Sewing essentials for making curtains

Before you make up your curtains there are some sewing essentials you'll need. No matter what their trade, any professional will tell you that having the right tools for the job is vital. So here's what you'll need to sew drapery.

Cutting your fabrics

You'll need:

  • A metal ruler at least 3'0" (1.0m) long. Wood ones are ok, but I prefer metal.
  • Scissors size 8" (20cms) minimum.
  • Fabric marker pencils (upholsterer's chalk is good if you can find it).
  • A large set square for cutting nice, neat corners.

Sewing essentials

  • Pins: fine steel ones for lighter fabrics.
  • Pins: Colored head pins 2" (5cms) long. These are much easier to see and work with. (One of the jobs in a professional workroom is to check that curtains and drapes don't have any pins left in them just before they are taken to the client.)
  • Flexible tape measure, usually plastic these days.
  • Sewing needles for hand work: an assortment of different needles, general purpose, longer ones such as Milliners needles, and Darning needles for thicker thread.
  • Sewing needles for machine work.
  • Pliers for pulling needles through combinations of fabrics, and through buckram.

If you've had experience with sewing then you'll most likely have all these, and other useful items besides.

Sewing machine


Achieving a perfect join with your sewing machine is both a science and an art. You need to have the correct thread and needle, but it also takes skill. Each machine is different, and you'll need to learn it's strengths and weaknesses.

Don't forget, "Practice makes perfect!"

A machine is at the top of your sewing essentials list. However, you can use a domestic machine for nearly all your drapery work. Any work which is too thick because of interlining and heading tape can easily be done by hand. And in my opinion, you'll get a better finish.

The main use for your machine is to join up fabrics and linings. A good domestic machine will easily cope with this.

Got an old machine? Some of the traditional machines such as 'Singer' still produce excellent results. The golden rule is - "Have your machine regularly serviced, at least every couple of years."

If you plan to buy a new machine, don't necessarily go for one which has lots of 'bells and whistles'. Select one which can cope with joining medium weight fabrics. It doesn't matter if it can't do the latest electronically controlled appliqué work.

Sewing machines tend to last well, providing they are looked after. It may be worth while buying a second hand one and having it serviced.

Needles and threads

There are a bewildering assortment of threads and needles on offer, and they're a vital part of your sewing tools. The most useful threads are mercerized cottons. These are cotton threads which are treated so they are smoother, stronger, and keep their color longer.

You need to match the thread to the weight of fabric and also its color. One of the main reasons why you may have problems is if your thread is incompatible with the fabric you're trying to join.

For machine sewing, the thread must also match the machine needle. The finer the needle the less marks it makes when sewing. But if the needle is too fine for the fabric, it will quickly become blunt and probably break. So change your needle frequently.

For most medium weight fabrics a Singer needle size of 12-14 (70-80 metric) will be ok. The thread size should be about 50/2.

As you can see, there aren't a lot of sewing tools you'll need to have. But it's important to get the basic items and practice using them. You don't have to be an expert in all aspects of sewing to make good drapes. You just need to acquire skills in those areas which are important for drapery.

Having the right equipment is the first step.

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