Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

August 18, 2014

DIY Back Tab Curtain Tutorial

I have previously professed my love of sheer curtains, evidenced by my almost unwavering commitment to their gauzy, airy look in the townhouse.  I still love sheers, but the turquoise polka dot washer/dryer-hiding drapes in the laundry room re-awakened in me a passion for patterned curtains (the last time I had patterned drapes I was in a red and cream toile phase so, suffice it to say, it's been awhile).  When it came time to choose bedroom curtain fabric, I turned my back on sheers and picked this bold fabric: Richloom Solarium Titan Peacock (actually an outdoor fabric, which should prevent sun fading).  I also skipped curtain rings, which have been my go-to since my toile days, and opted for DIY back tab curtains instead.  Stepping out of my comfort zone paid off, because I am absolutely thrilled with the bedroom curtains and how the bedroom is taking shape.

Easy curtain sewing tutorial
DIY back tab curtains
How to sew back tab curtains

If I'm being honest though, part of my "let's try something new and make back tab curtains" attitude was a result of constrained choices.

White curtains + curtain rods

Since spotting the white curtain rods in Emily Henderson's makeover of Bri's living room, I've been obsessed with the look.  I had chosen matte black curtain rods for the townhouse and while I liked the contrasting look at the time, I wanted something more subtle in the lakehouse.  With my penchant for white walls, I have no idea why I didn't seek out white curtain rods before!
 
White sheers + black curtain rods

One problem, though.  Do you know how hard it was for me to find white curtain rods that don't have a shabby chic, country feel?  I'm sure the search was made more difficult because of my finickiness and far-flung locale.  I finally found modern-looking West Elm dead stock on eBay (Ikea was my second choice, but their white finials didn't match their white rods well).  With curtain rods on order, I realized I couldn't find the matching white curtain rings.  My Mom told me to abandon the search after she found an excellent video tutorial for back tab curtains from the Online Fabric Store.  We watched it together, enraptured - chic, DIY back tab curtains seemed totally easy to make! 


The video tutorial is top-notch and I highly recommend you watch it, but I've written my own DIY back tab curtain tutorial - chock full of photos - below, in case you prefer step-by-step instructions you can print or pin.  One quick note: in the video, Claire lined her fabric to protect it from sun and moisture but I opted to keep mine unlined.  Hubby and I have conflicting attitudes toward the use of curtains.  I like to keep them open at night and wake up to the sunlight (hence my love of sheers), while Hubby prefers a total blackout curtain.  The fabric I chose is fairly opaque and lined it would have been very opaque.  Keeping it unlined lets a tiny bit of sunshine filter through in the morning, so I don't feel like I'm waking up in a coffin, but Hubby gets enough of what he calls "actual curtain-curtains".

How to sew back tab curtains:

To get started, we just hemmed the sides and bottom of the curtain panels as usual.  For the tabs, we cut out 4.5" x 6" rectangles of fabric, which were sewn into tubes (right side facing), flipped right side out and then ironed flat with the seam in the middle.  The finished tabs are approximately 2" wide.  Once the tubes were turned into flat tabs, we folded and ironed each end of the tabs under.  These tabs were then hooked under, pinned onto and sewn into the top seam, which is around 5" wide.

Easy DIY curtain sewing tutorial

Claire recommends 6" between the tabs.  Each of my finished panels are about 53" wide and we did a total of 7 tabs per panel.  In case anyone is curious, the curtain rod has an overall length of 8 feet.  Ultimately, we could have done as many as we like; more tabs would have created a fuller, more pleated look.

Sewing back tab curtains

Here is a close up of one of the tabs:

How to sew tab curtains

With the tabs affixed, we just slid the curtain rod through the tabs.  I worried back tab curtains would stick and not open smoothly, but my fears were unfounded.  These curtains actually function better than curtains on rings, plus they look more polished.  The tabs result in soft pleats which control the drape of the fabric.  I used to spend forever fussing with the office curtains in the townhouse, which Hubby would close nightly and fling open with wild abandon every morning.  I would then adjust the drape, pulling and fluffing the top so it would drape just so. When Hubby flings these open they fall perfectly.  I wonder how many hours I'll save annually, thanks to these curtains.  It's embarrassing to think about it.

Teal printed curtains

How to control the style and drape of back tab curtains

There are different tutorials for back tab curtains, some of which propose a different construction or placement of the tabs.  Little changes in the construction will change the drape and look of back tab curtains, so here's a brief explanation of what we did.  First, we sewed the tabs very close to the top of the curtain, which creates a cleaner, more modern look than when the tabs are placed lower, which creates a soft ruffling at the top - the choice is up to you entirely.  As mentioned, the number of tabs is optional and will control the number of pleats.  Other folks use ribbon for the tabs, but using this fabric created a stiffer back tab, which holds its shape really well - I recommend taking the time to make tabs.

Chic back tab curtains
DIY curtain sewing tutorial

I think the white and teal fabric looks great against the white walls, and the white curtain rod does a good job of letting the curtain steal the show - without being too skimpy.

How to sew your own curtains
White and teal bedroom
DIY curtains
Teal print drapes
Richloom Solarium Titan Peacock

In these photos the vintage Hungarian posters and silk pillows look really green and the fabric looks really blue.  I definitely think it's time for a new camera, but for now you'll have to trust me that the curtain fabric is really a good colour match for the posters - it's very nearly identical to the background of the middle poster (the gal in the orange dress).  It's more green/teal than what is depicted here and the difference in the colours of the art, the pillows and drapes is far more subtle in real life.  The green pillows look positively neon - I blame the sheen of the silk.

Richloom Solarium Titan Peacock Fabric
DIY sewing tutorial home decor
West German Pottery Vase Onion

Despite the fabulous curtains, the room still needs some tweaking.  I just tossed our former accent pillows on the bed, we're still using a borrowed, too-small, too-light dresser - and don't even ask about closet doors!

How to sew professional looking drapes

I did swap out the minty chair for the black one from the living room because the mint pattern was dulled beside this bolder teal, but a chair is a placeholder for the pair of dressers I'd like.  In addition to big-ticket items like closet doors and dressers, I have some smaller changes in mind.  The room could use some additional art and more thoughtful accessorizing.

Green silk accent pillows
DIY curtains
How to sew easy back tab curtains

I'll keep you posted on the changes I make.  I still can't get over what a difference these drapes make!
 
Before
 And here is the before-before, just for fun:

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41 comments

  1. they look gorgeous, tanya! love the color and fabric!

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    1. Thanks, Cassie! I am so happy with them! The fabric is magic - it can be used indoor/outdoor and doesn't wrinkle. I pre-washed and pre-shrunk the panels and they came out of the dryer this smooth. But they just feel like cotton.

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  2. love the curtain rod - are there any more out there?

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    1. Good question! I didn't think there would be because I bought it awhile ago but the same seller still seems to have a bunch. The seller was okay - no complaints:

      http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Pottery-Barn-West-Elm-Oversized-Wood-Curtain-Rod-CYLINDER-Finials-4-White-/171380614300

      I'll add the link to the post, too - thanks for the suggestion!

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    2. Oops - that link is the 4 foot one. There's a 6 foot one too, but I think I cleaned them out of the 8 foot lengths. Here's the 6 foot one:

      http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Pottery-Barn-West-Elm-Oversized-Wood-Curtain-Rod-CYLINDER-Finials-6-White-/181459903875?pt=US_Curtain_Rods_and_Finials&hash=item2a3fda6583

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  3. This looks great! Pinning for future reference. I am needing to tweak my living room curtains so they hang better, and this may be just the trick!

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    1. Thanks Staci! I really, really like how these hang, but the curtain fabric itself is pretty sturdy so that helps too. But these back tabs are incredible - such an eye opener for me.

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  4. Love these curtains......the pattern, color and style. The picture below the extreme close up of the pattern of the curtains, with just the edge of the curtains and the posters, you can tell they are a match in color. It must be all the light coming in playing games with your camera lol. I have been wanting to make some grey and white striped curtain but didn't want to do the clip curtain rings or tab tops (that's what I have now and am tired of them) so this would be an awesome alternative. Thanks for the idea.

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    1. Thanks! The light definitely affected these photos, but also my camera wants to photograph every aqua/teal shade as blue which is, for me, incredibly inconvenient given my love of aqua.
      Grey and white striped curtains would be so pretty if you did end up painting your walls white (although they would look sharp with beige, too)...I spy some blog fodder :)

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  5. Oh and I forgot......did you consider just spray painting some other colored rods?

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    1. I did! But at the time I was still thinking curtain rings and I was worried they'd scratch the paint off. We even considered making our own rods with wood dowels and painting the doweling but the cost of materials was about the same as just buying them. But with this curtain style, painting rods is definitely doable and I might have tried it if I had settled on back tabs before ordering the rods. It's embarrassing how long I've had these rods, sans curtains...

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    2. Ah ok, gotcha...makes perfect sense. Anything worth having is worth waiting for :o)

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  6. Those curtains look fantastic and make the window seem more proportional (it looks undersized without the curtains). Have you considered painting the window frame? Perhaps, lack for contrast and to tie in the headboard, or white for a seamless look.

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    1. It is actually a very small window and it did look undersized, for sure. It's a shame there aren't larger windows on this side of the house, but I guess the builder used up the window budget for the giant ones on the lake side, lol! I agree: the window treatments help it look much less piddly.

      It's hard to tell in my blown out photos, but the window casing - the trim - has been painted out. It was originally 80s oak. I originally wanted to paint the inside sash as well (first I thought black, then white to let the views steal the show) but it was cold when I painted so I couldn't open the windows/remove hardware to do a proper job so I held off. Readers loved the touch of warmth from the wood and encouraged me to leave it this way. Now we have had a moisture problem and the window sashes have sustained some water damage so I'd like to repair them somehow - maybe paint will be part of the answer? In any case, I've left it for now while we diagnose the problem (we have a weird air exchanger system we are obviously misusing).

      I recently spotted black windows at the hardware store and am totally in love and thinking of black again. Either way, that decision is up in the air right now but while I've grown accustomed to the wood, I do think either white or black would be a nice look.

      Here's a post I wrote, chatting about it a bit. There are some great examples of the different options:
      http://dans-le-townhouse.blogspot.ca/2013/11/lets-talk-trim.html

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  7. It's amazing how curtains can transform a space! Beautiful.

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    1. Thank you! Yes, it is amazing. The "before" window looks so naked and small in comparison.

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  8. Those curtains are awesome! I'm gonna have my wife take a look at this and see what creative curtains she can come up with.

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    1. You know, these are so easy I'm sure you could give them a try...
      :)

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  9. Great design on your curtains, but I'm totally crushing on the headboard!

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    1. Thank you!! I designed it about seven years ago and my Grandpa - a welder and artist - welded it for me in my parents' driveway. The side tables too. Then I painted them all matte black. At the time, I was about to move and he welded non-stop for days in the boiling hot sun to get everything done on time. I was so thankful and so amazed by what he can do. He gave me the welder he used and since then Hubby and I welded a desk!

      http://dans-le-townhouse.blogspot.ca/2011/12/diy-welded-desk-complete.html

      This post has a photo of the process of the headboard (it was pre-blog):
      http://dans-le-townhouse.blogspot.ca/2010/12/vicarious-diy-headboard.html

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  10. Love the look you get with the back tabs!

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    1. Me too! I feel so silly for not knowing how lovely back tab curtains could be. I just remember having regular tab curtains and not loving them as much as rings. I now want every curtain I ever have to be back tab.

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  11. Eeeeek a screamed a little at the before before! It looks so much better now, and I love the fabric you picked for the curtains :)

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    1. Thanks! Yep, the former home owners had very different taste than us. It's sometimes amazing how little it takes to personalize a space.

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  12. I this is are beautiful. I bought some pale teal retro-mod sheers for our sunny lounge and they are beautiful. I bought heavy black Nate Berkus curtains for our bedroom, but the light still comes in far too much in the morning (or weekend nap time)! Currently using clip rings from IKEA to hold these use, too small to hold another fabric behind the current suggestions.

    Are you bothered by the sunlight with your bedroom sheers? Any suggestions for creating a simple of a blackout effect modifying our current curtains? Thanks!

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    1. Hmmm, tough questions! The sun definitely came pouring in with our townhouse sheers. The curtains we have now only allow a little sunlight to come through and the fabric definitely doesn't block the sun completely.

      Sometimes adding fullness to curtains can help. Are the panels really taught when they're shut, as in there isn't a lot of gathering? Adding another panel to each side of the window (on their own rings) to increase the fullness when they're closed would help block more light. It's a no-sew approach, lol.

      You could also open up the seams on your curtains and sew in a lining - the video tutorial shows how - and then clip them back up on the rings.

      Sun never bothers me, so this isn't my area of expertise but either of these suggestions would help. Maybe you need to supplement your curtains with chic blinds?

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    2. Lindsey @ A Pear to RememberAugust 20, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      wow I LOVE the lining idea---hadn't thought of that. Thanks, Tanya!

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  13. Those look so lovely! I've stuck with the clip ring approach for awhile now, but only because all of the pleat stuff intimidated me. I love this approach! Pinning!

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    1. Thanks Emily! I was similarly intimidated - or worried anything else would look stuffy, because I kinda like the relaxed look of clip rings. Happy sewing :)

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  14. Beautiful as always!!!

    PS I flipped through the 2015 Ikea catalogue and that turqouise bathroom.. totally reminded me of you!

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    1. I haven't seen the new catalog. I'm miles away from the nearest Ikea so I haven't bothered, but now my interest in piqued...

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    2. Ok I 'flipped' online ;) But go look!

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  15. Wow! Love those curtains, the before really highlights how curtains can make a window appear larger. Your room is beautiful- has a crisp, bright look that's feels relaxing. I agree with your tab placement giving them a modern feel. I love back tabs- my favourite, cheap gauzy white curtains from ikea have back tabs. Currently we don't have any curtains in the new house (except my son's patio door in his room). All the windows have white wood blinds and I do love the convenience of them- the curtains will only serve as decor once I get to it. The blinds in our room block out just the right amount of light- I don't like to awake in the dark but also hate a beam of sunlight streaming into my eyes in the morning.
    I love that dresser, btw.

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    1. I was pretty lucky in the townhouse with large windows in our bedroom so I have really been bothered by how wee the one we have now it. So happy that curtains made it seem larger and more substantial. I wish we could have blinds, but we have these awkward crank windows and the crank gets in the way. My Mom has some gorgeous silver blinds that I am so jealous of. I think blinds with curtains for decor is a perfect combination - form and function!

      I don't mind the dresser but it's way too small. We really downsized our space and I'm finding I need more storage!

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  16. These look so amazing, Tanya! Love the aqua colour - it really brightens up the room

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  17. What fabric did you use to make these curtains? I can't find the pattern anywhere.

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    1. Excellent question! I found it at fabricland and didn't have any info, but awhile ago I was browsing an online fabric store and found it! I'm on my phone and can't cut and paste, but it'so in my pinterest board under "fabrics". When I'm at my computer I will add the link here and in the post. But in case you're in a hurry, I wanted to reply ASAP!

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    2. Sorry it took me so long! I had mentally check this off my to-do list, forgetting that I hadn't sent you the link. Hopefully you found it on my Pinterest board. If not, I added the link to the post and will include it here: https://www.fabric.com/buy/0284200/richloom-solarium-outdoor-titan-peacock

      I'm actually swapping out these drapes for a green tweed (stay tuned), so it makes me happy to hear someone else loves this fabric. I will miss these curtains, for sure! The print is so cheery, and because it's an outdoor fabric, this fabric hasn't faded from the sun and it comes out of the dryer completely smooth - no need to iron!

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  18. These are so beautiful! Great job! I am planning some sort of tab curtains for my kitchen. Yours look like exactly what I want for my living room. Maybe for the kitchen I will try attaching the tabs to the top for a more informal look. Thanks so much for the wonderful tutorial!

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