Friday, October 16, 2015

How to Lengthen Store-Bought Panels

I usually can find pre-fab window panels that I like, my problem is that they are never long enough.  The standard 84" barely covers the window if you hang the pole right above the casings, and that's a no-no these days.  To add some height to your room you want to hang the pole as high as you can, within inches of the ceiling where possible.  That's not 84". 

What to do, what to do?  Custom window treatments can break the bank but there are ways to take store bought window panels and bring some life to them, making them custom for a fraction of the cost.  If you're looking for a no-sew alternative, sorry, this is not it.  I sew, that makes it too easy to spend the extra time (it's probably not a whole lot of extra time) and do it right.  Well, not right, that's not the best choice of words, but I don't do no-sew. 

BTW, this is the perfect thrift store find, there's always lots of window panels and it'd be so easy and inexpensive to grab a pair and make them your own.  For my top 10 Items to Grab for Unique Home Decor subscribe to my Postcard Cheat Sheet Series, today's postcard is entitled Thrift Store Gold.

Anyhow, let's get started.  This set of window panels is for an office, a company called Fusion Gates, they make gorgeous pet gates that you can customize for your home, with interchangeable decorative panels, very cool stuff!

I started with two window panels that are 63" in length.  My wall is 9' high and the goal is to hang the rod as high as possible and reach the panels all the way to the ceiling.  I'm needing a lot more fabric to do that.  I found a coordinating fabric and bought enough to make it work (3yds or so).  I began to deconstruct the store bought panels.  Taking out the top hem  as shown in the picture below.
This is the top hem.

Every panel set that I play with is slightly different in how I approach the deconstruction and then putting it all together.  This one I chose to leave the side hems intact and work with what I have.  Normally, especially if they're wider, I will take them out and use them to wrap around the front of the lining (I'll explain that a little more when we get to the lining stage) but for now, I took out the bottom hem and only enough of the side hem to sew around it when attaching my new fabric (a couple inches is good).
This is the bottom hem and a small portion of the side hem released.

So far we've taken out the top and bottom hems with only a few inches of the side hems being disturbed.  Now, it's time to add our new fabric.  9' is what I'm wanting to cover.  After taking out the bottom hem on my store bought panels I've got 66" of usable fabric.  Take 108" (9')- 66" and I still need 42" of fabric + seam allowances.  To make it easy on myself I simply took my 3 yds of fabric and cut it in half.  Normally you'd add roughly 5" for a bottom seam and another 1/2" for the seam to attach the two fabrics but this was easier for me.  Put your fabrics front side together, face to face and stitch using a 1/2"seam allowance.  I usually do a double seam here just because of all the weight hanging downwards and because one of these fabrics tends to unravel easily.   One will suffice for most panels, especially if they're just for decoration and not going to be pulled on a lot (opened and closed).
Add your accent fabric to the top or bottom of your store bought panel.  In our case we're adding to the bottom.
I also turned the raw edges in on themselves and stitched them together with a zig-zag stitch, just to clean it up.  Not a necessary step but it looks much nicer (you're not going to see it when the lining gets attached, but again, the yellow fabric tends to unravel so I thought it best to clean it up).

I turned them as I went, I started by pinning them but it just unraveled anyhow, save yourself the step.
So, we've got our fabrics sewn together and we're ready to fix our side seams.  I ran a stitch along the edge on both sides of my yellow fabric.  Again, the unraveling of the fabric drives me nutty.  Remember, we left most of our original panel's side hems in tact, so we are concentrating on the connection area of the two fabrics and the new fabric's side seams.  Here we go.

I tend to use the original seam as a guide and fold up the new fabric to follow suit.  That gives me the width that I'll need to turn up the rest of the length of yellow fabric.  I use the ironing board and the iron for this and steam  the seam down.  I will then tuck it under one more time for a nice finished look.  Notice, the two seams do not line up.  Now, if I were making these from scratch I would never do that but when joining two pieces I just go with what I've got.  It will be hidden by lining from the back and you'll barely notice anything from the front. 

Here it is, ready to stitch. I also fold down the corner where they meet so its tacked down nice and neat.  Now, when you go to stitch it do it in stages.  Do all the seams needing black thread, then switch threads out and do all the seams needing yellow.  Snip all your threads.

Here it is from the front, not stitched yet but ready to go.

 Once it's sewn you're ready to add the lining.  I did this a little different than normal as well.  I am not hemming these before they are hung.  I am not sure what rod they are using or if they'll be hung from clips or cased on the rod.  Nor do I know what the window or ceiling looks like, is it vaulted, any other weird angles, etc.  So, no hem.  It's easier to take my supplies and hem it in place than it is to take out a hem that is wrong and have to redo it.  So, no hem and we're moving on to the lining. 

Remember 9', 108" is the length we need.  I did the same thing as I did with the yellow.  I bought 6 yards and cut it in half.  No measuring involved.

Lay out the front panel, face down and lay out the lining, face up (so back sides will be together).  If you remember from the very beginning we took out the top seam, you're going to start the lining roughly an inch up under that seam and straighten it out down the length of your panel.  Pin the top seam and turn under the sides, pinning to the front fabric.  This is a deviation from the norm, rarely do I do it this way but the side seams were very small on the store bought panels and I'm not willing to give up any width.  Normally I would turn the front fabric over onto the lining and tack it around the back by hand for the side seams and I'd have an extra 5" of lining for a hem at the bottom.  That looks really, really nice.  This time calls for a different approach.  I simply turned the lining under and pinned it around the edges, over the top of the seam already visible on the store bought panels.

This next picture gives you a good idea of what I'm talking about.  At the bottom of the picture is the top of the panel, with the lining neatly tucked up under the edge of the front fabric and you can see how I've tucked the lining and pinned near the edge over the top of the face fabric on the side seams.  Once you've got everything pinned just sew a straight stitch at the sides and top, leaving about six inches along the bottom side for hemming.  Again, be sure to change out your threads as needed to match what you're sewing.
Where are we now?  All that's left is your hem.  Under normal circumstances I would have seen the space, measured the window and known exactly what I was doing.  That was not the case for this project.  With that in mind, I chose to hem after I got them hung.  So, hang your rod.  In this case we hung it right below the ceiling, roughly 1 1/2".  Makes it difficult to get the rod in but looks great.  After hanging I go along the bottom and add pins where the fabric meets the floor, then iron along the pin line and tuck under.  If I'm doing it at home in the comfort of my working space I'd turn 1", 2", then another 2" for a nice heavy, even hem.  I slipstitched it to the lining fabric (which I didn't hem, another variation from the norm for this project).  I avoided grabbing the front fabric with my slip stitch.  The fabric will give a little when hanging so if you machine stitch or catch the front with your slipstitch you'll see that, not a good look.   
Again, I deviated from the norm.  Usually I will not attach the lining and the front fabric at the bottom, I'll let them hang separately.  This time I didn't trust this yellow fabric (due to its wanting to unravel) so I changed it up.  It probably would have been fine though.

 Here they are all done.  They need to hang a little bit to work out the kinks.  They turned out fabulous. 

 So, next time you fall in love with store bought panels and they're not long enough, don't pass them by.  Grab them.  It's easy enough to add some fabric on the top, bottom, or even in the middle to jazz them up and make them your own.

There's always quite a selection of window panels at your local thrift store for next to nothing.  Grab them and find yourself a coordinating fabric and start designing your custom new window treatments.  For my top 10 Items to Grab for Unique Home Decor subscribe to my Postcard Cheat Sheet Series, today's postcard is entitled Thrift Store Gold.

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