How to Get A Custom Drapery Look from Ready-Made Panels

How to get a custom drapery look from ready-made panels | The Chelsea Project Blog |


I’ll admit it.

Until this year, I’ve never really used ready-made drapery panels bought at a local retailer.


I usually bought fabric and sewed the panels from scratch.

But, I gotta tell ya,

last week I had an eye-opening experience.

A regular drapery epiphany of sorts……

right there….

in the isle…..

at Target.


If I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it.

But, ready-made drapery panels have come a long way.

A. Very. Long. Way.

So much so,

that with a little shopping savvy and a quick fix at home,

some of these panels can look positively custom-made.



Well……..except for the fact that the longest panels stop at 84 inches.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but wonder.

If a panel is supposed to be hung high (to the ceiling) and wide (on the wall beyond the window frame) to make the window look bigger,

why do the lengths stop at 84 inches?


Ready-made panels with lengths up to 108 inches can be ordered from online catalog stores, but what about the prices? Compared to the prices in the retail stores, prepare for major sticker shock.


For my bay window, the six panels at one of these stores would run between $600 to $1200, plus shipping, tax, clips, rods, and installation. Anybody think I could get the whole thing done for under $2,000?

I don’t know, but just looking at the math scared me.

So, I shifted my attention back to the ahhhmazing ready-made panels from Target.


In the style I chose, one unlined panel, which is 54 inches wide and 84 inches long, costs $20 plus tax. This breaks down to just a little over $8.50 per yard. Frankly, I would be hard pressed to find a better price per yard. Plus, the top and sides are already finished.

The hem will need manipulating to extend the finished length to 108 inches.

But once the hem is adjusted …. AND barring any math errors……….I’m good to go.

And, so will you.



(1)  Round up a measuring tape, calculator, pencil, and paper………or just store it all in your phone.

(2)  Measure the window and wall area you wish to cover.

Then, take some photos.

Remember, ALL of the measurements count towards the amount of fabric length and width.

(3)  Now, time to get your savvy shopping going. And, by savvy shopping, I mean label reading and number crunching like a true Type-A, drapery-designing diva.




(1)   LENGTH

So, the longest available length in the store is 84 inches. In the area I planned to use these panels, I have 9-foot ceilings and wanted floor-to-ceiling panels. Huuuum. Then I will have to add some fabric…..somewhere. But, guess what? Remember this photo?


It’ll be ok. I promise.


How a panel hangs on a rod will greatly determine how the fabric drapes down the wall. I wanted the panel to gather on a 2 or 3-inch rod, but did not want grommets or a ruffle on top. This panel was perfect. Although the exact pocket size was not given on the label, I stepped out on faith. It looked big enough.

And, voila! When gathered on my homemade rod, it fits perfectly.



Typically, the standard for gathering fabric on a rod is 2 to 2 and ½ widths of fabric over the area you wish to cover. In the photo below, two 54-inch wide panels flank a total window and wall width of 39 inches. I covered the window trim, but not the glass. I also extended the fabric into the corner of the bay (see the photo’s right side).

IMG_2302How did the numbers crunch?

54 inches times 2 (I bought one panel for each side of the window) = 108 inches of fabric width.

108 inches divided by 39 inches (total window and wall width) = 2.77 widths of fabric

A little over, but no worries. This just means that the drape will be fuller and more lux. Consider, too, that I scrunched a 54-inch wide panel onto a 9-inch rod.



For me, two things determined whether or not I would line these panels.

One, will the backs ever be seen from the outside? In this case, no. These panels will be stationary on the wall so the wrong side of the fabric will not be seen from the outside.

Two, is the fabric stiff enough to hold a pretty drape down the wall by itself? In this case, yes. This is a medium weight cotton/polyester blend gathered at 2.7 times the window area width. There is more than enough fabric to hold a nice drape.

So, in my humble opinion, there is no need to line these panels.


Remember when I said we’d circle back to the length a little later?

OK, so the panel for each side of the window is 84 inches long, but I need 108 inches of finished length floor to ceiling. This means I need to buy one extra panel, cut it to get the extra fabric, and add that fabric to each of the other two panels.

Yea. Sorry. But, no worries, it can be no-sew if you want.



(1)  Using a seam ripper, open up the hems on all three panels. It’s really easy, just pick up the thread and give it a yank.

IMG_2306(2)  Press the wrinkles from all three panels. Then, let the panels cool and even dry if damp from the steam. Note: Before pressing, test a tiny spot in a corner to make sure that the fabric can be pressed without any damage. If it passes the test, iron away, but always on the wrong side.

IMG_2307(3)  Trim away any raveling threads. If the fabric continues to ravel, trim the edges with pinking shears or apply a product called Fray-Not (…but please test first… in a non-visible spot).

IMG_2308(4)  Lay two of the panels out and remeasure the length. Then figure how much fabric needs to be added to provide a finished length of 108 inches.

Here’s how I did the math for my panels:

Have 87 and 5/8 inches = 87” (main panel) + 5/8” (for seam onto added panel)

Difference 21 inches = 108” – 87” (the 5/8” will go into the seam, not the total length)

Need to cut 25 and ¼ inches of added fabric = 21” (added length) + 5/8” (for seam onto main panel) + 3” (turn up the hem) + 5/8” (fold over the top of the hem).

Total 108 inch panel = 108 inch top to bottom + 3 and 5/8 inches turned-up hem (shown in the photo below).

IMG_2309(5)  Cut the fabric that’s to be added to the main panel and sew the pieces together using a 5/8 inch seam. If sewing isn’t your thing, bond the two pieces together using iron-on fusible bonding tape.

If sewing, remember to press the seam open. Iron the seam as flat as possible.

If using fusible bond, please follow these steps carefully.

The picture below illustrates how fusible bond works. The “right” sides are “fused” together using the tape and the heat from the iron.


Then the fabric is flipped over to hide the seam.   My concern in ironing on the tape this way is that the resulting seam may not lay flat. And, you cannot reiron bonding tape or it can lose its hold.


So here’s another option to consider.

Fold and press into place a 5/8-inch (or the width of the tape) strip. Then place the “right” sides together and iron in the bonding tape as shown in the picture below. This will work if ironing on the “right” side will not harm the fabric.


To protect the iron from getting any bonding tape on it AND to protect the drapery fabric, I use a scrap piece of very thin fabric between the two.

IMG_2313(6)  Now, go to the bottom of the fabric. Turn up a 5/8 inch piece across the fabric, ironing it into place as you go. Then turn the bottom of the fabric up again….. 3 inches…. and press in the hem.

IMG_2309(7)  ADD WEIGHTS before attaching the hem. Coins, galvanized washers, etc., anything that is flat, slightly heavy for the fabric, and won’t corrode. Weights can be added across the bottom of the hem wherever you like. I always place a weight at right and left sides of the panel.   Then add some more across the middle of the hem if the fabric isn’t holding the drape very well.

(8)  Attach the hem.  Just like the addition of the fabric piece, the hem can either be hand sewn, machine sewn, or secured using iron-on fusible bonding tape.

After the hem is completed, the drape is ready to hang. Remember to fiddle with the fabric until the gathers are even and the folds drape down the wall the way that you like.



Sounds like a lot of work, but it’s really not so bad. I finished a complete panel in less than an hour.


So……..Drapery Divas….


Are you ready?

Remember, we are here to help each other.

Please ….. ask questions and leave comments.  I’m here for you.



Until next time,

Happy decorating,


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  • Reply Laura April 15, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Great tutorial Susie! I can honestly say I have never thought of adding fabric to ready made drapes! It seems so obvious now! Total “duh” moment here!!

    • Reply thechelseaprojectblog April 15, 2015 at 2:12 pm

      Yea…I had that same light-bulb moment last week. TY so much for the kind words. Hope you will stay tuned for the full room reveal on May 2 … #30DayFlip

  • Reply Jess April 15, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Wow Susie, excellent job! You did a great job masking the seam and I love the technique you used to make it longer. Good work!

  • Reply spcountrygal April 17, 2015 at 1:44 am

    Great idea! I have also wondered why they make standard drapes so short. Will definitely be using your technique! Found you at the Weekend Retreat party.

  • Reply swatkins827 April 19, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    Great job. I didn’t even know about the fray spray. I have long windows and can never find panels long enough. 🙁 Thanks for sharing. I am also attempting to makeover my rooms in 30 days!! I’m already behind in the dining room. 🙁

  • Reply Sarah April 20, 2015 at 1:41 am

    I would never have thought to do this! Thanks for the tutorial with all of the awesome pictures! Now off to Target to get something new….

  • Reply Leslie April 21, 2015 at 12:30 am

    You did really good, I love the pattern! I’ve been wanting to make my own custom drapes but haven’t found the right colors yet.

    • Reply thechelseaprojectblog April 21, 2015 at 7:52 am

      TYSM. Keep looking… you’ll find it when you least expect it. That’s why I included some pics of this pattern in different decor styles. I would never have guessed how well it went with everything.

  • Reply melaniealexander April 22, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    A genius idea I would have never thought of! They look amazing 🙂

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  • Reply CeeGee April 29, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    Nice job! One thing you didn’t mention is that if you’re adding length to a drape, and if the pattern on the fabric is one that needs to match because of the repeat in the pattern, it can be a bit more of a difficult endeavor. 😉 The panels you used seemed to work quite well because the repeat is rather small, thus avoiding any problems with matching up the two panels.
    One can also widen panels too using basically the same method you described. However that’s where one really gets into issues if the fabric’s repeat is wide! So word of advice to sewing novices: If you’re doing this as a first time project, it may be easier to start with drapery panels that are plain fabric. 🙂

    Yes, you can get 96″ length drapery panels in some stores but you’re right, anything over that length is usually a custom order.

  • Reply Dinah Kaye Rogers April 30, 2015 at 5:42 am

    Same for me: This “Of course!” solution never occurred to me, although I’ve been frustrated by the short lengths available. This is a great idea if you’re ordering online and the length you want is either unavailable or simply out of stock. I have a question: For stationary or “dummy” panels, do you use full width rods, or a version that is the same width of the panel? On a fairly narrow or single window, it’s not such a big issue. On a very wide window wall with stationary panels, the long empty expanse of rod looks weird to me, especially if there is a center support bracket. Suggestions?

    • Reply thechelseaprojectblog April 30, 2015 at 8:12 am

      I actually made the rods these drapes are on out of furring strips and eye hooks. It’s not hard and cost about $5.00 for the entire window. If you would like a post on making them, I took photos and can write it up over the weekend. Thx for your kind words and for stopping by.

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      …oh and I thought the same thing about the long expanse of rod without a drape. Weird. That’s why I built the woodwork behind. Check out the post Board and Batten without Miters or Nails. You’ll be surprised. It’s just glued together….like paper dolls. Lol.

  • Reply mymusings236 April 30, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    Love this idea! I also bought 84″ store bought panels for my kitchen doorwall and lengthened hem. I took it a step further and used the extra panel plus one add’l panel and recovered my seat cushions and made placemats! Just found your blog today and I love it!

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      TY so much! Hope you will follow along and keep making these great comments! I had a little bit of fabric left over and made a kitchen skirt for the pantry nook. Baaaaaarrely had enough. LOL. I have a little more to finish before the main kitchen entry redo is posted. Thx again.

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