Spruce up your home as we show you how to make your own curtains

A new lockdown skill all sewn up! Spruce up your home as we show you how to make your own curtains

  • We show you how to make curtains with lining and pencil pleats
  • The step-by-step guide includes all the stages you need to complete the task
  • The extensive guide includes how to work out how much fabric you will need

Spending more time at home during the pandemic has meant many outstanding household chores have been addressed.

That might have meant finally getting round to reorganising the cupboard under the stairs or giving your garage door a thorough clean.

But how about undertaking a more innovative project during this latest lockdown that doesn’t involve a hoover or a sponge and a bucket of water?

I decided to take on such a bigger challenge by making some curtains, complete with lining and pencil pleats.

But it proved undoubtedly a bigger undertaking that I had initially imagined – and it took much longer than anticipated… almost a year longer. 

The new curtains: These homemade curtains were completed using our step-to-step guide 

I initially started the project at the beginning of the first lockdown. Here we are 10 months later and I have only just finished the curtains.

This is because I broke the exercise down into bite-sized chunks, taking time to complete each of the stages listed below in the guide produced by John Lewis.

Some people may prefer to condense the work into one or two weeks. But other commitments means that this may not always be possible, and that was certainly the case for me.

I took a hour here and there to complete certain steps, such at cutting just the lining or attaching the header tape that holds the curtain hooks. I could go weeks between each of the stages.

Pinning and sewing: I made the curtains from scratch, and they included a lining 

Before and after: Out with the 15-year-old stained beige curtains and in with my new grey patterned homemade curtains

I learnt how completing the exercise once is key as you then know where you are heading. The first time around, some of the steps in the process can seem so complicated that it feels like you are walking around in the dark.

Thankfully, I had some help from a family member who is experienced in curtain-making. They sat in the background and helpfully pointed out if I had pinned the fabric in the wrong place or taught me how to refill the sewing machine bobbin.

She also taught me how to use a sewing machine – a key starting point – as my needlework classes at school are a distant memory.

She pointed out some things not outlined in the instructions below that will make your life considerably easier, including having an iron and ironing board at hand to help to press and mark folds so that they are clearly visible. This is particularly helpful if you cutting down a straight line.

It is also worth tacking the fabric in place before reaching for the sewing machine. The tacking can easily be removed afterwards.

It is helpful to use an iron and ironing board to mark folds during the curtain-making process

Professional touch: Hand stitch the corners of the curtains using matching cotton thread

An iron is key for smoothing out rough joins and edges to get a professional finish

There were still plenty of mistakes that were made including cuts to the fabric while attaching the header tape that ended up with one of the curtains being smaller than the other.


Pencil pleats have folds of fabric that are tightly gathered to create a semi-cylindrical heading that resembles a line of pencils.

From the close of the header, the fabric tumbles freely downwards. You can use pencil pleat curtains for either poles or tracks.

There are certainly things I would have done differently, including allowing for a larger gap between the top of the curtain and the header tape – something that I’ve since seen on other curtains and much prefer the finished look of. 

But overall, with these being my first set of curtains, I’m pleased with the outcome. 

And now I feel prepared to give it another go and make a set of curtains for another room – and this time I won’t be in the dark. 

Kerry Nicholls, of John Lewis. said: ‘As we are spending more time in our homes, crafting and making are definitely on the rise. 

‘Making curtains can seem like a daunting task but in fact can make the perfect lockdown project, even for a beginner. 

‘Our complimentary Home Design service has now gone virtual, offering customers the opportunity to speak to an expert, who can help measure their windows and guide them on selecting the right fabric. 

‘Nothing compares to the satisfaction of making something from scratch and sewing can become a relaxing and mindful activity.’

The new homemade curtains have pencil pleats – these are folds of fabric tightly gathered to create a semi-cylindrical heading that resembles a line of pencils

The instructions  below don’t mention tacking the fabric, but this can help keep it in place while sewing

Helpful tip@ Keep a flexible plastic tape measure to hand throughout the curtain-making journey


This step-by-step guide from John Lewis shows how to make lined pencil pleat curtains.

It covers everything from working out how much fabric you need to how far apart to place the hooks in your finished curtains.  

What you’ll need 

Curtain fabric, lining fabric, matching thread for the face fabric and the lining (for patterned fabrics choose the dominating colour), pencil pleat heading tape, sewing machine, scissors, tape measure, ruler, and pins  

Measuring and estimating fabric quantities 

1. Measure the width of your curtain track or pole and multiply this by the required fullness. For pencil pleat heading, multiply this by 2 – 2 ½ times depending how full you would like your curtains to be.

2. Divide the answer by the width of the curtain fabric, this will be the same for the lining.

3. Measure the overall finished drop that you would like for the curtains and add on the hem and heading measurements (add 16cm for the hem and 5cm for the heading).

4. To calculate the amount of fabric required, multiply the overall figure by the number of widths and this will give you the total amount of curtain fabric and lining you require.

For example:  

– If the curtain track length is 206cm x 2.5 for the pencil pleat heading = 515cm 

– Then divide the width of the curtain fabric which is 137cm by the curtain track length which we have already worked out is 515cm = 3.75 widths (round down to 3 for double fullness or up to 4 for extra fullness)

– Then measure the overall drop required 134cm + 16cm for the hem + 5cm for the heading = 155cm this is the cut length. Then multiply by my 3 widths = 465cm. Round that up 5 metres of fabric and 5 metres of lining)

– Then work out how much heading tape is needed by multiplying the width of the curtain fabric, 137cm, by the widths needed, 3, = 411cm. To be on the safe side, and to allow for turnings (to hide the heading tape), round this up to 5 metres of pencil pleat heading tape.

Making lined curtains 

1. Cut the fabric to the required cut lengths and cut the required number of drops and repeat this with the lining. If there is a half width per curtain this width will need to be split into two up the length of the cut. This can be done by folding the length selvedge – the finished edge – to selvedge and then cutting along the fold. It is a good idea to mark the fabric with a small arrow in both the top left and right corners of each cut, chalk can be good for this as it can be easily removed when you are finished. This is useful for indicating the face side of the fabric and the direction of the fabric.

2. Join the fabric together with a flat seam. Use approximately a 2cm seam allowance.

3. Repeat this process with the lining fabric.

4. Measure the overall width of the curtain fabric and the lining in each curtain. The lining fabric will be slightly wider than the curtain fabric, you will need to cut this down so it’s approx. 16cm narrower than the curtain fabric. This will allow the curtain fabric to turn back onto the finished curtain down both the leading (inside) and trailing (outside) edge.

5. On the lining fabric, fold and press a double 5cm hem (turn fabric over twice) along the bottom edge and using a sewing machine run a flat running stitch with a matching thread to the lining colour. Repeat on both curtain linings and put aside.

6. On the curtain fabric now fold and lightly press a double 8cm hem(turn the fabric twice) along the bottom edge of both curtains and hold in place with pins. This can be sewn several ways depending on how confident you are. It can be hand sewn using a herringbone stitch, sewn using a machined hemming stitch or machine it through with a flat running stitch. The choice is yours. Make sure you use matching thread to the face fabric colour.

7. Lay the curtain fabric right side up on a flat surface. Now lay the lining fabric on top, right side down, setting the bottom of the lining hem 4cm up from the bottom of the curtain fabric hem. Aline the selvedges or raw edges together and pin in place along one side. Machine stitch with a flat running stitch down this side starting at the edge of the lining and sew from the hem towards the heading. Repeat this process down the other side of the curtain. It will appear that the face fabric is wider than the lining and this is correct. Repeat with the other curtain.

8. Turn the curtains right side out and then fold/roll the sides of the curtains to show 4cm of curtain fabric on the reverse of the curtains down each side. It is a good idea to pin down the sides to hold this in place while you complete the next stages.

9. Neaten off the bottom corners by folding the curtain fabric under itself creating a diagonal line from the corner of the curtain fabric to the corner of the lining. This can either be invisibly slip stitched to hold it in place or held with a single large tacking stitch created by threading double tread through a needle, bring the ends together and tie in a knot so you have four thicknesses of thread to sew with. Sew a single stitch over the fold attaching it to the double hem but not going through to the face side of the curtain. Go over this a couple of times to hold the fold in place. Do this close to where the lining hem is. Repeat this on all four bottom corners of the curtains.

10. With your curtains lying flat, with the lining fabric on top fold over the curtain fabric and lining to the required drop, Pin this into place and repeat this on both curtains.

11. Now trim back the excess lining so you have a single 5cm fold along the top edge. Take the heading tape and place this along the top edge about 0.5cm from the top with approximately 10cm excess tape at each side of the curtain. Pin this in place.

12. Fold the excess tape under itself enclosing the fabric fold between the two layers of tape and hold in place with a pin. Repeat this on all four corners.

13. You are now ready to sew the heading tape into place. First, machine along the top edge on the tape side as close to the edge of the tape as possible. Now remove all the pins and sew along the bottom edge of the tape.

14. On the leading edge of each curtain pull out the strings and knot them together with a double knot. Machine sew the open end of the tape on the leading edge and repeat this on the trailing edge but don’t sew down the open edge as this forms a pocket for you to tuck the strings in once you have gathered the curtains up.

15. Repeat this process on the second curtain remembering that the leading and trailing edges will be opposite handed.

16. Gather each curtain up to half the length of your track or pole plus approximately 10 per cent to allow for the curtains to meet in the centre without springing back open. Tie off the strings, wrap them up neatly and tuck them into the open pocket at the end of the tape.

17. Insert the curtain hooks into the tape at approximately 10cm intervals. If they are to be hung from a pole then use the top pocket and if they are on a track and you wish to mask the track, place the hooks in the bottom pocket.

18. Now your curtains are ready to hang




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