When friends ask me for design advice, they’re often surprised to hear me advocating for the easy way out. “No need to take out the tape measure when hanging your picture frame.” And, “No, don’t bother ironing the tablecloth; it’s fine as is.”
Call it the Remodelista school of thought: Just as we advocate a mix of high and low in your interiors, the same rule applies when it comes to investing your time. Not every DIY project has to take hours.
Case in point: This project involving a set of casual homemade linen curtains, no stitching required.
Photography by Meredith Swinehart.
Above: When I turned a spare bedroom in my San Francisco apartment into my home office (see A Room Finds Its Purpose in Farrow & Ball Paint), I giddily removed a pair of unsightly vinyl mini-blinds from the windows, leaving me scrambling to find something to cover them with. I shopped around but didn’t like what I found online, and I was exhausted from painting and disinclined to sew my own curtains. So I ordered one long piece of linen-cotton fabric, cut it into three equal parts, and clipped each panel onto a hanging rod. Yes, it really was that easy.
Above: I can’t take credit for this act of sheer brilliance; I was inspired by the Remodelista book (on page 263, Miranda Heller used “straight-from-the-bolt fabric as curtains” in her Cape Cod home).
Above: I covered two large windows for a grand total of $186.45, including rods, rings, fabric, tax, and shipping. The curtains are semi-sheer; they’re opaque at night (I’ve checked), but still let in some light during the day.
- Robert Kaufman Essex Yarn-Dyed linen-cotton blend in olive; $9.40 a yard at Purl Soho. (I bought 7.75 yards to cover two windows: one is 29 inches wide, the other is 33 inches wide, and each is 76 inches long. I used one panel on the smaller window, and two panels on the larger window.)
- Two Umbra Cappa 3/4-Inch Curtain Rods, adjustable from 36 to 72 inches; $34.97 each at Amazon.
- Two sets of Umbra Clip Rings in nickel, size large; $4.99 for a set of seven at Amazon.
- Fabric scissors if you have them, but craft scissors are fine for this project. (I used Gingher 8-Inch Knife-Edge Dressmaker’s Shears, made in Italy and a reliable choice if you work with fabric often; $23.91 at Amazon).
Above: In need of fabric inspiration, I grabbed a few items from my closet and clipped them onto the windows with clothespins. Lucky for me, my favorite was a dress I’d made myself, so I knew exactly what the fabric was. I left the dress clipped to the window for a few days to be sure I liked it in all lights.
Above: After ordering from Purl Soho, I washed and dried the fabric in one go. I then laid it out on a gridded cutting mat and cut straight across with a pair of fabric scissors. (I used an Alvin Professional Cutting Mat ($33.13 on Amazon) to ensure that my fabric was square, but this isn’t required; just make sure you lay the fabric flat and are not accidentally stretching it in any direction.)
At this point, one might normally sew a hem or, at a minimum, treat the edge with a straight stitch across. I had just finished painting a room in four coats, with trim, peg rail, and doors in a contrasting hue, so I was in no mood to get fancy. Conveniently, it was the look I wanted.
Above: When washed, the untreated fabric edge will fray. I like to leave it just a little messy. My cats like to play with the dangling threads, and I cut them off every so often when it becomes a hazard.
Above: The beauty of this technique is that you’ll leave all the selvedges in place—so the sides of the curtains will look perfectly imperfect without fraying over time. (Alternatively, if you don’t like the messy look of the frayed tops and bottoms, you can hem them—and you still won’t have to hem the sides as long as you leave the selvedge.)
Above: Still in no mood to sew, I clipped a set of curtain rings onto each panel (and no, I did not measure the distance between each ring), and strung them onto an adjustable curtain rod.
I chose this hardware system for a few reasons: It was relatively inexpensive and, although it’s not “beautiful,” it’s inoffensive. But most importantly, I picked metal rings on a metal rod over some prettier DIY options like leather ties because I can’t stand fussing with curtains to get them open and closed.
Above: I’ve made my fair share of hand-sewn curtains; that’s what I have in my own bedroom in this apartment. But these ones look just as nice, and offer a vastly better return on investment.
See more of this room and more ideas for window coverings in: