Tuesday, March 25, 2014

DIY Tutorial: Black Out Stenciled Wall Curtains

I have been making curtains for various rooms in my house for the three years that we have owned our house and this time I decided that I would write my own tutorial.  This time I am making curtains for my soon-to-be-born nephew's nursery.  I started by collecting supplies.  My sister wants an insect theme.  I started by scouring fabric stores whenever I was there for anything with insects.  I knew she wouldn't want A Bug's Life stuff or anything too cutesy and I was really coming up against a wall, until the internet search began and I found this fabric, which I promptly ordered and am in love with.  It is essentially primary colors and the insects are kid-friendly looking, while not being overly cutesy.  My little nephew will be able to grow into this fabric (which I am also using to sew a quilt for him).
Here is the link to the internet site that I ordered this from: http://www.loomshowroom.com/shop/Printed-and-Theme-Fabrics/Bees--Butterflies--Bugs---Insects-of-all-sorts/p/Bug-Beetle-Insect-Jone-Inc-Cotton-Fabric-Quilt-Fabric-CR399.htm.
The next stroke of genius I had was a visit to my extremely crafty friend's house.  She had recently made curtains for her new baby girl's room and used...a wall stencil.  I have been wanting to purchase a wall stencil for myself, but it felt so decadent.  Now I had a reason and this would make the money all worth it.  I found this wall stencil at Etsy and it arrived in the mail in about a week.
Here is the link to this lady's Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/listing/103330989/modern-wall-stencil?ref=shop_home_active_11.  She has all kinds of awesome wall stencils.  Her stencils come with excellent instructions as well.
Next, I had by broski measure the windows.  If it was me (I am notorious for mismeasuring things) I would have measured and then remeasured and then remeasured and then probably asked my husband to help me measure one more time.  When all was said and done I had a length and width measurement.  I bought blackout fabric that was 15" longer than the length measurement and about 7" wider than the width measurement - I need to account for hems and I want these curtains to extend beyond the sides and top and bottom of the window a little bit so that my sweet little nepher can get a restful nights sleep and my hard-working sister can go change the world without being exhausted.
I phoned my friend and asked for some advice, as well as read a few blogs about stenciling, and then compiled my supplies:

- my wall stencil
- a high density foam roller (from the local hardware store)
- a drop cloth
- baby wipes (this was on advice from my friend and various blogs - it is used to wipe the back of the stencil to avoid bleeding)
- a ruler
- fabric marking pen
- scissors
- pins
- fabric
- paint (I just bought a sample from the hardware store for the main color and youngest sister left some here from a previous project - again samples)
- a paper plate to get extra paint off on
- blackout fabric
- theme fabric - I am going to use this for a highlight on the curtain
- extra fabric liner - I am really nervous about this stencilling thing and am going to use this scrap fabric that I had from a previous project just to give it a try - and then I will put it in the kid;s playhouse
- curtain grommets - for the blackout fabric my sister is going to have to use a rod, but I have some extra curtain grommets and I am going to use those for the sample curtain that will be going in the playhouse
- sewing machine
- iron
- ironing board

I am doing two panels for a rather large window.  I got my fabric home and I cut it.  I lined the edges up VERY carefully and then just folded it in half (I had asked the fabric store to cut the blackout fabric twice my length measurement for the two panels) and then I cut it.  I have also used a quilting board, measurement and roller cutter thing in the past, but this time I simply used scissors.

Next, I got out my fabric marker and I marked all of the folds that I was going to iron.  Blackout fabric as two sides: one that is kinda plasticky (I am using this as the back) and one with a bit more of a fabric texture (this will be the front of my curtains.  I made all of my marks on the back, so that when I folded, they would be sewn into the folds and disappear.  My ink is supposed to go away eventually anyhow, but I thought this was a wise precaution.  Why?  I have done this many times before and the perfectionist in me finds that I often end up drifting a tad in the width of my folds without some guidance.  Plus, blackout fabric is not very forgiving and I knew that mistakes would show more on this thick fabric.  
My side measurements were 1/2" and then 1".  The same on both sides.

My top measurements were 1/2" and then 3" - I like a rather large curtain pocket.

My bottom measurements were 1/2" and then 5" - I like a little heft to the bottom portion so that my curtains hang well.

I marked all of these before I started to iron or sew.  I should mention that I did my sample curtain at the same time, but I didn't do any markings on that one.  I was very grateful for these markings later as I was sewing - with this large of curtains they really did help me to keep all of my folds precise.
Then I started the tedious job of ironing and sewing.  I was super excited about the stencil, so I had to force myself to be rather meticulous and not rush to get to the stencil part.
On the sides I folded it over 1/2" and then pressed with an iron, then I folded it another 1" and pressed again.  A note on ironing blackout fabric: I found that if I left the iron on the fabric for long at all, I ended up with warped fabric, so I was quick and I also only ironed the fold - making sure to keep the iron from hanging over onto the fabric panel.  I pinned as I ironed - a pin about every 4-6".

I sewed the edges about 1/8" away from where the edge was folded onto the back.  On my blackout curtain I used green thread - I just wanted my colors to pop and I have a seam idea for later.  On the sample one I used a matching thread so that it would blend in.

A note on sewing the side seams: you can choose to back-stitch (this means stitching backwards at least once) or not on theses, as they will not unravel and will be hidden inside the top and bottom seams.
Next, it was back to the ironing board.  For my blackout shades I ironed and pinned the bottom only.  For the sample shades I did the bottom and top.

At this point, I was very grateful for the markings I had made earlier and I did feel that they helped a lot.  On my sample I just eyeballed it and used a ruler - those turned out well too, but the marks on the blackout shades made the whole process very quick.
I made extra certain on the top part of the curtains I am trying to use grommets with that there were only two layers of fabric - the last time that I attempted grommets was with thicker fabric and a liner and the grommets really did not punch through easily.

I also folded the seam under - see the picture below - to hide any unsightly fraying.

Next, sewing.  I have used blind hem stitches in the past on this part- it makes it so that the stitch is hardly visible on the front, but for this particular project I did a normal stitch and kept it about 1/8" away from the seam again.  I made certain to back-stitch these, as fraying will be much more likely in this instance and the stitch will not be folded and hidden later.
I was SO excited - it was like I made it to recess.  I get to play with my new stencil and paint now.  I did the sample one first, just to get used to the technique.  I started by ironing it out - I just assumed this would help the paint application process to go more smoothly.
Next, I set up my work space.  I laid out a drop cloth, had baby wipes on hand for the messes that were about to ensue, had a paint tray and my foam roller and then the two colors of blue that I was planning to use.  I taped the stencil into place.  I covered some of the holes over with tape - I'm going to go back and do those in a different shade of green afterwards.  I had been told that the roller should look dry, but be the color you are painting with - in this case green, so I made certain to dab it off really well.

Then, I started to paint, my friend told me that she did not find it necessary to tape the stencil for this step, but I taped just to avoid any movement.  I randomly taped off a section of the stencil each time that I moved it - I did change this each time to get a random pattern.  I lined my stencil up with the edge of the panel to get it straight.  I laid down the first stencil.
I worked from side to side and overlapped with the previous column to keep it all straight.  I made certain to clean the back of the stencil every two applications on the sample project and then on the final one I cleaned it with a baby wipe every time on the real project.
I have kids and had to take a break in the middle of the project, so I wrapped by roller in saran wrap to keep it moist until we got back from the kid's birthday party I was obligated to.

This is what my sample one looked like after my first coat of paint.  I am going to let it dry and then come back to it tomorrow to add the lighter green where I have holes.  While that is drying, I am going to prep the blackout fabric.  It would be most fair to mention here that the paint did bleed through a bit to the back of these - they were just liner fabric, not blackout.  I am hoping that it wont bleed through on the blackout fabric.

I want some of the bug fabric on the top of the curtains and so I want to leave the 3.5" of rod pocket space + 10" for a bug fabric accent space free from stencil.  I measured (on the right side - the fabric side) 13.5" and then put blue painter's tape down.  I am not positive this will work, but I guess that it is worth a try and it seemed to work pretty well on my sample in the spots that I left blank.  I am planning to paint these curtains blue as the primary color and then add pops of some of the other primary colors that are found in my bug print fabric.
As soon as I had finished painting the upper portion, I removed the painter's tape - thinking that painting fabric was probably just like painting walls and I should remove it ASAP to avoid bleeding.  Worked like a charm.
I was really anal with this curtain and I cleaned the back of my stencil after each use or two with a baby wipe and a towel to dry it a bit.  This was tedious, but it helped the lines to be much more precise.

There was no bleeding through with the blackout drapes.  I am about to hit the hay and I am going to add my little pops of color tomorrow.  Here is what my blackout drapes looked like as the dried:

I added the pops of color by carefully taping off one section and then doing one color at at time - kinda at random until all of the empty spaces were filled.  I felt confident enough at this point to start with my final project:
With the green added:
With the yellow:
With orange and red:

I added the second shade of green to the playhouse/sample curtains:

Another night of drying.
My curtains for the playhouse are done.  I could easily leave the blackout curtains with a white top or have extended by stencil all the way to the top, but I really want some of that bug fabric on there.  First I measured.  I cut my bug fabric to the same width as the curtain fabric before it was ironed and sewed on the sides.  Then I cut it again, the same length as white portion of the curtain top.

Now, ironing.  I folded over 1" on the top and bottom and then pressed.  I did the same folds on one of the sides as the curtain required: 1/2" and then 1".  I left one side unpressed.  Then, I placed this onto the curtains and pinned it all very carefully in place.
I folded the pressed side under the curtain, so that the fabric wrapped around the curtain sides.  
I lined the bottom of my panel up very carefully with the top line of the stencil.
I sewed this into place.  I sewed 1/8" away from the edge of the bug fabric all around.
My five year old discovered my camera and started to photograph my efforts.  Here is an action shot:

Remember: that on these drapes, I didn't finish the top edges.  You are about to see why.
Next, I ironed the final side so that it fit perfectly around the other edge of the curtain.
Time for the final ironing: I folded down the top edge, ironed, and pinned.

I brought it over to the sewing machine, one last seam and DONE. 

I am in love.  My five-year-old wants to keep them, but these are for my little nephew, who is on the way.  I should mention that these curtains are not for this window, they are made to fit a window in my sister's house.  This window is much longer than the window at her house.  The idea is that at her house the curtains will hang down past the bottom of the window.
Here are another set of curtains that I made as well - these one were my test-run ones and are for the kids playhouse.  I finished them off at the top with grommets from JoAnns.  They are awesome as well:


  1. Great job, Roselyn! I'm sure your nephew will love it. I do love that wall stencil effect on your fabric. I think it's a great pattern, which really deserves the repetition that you did because the shapes are great without looking overly tacky. I also love the idea regarding the insect. Haha! Great job! :D

    Taylor Allen @ Sunburst Shutters Arizona

  2. wow! I love this ^^ thanks for the awesome:)..! I appreciate all the work you put into this site specially elephant, helping out others with your fun and creative works.
    childrens bedroom furnishings

  3. I have been making curtains for various rooms in my house for the three years that we have owned our house and this time I decided that I ... bblackoutcurtains.blogspot.com