sewing 101: how to make a shower curtain


My bathroom is quite old and somewhat grungy, so until I can afford better real estate, I thought a loud and colorful curtain would help draw the eye away from some of my bathroom’s less savory qualities… and thus, this patchwork shower curtain was born. It’s bright and fun, and it allowed me to use up several leftover fabrics in my collection rather than investing in new materials. If you prefer a simpler shower curtain made out of just one fabric, I’ll give instructions for that too. Let’s get started! —Brett Bara

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!

What You’ll Need

for a patchwork curtain: 1-2 yards each of approximately 7 different fabrics

for a solid curtain: 5 yards fabric

thread to match

sharp scissors

cutting mat, rotary cutter and straight edge (optional)

straight pins

tape measure

seam ripper

iron

sewing machine

Planning Your Fabrics

If you decide to go the patchwork route, the first task is to assemble a group of fabrics that work well together and are pleasing to your eye. I know lots of people find it tricky to pull off the mismatched look successfully — myself included! — but here’s my method.

I start with one main fabric/color, which for me was the blue floral. Next choose something opposite that on the color wheel (the yellow birds and orange print). Then throw in something a little random, (the green floral). Finally, add some coordinating solids to avoid pattern overkill. It usually takes me a good amount of shuffling, rearranging, and contemplating — and I try to leave my selection and walk away from it for a little while, then come back to see if it looks right to a fresh eye.

(Don’t forget to wash, dry and iron your fabrics before beginning!)

Patchwork Layout

Of course, you can piece together random sections of fabric in almost any layout you want for this project, but here are the numbers to make a curtain like the one shown here.

The total finished size of the curtain is 76″ long by 71″ wide, after seaming and hemming. If you prefer a longer curtain (check the distance from your shower curtain rod to the point where you’d like your curtain to end), just adjust the length accordingly.

The basic premise of construction here is that you assemble five vertical columns which are each a specific width. The columns are constructed of randomly sized blocks and strips – you can mix and match any blocks you want within each column, as long as the finished column is the correct width and length.

To begin, plan five vertical columns as follows:

Column 1 (far left): 18.5″ wide (allowing for a 2″ side hem)

Column 2: 13″ wide

Column 3: 12″ wide

Column 4: 20″ wide

Column 5 (far right): 15.5″ wide (allowing for a 2″ side hem)

Each column needs to have a total length of 87″, which allows for an 8″ bottom hem and a 3″ top hem.

For those of you who are pattern people, here’s a VERY crude diagram showing how I assembled my patchwork. The measurements given are the sizes you should cut the blocks; the numbers allow for seam allowances and hems, so that you’ll arrive at the correct finished size. (At least I hope you do, if my math is correct!)

For a Solid Curtain

If you prefer to make a solid shower curtain, simply cut two pieces of fabric that are 87″ long and 38″ wide. (Remember to trim the selvedge edge off your fabric pieces before) Seam the two pieces together using a French Seam (more on that below). Then, follow the hemming and finishing instructions below.

Some Cutting Tips

Lots of you have been asking in the comments how to cut straight lines on large pieces of fabric. My indispensible cutting system is a cutting mat, rotary cutter, and straight edge. These tools allow you to place your fabric on a gridded surface and cut in a perfectly straight line every time.

I find the best way to cut fabric straight and accurately is to use the selvedge edge as a guide. You can count on the selvedge to be a straight edge – so I begin by cutting any perpendicular lines I need by aligning my cut at a 90-degree angle to the selvedge. Then I make any cuts that are parallel to the selvedge. So for a curtain, I’ll cut the length first, making sure I’m cutting at a right angle to the selvedge, and then I’ll cut the width, being sure to cut parallel to the selvedge.

When cutting really long pieces of fabric, I carefully fold the fabric aligning the selvedge edge with itself, then cut through the layers of the folded piece. Even if you don’t have a rotary cutter, you can use this method to trim long pieces of fabric with scissors for fairly accurate results.

This is by no means a comprehensive lesson on cutting fabric, but I hope it will help get some of you pointed in the right direction! Now, back to the shower curtain at hand!

Cutting the Patchwork Pieces

Cut all the pieces according to the assembly diagram or in any layout you prefer.

Sewing

I recommend sewing French seams on this project so that the curtain will look neat and finished from both sides.

Start by assembling the patchwork pieces of each column. Sew each seam as follows:

Place the two pieces of fabric to be joined with raw edges aligned and the WRONG sides of the fabric together. Pin in place. Sew this seam with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Trim off about half of the seam allowance. (A rotary cutter is great for this, but scissors work too of course!)

Iron the seam allowance to one side, then fold on the seam so that the RIGHT sides of the fabric are now facing each other. Press.

Pin the two layers of fabric together to avoid shifting, and sew another seam 1/4″ from the folded edge.

Open the fabric and press the seam to one side.

The “flap” forms a neatly finished seam on the wrong side of the piece, and from the right side, the seam looks like a standard seam.

Neat Freak Tip: As you assemble each column, press all the French seams so that they are facing downward on the curtain.  This ensures that when the curtain is complete, all the seams will be facing in the same direction.

Once all five columns are assembled, sew them to each other with French seams.

Once all five columns are assembled, it’s time to hem the curtain.

Hemming

First, hem the bottom edge. Turn up the raw edge 4″ to wrong side of curtain and press. Turn up another 4″ and press again. Top stitch close to interior folded edge.

Next, hem the sides. Turn in the side edge 1″ and press. Turn in another 1″ and press again. Top stitch close to the interior folded edge. Repeat on each side.

Hem the top by turning under 1.5″ and press. Turn under another 1.5″ and press again. Top stitch close to BOTH folded edges.

Note: if your fabric is lightweight, you may want to apply a 1.5″ strip of interfacing to the top edge of your curtain before folding the top hem. This will provide some extra stability to support the weight of the curtain.

Buttonholes

In this project I used buttonholes to attach the curtain to the curtain rings. If you like, you could purchase a grommet-setting tool and install grommets in your curtain. I’ve never had a lot of luck with these tools and my grommets always seem to fall out — maybe I just need to try a better brand, but I decided to go the buttonhole route this time. Plus, aren’t you excited to learn how to make buttonholes? It’s easy!

I suggest using your shower curtain liner as a guide for placing the buttonholes. Mine has 12 holes total, and they’re each 6″ apart and 1/2″ from the top edge.

Here you should pause to check your sewing machine manual for specific instructions on making a buttonhole. Almost every machine offers this function, and it’s really very easy — if you haven’t done buttonholes before, don’t be afraid. Just do a few practice runs on scrap fabric and you’ll be all set.

Mark the placement of your buttonhole, indicating where the top of the hole should be (1/2″ from the top edge of the curtain), and where the bottom of the hole should be. (Here I’m making the holes 1/4″ long, which should accommodate most shower curtain rings.)

Sew your buttonhole using the method your machine offers.

When it’s finished, it will look like this: a little box of stitching.

To open the buttonhole, pierce the fabric with a seam ripper and GENTLY wiggle the seam ripper until it cuts the fabric inside the buttonhole.

And you’re done! All that’s left to do is hang your curtain and enjoy.

See you in two weeks! Is there anything you’re dying to learn to sew? Leave a comment and let me know!

  1. Marie davIs says:

    You can also make a real full shower curtain by buying a queen size of full sizes flat sheet.

  2. Marie davIs says:

    You can also make a shower curtain with a full size or queen size flat sheet.

  3. JACKIE WATERS says:

    Your instructions were very helpful and very much appreciated.

  4. Kristin says:

    For the real intermediate person reverse the French seam instructions. Sew right sides together first. That way you cannot see your mistakes on the inside. Who looks anyway.

  5. Amy says:

    This is adorable. Id love to buy one just like it!

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