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Is it cheaper to DIY curtains?

Curtains can greatly enhance the look and feel of a room by adding color, texture, and style. Many homeowners consider making their own curtains as a way to save money over buying premade curtains. This article examines the costs, tools, materials, and effort involved in do-it-yourself (DIY) curtains versus purchasing ready-made curtains to help you decide what option makes more financial sense for your next window treatment project.

Is it cheaper to DIY curtains?

Materials needed for DIY curtains

Making your own curtains requires some basic materials and tools:

  • Fabric: The fabric yardage needed depends on the finished length and width of the curtains, number of panels, fullness desired, pattern repeats, and more. Budget $10-25 per yard for fabric.
  • Liner (optional): Adding a liner helps curtains hang properly, blocks light/UV rays, and provides insulation. Budget $5-15 per yard.
  • Curtain rods: Curtain rods come in various sizes, finishes, and architectural styles. Budget $20-100 per window.
  • Hardware: Rings, hooks, tabs, weights to stabilize curtains. Budget $20+
  • Sewing tools: Sewing machine, scissors, tape measure, pins, needles, thread, iron. If you don’t sew, no-sew hem tape starts around $4.

The exact materials cost for DIY curtains varies widely depending on the size of windows, style of curtains, number of panels, and types of fabrics and accents selected. Expect to spend $50-250+ on materials per window for DIY curtains.

Cost factors: DIY vs ready-made curtains

Below are some top considerations when evaluating the cost effectiveness of making vs. buying curtains.

DIY curtains cost factors:

  • Fabric yardage needed
  • Expense of materials/accents selected
  • Complexity of project/learning curve
  • Ownership of basic sewing tools and machine
  • Time involved with sewing curtains

Purchased curtains cost factors:

  • Size of windows/number of panels
  • Quality of construction and materials
  • Brand, style, and source selected
  • Use of discounts, sales, coupons, etc
  • Customization needed (extra cost)

In most cases, simple DIY curtain panels made from basic fabrics with limited embellishments will be cheaper than buying ready-made curtains of equivalent quality and style. Drapes made with high-end/specialty fabrics, intricate details, insulation or automation can be just as or more expensive as store-bought.

You can save 50-75% off the retail price of curtains by making them yourself. But factor in the value of your time before deciding.

Tools and skills for DIY curtains

Sewing skills, equipment, space, and time are necessary when making your own curtains.

Consider the following:

  • Sewing skills: Can you operate a sewing machine? How is your hand-sewing ability? If lacking skills, are you willing to learn?
  • Sewing machine: A basic machine will do. Own or can you borrow one? Rentals start around $25 a month.
  • Iron and ironing board: Needed to press seams and hems. Own or can you set up space?
  • Fabric scissors: Must dedicate a pair for cutting fabric only. Start at $15-25.
  • Workspace: Do you have a large, flat surface for measuring, cutting, laying out fabric? Is your space well-lit?
  • Time: DIY curtains take 10-20 hours per window. Have you budgeted adequate time for planning, shopping, cutting, sewing and hanging?

Take an honest assessment before committing to make your own curtains. Some practice runs on mock ups is highly recommended if new to sewing.

Steps for sewing your own curtains

Here is an overview of the major steps for DIY curtains:

  1. Take window measurements – record the exact width and length needed per panel. Include desired lengths for hem, header/rod pocket, bottom hem.
  2. Plan style and fabric needs – sketch curtain plans or browse ideas. Calculate fabric yardage required. Shop for fabrics and all materials.
  3. Prepare work area – set up large cutting mat, sewing machine, ironing board nearby with adequate lighting.
  4. Cut curtain panels – use sharp fabric scissors to cut panels to precise widths and lengths per window/door specs. Mark pleats if desired.
  5. Sew side hems – double fold & stitch side hems first. Finish ends with trim or rods as desired.
  6. Make header casing – fold over/press top edge hem, double stitch to create rod pocket.
  7. Sew bottom hem – fold up hem allowance 1-2x, iron and stitch neatly by hand or machine.
  8. Insert curtain rods – mount desired drapery hardware brackets/rings per instructions.
  9. Hang curtains – slide completed panels onto rod, arrange pleats evenly spaced as desired.

Adjust length, fullness or header depth at this early stage as needed.

Tips for sewing curtains

Follow these top tips for best DIY curtain results:

  • Always pre-wash/dry fabrics before cutting to account for shrinkage
  • Use clips, weights, or tape to hold pleats in place before sewing
  • Take your time cutting – inaccurate lengths can’t be fixed later!
  • Use a long, continuous backstitch for best seam strength
  • Grade/clip inner seam allowances on lined curtains to reduce bulk
  • Attach drapery weights in bottom hems for straight hanging panels

DIY curtain ideas, styles and techniques

Here are some popular kinds of curtains you can make at home and tips for each:

Gathered curtains

  • Softer look, informal
  • Calculate width 2-3x window’s width
  • Leave headings loose, use rings/clips
  • Best for lighter weight fabrics

Pleated curtains

  • Crisp, uniform folded look
  • Plan even spaced double or triple pleats
  • Look best in medium-heavy fabrics
  • Use drapery pins/web tape to hold pleats

Tab top curtains

  • Simplest style, no sewing
  • Use iron-on hem tape with tab connectors
  • Work with tension rods or overlap rings

Rod pocket curtains

  • Basic header style, versatile
  • Allows adjustable gathering
  • Use clip rings or sew ties to close

Mix and match styles as desired – attached a casual gathered valance over panels with crisp pleats or tabs for extra style and light control. Layer sheers behind opaque panels for added dimension. The options for customizing DIY curtains are endless!

Cost comparison examples: DIY vs store-bought

Below illustrates sample cost savings achieved by sewing vs. buying curtains of comparable quality and style.

Master bedroom: Two 60″ wide x 96″ long panels

Expense DIY Curtains Ready-made Curtains
Fabric + Lining $60 n/a
Hardware/Supplies $40 n/a
Labor (20 hrs@ $20/hr) $400 n/a
Total Cost $500 $780
Potential Savings $280 / 36%

Living room: One 120″ wide x 84″ long single panel

Expense DIY Curtain Ready-made Curtain
Fabric + supplies $125 n/a
Labor (8 hrs @ $20/hr) $160 n/a
Total Cost $285 $350
Potential Savings $65 / 19%

Customization, specialty details, and higher-end ready-made brands can significantly increase the price gap between DIY and purchased curtains. If saving money is the goal, opting to make them yourself is clearly cheaper in many typical applications.

Key takeaways

  • For most basic styles, sewing your own curtains costs about 50-75% less than buying retail ready-made curtains.
  • Factor in the value of your time and learning curve before deciding if DIY curtains are cost-effective for your application.
  • Simple tab-top or rod pocket panels are fast, no-sew DIY curtain projects for beginners.
  • Floor-length, extra wide, ornate or specially shaped curtains often warrant buying vs. making.
  • DIY curtains allow fully customizable sizing, fabrics, lengths, styles and detail options.

Conclusion

Evaluating whether it’s cheaper to DIY vs. buy ready-made curtains involves comparing numerous variables – the size and number of panels needed, types of fabrics and accents selected, complexity of styles, cost of materials and hardware, tools and sewing skills required, and the value of one’s time invested.

For simple styles in common sizes, sewing curtains at home typically costs 50-75% less than purchasing comparable ready-mades. More intricate styles in specialty fabrics with extra detailing often cost the same or more to produce than custom ordering. Much depends on one’s skillset, available tools and workspace, and the desired end results.

In most cases, investing the time and effort to DIY basic curtains results in significant cost savings over store-bought. And they offer full customization not possible otherwise. Yet larger, more complex window treatments may warrant finding affordable ready-made options.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the main advantages to making your own curtains?
    The advantages of DIY curtains include lower costs, full customization of fabrics/sizes/lengths, and options to coordinate with other decor. It also allows matching unusual window sizes needed. 
  2. What fabrics work best for DIY curtains?
    Medium weight cottons and cotton blends such as duck, denim and flannel are ideal DIY curtain fabrics. Avoid very lightweight, sheer or slippery fabrics if new to sewing. 
  3. Can you make lined curtains?
    Yes, you can sew lined curtains by treating two same-size panels as one unit, joining at top, sides then bottom. Calculate lining fabric separately from outer curtains. 
  4. Is sewing your own curtains hard?
    Basic straight panel curtains are an easy beginner project if you know basics of using a sewing machine. Pay attention when measuring, cutting and pressing for best results. 
  5. What length should curtains be?
    For floor length curtains, cut panels to 1/2″ above floor level. For sill/apron length allow 3″ below windowsill. For casing only allow 4″ to 6” extra at the top only. 
  6. How much fabric do I need per window?
    Order 2-3 times the total width of window/door when buying fabric for DIY curtains. Example: 60” window = 180”-270” wide fabric. Add more for pattern repeats/matching. 
  7. Can you make curtains without sewing?
    Yes, use iron-on hem tape with grommets, back tabs or overlap rings to make no-sew curtains. Works well for tab tops and lightweight panels. 
  8. Should curtains cover the whole window?
    Not necessarily. Normal placement is just outside frames allowing light space between window and curtains. Covering glass entirely makes rooms seem smaller. 
  9. How wide should side hems be?
    A 1.5” – 2” double fold side hem nicely finishes DIY curtain panel edges. Straight stitch close to inside folded edge for best drape. 
  10. Why are my curtains not hanging straight?
    Add curtain weights inside the bottom hem if panels pull unevenly to one side. Check they slide freely on pole – dragging can skew. Extend pole ends wider than window can also help alignment. 
  11. What is the most cost effective curtain rod?
    Inexpensive spring tension rods start around $10 and allow quick installs without brackets or hardware. Or spring for more decorative telescoping rods under $25. 
  12. Where should you put the curtain rod?
    As a rule of thumb, mount traverse rods 6″-12″ wider than the window on both sides at 8″-12” above top of window trim height. Adjust for ceiling type and style preferences. 
  13. Can I hang curtains from clips?
    Yes, use clip-on rings or attractive decorative clips to hang panels from matching drapery tracks or cafe-style rods without sewing headers. Space evenly per product specs. 
  14. What tools do I need to make curtains?
    Basic tools: tape measure, fabric scissors, quilting straightedge, sewing machine and thread, iron and board, fabric marker. Nice extras: rotary cutter, large cutting mat and drapery weights. Rent specialty tools if needed. 
  15. Where can I buy affordable fabric for DIY curtains?
    Check fabric discount outlets, big box chains, thrift stores, clearance sales and craft supply liquidators for low cost fabrics to refashion into curtains. Beware irregular sizes/discontinued prints. 
  16. What is the easiest way to hem curtains?
    Self adhesive hem tape offers a simple no-sew method. Just iron on, peel paper and press to fix hems in place without stitches. Launder gently. Available in 1” & 2” widths. 
  17. How much do custom curtains normally cost?
    Professionally made custom curtains range from $100 up to $500+ per panel depending on fabrics, lining, specialty hardware, details like trim or embellishments and installer’s labor markup. 
  18. Should you iron both sides of curtain fabric?
    Pressing both sides helps curtains hang straight and even. First iron pattern face up to protect details, then flip over and press lining/back side to pre-shrink before cutting panels. 
  19. What is the standard drop length for curtains?
    The drop refers to how long the body of curtain hangs below the rod pocket. Standard drops range 84″-96” floor length, 63″-84” sill length, and 36″-48” cafe length hitting below window frames. 

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