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Drop Cloth Curtains DIY Tutorial

Are you looking for full, luxurious curtains but you don’t have the cash to get custom drapes? One thing that makes window treatments look expensive is LOTS of fabric. A great way to get the look without the price tag is to use drop cloths. You can make drop cloth curtains for as little as $20 per window.

If you have lots of windows that need of drapes, especially big ones, and you want to save big money, try using drop cloths.

In this tutorial I’ll walk you through two methods of making drop cloth curtains and answer your questions. Click on the titles to skip straight to the section you want.

Cost break down drop cloth vs Fabric

This is for you math junkies (like me). You can get a drop cloth 9×12 feet for around $25. That’s a lot of yardage that you couldn’t buy in a fabric store for that price.

For comparison sake, a yard of fabric (that’s 3 feet) is about $10, at the very low end of the range. A yard of fabric typically measures 36 inches x 54 inches wide. Out of the package a drop cloth is 2.5x wider than standard fabrics. It is 144 inches wide compared to 54 inches for one yard!

If you have windows in your home that are in need of drapes, especially big ones, and you want to save big money, try using drop cloths. I’ll walk you through step by step instructions for making no sew curtains first and then simple rod pocket curtains, that require a few seems.

How to make No Sew Drop Cloth Curtains

no sew drop cloth curtains

There are two methods for making drop cloth curtains. This first method doesn’t require a sewing machine, but it will require a few tools. Skip to the bottom half it you want to make drop cloth curtains with a rod pocket, which requires sewing.

The advantage of the no-sew curtains is that they are very easy to open and shut because they hang on drapery rings.

step 1: measure the window

The first step to making any kind of window covering is to measure the window. This is a two step process. First, you should measure the actual window opening, height and depth.

Second, you need to measure where you will hang the rod. Designers will always tell you that to make a window look larger it’s important to hang the rod above the window frame and outside the window frame.

How high depends on the height of your ceilings. I like to use 6 inches as a general rule. I put the rod 6 inches above the window frame and 4-6 inches wider than the window.

step 2: Determine how much fabric you need

Width of Your Window

A window looks covered if the drapes are at least twice as wide as the window. If you have a window that is 36 inches wide, you would need about 72 inches of curtain to have a full looking drape. You can get by with less width if you plan to keep your drapes open. For example, if you have shades that you close the drapes might not need to close.

window measuring

This is where using a drop cloth really pays off. Most fabric is not 72 inches wide, but a drop cloth is. It’s OK if your fabric is wider than two times the window, but it looks skimpy of there is less fabric than twice the window width.

What if you have a double window or two windows right next to each other? To get a full drapery for a double window, add the width of the two windows together and multiply by two. This is how much fabric you will need to get a full looking drape if you plan to close them. If you plan to keep them open, you can use 1.5x the width and still have enough fabric.

Length of your Window

If you are making the no sew curtains, this means that you will be hanging the curtains from clip rings and not a rod. It’s important to buy the rings and have them before you start to make your drapes.

Mount the rod and hang rings before you cut the fabric. This gives you the most accurate length measurement. It’s always better to have the curtains a little too long than too short. Drapes that are too short are like high water pants. Using the rings allows you to fold the tops of the drapes over before you clip them if they are a bit too long.

Step 3: get curtain supplies

For no sew curtains you will need these tools: measuring tape, glue gun or fabric tape, curtain rod, curtain rings, drop cloth, iron, yard stick. Here are the tools I used, but many of these will be things that you have around the house, except for the rings and rods.

  • Drapery rings – set of 14 (enough for one window). You can get them in several finishes.
  • Curtain rods – I bought a set to save money because I had lots of windows to cover
  • Drop cloth – I bought the 9×12 size
  • Glue gun – I like cordless so I’m not tied to the outlet when I use it
  • Measuring tape – I like to use a flexible one.

This is where you have to break out your calculator. If your window is 3 feet wide, a 6×9 could fit perfectly since it’s already twice as wide as the window. I used one 9×12 for my double windows and cut the 9 foot width into two curtains that were each 4.5 feet wide. If one size is too large you can always cut it.

Once you get the rods, mount them to the wall and put your rings on the rod. Having the rods and rings in the right place makes it easy to measure the length for your curtains accurately.

DO YOU WASH DROP CLOTHS BEFORE MAKING CURTAINS?

It depends. I did wash mine on cold with low heat in the dryer. You don’t have to wash them, but if you think they will be in a place that will get dirty it’s best to wash them before you hang them. They can shrink, so it’s better to shrink them before you hang them.

If the drapes are for a kid’s room or a dining room where they might get dirtier, I recommend washing them. If you are hanging them in a living room, it might not be necessary.

step 4: customize the size to fit your window

Now that you have the supplies and your rods mounted, measure from the bottom of your rings to the floor. Consider whether you want the curtains to just touch the floor or whether you want them to pool on the floor a little. If you want them to pool, you will need to add an extra inch or two to your measurement.

Here are two examples, the first is just reaching the floor and the other is pooling.

choosing the length of your curtain

If you need to cut the drop cloth down to fit your windows, you will need to turn up the unfinished edges with a glue gun or hem tape. The curtains will look best if you do a double fold at the bottom and press that fold before you glue or tape it.

If you use a glue gun, use glue sparingly to avoid the glue showing. The size of the hem depends on how much extra fabric you have. For example, if you are using a 9 foot drop cloth (108 inches) and the bottom of curtain ring is 96 inches from the floor you have 12 inches left over.

In this example, I would trim 6 inches off the bottom. To make the hem have a nice heavy weight, fold the bottom up 6 inches and press with your iron. Then fold the raw edge end inside so you have a double 3 inch fold and press again. Now you have a heave 3 inch double hem to glue down.

curtain hem illustration

The ideal hem has a double fold of fabric to give it more weight.

Hack for getting length right without cutting fabric

If you really don’t want to cut the curtains there are ways around this. This is where the rings come in handy. You can fold the fabric over at the top before you clip it to the rings. If you are able to fold over the top and get the length right, you won’t need to cut the fabric.

Depending on the look you like, you can fold the extra fabric behind the curtains so it’s invisible or in front for a more casual look, like this.

fold over top curtain

step 5: hang the curtains

To hang the curtains you simply clip them onto the rings. I like to clip the fabric about every 6-10 inches. If you need to adjust the length to be shorter, it’s easy just to re-clip the fabric.

How to make rod pocket Drop Cloth Curtains

This method of drop cloth curtain uses a rod pocket which requires sewing. Rod pockets take a bit longer and there’s more measuring required. It can be less expensive if you already own a sewing machine because you don’t have to buy the clip rings.

I have a very old Pfaff sewing machine that has no fancy electronics. It’s mostly just meant for sewing basic seams and not for quilting. You can buy a similar sewing machine if you plan to do lots of home decor DIY projects like drapes and pillows for around $250.

step 1: measure the window

Measuring the window itself is the same as in the no sew option. Follow the steps above for how to measure width and depth and where to hang the rod.

step 2: Determine how much fabric you need

Determining the width you need is the same as in the no sew option above. Determining the length you need starts the same as the no sew curtains but there is an extra step to create the rod pocket.

The extra step is that you must measure for the rod pocket. There are two types of rod pockets, with header (two seems) and without a header (one seam).

rod pocket with header and without

No Header Rod Pocket

The length to add for a rod pocket with no header is calculated like this:

  • Measure the distance around the rod (the circumference)
  • Add 1/2 inch for what is called “ease”. This just means that you need a little room for the rod to slide inside the pocket.

For example, if the rod pocket is 2 3/4 inches around, add 1/2 inches for ease for a total of 3 1/4 inches.

To create the pocket you would add 3 1/4 inches to the top of the curtain once you’ve got the measurement from the bottom of the rod pocket to the floor. Fold the top over 1 3/4 inches and sew a seam to create the pocket.

Rod Pocket with Header

If you want a header above the pocket you will need to add extra inches to top of the rod pocket. First decide how large you want the header to be. If you want a 1 inch header, add twice that to the top of your curtain (because you will fold it over).

Step 3: get curtain supplies

For rod pocket curtains the required tools are: measuring tape, curtain rod, drop cloth, iron,sewing machine and yard stick.

step 4: customize the size to fit your window

Calculating the length is a little trickier as I explained above. Before you start cutting the fabric make sure you have enough extra length for your rod pocket and the header, if you want one.

To determine the width you want about twice as much fabric as the window is wide. If you never plan to close your drapes you can use 1.5 times the width of the window. I cut the 9×12 fabric down the middle to get two 9×6 panels.

If you cut the sides of your drop cloth, you will want to add a seam to finish the raw edge. To do that fold the raw edge in 1 inch, fold the raw edge inside the fold and press. Finally, sew down the side of each panel.

Mount your rod to the wall before you start to hem the top or bottom. This makes it easier to get an accurate measurement of the length.

Fold your rod pocket over based on the calculations above, plus a header if you are adding one. Fold the raw edge inside and press. Sew the rod pocket closed. If you are adding a header, mark where the additional seam needs to go with a pencil and sew that seem.

step 5: hang the curtains

For a rod pocket curtain you will need to remove the rod from the wall and slip inside the pocket you created.

drop cloth curtain with header

Can you dye drop cloth

You might be wondering if you can dye drop cloths or bleach them if you don’t want drapes that are natural color. You can dye drop cloths using fabric dye. Here’s a post about how to dye drop cloth. It’s also possible to make the drop cloths white by bleaching them as long as you buy drop cloths that are 100% cotton.

Drop cloth curtains complete

Now that you’ve tried making drop cloth curtains you may find yourself adding them in lots of rooms because they are so affordable. They are also such a neutral fabric that they can go with almost any paint color.

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8 Comments

  1. Thanks!! Great tutorial! I’m going to try this.

  2. Great tutorial! With regard to washing, I always wash in hot water, dry in hot dryer, then repeat. Going forward wash in cold water and warm dryer. No further shrinking will take place and all the fuzz will be removed. I use this same process when making slipcovers. Who knew dropcloths were so versatile.

    1. I will keep that tip in mind for next time. I was about to try bleaching some for curtains but after researching not sure I want to do that. Thanks for your tip!

  3. Jauquetta says:

    I have used drop clothes for upholstery but you should check the weight, not all are equal. Sometimes you can buy color cloths but these have gotten rare. Annie Sloan has information on how to dye fabric w her chalk pain, Ritz is cheaper, however. You can make the curtains, then dip dye the bottom part, have to wet them and have a place to hang them, together, in a large bucket. The color will bleed up the panels of wet fabric. It’s a bit Boho, but interesting.

    1. Thanks for the good suggestions. I haven’t tried dying them yet but it’s on my list of things to try,

  4. Love this idea & I like how they look. I’m going to try it one of these days!

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