Follow these steps to create your own colonial curtains.

Curtains - Some bracket designs, one-half actual size, for 1/2-inch dowel. Many variations of these surely existed in colonial homes; all were functional and simple in design.
Some bracket designs, one-half actual size, for 1/2-inch dowel. Many variations of these surely existed in colonial homes; all were functional and simple in design.
Brackets and Rods

These must be made and put up first, in order to be able to measure properly for fabric.

  1. For the rods, use inexpensive wooden dowels from the hardware store. These come in 3-foot lengths and different diameters; the 1/2-inch diameter is fine. If by chance your own windows are wider (as some of ours were), mop handles are available up to 5 feet long; these are about 1 inch in diameter. Beyond that, wooden closet poles 1 1/4 inches and up can be bought at lumberyards.

  2. To make the brackets, use 1/2-inch pine for the 1/2-inch size dowel. Use slightly heavier stock if you, pole is thicker and heavier.

  3. Trace or draw the pattern onto the wood. Cut out, using a hand coping saw (inexpensive, available at hardware stores), or a jigsaw. Sand the edges and corners. Many of the old brackets were actually crudely cut out. Paint or stain as desired.

  4. The rods should be cut long enough to extend 2 or 3 inches either side of the brackets. Paint or stain the rods to match.

Mounting Brackets

Theoretically, they should be mounted inside the window frame, as was the colonial custom. This looks best if the woodwork is narrow; however, the modern, wider window casing would be better hidden by the curtain. Usually, the brackets are placed at the outer edge, and in some cases right onto the front face of the window trim. (This necessitated the longer pole; you might be better off to do it authentically and use the shorter dowels, despite the 5-inch casings).

The brackets should be positioned high, right at the top of the window frame if mounted inside, and somewhere midway within the top piece of trim if placed on the casing. The curtain top in any event should cover the glass; your eye should be the judge here as to where the rod looks best. Be sure to allow room to put the rods in and out, if the ceilings are low. Fasten brackets with finishing nails or screws.

Curtains Picture

Measuring for Fabric

NOTE: allow for shrinkage when buying fabric.

  1. Preshrink all fabric before cutting.

  2. Measure from top of rod to top of window sill. This length, plus 4 inches, will be the amount you need for each curtain panel, including the facing strip at the top.

  3. 36-inch-width fabric is ample; 45-inch-width may look too wide. As mentioned earlier, homespun panels were only 20-30 inches. This style of curtain looks better if the panels are narrow.

  4. Fabric loops can be cut from a strip taken from along the side of a curtain length. However, if you want the full fabric width in each panel, buy extra material for the loops. They should be made lengthwise, with the grain, for strength.

Spacing Fabric Loops

Loops on old curtains have been found spaced from 5 inches to 9 3/4 inches apart. This means six to eight loops per panel. Seven is an easy number to use for figuring the placement. Any minor errors in spacing disappear when the curtain is hung.

Fabric Loop Construction

For each loop, you will need a piece 2 inches by 4 inches, to make loops 1 1/2 inches when finished and attached to curtain in a 1/2-inch seam.

  1. Fold each side in towards the center, in a 1/2-inch fold. Press.

  2. Fold again along center, having raw edges hidden inside, as in double-fold tape.

  3. Pin. Stitch along open edge. Stitch other side for looks and strength.

  4. Fold strips in half lengthwise to form a loop; pin ends evenly together.

Curtains Picture

Tape Loops

You may want to use tape for the loops. Regular twill tape is fine. Also "venetian blind" tape is available at most fabric stores, in a 1 1/2-inch width. Doubled over and stitched, it makes excellent loops.

Curtain Panel Construction

  1. Before cutting, double-check measurements. Cut out curtain panels.

  2. To place loops, lay panel on flat surface. Pin folded loops to top edge as shown, to the right side of fabric. Leave a I-inch seam allowance on both sides beyond the outer loops. Raw edges of loops should meet raw edges of curtain panel at top.

  3. Cut a 2-inch length of fabric as wide as curtain panel to use as facing. Narrowly hem bottom edge of facing. Place this facing right side down on top of the row of loops, raw edge meeting curtain's raw edge. Pin. Stitch in 1/2-inch seam, through all thicknesses.

  4. Turn facing up. Stitch again near seam line on right side of facing through all thicknesses.

  5. Turn facing to back; loops will pop up into position.

Curtains Picture


Side Hems

  1. Press under 1/4 inch on side edges. If selvages remain, omit this step. Fold edges on seam line; press.

  2. Fold facing edges on seam line and pin to side seams at top.

  3. Pin side hem. Slip-stitch by hand with unobtrusive stitches. Leave lower edge of facing free.

Lower Hem

  1. Press under or stitch under 1/4 inch on lower edge.

  2. "Try on" curtain at window to check for hem length, which should be approximately 3 inches deep.

  3. Turn up hem to proper length; pin. Slip-stitch hem.

  4. Press entire curtain.

Curtains Picture

Finishing-Tape Binding

This would go well with tape loops. The same tape may be used to bind the side and lower edges, instead of hemming. Beginning at top seam line, stitch to wrong side (inside) of panel sides and lower edges on seam line. Trim seam to % inch. Then pin loops in place and sew facing (see instructions). Turn tape to right side; press. Pin in place; hem invisibly, by hand.

With this way of finishing, you will need slightly less fabric (i.e., no 3-inch hem allowance).

Curtains Picture

Source: Adapted from an article by Anne Carnahan

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