Lisa Kyle Young Photography

Making Gathered Curtain Valances

What do you do with tall windows and/or windows that are high up?  How do you cover windows like that or do you even cover them? If you have cathedral ceilings and windows 20′ up you hate to cover them cause you don’t want to block the light but it also means that the house can get hot or cold, depending on the season, and your heat or a/c is having to work twice as hard. There is no easy solution except for motorized, automatic blinds that we see around the world in different places. They can open/shut based on light, temperature, time, and so on. Pretty fancy and pretty expensive. That would be a “no” for us. We prefer simple, easy and inexpensive.

Our house has some pretty tall windows which can allow for a lot of light, one of the qualities I love in a house or motorhome. The previous owners outfitted all the windows in the house with wooden blinds. AND to allow for lots of light they mounted them about 12-20″ down from the top of the windows to allow for the light to come in. This means on cold nights the rooms can feel colder due to the cold coming through the glass. This also means on bright sunny mornings the sun blazes in and wakes you up bright and early. And during the summer during those hot days the a/c is working hard.

Window Needs Valance

An example of a window where the blinds do not go all the way to the top – valance or not?

I searched around to find some window valances but due to the architecture and layout of the windows they needed to be an inside mount. I found very little selections at stores or on the internet as far as variety, color, and fabric. And it was almost impossible to find them in the correct size.

So, time to put my thinking cap on and get to buying some fabric and start sewing. I really didn’t want them to look like they belonged over a kitchen sink in the 1950’s so the tight gathering with the 2-3″ of fabric above them was out of the question. So no gathering tape to be used. which makes the curtains faster and easier to make, but I still didn’t want the curtains to lie flat. I decided on the simple route which is always my preferred solution. Something quick and easy to make yet effective and inexpensive. My life’s motto.

I bought a bunch of tension curtain rods from our local hardware stores (such as ACE Hardware or Home Depot) for the windows. I measured each window opening that I wanted to cover, let’s call the measurements x for width and y for height. You will need to calculate how much fabric you need based on the criteria below.

Then comes the fun part, heading to the fabric store to select material. I love looking at all the different fabrics and wishing for the ones that just happen to be the most expensive.  After purchasing the material (on sale) and washing and pressing it, I then cut my fabric at roughly, 1.5x+2″ and y+6″ (depending on your seam size and how much you want them to pucker/gather). The width (the x factor) doesn’t have to be exact as this just determines your pucker/gather amount but the height (the y factor) needs to be as exact as possible to ensure the curtain isn’t too short or too long. You will reconfirm the height before sewing (see below).

I folded over all the edges on each piece of cut fabric (1 valance) about 1/2″ – 1″ and sewed them to finish them. I then folded over the top edge of the material (height wise) about 4″.  This is where you should confirm that after folding it 4″ (or whatever you folded it to) that it will be the correct height (i.e., it will be y). And then adjust your 4″ accordingly, you need the end result to be your y measurement.

After folding it over 4″ (or whatever you determined was needed) I then sewed it along two separate places. The first place was about an 1″ or so down from the fold. This measurement is critical as this is the pocket the tension rod will slide into so it has to be wide enough to get the rod into yet not so big that the valance will not hang right, i.e., it will not pucker or have a bit of a gathered look. Then I sewed another 1″ or so down from the seam I just sewed to give it a more finished look.

You’re done. Maybe another pressing is needed and then you just slide the tension rod in and hang them. I can now hang the rods and if I want the light in I just remove the rods completely and store them away. I tend to do this in the spring and summer when it is not too hot or not too cold out and we want more light. If we do have house guests I will put the rods back up in their room so it is darker in the morning for the long sleep-ins (while I am busy slaving away preparing a nice hot breakfast for them).

I can also change around the look of a room, which I love to do, quite easily. Just make some new valances and hang them and suddenly the room has a different look and feel. Or I can switch the valances from one room to another room, again a different look and feel.

I recently made new unlined yellow valances for our master bedroom. They used to be browns/blues and now with the change to yellow, WOW, what a different in the look of the room when the light is coming through the windows. A whole different feel.

Yellow Curtain Valance

A finished, non lined, yellow curtain valance

Yes, valances are easy to make and install and can change things up a bit. I have a variety of them I have made over the years and can change from pattern to solid depending on the comforters or throw pillows in the room. I even have lined a group of them for those cold winters. I used a thermalsuede but there is a variety of thermal lining fabrics at your local fabric store that can be used.

Pile of curtain valances

A variety of curtain valances that are lined with a thermalsuede

But I still would have never hung the blinds like the previous owners.

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