For my Mom’s mid-century modern inspired dining room makeover, I envisioned DIY silk drapes to add some shimmer and luxury to the small space. Because the wallpaper was so neutral and the ceiling color so soft, I really wanted to use a fabric with richness and depth for the draperies. Luckily her apartment has large windows, so it was a lovely feature to highlight. Online Fabric Store generously provided the fabric of my choice and today I’m going to show you how we sewed these DIY silk drapes.
But first, how perfect is the color of these DIY drapes with the rug? I picked everything out for my Mom’s makeover online. It can be so difficult to design a room sight unseen because monitors and photography can really skew colors, but these two elements ended up working out perfectly together in the dining room redesign! The photos on the Online Fabric Store website were really true to life and made it easy to pick a complementary drapery fabric (this is the “Premium Spa Silk Shantung Fabric”).
I love the look of silk drapes and had them in my office, way back in the townhouse, but I didn’t do anything fancy – I just used curtain rings with clips (see below). It was a simple way to make affordable curtains, but didn’t do much to highlight the silk. I tried to adjust the rings and sort of “floof” the top of the curtains to encourage a nice gather and drape, but ultimately this easy DIY curtain idea was a bit of flop. But gosh, silk is beautiful. I was excited to try DIY silk curtains again, but with a more polished approach.
My Mom and I have gotten a little fancier since the townhouse days, using drapery hooks and pleating and back tabs. Here are my best DIY curtain tutorials: DIY Back Tab Curtains, DIY Curtains on a Track, DIY Gathered Curtains, and DIY Layered Sheers. I’ve also shared tutorials for shower curtains: DIY Basic Shower Curtain with Button Holes and DIY Ceiling Mounted Shower Curtain with Separate Liner. One of the reasons we started using the back tab method is that when I first bought my white curtain rods, I could never find curtain rings to match. The solution: back tabs! No curtain rings needed. You’ve seen my printed back tab curtains using these white curtain rods and also the updated green tweed back tab drapes in the bedroom and coordinating aqua tweed back tab drapes in the office. I gave my Mom my white curtain rods because we could not longer use them after we had the windows enlarged. I was so happy she could re-purpose two of my four curtain rods because they’re too short for my windows now. Still unable to find matching curtain rings, for these DIY silk drapes, we opted for the back tab method again – but with some adjustments to help the silk fabric drape well.
- Drapery fabric of your choice (I used: Premium Spa Silk Shantung Fabric from Online Fabric Store)
- Curtain lining fabric, or just extra drapery fabric for tabs
- Coordinating thread
- Olfa self healing mat
- Olfa rotary cutter
- Metal straight edge
- Soft tape measure
- Stiffener/header tape/drapery tape
- Tailor’s chalk pencil
- Straight pins
- Pincurl clips (optional)
- Sewing machine
Before cutting out the tabs, determine how many tabs and how wide you would like them to be. The width of the tabs will determine how the finished drapes gather. This silk has a lovely weight and crispness, which lends itself to narrower tabs. Sometimes, unless you’ve sewn back tab drapes often, there’s a little bit of trial and error involved to get the “perfect” look you want. The first set of tabs we cut out and sewed together were a little too wide and thus created sharper pleating than we wanted. We were aiming for a softer drape. You can see the the first attempt here:
We ended up redoing the tabs at half the width, so the new tabs are 1″ wide and approximately 4″ long (with 1/2″ tucked under the seam), which is why in the tutorial photos you might spot the width of the tabs changing. For reference, the 1 x 4 inch finished tabs are on a curtain panel that is 54″ wide and we used 9 of tabs for each curtain panel.
In the past, we have used leftover fabric from the curtains to make the tabs. This time we decided to use a piece of white curtain lining fabric with a similar weight and stiffness as the silk in order to save more of the silk for the actual curtains, thereby not skimping on the length or the hem. A nice deep hem always gives a more elegant look and helps the drape of the curtain panel.
In the photo below, you can see that we took a piece of the white lining fabric, which was 9″ inches wide, and folded it in half. To determine the length you will need, it depends on how many tabs you want to make and the width of these tabs. Using our 1″ width of tab, add a 1/4″ inch to each side for the seams (the seam allowance), so in total, you need a 1.5″ width for each tab. Using these numbers, measure the length of fabric you will need and cut it out. With the fabric folded in half, we measured and marked for the tabs, allowing for a 1/4″ seam allowance I discussed.
Now, there are two ways you can cut out and sew these tabs and I’ll show you both!
We recommend an Olfa cutter, ruler (a metal straight edge – not plastic like we used, because these Olfa cutters can actually cut the plastic), and self healing Olfa mat to separate the tabs. Here’s the first, slightly more labor intensive way you can do it: cut the tabs out before sewing them, by cutting along the middle of the three lines marked in the first step (the other two lines are the stitching lines). Then stitch the sides of each tab, one at a time:
If you choose to do it this way, you will end up with a pile of tabs ready to be sewn along the stitching lines you have marked:
An easier way is to sew the seams first and then cut out the tabs on the line between the seams, like in the photo below. By doing that, instead of cutting out 18 little strips and doing the seams individually, we figured out how big each tab would be and marked the seam allowance (1/4″ allowance). With the tabs marked, we sewed the seams (outside lines) and then cut them out (the middle line).
So, in a nutshell, for both methods, fold over the fabric and the measure and mark the tabs. Then either sew them all and then cut them out, or cut them out and then sew them. Either way works! Then it is just a matter of turning them inside out and pressing them flat.
When the tabs are 1″ wide, which is a pretty narrow channel, we found it easier to turn them inside out by pushing with a pencil (eraser end) or knitting needle if you have it (duller end):
Then press the tabs flat and you are ready to attach them to the top of the curtain panels.
When sewing the curtain panel itself, we used a 4″ wide strip of stiffener/header tape/drapery tape (it might be labelled as any of these) at the top seam. This tape can be purchased at fabric stores and is sold by the metre/yard. Make sure to purchase the type which comes on a roll instead of something pre-measured in a package, as that may be either too soft or have been bent, which will unwanted folds in your finished product.
Here you can see that we have already attached the stiffener/drapery tape with a 1/2″ seam folded over and sewn along the top (hot tip: we skipped side seams because the fabric was nicely finished on the edges):
This is then folded over and 1/2″ of the tabs are attached underneath (make sure to tuck in the raw edge of the tabs, so it’s hidden):
Then they are sewn down:
In the next photo, the lighter row of stitching on the right is where we attached the silk to the stiffener with the 1/2″ seam, and the darker row of stitching on the left is where we attached the tabs to the stiffener/header tape and the actual body of the curtain. Now that it is all sewn down, only one more line of stitching needs to attach the tops of the tabs.
In the next photo, you can see that one end of the tabs is still loose (the finished end), so bend them over, back towards the top of the curtain. We used pincurl hair clips to hold them in place as we tried to avoid putting a lot of pin holes into the silk. The tactile nature of this particular silk is nice to work with as it is not terribly slippery, so the pincurl clips worked well.
Then we sewed the remaining side of the tabs down. Make sure to leave a little bit of a gap for the curtain rod. The diameter of your curtain rod will determine this so have it on hand to check the spacing of the final stitching for the top of the tab. If your tabs are creating a “pocket” for the rod that is too loose, you may end up with a drooping, slightly sloppier look. The top of the tab is inset from the top of the curtain.
The spacing and width of tabs are up to you and can change the look of the curtain from being really gathered to more flat. With a panel that is 54″ wide on either side, and 9 1″ tabs per panel, sewn approximately 5 5/8″ apart, this is the final look when the curtains are closed:
And when they’re open they have a beautiful drape and soft pleating. Again, you can totally change this up, but this is the drape and look we preferred because it’s elegant but still soft and relaxed.
Let’s talk about the fabric again for a minute because it is BEAUTIFUL! Silk had a sheen and lustre like no other fabric. And this color is beautiful because it has a teal undertone but it’s shot with a warmer gold so it has warmth and yet it’s a cool color. I love it against the neutral wallpaper – it helps the room pop, without competing with the pattern of the rug or the wallpaper. We chose a linen blend fabric for the chair upholstery, picking up on the sheen and natural texture of these silk drapes which added to the cohesion of this space and its cool, organic vibe.
Huge thanks to Online Fabric Store for partnering with me on another sewing DIY project! My Mom and I both LOVE how these silk drapes turned out. You can see ALL of my sewing tutorials by clicking here.
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