Wednesday, October 23, 2013

DIY Window Valance From Existing Textile: Step by Step Tutorial

The existing window treatment
If you've been following this blog over the past month or so you have no doubt read about our dining room makeover. The furniture is all finished and I am trying to finish the rest of the room. I was hoping to complete this before our daughter's birthday, but I wasn't able to, and since Jerry started on the kitchen set right away it wouldn't have mattered because we don't have enough chairs to hold a party at the moment. My poor girl expects a big celebration and has already invited her friends, so I will have to conjure up some kind of late party. Thank goodness we have only one more month of marching band! I am worn out!

But, I digress. Anyway, this week I finished sewing a valance for the dining room in better-matching fabrics than the one that came with the house. I saw the gray silhouette fabric at Mary Jo's back in January and I loved it so much I've been trying to find a use for it ever since. It's a perfect match for the dining set now, so I was thrilled they still had some in stock.

The size and style of the existing valance were fine, so I decided to just make the same thing in the new material. You might remember my bedroom tutorial for making drapes and pillows in which I ripped apart pillow covers and old drapes to make a pattern. In this case, however, the valance is in good shape and I didn't want to damage it, so I made a pattern from the existing piece. This is a useful skill for making duplicates of all kinds of  textiles, from a window curtain to your favorite shirt. Since I didn't hurt the original valance I will have it and two others for sale in my store:

First, I pinned the valance to the lining material, measuring from the selvage to add
seam allowance and straighten the grain.
Next, I marked a 5/8 inch seam allowance on the remaining edges.
Start by examining the textile you want to re-create so you can see how it is constructed. In this case, the valance is made from two triangular pieces, a larger bottom piece and a smaller top piece in a contrasting print. Both are lined.

I made a pattern piece for each part of the valance out of the lining fabric. I pinned the valance to the lining fabric, straightening the grain by measuring 5/8 inch (the standard seam allowance) from the straight selvage edge. You can use whatever seam allowance you want. Many seamstresses feel 1/4 to 1/2 inch is sufficient and will use that to save fabric. For heavy curtain fabric I felt like the 5/8 was warranted. After I lined up the selvage I measured and marked the seam allowance all the way around the rest of the piece. I was using the larger, bottom piece.

Once I had the lining cut out I used it as a pattern for the fabric.
Once the lining was cut, I used it as a pattern to cut out the bottom fabric. I decided, since the bottom fabric only shows along the lower edge of the valance, I didn't need to cut a whole piece out of the expensive home décor fabric. So I just lined the pattern up with the lower edge of the fabric and cut a half piece. Fabulous Mary Jo's employees found me a bolt end of lining, over 2 yards, for just $1.50, so I wanted that cheap fabric to be the workhorse here. I will write more about that in a bit.

Next I needed to make a pattern for the top piece. This piece is smaller, so I pinned the existing valance's lower layer up under the top piece.

I pinned the larger piece up out of the way so I could make a pattern for the smaller piece.

Then, I followed the same procedure as before, lining up the grain, measuring the seam allowance, cutting out the lining, using the lining as a pattern for the top piece.

I used the second piece of lining as a pattern to cut out the top piece.

The original valance had trim sewn on the top piece, and I wanted my new one to also be trimmed. To ensure the placement was the same, I measured the distance of the seam where the trim is sewn to the edge, remembering to add seam allowance.

Note how I measure from 5/8 past the trim, to add seam allowance.

Then I placed the trim on the new top piece of fabric and pinned it in place.

Placing the trim
I sewed the trim to the top piece before sewing the rest of the valance. Always sew trim or work embroidery before finishing the rest of the item. This way, the edges will be finished and the entire piece will have a clean, professional look.

Sew the trim on first.
Once the trim was sewn, I was ready to start the curtain. I pinned the silhouette fabric to the lining, right sides together. This means, the side of the fabric that will be on the outside of the finished curtain was pinned to the inside, touching the "good" side of the other piece. Lay the décor fabric face-up and pin the lining face-down on top of it.

The fabrics pinned right sides together.
I sewed the pieces together around the edges, leaving the top open. Then I cut the corners so the fabric would press into sharp corners. Don't cut too close to the seam; you are just removing excess material.

Don't cut too close to the seam when cutting the corners. This helps the fabric press into sharp points.
Leave the top open.

Next, I turned the piece right side out and pressed it.

Pressing the top piece.
Now, I was ready to sew the second piece. This piece is the one where I didn't want to use home décor fabric under the top piece where it wouldn't show. Also, I wasn't aware we would stop at Mary Jo's on the way home from band, so I just guessed how much fabric I would need and it wasn't enough for a whole piece. Since this piece would not be finished to prevent fraying by its being sewn into a seam, I used overlock stitching to finish the top edge.

Finishing the edge with overlock stitching
Then I sewed the pieces together and turned them right side out and pressed them, same as before. This time, however, I top-stitched along the top edge of the décor fabric to attach it to the lining so it wouldn't fall down when the curtain was hung up.

The décor fabric was top-stitched to the lining along its upper edge.
Once both pieces were sewn, it was time to sew them together. This valance is constructed with the top piece flipped down over the bottom piece, so this time I laid the top piece face up on the table and pinned the bottom piece, also face-up, on top of it. Then I sewed the seam along the top.
Pin the top piece under the bottom piece, both face-up, and sew.
Once the seam was sewn I pressed it open so the rod would have more room to slide through the rod pocket. If your fabric really frays you could finish the top edges of each valance piece with overlock or zig-zag stitching before sewing them together.

Pressing the seam open.

After I pressed the seam open I folded the top piece down over the bottom piece as the finished valance would be. I pinned these to the exact position I wanted and put in a short row of stitching on either side to stabilize it so the pieces would hang together as I want.

Pin the pieces as you want and sew in a short row of top stitching to anchor them.

I also sewed a 1/4 inch seam along the tops of both pieces. I don't recommend this, however. It didn't look very good when it was finished and I had to hide it behind the rod. Now the only thing left to do was put in the rod pocket. My existing valance had two rod pockets so you could hang the valance from the top for a straight look or from the second pocket. If you hung it from the second pocket it was higher and the top pocket made a ruffle along the top. I did not want a ruffle, so I just sewed one top pocket. I was using the same curtain rod, so I just made the same size (3 inches) rod pocket. If you are changing drapery rods don't forget to measure your rod to make sure it will fit through the pocket!

Measure for the rod pocket.

I measured from my 1/4 inch seam, but you just measure from the top edge of your fabric and place a pin where you need to stitch. This is top-stitching and it must be straight so it looks nice and so your curtain hangs level.

Measure and mark your stitching line.

Since the measurement is so important here, I marked the line with pins and also marked my sewing machine with tape so I would know where to line the fabric up. To mark the machine, I lowered the needle by hand to my marking pin. This lined up the fabric so the needle would descend right on the line. Holding the fabric in place, I put a piece of masking tape on the machine along the edge of the fabric. I used the tape as a guide while I fed the fabric through the machine.

Line the needle up with the marking pin and place a piece of tape on the machine at the edge of the fabric to use as a guide.

When the rod pocket was sewn, I pressed the valance and hung it up. Tres chic! I think it looks a lot better with the new dining set. The grays tie into the silhouette and graphic wicker fabric prints and the navy and beige-gray trim brings in the color of the needlepoint chair seats.

The new valance matches the painted furniture better.
If you are going to make a valance without using an existing one for a pattern you would measure the width you wanted and then find the mid point. At the midpoint decide how far the fabric should hang and make the midpoint the longest part. Add the seam allowance and make your triangle. For the top piece make the same triangle two inches shorter. Then cut and sew as shown.
Another view with one of the dining chairs.
I chose this furniture suite in part because of its small scale. Most dining suites today have enormous pieces, which is odd since newer homes are built with either tiny or non-existent formal dining rooms. Mainly, though, I chose it for its needlepoint chair seats. I love the color and the pattern reminds me of the Scandinavian painted furniture I grew up with. I noticed as I was cleaning the seats, which were so covered in glitter and Play-doh and stuff they needed a deep shampoo, they are getting quite threadbare. The upholsterer's labels are still attached to the bottom of some of the chairs, and they were done in Delaware in 1940, so I guess it's really surprising they've lasted as long as they have. I may have to learn how to work needle-point, though, so I can copy them. I just can't imagine the set without these seat covers.
The finished valance
We've already moved on to painting the kitchen set, so you can expect some posts on that coming soon.  I will work hard to get the dining room straightened up so you can see it all together. I want to change out the fine china set I have in here. It's called "Florence" and I bought it for myself when I returned from Italy. I do still love it. The pattern is of very Italian Della Robbia fruits with a gold border. The colors don't really match anymore, though. There's a lot of red and orange we don't have in the room here. I have a lot of excess blue and white Spode I think I will move in here. I was planning to sell the Florence set, but Jerry didn't want to, so I just stuck it in a high cabinet above the fridge. Besides the blue and white china, I want to use a lot of inherited crystal and silver pieces I've never had room to display before. I have been busy polishing the silver as much as I've been home.

The weekend was just miserable. My store hasn't sold a thing since Thursday. I spent Friday night sitting in the high school parking lot because we raised our child too well. I had to wait for an hour for him to come out because he had to help load everything onto the bus and was the absolute last person to leave. I am glad he helps out, but honestly I wonder why every week he has to do it and no one else takes a turn! Saturday he had to be up at the crack of dawn to travel to a band competition in Winston-Salem. Thankfully Jerry got up and drove him and the neighbor's kid to the school at 4AM. I got the little kids up and dressed at 6AM and we left, only to get stuck in traffic and have to backtrack 30 minutes so we barely made the performance. Our four-year-old had outgrown all his winter clothes, I discovered when I tried to dress him. Once we made it to the competition we sat for hours in the cold rain and our band didn't win anything other than a participation award. On the way home we stopped at the giant Concord outlet mall to pick up some clothes for the little one and my boot heel fell off in the parking lot so I had to walk through the stores all lopsided. I spent Sunday doing laundry and cleaning. Fun, fun, fun.
In light of the disastrous weigh-in I started a low-carb diet Monday. I hate low-carb because it makes my head hurt, but it's one of the only ways I can really lose weight fast. I've had a headache all week. However, the only other option was the detox I did last year where I gave up caffeine, alcohol, flour, sugar, fat, salt, and only had 3 ounces of protein each day. I did lose weight on that, but Jerry says if I do it again he's taking the kids and leaving. I didn't think I was that hard to get along with at the time, but I guess I was mistaken!
One of these days I will get back to working on dolls, I promise. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy learning from our adventures and mistakes in furniture restoration. The next few posts will cover chalk painting, again, and rosemaling.

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