Today I’m excited to show you how my Mom and I sewed drapes for my master bedroom, with an easy 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.
If I’m being honest, part of my “let’s try something new and make back tab curtains” attitude was a result of constrained choices.
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!
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 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 the DIY back tab curtain tutorial together, enraptured – and we realized that chic, DIY back tab curtains seemed totally easy to make!
The video for this DIY back tab curtain 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:
For the first step of this DIY back tab curtain tutorial, 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.
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.
Here is a close up of one of the tabs:
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.
How to control the style and drape of back tab curtains
There are different variations of this DIY back tab curtain tutorial, 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
I’ll keep you posted on the changes I make. I still can’t get over what a difference these drapes make!
And here is the before-before, just for fun:
UPDATE: Since sewing these curtains, I’ve updated the bedroom with new mid-century modern style dressers, a DIY walnut plywood bed, beachy glass closet doors, mid-century modern inspired DIY walnut storage bins, easy DIY abstract art, and – surprise! – new DIY back tab curtains in a more subtle green tweed. I also used this same DIY back tab curtain tutorial to sew matching turquoise tweed drapes in my office.