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Making Window Treatments: Tips and Ideas

Updated on January 4, 2017
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Retired now, Loraine was owner/operator of a custom window treatments business. She now shares sewing and window treatment tips and ideas.

Interior Design

Are you thinking of making your own window treatments? Are you looking for window treatment tips and ideas to make your home look up to date and elegant without it costing an arm and a leg?

Have you ever considered changing the window treatments in your home but didn't because of the cost of custom made treatments? You want something more than just a gathered-on-rod curtain, or one gotten by attaching clips to a length of fabric and hung on a rod.

The best and most economical solution is to sew your own. Plus, you'll also get the satisfaction of knowing that you did it yourself. "But," you say, "I don't even know where to start."

Well, pour yourself a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and we'll talk about it.In this article I want to give you the confidence to sew your own window treatments which will help you save money. We'll talk about styles, type of fabric, colors, color combinations and how to measure your windows.

First Things First

--Write it Down

Your first consideration when choosing new window treatments is to think about what is already in the room, what you plan on changing in the near future and what will be staying, the way it is, for a long time.

What is already in the room: the couch, chairs, carpet, lighting, direction of natural light, shades or blinds, pictures, mirrors, extra furniture,

What will be changed in the near future: couch, chairs, carpet, lighting?

What we have to live with and won't be changed: direction of natural lighting, carpet, furniture, etc.

Colors that won't be changed: Carpet, couch, chairs, wallpaper, woodwork color

Colors that will or could be changed: walls,Style of furniture, floor coverings,

Living Room and/or Dining Room Photo Gallery

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Buy a Notebook-----Make a Plan

Write it down

The first thing I would suggest is that you get a notebook to write down suggestions as we go along. Also it is a good place to glue pictures from magazines of the looks you like or think you like.

At first, just page through magazines and cut out any and all pictures that you are really drawn to. We're talking decorator magazines, not PlayGirl. Since you'll be wanting to live with the window treatments that you make for some time to come, take your time to really know what is available and what you like, even if you only like it a little bit right now.

Keep pictures of styles you like, colors you are drawn to and combinations of colors that you love. Who knows, before you make your curtains or valances, you may decide now is the time you want to put color on your walls. Keep an open mind ----if you find pictures you love by Googling "window treatments" and hitting images----print off the ones you like and glue them in your notebook.

You're going to be surprised at what a great help this notebook will be.

Color, Style and Fabric

Write it down

Your second step would be to decide on what colors, style and fabric to use that are suitable for use with the colors of the carpet and furniture that will be in the room.

How to decide on a color: If you have been writing down and gluing pictures in your notebook, you'll see what colors you are drawn to. Now, if the colors you love don't go with the color of your wall, consider re-painting. Painting a room is pretty inexpensive, you'll get a whole new look and you'll be able to make your window treatments in the color you really want.

How to decide on a style: Again, if you look at all the pictures you've been gluing in your notebook, you will see which styles you have picked out most often. There's your clue. Are most of them valances, swags with jabots, tabbed curtains, drapes with a swag or valance? Have you seen the large grommetted drape, that's a very easy and modern style. So now you know the style you'll be happy with.

How to decide on a fabric: The style helps determine the fabric. You have a lot of lee way with the fabric, but remember there are a few exceptions. One of them is that if you want a nice drape, in say your swag, then you don't want a heavy fabric because it won't drape well. And real light, sheer fabrics are harder to handle not only when cutting them out, but also when sewing.

Okay, see, you've now decided on a color, a style, and a fabric. Wooohoo, the hard part is out of the way...now on to the fun part.

Kitchen Photo Gallery

Click thumbnail to view full-size

How to Measure Your Windows

write it down

In your notebook draw a sketch of your window, leaving wall space above and below it. Now, measure and write down the measurements:

1. Outside width (outside the frame)

2. Inside width (inside the frame)

3. Top of the frame to the sill.

4. Top of the frame to the bottom of the apron. (bottom board under the sill)

5. Top of the frame to the floor.

6. Distance from the left frame to any obstacle or wall to the left.

7. Distance from the right to a wall or obstacle to the right.

One reason for measurements 6 and 7 would be if you were making a kitchen treatment on a window between two cupboards.

Be sure that you measure and remeasure, then write the number down in your notebook and specify for which room and which window the measurements are for.

All windows are not created (or built) equal, even if they are side by side and in the same room. Or even if they look like they are the same size. Measure. Write it down... you'll be happy you did.

There is a great page from Joann Fabrics that helps you calculate yardage for drapes.

When looking at window treatment pictures, remember that the color and print can be changed. Don't limit yourself, use your imagination and see the style in other colors and prints or solids.

Rods, Board, Tension Rod, Medallions

Write it down

You've chosen the style of your window treatment and measured your window, now you'll have to decide on how you are going to hang your treatment.

1. Will you be using a standard (usually 1" wide) or continental (usually 2"wide) rod? If you are using this type rod, what distance is the rod return (the distance from the rod to the wall). You'll need to keep the return measurement in mind when figuring the width of your curtain because it's the distance from the front of the rod back to the wall.

2. Will you be using a medal or wood rod with brackets, finials and rings? You can make a window look wider by attaching the rod brackets away from the window frame, any distance that you choose, but you'll have to add the extra width when figuring out how much fabric you'll need.

3. Another choice would be a tension rod. You'd use the tension rod to hang a curtain inside a window frame or where you have a window between two cabinets, like in a kitchen.

4. Some patterns have you attach the fabric to a board and hung with "L" brackets. This is an easy way to hang swags, valances and jabots. You do need a good staple gun for this method.

5. Decorative Medallions Holdbacks can be used to hang window treatments.

Check out these curtain making helps

Keep swatches of your fabrics and wall colors in your purse so you aren't guessing when buying accessories for your home.

Choose a Pattern and a Fabric

Take your notebook with you when you go to select a pattern and the fabric. You'll be able to find a pattern or two that will allow you to make the style of window covering that you have chosen. If this is the first time you are sewing a valance, swag or curtain, choose a Simplicity or McCalls pattern. They are easier to follow. Utilize the help that you can receive at the fabric store.

My favorite fabric store is Hancock Fabrics, but other stores that have nice decorator fabrics are Joanns and Hobby Lobby. Hancocks has recurring 40% off decorator fabric sales. This can be a big savings if you wait for their sales. A good on-line store is Best Fabric Store.com. They also carry a nice selection of beaded trims.

I love the elegant look of the embroidered fabrics. A very simple valance can look very expensive when made with an embroidered fabric with beads along the edge.

Don't forget to line your window treatment. This is very important, You can use plain RocLan white or ivory lining if the lining won't show. Where you have jabots and trumpets you'll need a fabric that contrasts or matches the main fabric, because you'll see it from the front. You can line the whole thing with the contrasting fabric, and you may want to, if you'll see it from the outside of the house. (A window directly in the walkway to your front door or a patio curtain or valance.)

Window treatments look better and hold their shape better if you add the lining.

Don't pre-wash your decorator fabric---it will take the body out of the fabric.

Bedroom, Bathroom, Laundry Room Photo Gallery

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Adjusting and Cutting the Pattern

notions and such

Patterns will give you instructions for how to adjust the pattern to fit your window. If you aren't comfortable with cutting directly into your new fabric, make a trial run by using an old sheet to see if you've adjusted right. I've done that on an occasion or two (or three) I hate taking things apart, so I try to avoid mistakes.

I always cut the extra tissue away from around the pattern pieces before I begin. Then to adjust the pattern I can fold and pin the pattern. If the pattern needs to be made bigger, I always cut the pattern and tape a width of tissue to make the pattern the size I need.

Remember that when you adjust to cut the main fabric, that you need to make the same adjustments when cutting the lining pieces.

I prefer to cut out the fabric with a pinking shears, mainly because it prevents the fabric from raveling.

I don't wash my fabric when I make window treatments. Washing takes all the body out and, in my estimation, ruins the custom look. You won't be washing them anyway----if they need cleaning, you'll take them to the cleaners. Swags or valances on a board need only to be vacuumed occasionally.

Besides the adjusted pattern, notions that will assist you in cutting your fabric are: straight pins, 18" ruler, pinking shears and a chalk pencil.

Notions: Colored thread to match the fabric, sewing machine needles for the type fabric you are sewing, extra bobbins and needles for hand sewing

Basic Needs: Sewing machine, ironing board, steam iron and a press cloth.

Always press your seams, this is an essential step to great looking window treatments

Cutting and Sewing Your Window Treatment

finished to perfection

Now that the pieces are all cut out, all we have left is to sew and show off. The pattern directions, when read (sometimes a time or two), will tell you step by step how to assemble the treatment. You'll gain confidence as you go along.

Some of the pointers that I think really make a difference in how your project turns out are:

1. Always press the seams, the pattern will explain how to do that for each step.

2. Trim the seams and clip curves as suggested by the pattern directions.

3 Use a press cloth, especially if the fabric shows press marks and if the fabric is light weight. This is a good habit to get into.

4. When sewing trims between the main fabric and lining, use a zipper foot and sew the trim on the main fabric. Then lay the lining on your table, face up and the main fabric face down matching the edges of the lining. (When sewing trim between the fabrics, the beads or fringe needs to be toward the inside of the piece)

5. With beads or fringe that is on a decorative trim, you just sew them on last, after your window treatment is finished.

You Did It-----Oh, Yes You Did!!

Window Treatment Do's & Don't

© 2011 Loraine Brummer

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    • lbrummer profile image
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      Loraine Brummer 2 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      Sergio Freddson, you are so right about how easy it is to forget the ideas that you think you'll "never forget." Having a notebook of ideas and plans for window treatments is a real time and sanity saver.

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      Sergio Freddson 2 years ago

      I really like your idea of writing everything down. It's easy to assume that you'll 'never forget' the idea you just had in the moment, but life is busy and it's easy to for things to get muddled over time. It's especially hard to stay consistent over the course of a long project so having a written record can be very helpful. Thanks for sharing your tips with us! http://www.vtshadeandblind.com/

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      Lauriej1 5 years ago

      Beautiful lens!

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      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      Congratulations on your Lens of the Day moment. I have also send blessings.

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      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      A long time ago, in my first home in Eastlake, Ohio, I actually sewed the curtains for the home office. I sure do love the idea of sewing and creating our own window treatments ... my grandfather too loved to do that and also build decorative valances.

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      Vicki 5 years ago from USA

      Your "Sew Your Own Window Treatments" lens is very helpful and thorough! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and all the great sewing tips. I have fabric waiting for me to turn it into curtains for my new sun room and office. I just can't seem to get started!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Lots of great info on sewing drapes and curtains.

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      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      Lots of helpful, sound advice and information for anyone who wants to make their own window treatments. Well done!

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @huang127128: Hi Huang127128. All you need is a sewing machine and start with something simple. It's very satisfying to make something useful.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @Srena44: Thanks, Srena44, for visiting my lens. Please come again.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @AngelDey: Thanks for the congrats and your other kind words.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @TheGourmetCoffe: Thank you for your comments. I hope your wife likes to sew and tries a few of the ideas.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Good job on lotD !!! I love the corner floral curtain - gives me a great idea to brighten up my den !!! Thanks - this a very great lense -

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @anonymous: Thank you for your visit and your comment. I love that corner curtain also.

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      huang127128 5 years ago

      how smart!wish i could sew my curtains:)http://windowcoveringsslidingglassdoors.com/

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      Srena44 5 years ago

      very cool lens

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      AngelDey 5 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD. Well deserved. You've definitely given me some inspiration.

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      TheGourmetCoffe 5 years ago

      Very nice lens with great explanations, my wife liked it very much. Thank you for sharing!

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @kare2share: Thank you for your kind words and for the congrats.

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      kare2share 5 years ago

      What lovely work you've done! I've been looking for some good ideas for window treatments, but first I'd have to dust off my sewing machine it's been sitting unused for so long I'm not even sure if it still works! Thanks for sharing and congrats on Lens of the Day!

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @Faye Rutledge: Thanks for the congrats on the LotD. I had a great time with all the Squidoo attention. Thanks to everyone that came and left comments.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @LadyAmythyst: You are welcome. Thanks for the comment and visit.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @katiecolette: That's what I love about sewing curtains too. The Challenge----and then comes the satisfaction of doing it yourself. Thanks for the congrats.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @almirah: Thanks, almirah, for the congrats and for stopping by the lens. come again.

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      avorodisa lm 5 years ago

      Nice lens, and a good business idea!

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      Faye Rutledge 5 years ago from Concord VA

      This was very helpful indeed! Very well done. Congratulations on LotD!!

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      LadyAmythyst 5 years ago

      Love this advice! I have taken a few notes just from your articles. Thank you.

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      katiecolette 5 years ago

      Love your ideas and advice :) I have made several sets of curtains and love the challenge. Congrats on LOTD!

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      almirah 5 years ago

      A nice lens! Congrats on LoTD

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @avorodisa lm: Thanks for visiting my lens and your kind words. Yes, and it's nice to have your own work hours.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @anonymous: Here we are able to buy beautiful fabric at quite a reasonable cost. Thanks for dropping by.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @JennySui: Jenny, it's been a huge surprise to me to see so many congrats.Thanks for yours also.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @DuaneJ: Thanks for stopping in, Duane.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @littlelotus: Thanks, littleotus, for stopping by the lens and for the congrats.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @agoofyidea: It was such a fun day. I hope all Squidooers experience it at least once. Thanks for the congrats.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @sociopath-free: Thanks for stopping by and for your comment.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @brbrooks: Thanks for visiting my lens and for your nice comments.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @LissaKlar LM: It's been a great Squidoo experience! Thanks for your comment.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @anonymous: Thank you, Tipi, for your congrats and your other kind words.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Nice info, purchasing custom curtain is expensive, simply reacing US1000 for a double storey house in malaysia.

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      JennySui 5 years ago

      Great lens! Congrats on LOTD.

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      DuaneJ 5 years ago

      Wow...great lens...

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      littlelotus 5 years ago

      beautiful and you make it sound like it's really doable even for me.... LOL... well done :)... congrats on the LOTD :)

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      agoofyidea 5 years ago

      This is a great lens. Congratulations on LOTD!

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      sociopath-free 5 years ago

      You're very talented. I don't dare stray far from glue and tape.

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      brbrooks 5 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD, I love making my own window treatments. I enjoyed reading your lens, good job.

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      LissaKlar LM 5 years ago

      Nice lens! Congratulations on LOTD!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Congratulations on receiving LotD! I predict that you are going to have many of us stepping out to create out own window treatments, so well done!

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @DonMigoy LM: Shoot, the day is almost over. But, it's been great. Thanks for the congrats and the nice comments.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @journey103: It's been a great day getting so many congrats and comments on my lens. Almost like Christmas. Thanks for stopping by and your comments.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @Runnn: Thank you, Runnn, for the congrats and the nice comment.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @Brandi Bush: Congratulations on your new home. You'll have a great time sewing your curtains. Hope you found some pointers that will make it easier.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @chris305: Thanks for dropping by and for the comment.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @Ilonagarden: Thanks for the congrats and for the comments.

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      DonMigoy LM 5 years ago

      Congratulations on being LOTD ^^. Nice job and Nice lens!

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      journey103 5 years ago from USA

      Wonderful window treatments and beautiful designs! Congrats on LOTD!

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      Runnn 5 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD. Those curtains are beautiful and thanks for the tips.

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      Brandi 5 years ago from Maryland

      This is a really great step-by-step guide! I'm not much of a sewer, but I'd like to be. I'm going to attempt to make some window coverings for my new house. I'll definitely bookmark this for reference. Thanks!

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      chris305 5 years ago

      So many great resources in this lens

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      Ilona E 5 years ago from Ohio

      Congratulations on LOTD! I have sewn my own curtains, but they were very simple. I wish I had access to to this type of information is those days-great job.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @KimGiancaterino: Thank you for the congrats and your comment.

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      KimGiancaterino 5 years ago

      Very nice! I've made several of the window treatments in my current home, and need to do our RV when time allows. Thanks for the inspiring photos. Congratulations on LOTD.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @Elsie Hagley: I was so pleased that this lens was even nominated, much less selected. It's been a great day with so many wonderful folks visiting and commenting. This Squidoo community really is great.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @squidoolover76: So happy you stopped by and for your comments.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @Pete Schultz: Thanks, Pete. It's funny what will work, if need be.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @SofiaMann: Thank you, Sofia, for the congrats.

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      Elsie Hagley 5 years ago from New Zealand

      Great lens, well explained. Thanks for sharing. You deserve the LOTD.Have a nice day.

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      squidoolover76 5 years ago

      Great lens,Thanks for sharing these useful tips.

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      Pete Schultz 5 years ago

      I couldn't answer your poll, as my responsoe would be...I've strung twine between two sheetrock screws and hung an old solid color bedsheet over it. Seriously, lots of good infor here and congrats on LOTD,

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      SofiaMann 5 years ago

      Beautiful. Congratulations on LOTD.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @pawpaw911: Thank you, pawpaw911 for the kind words.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @tinypearls lm: You are so right. You gain confidence and expertise starting small and going up from there. Thanks for the congrats and the comments.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @mbgphoto: Thanks for your visit and the congrats.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @BunnyFabulous: Thanks for the congrats. I'm super pleased with the LOTD designation for this lens. The beauty of custom made curtains is that they fit whatever size your window.

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      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Very nicely done. Well deserving of Lens of the Day.

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      tinypearls lm 5 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD!!! Great blueprint for a window treatment project! I think if I decided to do this I would start with a room that only has one or two smallish windows just in case I got distracted or interrupted mid-project. With a small-scale project completed successfully, then I would know whether I should tackle a larger room or window.

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      Mary Beth Granger 5 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Congratulations on your LOTD.

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      BunnyFabulous 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Liked the resources and encouragement to customize curtains. Don't think any of our windows are traditional size. Congrats on LOTD!!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      @MBradley McCauley: Thank you, Mary, for your kind comments.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @BrassFittings: Thanks for visiting and do, please, come back.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @sncalo lm: Thanks for your kind words..You'll enjoy making your curtains, I'm sure.

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      MBradley McCauley 5 years ago

      Fantastic lens. Well done with great ideas and photos etc. I admire your sewing ability and your lens making expertise.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @Heather426: There is so much pleasure in making something yourself. Thanks so much for the congrats and the comment.

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      BrassFittings 5 years ago

      This is a VERY helpful lens! Great job; I look forward to reading more of your work.

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      sncalo lm 5 years ago

      Excellent job!! I was looking for How to, because wants to sew curtains for my home. Your lens is really helpful. Thanks!!

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      Heather Burns 5 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Congrats on LOTD. Very well explained. I always have made all my curtains and drapes, and used to make them for others as a side business.I made all the ones in my house now and the ones in the living room get oohs and ahhs. Such a fun hobby!

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @Diana Wenzel: Thank you for the congrats. You'll do fine---kind of like riding a bike---once you know how, it's easy to get back in the swing of it.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @ParinyaKamta: Thanks for the visit and the comment. Today I've been getting a lot of visits, so I know I'll be checking on your, and many other lenses soon.

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      Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

      Congrats on LotD! I am getting ready to sew some curtains for my cabin. This will be my first sewing project since I learned to sew as a child in 4-H. Hope I remember all that I learned back then. You do beautiful work.

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      ParinyaKamta 5 years ago

      Fantastic lens, great tip for me.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @SilmarwenLinwelin: I'm so pleased with the LOTD attention. Thanks for visiting and the congrats.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @Wednesday-Elf: Nice of you to visit and leave a comment. Sewing your own curtains is definitely cost saving.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @MinRu: Thanks, MinRu for your kind words.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @hysongdesigns: Thanks for the visit and the comment. Please do come back.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @Coreena Jolene: Thanks for the congrats. You've been doing great getting all the curtains made. I'm sure it's just a matter of time before those living room windows will be dressed up too.

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      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      @delia-delia: Thanks for the congrats and for your visit. Yes, sewing does take time and sometimes it's hard to find it.

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      SilmarwenLinwelin 5 years ago

      Congratulations on the LOTD and very well done !

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      Wednesday-Elf 5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I no longer sew, but used to and several times over the years have made my own 'window treatments'. Nothing fancy or professional looking -- just cost-saving -- but pleased with the results. Congrats on LotD for this informative and interesting story.

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      MinRu 5 years ago

      a down-to-earth lens. really like it! it is not something impossible to accomplish !

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      hysongdesigns 5 years ago

      Very informative lens; I'll be back when I'm ready to make something fancier than cafe curtains!