How can I revamp some plain curtains with recycled/upcycled materials?

Following on from my recent “how can I revamp a kitchen so I don’t need a new one?” question, Janet has asked a similar (smaller scale!) question about curtains:

I have ordinary plain curtains that need to look snazzy. I like the “wacky” type of design,whether it’s adding on old buttons,bits of fabric etc. Any ideas? Many thanks,Janet.

I think you’ve already got a few good ideas on there: cover the bottom quarter/third of the curtains with a strip of contrasting fabric and decorate the join with a row of buttons (mmm, buttons on curtains) – or go shabby chic with a whole row/section of buttons and misc (badges, charms, pompoms, bows, rosettes – whatever you can find). Or use scraps of old fabric and yarn to make a bunting design higher up – old patterned clothes or bedding would be fab. I’ve seen curtains that looked like they had tufts/short tassels of yarn every 15cm/6ins or so in lines down the length of them, which would be easy to replicate. Or sew on ribbon/thin strips of scrap fabric to add stripes or wiggly lines – for thicker stripes, this chevron idea is nice and I’ve seen a similar appliqué idea using strips of a design cut from old lacey net curtain. Alternatively, you could make reverse appliqué patches – cut out simple shapes and add a contrasting shape/fabric behind to peek through (reverse appliqué tutorial). A simple no-sew idea is to attach ribbon/yarn/strips of scrap fabric to each curtain ring/clip – like the idea (about a third of the way down) on this page.

If the curtains are 100% cotton, you could try dyeing them – ombre/dip dye ones would look interesting (as if all the dye from the curtains had slid down to the floor ;) ) – or if they’re too dark for that, selectively bleaching them. (Obviously do try a test patch first.) If they’re too big to be manageable in a dye bath, you could try printing onto them instead (possibly using a linocut technique or an even simpler stamp for something like polka dots — or for a fun or kid-centric room, hand prints ;) ).

How would you revamp or embellished plain curtains using recycled/upcycled stuff? What did you do? Have you got any tips or suggestions for Janet? Any non-sewing idea or ones that use alternative materials to fabric/yarn?

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5 Responses to “How can I revamp some plain curtains with recycled/upcycled materials?”

  1. Caroline says:

    How about adding pockets to them and putting in small treasures? Little cuddly toys peeping out or mysterious letters or old maps tucked in… The pockets would be easy to decorate before adding to the curtain and make a portable project to take with you.

    Odd fringes appeal to me too… do you have keys that you’ve no further use for? Or other things which would jangle when moved?

    Use old belts as tie-backs… or old necklaces… old pet’s collars / leads…

    Cut quite large slashes and then hang a second pair behind… could use ones behind that were not up to scratch in some way and make sure the slashes only showed good portions…

  2. Alexis says:

    You could weave an inkle band (no need for the loom if you don’t have one – just do a back-strap version – Laverne will show you how here and sew the strips in strategic places.

    You could also leave the curtain itself relatively un-touched, but accent it with home-made kumihimo tie backs. Use chunky wild “rope” like yarns & . . .well “rope” and you could really get creative.

    Indeed with both of these possibilities you can incorportate beads and baubles then accent the curtain by randomly sewing them onto the curtain fabric itself.

    What about tie-dyeing the curtains? It may not be possible depending on the fabric or whatever it has been treated with.

    Alternatively you could get scary. If you’ve got sheers behind the curtain. You could cut out geometric shapes, like children do with paper snowflakes, or a more planned version using arabesque geometric patterns or art Nouveau patterns. Again depending on the fabric, you might need to consider treating the cut edges.

  3. Tina says:

    I’ve done this with 2 pairs of curtains. One set was beige. I dyed them light blue, then threaded matching sets of coloured beads onto embroidery thread (cos Ihad some!) and with one single stab of the needle, attached each beaded thread to the curtain, tied it at the back et voila, dangly beads all along the top. I also embroidered the bottom with a herringbone pattern.

    The other curtain I made myself from 2 bright yellow cotton bedspreads and some lining. The curtain covers the whole wall with the front door, so it is loooong! I cut one spread & stitched it to the other to make the right size. I flipped the tassled ends over so they made a decorative feature, plus some red ribbon along the folds. Finally I lined the whole thing to hang well. Fair bit of sewing, but I didn’t have to buy anything, and it is a pretty, dramatic, draught-stopping curtain.

    have fun, use up whatever bits you have!

  4. Olia says:

    Glue on them poker chips.

  5. Allana says:

    This is really interesting. I once found a pair of turquoise plain curtains at a car boot sale then remade them up with buttons on the bottom (a range of colors and sizes) and random fabric bunting along the top using recycled fabrics! i loved them sooo much and i put them up in my living room! xoxoxoxoxoxox

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