Simple Panel Curtain Tutorial

DIY Curtain Tutorial

I moved into a new apartment a few weeks ago. It is big and airy, centrally located, and- my favorite feature- it has a balcony (all meals= eaten outside). My bedroom windows have a nice view of the street, but they are east facing and the blinds are not enough to keep out that morning light. Not good for sleeping in. So, I made curtains for those naked windows.

DIY Curtain Tutorial

Curtain Tutorial

I used  58″ wide home dec fabric (gifted). This was wide enough to cover the width of my windows. Unless you’re planning on washing them later, you don’t need to pre-wash and dry the fabric. Many home decor fabrics are treated with scotchgard and only need to be wiped clean. Alternatively  you could line quilting cotton with muslin or use sheer fabric for your curtains. The basic premise for these curtains is that you calculate the length you will need to fold back for the hem, header, and curtain rod pocket. You add this to the target length of the finished curtain (how long you want the curtain to be when it’s finished). Then you fold and sew and end up with curtains! Here are the calculations:

A couple things you need to ask yourself before you start calculating the length of fabric you will need:

  1. where do you want your curtain to end?
  2. do you want a header on your curtain (the frilly part at the top)? I added a 2″ header to my curtains.

add together:

  • distance from the top of the curtain rod to where you want the curtain to end.
  • height of the header x 2
  • 4 inches for a 2 inch hem (turned under twice)
  • width of the curtain rod + 1″
  • 1″ seam allowance

My curtain equation was: 66+4+4+2+1=77″

  • 66″ length
  • 4″ = 2″ header x 2
  • 4″ for hem
  • 2″ = 1″ curtain rod +1″ <- value “B”
  • 1″ seam allowance

*you will also need to remember the sum of the last two numbers (value B + seam allowance), plus the height of the header (for my curtain, this number was 1+2+2=5). This is value “A”.

Curtain Tutorial

Once you’ve cut or ripped your length of fabric, it’s time to sew.  Turn the selvages toward the wrong side of the fabric, then pin, sew, and iron in place. Turn the hem under twice (~2″ each time), then pin, sew, and iron in place. Measure “A” inches from the top of the curtain panel and turn this to the wrong side (right side facing out).  Sew a seam the height of your header from the fold (eg 2″). Measure “B” inches (eg 2″) from this seam and sew another straight seam parallel to the first. Iron in place. Then hang your curtain!

DIY curtain tutorial diagram

It took me a couple evenings to make these curtains. The hardest part was making sure they were exactly the same length, but this was remedied by careful measuring throughout the folding and pinning process. Good luck with your curtains.

DIY Curtain Tutorial



Anatomy of an upcycle

upcycled maxi dress

When I first dipped my toes into making clothes, upcycling- that is turning a piece of clothing you don’t want to wear into something you do want to wear- was an easy, nonthreatening way to start. Through reading sites like New Dress A Day and Paris Ciel, and with practice, I got better at recognizing pieces with potential and transforming them. My most-worn pieces to date include this blue sundress and this red button down .

why so much sleeve?
before: too much sleeve, too much boob

The brown maxi dress pictured here is my latest success. When I was still living in Philly, post Philly-blogger-meetupAndrea and I went thrifting (sorry for all that name dropping). She spied this beauty at Philly AIDS Thrift, and despite my reluctance at the $15 price tag convinced me to buy it.

The first thing I focus on when choosing a piece of clothing to upcycle is the fit. If the part of the dress I want to keep fits- I keep it. It is easy to change the hem length, but can be much harder to change the shoulders or waist. On this dress the bodice fit perfectly. No changes needed there. The first thing I did was cut about 7″ off of the skirt length and used my serger to sew an easy rolled hem. Be careful while hemming knits- removing fabric (and weight that stretches the fabric out) allows the hem to spring up. The hem can end up shorter than you intend, so it’s best to cut fabric off a little at a time.

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Next I had to address the matter of boobage. You can see my bra in the before picture- the neckline plunges waaay too low. I sewed the sides of the neckline together with a blind stitch to add a couple inches of coverage. You can see in the above picture what a difference a couple inches make to the neckline.

After that, I chopped the sleeves off, leaving some space below the arm. The original sleeves attached to the band at the bottom of the bodice, so I needed to leave fabric there so I could raise the armhole. I pinched the fabric together and sewed it in a straight line, creating a new side seam. You can see the line down the middle of the V under the arm  hole that this created:

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The last thing I needed to do was finish the straps and neckline. I used tailors chalk to draw the neckline I wanted on the front and back of the dress. Sometimes I make a paper pattern to ensure that both sides are even, but I eyeballed it on this dress since I wasn’t making a super drastic change. I widened the front neckline by about an inch, narrowed the straps, and lowered the back of the dress by 2 inches.

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The neckline and straps were intimidating but not very difficult. I used bias tape to finish the edges, first pinning and stitching the bias tape along the chalk lines, then trimming off the extra fabric, and finally turning the bias tape under and topstitching it in place. The dress was originally finished with facings, and I wanted to keep this feature. I made sure to catch the facings as I sewed the bias tape.

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And then I was done. Another great dress added to my closet. Have you had any upcycling successes recently? What techniques do you use to complete an upcycle?

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Me Made May- Week 4 and reflections

Me Made May Week 4

So week 4 and the last couple days of May are lumped together because I was working a lot and traveling. Day 13: Spent the weekend in Pittsburgh with family for memorial day. Super cold!  Me-Made purple tshirt. Day 14: Drove back from Pittsburgh (6 hours, listened to Stephen King on audiobook the whole way). Upcycled button down. Day 15: spent the day at home cleaning up and cooking. Wrap dress. Day 16: Out to dinner with friends. Upcycled tshirt, unblogged. Can you spy the remote control under my toe?

Reflections: I have enough shirts. No more making shirts! I wear a lot more dresses and skirts than I thought. Make more! I’m pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have trouble finding anything to wear all month. So far I’ve done a  pretty good job making things that I’ll actually wear. Except for black. I missed wearing black this month. So more black things. Hope you enjoyed following along!

See the rest of the month here:
week 1
week 2
week 3

Me Made May ’15 Week 3

Me Made May Week 3

Second to last week of the challenge. Day 9: Stinking hot outside, spent the day sewing with a fan pointed at me and wearing the breezy Maya dress. Day 10: went swimming in the James River with friends, me-made bikini top, quick-dry shorts and river shoes. Day 11: Hot again. Ditched the dress and wore this cami with shorts. More sewing. Day 12: As-yet-unblogged maxi dress. And a raincoat (cause it rained). And the ever present pair of birkenstocks. Reflections: I wear a lot of dresses. I should make more. I need to find my bikini bottoms.

I’ve been following the Flickr group to see all the garments people have made and are wearing, and I’m consistently amazed at the variety and creativity ever present in the sewing community. A few of my favorites so far include this blue coat, these matching tops, and this parrot t-shirt. One week (and change) left!

Me Made May ’15 Week 2

Me Made May Week 2

Week two has come and gone. Here are the results (left to right, top to bottom). Day five was this blue wrap dress I made a while back, over some stretchy shorts. On day six I wore this dress I made for a tutorial on Sew Mama Sew last summer. Day seven was this homemade t-shirt and day eight was my much-loved Nettie dress over leggings (picture taken just before I went to the library). On day seven I wore RTW clothing out for some drinks with friends- a midi skirt and crop top- both are things I haven’t made before but wear often and have missed this month, so I think a long skirt will be next on my sewing table. My latest project can be seen behind me on day eight- simple panel curtains for my new room. I’ll dub this week another successful endeavor.

Me Made May ’15 Week 1


Me Made May Week 1

Let the outfit spam commence! Here’s week one of Me-Made-May. Two tops, two dresses, one cold and rainy day and three sunny and hot. Three pictures of me not looking at the camera and three days of sandals. From left to right, top to bottom: Coppelia sweatshirt with jeans (and boots, and raincoat), Hemlock top with cargo shorts, anti-shoulder pads dress, and red pinstripe dress (upcycled and unblogged). On days two, three, and four I moved to a new apartment in Richmond.  It hasn’t been too hard to find something to wear (that I made and is semi-appropriate for the day’s activities) on the four days a week when I don’t have to wear scrubs (nursing FTW yo).  The dresses weren’t the easiest thing to haul boxes in, but I wore shorts under them and they held up fine. I even carried a couch up a flight of stairs in Birkenstocks. Today I’ve been unpacking and settling in. We shall see if the trend continues next week…

Me Made May ’15

me made may

This year I’m participating in the Me Made May challenge. For those of you less familiar with the sewing blog world, this is a month where people who love to sew/knit/make clothing are encouraged to actually wear the stuff they make. And document it.

I, Claire, of Hoopes Park Studios, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’15. I endeavor to wear at least one thing I’ve made three times a week for the duration of May 2015. 

And there will be a weekly roundup on the blog. I’m hoping that this will give me a more clear view of what I like to wear and what I should make next.


More maternity wear!

maternity dress

Another friend in the lineup of my friends who are having babies asked me to make her a maternity dress. I found a yellow trapeze dress I made years ago (but never wore) that sorta fit her, but figured I owed her something actually her size that she could wear after pregnancy too. (side note- I don’t expect to get around to having kids till my 30’s, by which time I will have made so much maternity wear that I won’t actually have to make any for myself- I’ll just ask for my friends to loan it back to me!)

It was a quick project. Denver put up with me spread out on the floor for a morning (that girl should win a gold medal for all the jumping over pins and fabric on the living room floor I put her through). The top half is Nettie size 14, and the bottom is two rectangles (~40 x 22) gathered and attached to the top. I added 1/4″ elastic at the waistline for support.  I left the bottom edge raw and serged the armholes to finish them. Fabric is 2 yds of some polyester/lycra knit from JoAnns.

It’s big on me (she is significantly taller than I), so fingers crossed that it fits her. I sent it off Friday. No more squeezing into your old summer dresses! Claire to the rescue!

Maternity dress


Maya dress

Maya Shift Dress

I’ll have to say- I wasn’t sure about shift dresses. I tend to steer toward more hourglass-y things and shift dresses had me running in the opposite direction. But then Marilla released the Maya dress.

I first met Marilla Walker through a nametag swap in 2014. Since then, we’ve kept in touch, and formed a pretty nice trans-atlantic blogger friendship. Mostly she posts and I read. When she published her first pattern, she was generous enough to send me a free copy (since I’d been oohing and aahing over all her makes’ simple silhouettes and lush fabrics). I finally found the right fabric for my Maya in January, then took a deep breath and dove into a new kind of dress.

Maya Shift Dress

My version of Maya is made from a cotton tapestry that my sister brought back from her travels in Spain. All the little blue and white flowers were why I chose the fabric for this dress, but nearly a third of the pattern was not on grain! While cutting, I had to divide the front of the dress into 4 parts to get the flowers to line up. The pattern lines up horizontally at the expense of the center front seam.  I made a combined View C and D- the top half of the dress is View D (with snaps rather than buttons) and the bottom half is view C. The back is all one piece. The insides are finished with french seams or facings. I only needed to subtract a few inches from the hem  and one inch widthwise to make the dress pattern petite.

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Marilla certainly knows how to make a pattern! Maya is drafted exceedingly well and the dress is easy to fit. I especially like that the instructions walk you through some simple finishes to make the inside of the dress as pretty as the outside, eg french seams and facings. I would have liked to see a few more diagrams, but an advanced beginner wouldn’t have any trouble making this dress.  Since Maya, Marilla has published a number of other patterns including a skirt, leggings, and a coat. You can find her patterns in her Etsy shop here.

All this winter I wore my Maya with leggings, boots and a long sweater. I had intended to add elastic or a belt to the waist, but I found that I really liked wearing the simple shift shape and decided to omit the belt. Now that the weather is warmer the loose shape is a welcome alternative to tight clothing (and the warm weather is making it easier to photograph my winter sewing backlog).

Maya dress


DIY Kimono

I found the kimonos in a used bookstore, on a rack tucked behind rows of shelves. I had ducked into the shop in DC one brisk day and had been searching through the handicraft section for books to add to my sewing library. Finding nothing of interest, I turned to browse the rest of the store, and came upon a rack crammed with kimonos. My hands eagerly turned them inside out so I could gaze at the seams, ran down the collars to feel the interfacing, examined the slits, hems and finishes and held each one up to see the size. I had just picked up another couple yards of silk (hadn’t bought enough the first time), and was planning on getting to work on my kimono when I got home. Good timing.


DIY Kimono

This is the free kimono pattern by Ralph Pink. I graded from a UK 10 to a US size 6, and then made it petite. This basically involved a lot of chopping and folding and retaping of all the pattern pieces (a couple inches widthwise and about 10 inches off of the length). I had to redraw the neckline piece but everything else was straightforward (tell me in the comments if you want to know more about this). The only piece I interfaced was the neckline, with medium-heavy weight fusible interfacing. The fabric is so slippery that it needs a structural neckline to keep the garment on the wearer. The fabric- all 4.5 yards- is from the Silk Trading Company in Richmond- best fabric store in town!

DIY Kimono

The pattern doesn’t have instructions, but construction is straightforward. If you used a less tricky fabric than silk, it could be an easy beginner project. I used mostly french seams (there are some seams on the sleeves that are partway open, so I just serged them, rolled them under twice and topstitched). The hem I attached bias binding from my never ending bias tape stash, turned it under and topstitched (so the curved hem would have a little more weight). The neckline I had originally burrito’d before adding the sleeves, but after realizing I had attached it backwards I had to rip it off and sew it back on. So now there’s some topstitching, but I like it more than I thought I would. The sleeves end mid forearm; the length hits just above my ankles. Just the right lengths to cover me without getting in the way.


DIY Kimono

The kimono has quickly become a staple in my wardrobe (<- code for “I wear it every single morning instead of getting dressed”).  It is comfortable and slinky and just the right weight for hanging out and reading/eating breakfast/sewing on a cool spring morning. Well worth the $$ spent on the gorgeous silk fabric. As long as I don’t cook in it I’m confident it will hold up and last for years. Which is good because it’s been getting tons of use and it feels soooo good to wear.


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