Sewing Blackout-Lined Curtains: Some Tips

I made curtains! Victor is not shown to scale here. He’s about three feet closer to me than the curtains.

When I first started learning to sew, one of my friends said, “You know, you won’t save any money sewing.” Well, that’s debatable. Custom-made anything is expensive. It deserves to be! But, sewing curtains is one of the areas where you’re almost always going to save money by doing it yourself, no matter how simple or complex the window treatment.

We wanted blackout-lined curtains. I’d never sewn blackout fabric or lined curtains before, so I ordered a small sample of fabric and made a test run in plain muslin. I learned a lot from my test run! Mainly, if you want rod-pocket curtains (meaning, there’s no header or pleating tape), sew the rod pocket last. If you wait and sew the side seams last, you won’t be able to put the curtains on the rod!

I read a whole stack of my sewing books, and I also picked up Susan Woodcock‘s Singer Sewing Custom Curtains, Shades, and Top Treatments from my local library. She also has a few classes on Bluprint that I found very helpful. (Full disclosure: I used to work for the company that published Susan’s book and I’m a Bluprint instructor. I’m not getting paid to endorse Susan. I just think she’s great!)

I suspect it hasn’t been available to home sewists for very long, but part of my seeming obsession with Susan is she’s the only source I could find who really discussed blackout fabric.

It’s a bit tricky to work with. You see, it’s not really a fabric in the normal sense, but more a fabric that has been coated in a very thin foam. In some ways, it sews like leather, but it is also extremely stable and doesn’t stretch or give at all, really.

I couldn’t even get it to stitch well, at first! It would be fine for a few inches, then stitches would start skipping. I tried a leather needle. I tried a denim needle. Nothing seemed to work.

In the end, I went where I should have gone in the first place: the manufacturer’s website. Here are the tips I gleaned from there, from Susan, and from my own experience:

1) Do not use pins. The hole marks will show forever. I used wonder clips.

2) Use a teflon needle.

3) Use a long stitch length. I used the longest one my machine would make (6 stitches/inch).

4) Manage the weight of the fabric with care. Hauling this stuff around isn’t a mean feat! I was working in my guest bedroom, so when I was sewing, I could rest the weight of the part I wasn’t sewing on the bed. I had to build in time to fold up the pieces when I finished each session so that they wouldn’t wrinkle.

5) Since the blackout lining is so stable, you may want to stabilize the main curtain fabric. Otherwise, it can be a challenge to make sure the edges you cut to the same length stay the same length, especially when you can’t pin! Even a line of stay stitching may save you some frustration.

6) Pattern match from the right side using a double-sided fusible tape. Susan covers this method very well in her book. It worked like a charm.

7) I found the easiest way to cut both my main and lining fabrics was to mark where I wanted to cut with a ruler and square, then cut with shears. I’m normally #teamrotarycutter, but in this case, I think it would have been harder to keep accurate. Again, I was working on a guest bed and not on a proper cutting table, so you may have a different experience.

8) This is actually advice from my grandmother Eulalia. Choose a fabric that you LOVE! That will get you through any rough spots you have with the project.

Anyway, here are more photos of my curtains. I couldn’t love them more. I can’t get the color to reproduce well. Imagine a very light indigo on a very dark indigo background.

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