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A Romantic Bedroom Retreat with Rowan & FreeSpirit Fabrics: Layered Bed Curtain Backdrop with Velvet Valance

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We sat down with our friends at Rowan & Free Spirit several months ago to look through the dozens and dozens of beautiful collections on their drawing board. Each one seemed more wonderful than the next, and we were having a heck of a time narrowing the field for our upcoming series. Finally, we asked, "Why not widen the field?" Why not give our Sew4Home visitors the tools, inspiration and confidence to mix and match designers, fabrics and substrates (cotton versus voile versus laminate, etc.)?! The resulting blend could create a special kind of beauty within a single project or an entire room." This was the inspiration for the Romantic Bedroom Retreat series with Rowan & FreeSpirit Fabric: nine tutorials, five techniques and one Great Giveaway. Three weeks of beauty and imagination. We start today with a set of lovely layered curtains and a tasseled valance. It's a richly elegant look that is actually quite easy to make. The four panels and the valance are hung on a standard double curtain rod, and the panels are held in place with conventional tie-back hooks. What a great way to turn a plain wall into a picturesque backdrop for your bed!

The Romantic Bedroom Retreat features four collections from Westminster Fibers Lifestyle FabricsFreeSpirit Pagoda Lullaby by Tina GivensFreeSpirit The Birds & The Bees by Tula PinkRowan Bromley by Victoria & Albert and Rowan Cameo by Amy Butler.  

Today's layered curtains feature Bromley Arbor Voile in Citron. The Bromley collection is based on copper-plated designs from within the pattern book of Foster & Co. of the Bromley Hall Works near London, which dates from circa 1760-1800. This pattern book resides in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design. Its collection spans 5,000 years of art in virtually every medium.   

We've mixed the beautiful drape of the voile with coordinating lace panels for both texture and definition. The valance is home décor weight black velvet with dramatic tassel and crystal fringe. You'll see touches of black velvet in a number of the series' projects. The black is a main accent color that ties together the varied elements; the velvet adds "romance," plus it absorbs light, which gives our black a solid, even tone that never washes out or looks weak. You want a strong romance, right?!

Finally, for all the projects in our series, Westminster helped us put together a very handy Where to Buy Retailer Locator, giving you a fast and easy way to source the fabrics we are featuring from both brick and mortar stores in your area (the page is broken out by state) as well as online options. The collections are just coming out now in-store and online. 

Sewing Tools You Need

  • Any sewing machine (we recommend the Janome Memory Craft Horizon 7700 QCP - we selected this model because of its built in AucFeed Walking Foot and its large bed size for our large panels)
  • Walking foot (optional but very helpful with these fabrics)

Fabric and Other Supplies

Our curtain rod spanned a very ornate king size bed. The width of the rod was 99" and the height to the floor was 90". See the Getting Started section below for notes on determining width and height for your unique situation. 

  • 5½ yards of 54-60" wide voile to create two full-length main panels; we used Arbor Voile in Citron from the Bromley Collection by Victoria & Albert for Rowan Fabrics 
  • 5½ yards of 54-60" wide lace, gauze or other sheer fabric for two full-length accent panels; we used a home decor weight lace (purchased locally) with a pattern that mimicked the motif on the voile panels
  • 3 yards of 45" or wider wide heavy velvet; we used an upholstery velvet (purchased locally)
    NOTE: This amount allows for a full 103" lengthwise cut. We used this same upholstery velvet in several projects within our series and so were able to use the large remaining piece for other cuts. If you are only making a valance, see the Getting Started notes below for cutting alternatives. You may be able to get away with a just 1½ yards. 
  • 3 yards of heavy decorative tassel trim; we used tri-tassel upholstery quality trim with accent crystals (purchased locally) 
  • All-purpose thread to match fabrics and trim
  • See-through ruler
  • Tape measure
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins 

Getting Started

Determining width

  1. Since both the voile and the lace we selected were 54" in width, we opted to use the full width of fabric for all four panels. After hemming, this gave us approximately 200" with which to work to drape across the width. 
  2. The rule of thumb for curtain width is usually two and a half times the width of the rod, which makes our 200" slightly less than that standard optimum of 247½" for our 99" span. However, the lovely drape of the voile gives additional volume, and so we didn't feel as if there was not enough fabric. However, think about the finished look you want, and adjust accordingly. For a straighter hang, narrow your panels. For a fuller look, increase your panels and/or add more panels.

Determining length

  1. Measure from the top of the rod to the floor. This is your finished height.  Add 6” for a nice hem.  
  2. Measure the circumference of your rod, then add about an inch for ease plus a ½" for the seam allowance. The rod on which the sheer panels hang in our sample measured just under 1". So our equation was 1" + 1" + ½ " = 2½". 
  3. A well-made drape has a full double turned hem at the bottom of at least 3", which means you need a total of 6" with which to work. This full-depth hem is especially important when working with sheers as it acts as balast to help weight the panel so it hangs down nicely.  
  4. Your final cut length equation is: the rod to floor measurement + 6" for a bottom hem + the rod pocket sum. In our sample that meant: 90" + 6" + 2½" = 98½".
  5. We started with two lace panels at full WOF x 98½" and two voile panels at full WOF x 98½".

Valance

  1. Our valance finishes at 12" deep, which is a nice proportion for our panel height. If your panels are much longer or shorter, you may want to consider altering the depth accordingly.  
  2. Cut one piece using the following equations: the finished depth times two plus 1" for seam allowance (in our sample that was 12" x 2 + 1" = 25"), and the finished width of the rod plus 4" for side hems (in our sample that was 99" + 4" = 103").
  3. Our valance cut was 103" x 25".
  4. As mentioned above in the supply list, we purchased enough yardage to do a full-length vertical cut to avoid seams through the valance. If you are not planning to use velvet for any other projects, and would rather not end up with so much extra, you may want to consider cutting several horizontal panels and seaming them together to create your required length. Had we done this, we could have gotten away with just 1½ yards of 54" velvet: one 25" x WOF panel and two 25" x 25½" panel. When seamed together (one shorter panel on either end of the longer panel), we would have ended up with the same 103". We recommend the two seams rather than one center seam to avoid the rather awkward look of a seam smack dab in the middle of the valance.  

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Panels

  1. Each panel is made in the same manner.
  2. Make an approximate 2" simple hem along both sides of the panel. We say "approximate" because the easier way to do this type of hem when working with a full WOF is to make your first turn equal to the width of the selvedge. This is usually, but not always, about ½". Turn in this width and press in place. Then, turn an additional 1½", press again, and pin in place.  
  3. Stitch the hem in place from top to bottom, staying close to the inside folded edge.
    NOTE: Another option for side hemming is a Rolled Hem, which we have a tutorial on coming up later in the week. The benefit of this option is that it uses very little fabric, giving you as much fabric width as possible for your panel.
  4. For the top rod pocket, your hem will be determined by the figuring you did above with your actual rod circumference. Our equation yielded a 2½" pocket. With this measurement, we turned down the top raw edge ½" and pressed it in place. Then, we turned it down an additional 2", pressed it again, then pinned the hem in place across the top.  
  5. Stitch all the way across the top, staying close to the inside folded edge to form the rod pocket.
  6. As mentioned above in the cutting instructions, a well-made drape has a full double turned hem at the bottom. To do this, turn up the raw edge 3" and press. Turn up an additional 3" and press again. Pin in place. Stitch the hem in place all the way across the panel, staying close to the inside folded edge.  
  7. The photo below shows the finished bottom corner of one panel. 

    NOTE: If you are worried about your measuring accuracy, finish the side hems and top rod pocket, then slip the panel on the rod and double check that a 3" double-turn hem will still yield the correct finished length.

Valance

  1. Find the single valance cut or seam your panels together to equal your finished width as described above in the Getting Started section.
  2. Turn back each side 2” and pin in place. 
  3. Stitch close to the cut edge on both ends. 
    NOTE: Velvet sheds like the dickens, but doesn't ravel, so you don't need to do a double turn along the raw edge. This also helps keep down the bulk. 
  4. Fold the side-hemmed piece right sides together and pin in place along the long end.  
  5. Using ½" seam allowance, stitch in place.
    NOTE: Velvet wants to creep, which is why we reccomend a Walking foot. A Walking foot has its own built in top feed dogs to work in combination with the machine's bottom feed dogs to keep tricky layers of fabric from shifting.  
  6. This photo shows the top corner of the valance after hemming the sides and stitching the long seam.
  7. Turn the valance right side out. The folded edge is the top, the seamed edge of the bottom.
  8. Thread your machine with thread to match the trim (our photo shows pink thread in the Walking foot, which is just to show you contrast).
  9. Place the fringe along the bottom edge. 
    NOTE: This will become of the back of the valance. The tassels will hang down below the bottom seamed edge of the valance and the top of the trim will be hidden along the back. We preferred the look of the straight edge of the velvet with the tassels dropping behind. However, the top of the trim is quite lovely, and if you prefer a more ornate look, you could certainly hang the valance with the full trim facing front.   
  10. Simply turn back the edge of the of the trim to start with a clean edge flush with the side edge of the velvet. For the best stability, stitch the trim in place with a top and bottom seam through all the layers. At the end of the trim, turn under that raw edge as you did at the beginning to finish.
    NOTE: We used this approach rather than sandwiching the trim between the layers because we felt it would be the easiest option for a new sewer. It helps eliminate bulk in the seam, and keeps you from having to fight the tricky velvet and the tricky trim in one seam. This way, you make a velvet-to-velvet seam, then stitch the trim on top.
     
  11. The weight of the trim at the bottom of the valance also helps it to hang in place nicely from the rod. 

A few notes on hanging

  1. As we mention above, we used a standard double rod. We purchased ours at Sears, but you can get them just about anywhere. Use the front rod to hang the valance, the back rod for all the panels. This process is best done with a two-person team.
  2. Attach the rod brackets to the wall. With any wide rod, you are most likely to have a center support. 
  3. Put the valance on the rod and lift it into position on the three supports. From the front, carefully mark with pins where the center support hits the valance. 
  4. Take down the valance and remove the rod.  
  5. Using your front mark, transfer the pins to the back of the valance at the exact same point. 
  6. Using a seam ripper, carefully cut a slot about ¾" wide along the mark on the back side of the valance. You are only cutting the back of the valance; do not make any cuts on the front. Because this cut will be hidden on the back, and because velvet doesn't ravel, we didn't worry about finishing the cut edges. If you want to be super fancy, you could whip stitch the edges with thread or embroidery floss or apply a bit of seam sealant to the raw edges.
  7. Slip the valance back onto the rod, and lift it up into position.
  8. Thread the center support through the slot, so the rod is directly resting on the support.  The support will actually be hidden inside the valance.  
    NOTE: On our rod, the middle support stuck up slightly above the rod in the center. So, to avoid an ugly bump along the top edge of the valance, we used a hack saw to cut off this little extra bit. We realize this might be a bit too much for the average toolbox. Another option would be to cut small relief slot right at the center bracket and allow the bracket to stick out of the valance a bit. Not as finished, but certainly an option.  
  9. The tie-backs we used were also quite standard. We purchased ours from Amazon. Our recommendation is to hang your panels first. Then, have one person hold up the panels in various "draping positions" while the other person stands back to check the appropriate "billowing" effect. Once you have the look you like, mark that point on the wall and attach the tie backs so they are even and directly opposite from one another.

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever

Curtain hanging: Bob Johnson

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Comments (141)

Dawn905 said:
Dawn905's picture

Hmmm... I've been looking for ways to soften the look of the heavy wood headboard I have. This just might be it!

ChristyL said:
ChristyL's picture

Love love love the green and blue colors!  I'm finally concentrating on decorating our bedroom and those colors are perfect, very relaxing and not overly girly

MugglePuggle said:
MugglePuggle's picture

Great tutorial! This would be great for my guest bedroom when I move into my new house :)

gibbylet said:
gibbylet's picture

I was thinking this wouldnt work at all for me but then I realized our guest bed could really use something like this behind it!

SewSealy said:
SewSealy's picture

What a wonderful idea!  I love the valance.  Beautiful fabrics and trims.  How lucky we are to have this resource shared with us.  It is obvious that great time and effort was spent on developing this fantastic tutorial.  Thank you very much. 

icouldbefake said:
icouldbefake's picture

Right now there are two store bought curtains hanging behind my bed.... where was this tuorial last year!? LOL

jane @rickrackandpolkadots.com said:
jane @rickrackandpolkadots.com's picture

Very clever idea...  Thank you...

luvdafroggy said:
luvdafroggy's picture

So many fantastic ideas!  Love Free Spirit fabrics; can't wait to get to my sewing machine!  Thanks.  =)

stmarie said:
stmarie's picture

i especially like the steps to add trim to the valance... beautiful project!

Erin Uncapher said:
Erin Uncapher's picture

This is absolutely beautiful!  Our bedroom is in the basement of our house and we have to have a cover over the wall behind the bed.  This is infinitely more attractive than the 70s crushed red velvet bedspread that is currently there.  Thank you so much for sharing!

joang said:
joang's picture

what a nice look .  My wall is bare, will have to try this

Bessie481 said:
Bessie481's picture

This is really beautiful! It looks like it is from a high end hotel!! Nice work and nice fabric!

Bamom23girls said:
Bamom23girls's picture

I love the elegance and softness of this fabric combinations. Beautiful!

vkmommy said:
vkmommy's picture

Oh this just so out of world. The trims just make it so much more special. 

A Princess bedroom.

Karen W. said:
Karen W.'s picture

Having no headboard for our bed, I think this project is a stylish alternative.  Seeing the colors and patterns inspires one  to branch out and choose the color scheme and patterns he/she would prefer.  I want to show my husband this project (and the whole romantic bedroom retreat project) for his agreement, and if approved start picking those fabrics!

meyerslemon said:
meyerslemon's picture

That valance is very cool. Thanks for the info

aerialkabuki said:
aerialkabuki's picture

This would be great for someone like with out a headboard. Very elegant.

Janet Pierce said:
Janet Pierce's picture

Great mix of fabrics.  Great choices.  Love the voile.  Thanks for the tutorial.

Parthena Wollen said:
Parthena Wollen's picture

I love how you paired the fabrics and the velvet really does give it a romantic feel.  Looking to redecorate with my mom so this could be a fun project. 

parthena@wollen.com

sarahkate said:
sarahkate's picture

That voile is just so yummy! I love it paired with the velvet. 

Burniahunt said:
Burniahunt's picture

Beautiful project!  This would be amazing as a romantic look in an adult room or for a fairy tale style in a young girls room.  Either way, love it!

Jill R said:
Jill R's picture

That is so elegant - if only I can talk my husband into it!

Leslie @ stanfieldla@gmail.com said:
Leslie @ stanfieldla@gmail.com's picture

Now this is a wonderful Idea for me. I live in military housing so painting can be annoying, but this idea could be something I move around without me and add some romance to my bedroom :)

Haslina Mohd Salleh said:
Haslina Mohd Salleh's picture

oh my! This is giving me ideas how to decorate my bed and bedroom...this is very elegant! very nicely styled...

Connier said:
Connier's picture

Fantastic fabrics!  I love the vintage and antique patterns.  I am hoping to get some ideas for my home.

S Becker said:
S Becker's picture

Love this.  This is a wonderful series and just in time for my bedroom makeover!

Ali Gator said:
Ali Gator's picture

I love the mix of patterns and colors.  Thanks for an exciting project.

Gina Koston said:
Gina Koston's picture

WOW...I am so gonna put this on my To-Do List!  Absolutely gorgeous!

Donna Hollingsworth said:
Donna Hollingsworth's picture

THis site makes me smile...I loooooove it!!!! Thank you for taking the time to make this site possible for all to enjoy and learn from!!

rmputnam said:
rmputnam's picture

Thanks for the wonderful tutorials.  Wonderful to see all these fabrics in action.

MarciaFlorida said:
MarciaFlorida's picture

Thank you for all the tips and instructions for curtains that look professionally made.

MargaretAnnB said:
MargaretAnnB's picture

I'm looking forward to new ideas and tutorials.

Sandie said:
Sandie's picture

I have read so many different articles on sewing and putting fabrics and colour together I have lost count. This is the very first I have read and enjoyed reading so much. On top of that it was a learning experience, I will stay tuned to see what comes next.

Ivy Smart said:
Ivy Smart's picture

The pictures say it all.  It is time to start making new curtains for our bedroom.

 

Melanie Saliba said:
Melanie Saliba's picture

wow, this taught me a lot about fabric pairings...I would have never tohught a moden, bold print would look so good with something like a velvet! I love the inspiration that comes from fabric groupings like this. So awesome! thanks!

Diane I said:
Diane I's picture

The new look for my bedroom.  The fabric will sure coming handy with giving my bedroom the updated look. Good instructions.

4dreamsr said:
4dreamsr's picture

2 things I've learned already; didn't know about the doubled 3" hem for drapes & sheers & didn't realize velvet didn't ravel & no need to turn under raw edge. Since looks like I'll be learning, I'll be back for more. Great tutorial.

Norma said:
Norma's picture

Beautiful! My bed is exacly like that! Now I need only the twelve yards of fabric, because I already have the instructions.

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