come from? LITTLE.

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  2. I've had the exact same experience! It is infuriating. I still can't explain how I ended up with four simple panel curtains that all where different widths and lengths.

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  3. When people say to me that they would like to learn to sew "so that they can make curtains," I'm horrified.

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  4. I made draperies out of a damask-type fabric. The design was woven into the fabric. I cut each panel at the exact same place in the design. The uncut panels were not all the same length.

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    1. This is why home dec is much much harder (and a different beast) than clothing. Imagine doing that job for pay for a perfectionist. Now go do it at JC Penney's. No wonder she drank.

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  5. I like to measure the first one to death, and then eyeball the next one(s) from it, ie match by laying them next to/on each other. That works a lot better for me. But I generally agree that curtains are a horror. And let's not even mention buying fabric on sale which turns out to have grain distortions (or stuff printed off-grain), which gives a lovely torsade effect impossible to fix. Sigh.

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  6. I am not a fan of sewing curtains. I find it boring and tedious. I believe that some times the window or in your case door frame opening, may not be in square and even from side to side. Or the rod may be hung uneven. Oh well, at least your curtains are finished.

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    1. Exactly. I blame the floor! LOL

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    2. It really is something out of square.
      I'm the group that measures 5 times before I cut curtains. In trying to determine the length we measured all 4 windows and every single one of them was different AND the rods were level. But what do you expect from a house that's almost 90 years old!

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  7. My sympathy. I measure like crazy and figure if they're close in length, within an inch of each other, I'll live with it. I have learned to hang the hardware first, then plan the curtains. And also: the eye wants lengths and surfaces to be square and even, but they aren't, even in new houses. I like having lined curtains over sheers, keeping out glare and nosy passersby, and privacy and insulation in the evening. Our house is in a small town on a small lot so people walking by can see in if the lights are on at night, and the curtains are open. Another comfort: curtains do not need to be made again any time soon!

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  8. So I guess tie-backs are not on your list of make ups.
    They can disguise unven lengths. Funny when I make drapes for myself they are always even. When I make them for others they are always a tad off. Might I say you have a nice shine on your wooden floors!!

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  9. I forgot to mention thist little trick Everyone probably already knows, but maybe someone doesn't. If you want a 1inch hem, measure up 2 inches and fold to that line and you will have one inch. so to repeat... Whatever hem depth you need, just double it, draw a line and fold to that line. Hope this helps someone.

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  10. I measure, make the panels a couple of inches longer than the distance from the rod top (or ring clip) to the floor, sew the sides, then form the top hem/rod pocket. Then I hang them (for a couple of days to make sure they do all their sagging) and then make a chalk line where the hem needs to be pulling the fabric tight to the floor and marking four or five spots per panel for the line MichaelC mentions. Then I fold to that line, press and hem. For home decorating to mean as much to a person as sewing garments, one has to see the house/apartment as an extension of themselves. I've known some folks who decorated their homes to set off their own coloring and personal style; and some decorators who do that without saying so, knowing their female clients will subconsciously love it.

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  11. I daresay the double hem looks positively Hollanderesque. I know you'd absolutely hate doing it but I believe a lining would help cover any measuring sins, improve privacy, and make the drapes look even more elegant. I like them and am looking forward to the Big Reveal.

    Not having sewn window coverings (I'm strictly off-the-shelf so far), I can't commiserate but I think I assume that rectangular window panels are easy; when I realize that something I think should be easy isn't, I tend not to enjoy it. It just takes some practice and who would want to practice drape-making? :)

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    1. Wouldn't I need a separate rod for the lining, or is that attached to the fabric itself?

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    2. Total drape newb here but my $0.02: It depends. You could change out your hardware and do a double rod, enabling another panel. This would give you more light/privacy options but would take up more visual space. But by 'lining', I'd just take the current drapes down (after they've stretched) and attach a poly/blend lining in the same or slightly lighter grey. The advantage of doing it this way is that they'd be heavier and would thus hang more evenly and less likely to fly around in a slight breeze (depending upon the weight of the lining). They'd look more substantial, too, more like a drape than a curtain (my personal preference). I assume it's also easier and certainly less expensive.

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    3. Just to add that you'd want to stretch your lining, too.

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  12. I can't stand home dec sewing - for all the reasons you ran into! PITA!!

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  13. First world problems! Move on and enjoy. Don't invite Martha Stewart around.

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  14. Would it be feasible to attach a horizontal accent strip to the face of both panels that would hide the hem stitching? However, tt would have to be both sufficiently opaque to hide the stitch lines and also thin enough not to affect the drape of the curtains.

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  15. Maybe I should just eyeball it. I measure and then still mess it up. I have some faux linen and plan to make some curtains with it. Wish me luck.

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  16. I job out curtains and my husband's pants hems. Life's too short and sewing's for fun.

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  17. Sewing is full of life lessons, isn't it? Don't measure, run! Run the other way! You were brave to take on a home decor project after all the reader feedback. They do look nice, I think what you referred to as an "extra seam" is actually called a clever "design element."

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  18. Suggestions for doing drapes

    1. Plan, measure and measure again and again, work the design out for the window on paper with measurements and details outlined and think thru the fabric required.

    2. Easier, use an existing drape that hang nice on the window and use that as the basis for your new window treatments, you will need to adjust the length based on: hem length, and how you will being doing the top - pleats, tabs, pocket etc

    3. Easiest - use purchased curtains, sew several panels togethers and then hang adjusting your rod height appropriately depending on how you are going to use the curtains, open all the time, closed etc

    4. Practice, practice, practice, I did all the windows in my mom's home all have different window treatments, some plain silk panels with rings, some fully lined with velvet for some of the bedrooms, some with purchased panels sewed together, to create a dramatic draped curtain with beautiful tiebacks and the appropriate hooks to hold them back. There are alot of options, but just keep practicing ...

    Peter before you know it, your going to be doing home dec projects for clients in your neighbourhood. or not.

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  19. I have been sewing curtains for over 40 years, in several houses. Believe me the windows etc are not all square or even. I believe that is why the puddled drape style came into fashion.

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  20. I think the hardest part of making curtains or any other home dec project is the measuring of large swaths of fabric. Who has the room to lay it out to measure 60" or 84". I had unhemmed panels from IKEA in my kitchen for about 4 years. I got tired of them dragging on the floor so I took them down to wash and hem them a couple of months ago and they still aren't hemmed. claudia w

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  21. Home do c, especially curtains differs from garment sewing in some critical ways. You ALWAYS needs to measure using a non-flexible metal tape measure or ruler. Second, ALWAYS measure the material laid out complely flat for the entire length, not on a table. If you measure the window that way, add hems top and bottom and then measure the fabric, you should end up with even, correct curtains. I have made many, many of them ony 40 plus years of sewing and this always works.

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  22. oh, curtains and math! When I was a teenager, my mom made me use my math to make a formula for the curtains (you know, so much fabric, so big windows, so many folds...). I was good at math and enjoyed the task, but we tried three times - all good theories but none worked - then smuggled untill they fitted and were more or less evenly folded.... I am not planning on sewing any curtains ever!

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  23. I've made several pairs of curtains and hate it every time. The fabric is expensive so I can't affort to get it wrong so then I tend to cut it a little on the big side so have extra work hanging. People who buy their curtains say its just big rectangles of fabric with hems how hard can it be? I say Grrr and give 'em the archers salute!

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  24. I used my skirtmarker to hem my curtains. I'm never going to make curtains again though. I really disliked dealing with those large pieces of fabric.

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  25. My curtain making story starts with a ballet studio that needed black out curtains covering a large wall of windows. Ballet mistress wanted them made out of some old velvet theatrical drapes (lots of piecing
    required), attached at the top to the hospital sliders with hooks and grommets. Long story short, precise measuring, cutting, and layout was necessary; I did all measuring, laying out, and cutting on the unoccupied ballet floor taking extreme care to keep everything square. I used the old carpenter's 3/4/5 triangle trick of establishing a perfect square, and using a metal measuring tape. After the first try on, I did have to adjust the hem, but that was a minor event, and not the PITA, hot mess it could have been. And now several years later, it still looks good. John Y

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  26. This is not good, but my 80s sewing machine has been collecting dust for 2 years because I dropped the tension screw in there while I was adjusting it. It's sitting upright without even a cover on it. Whoops. I don't want to move it too much in fear of losing the screw, so I'm not sure where the bolts are to remove it from the cabinet. It's heavy.

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  27. Oh, wrong post. Meant to whine about my sewing machine woes on the clunky Brother serger topic.

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  28. I'm an eyeballer. I call my sewing "cut and paste" projects. I'm not a fan of math, just to tedious for me. That's why I turned to nuno felting. It's totally freeform, and allows me to experiment wildly. Here's the way to eyeball the curtains with minimal work. Finish the top, hang the curtains, then pin your hem line. When things don't work out as planned, adapt and roll with the punches. Allow creative solutions to flow and your projects will evolve and become better than originally intended. Great blog by the way. Just discovered it. ;)

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