Stenciled Drop Cloth Curtain Tutorial

Last winter I won a Cutting Edge stencil from a giveaway at Oak Ridge Revival and after mulling it over for a long while, eventually I decided to stencil drop cloths curtains for my dining room.
My husband’s reaction:
“Drop cloths???  In our dining room?  That you paint???  No, honey.  No.  Please?  No.”
Our dining room, even though it had come a long way with paint and a table makeover, was a blank slate desperately in need of curtains and personality.
Unfortunately, after almost two years of renovating, the budget for giving my house personality was hovering on empty, so I had to find a lot of bang for my buck.
Enter drop cloths, my newly won, fabulously chic Zamira stencil, and the motivation of hosting Easter (and 5 months after Easter, they are finally done!)
Mark’s reaction:
“I never should have doubted you, honey.  You are always right and I’m the luckiest man alive to be married to you.  Do you want a foot massage?”
Okay, okay, he didn’t say that exactly – but he did say something along the lines of
“They look great!  You can’t even tell they’re drop cloths.”
Why drop cloths?
They are crazy inexpensive.
A typical window panel is around 54″ wide and usually comes in varying lengths – 84″, 96″, 108″ etc.  
9’x12′ dropcloths (108″x144″) are the perfect starting point for this project, because divided by it’s width, each cloth yields two 54″-wide panels, and the length can be customized.  
I bought my drop cloths at both Lowes and Walmart for around $20 each, equalling $10 each curtain panel.
Drop cloths are 100% cotton canvas, are a natural oatmeal color that works perfectly in my house, and have a bit of texture that I like.
(Note:  drop cloths come in various ounces, meaning the weight of the fabric.  I used 8 oz. drop cloths (the less expensive version).

Part One:  The Stenciling
Supplies:
1) something to protect your work surface (not to be confused with #2!)
2) drop cloths, which serve as your fabric
3) painter’s tape
4) foam roller
5)  paint.  I used leftover latex wall paint from my garage
6) textile medium  *optional
a note on textile medium:  this is found at craft stores like Michael’s, and when added to paint, allows the fabric to remain flexible and washable.  I used it on half my panels, ran out, and finished the other panels without it, and they came out almost identical in texture and stiffness to the panels with textile medium.  for this application on drop cloths I don’t think textile medium is necessary, but I imagine on other kinds of fabric it would be necessary.

Make sure you put something under your panel before you paint because the paint will seep through the curtain panel.  Because I have rolls and rolls of black craft paper from my picture framing days, I used sheets of it to protect my floors (but hit a snag with this underlayment, as you will see).  
Even better – use large trash bags cut open, a cheap plastic tablecloth, or – crazy idea – a fabric drop cloth, used as an actual drop cloth :)

A garage floor, driveway or even your kitchen table will work great if you don’t have the floorspace for this project.  I used my dining room table, covered in trash bags, for touching up the panels.

Use painter’s tape to keep the stencil in place on the panel.  Place the roller in the paint, then roll off the excess on another paper plate before applying to the fabric.  Then move the stencil down and roll.  Move and roll.  Move and roll.  Rove and moll.  Moll and rove.

As soon as I was done with a panel, I would hang it up using rings with clips.  This freed up my workspace for another panel and allowed the paint to dry overnight.

One down, three more to go.

Whatever you do, DON’T leave your freshly painted curtain on top of craft paper and go to bed because it’s 2 in the morning and you can’t keep your eyes open another moment, or you will end up with this:  paint that has dried onto the craft paper on the back of your lovely curtain.  So sad!!
(Thankfully the drop cloth fabric is so heavy that you can’t see these black stuck-on bits of paper even when the panel is hung in the window.)

Part Two:  The Lining
I wasn’t even going to line these panels because I like the way the light came through them giving them a burnout affect, but my mother suggested lining to help them hang well and look more “professional” (if that is even possible when we’re talking about painted drop cloths serving as window treatments!)
**If you are a proper seamstress, now would be a good time to look away.**
Remember how I’m not much of a sewer? 
To line the panels, I looked for inexpensive white king sheets with a nice weight, and cut them in half.  
I could have purchased cheap white liner fabric at Joann’s but the halved sheets have the finished edge that serves as the bottom hem.
I laid the sheet on the back of the panel with a two inch allowance, folded the panel over twice for a nice clean finished looking edge, and ironed this edge with no-sew hem tape.
I think the finished edge and lining look perfectly fine.  You’d never know they weren’t sewn together properly. 

To “hem” the raw edge on the top of the panels, I folded the curtain and lining over together twice, ironed a stiff crease, and clipped them to the rings.  (Take your “hems” into consideration when cutting the drop cloths – you will need a few inches at the top to fold over and clip.)

The lining adds so much structure and weight to the panels – I truly can’t even believe how beautifully they hang!

Did I mention ironing???  This is a hugely important step to a pretty finished product. 
The drop cloths require a serious amount of ironing.  I would highly recommend washing your panels first to get the creases out, but remember that they are 100% cotton so be careful with your drying time, lest they shrink.  Even if you wash the panels, I think ironing them before hanging helps them to hang nicely and gives them a more finished look.
Part Three: Hanging The Curtains
A few of you have been curious about how the panels are hung.

We have two bay windows in our dining room and one of them meets the adjoining walls in this awkward way.  There is also a built in cabinet under this window just to complicate matters.  I could have used roman shades in this room but I really love the look of full-length panels, and this room needed some major softening with fabric.

Hanging the curtains on knobs made it possible for the curtains to “bend” around this space.  From most angles in the room these curtains look perfectly straight like the other window:
(this panel needs one more knob so it hangs a little fuller)

If you are sitting on the window sill you can see how the panel is leaning against the cabinet. 
This doesn’t bother me at all – I rather like it for some reason.

The Hardware:


I retrofitted common cabinet knobs (1), sold in a party pack at Target, with these hanger bolts from Lowes (2).  One side of the hanger bolt screws into the knob (3) , and the other side screws into the wall (4).  For some reason a couple of the hanger bolts would not screw into the knobs very far, but even if it just made a couple of turns, they are joined nice and tight.

To hang curtains on knobs, a level is a must.  Lightly draw a line using the level as your guide, then measure, mark and drill evenly spaced pilot holes for the knobs.  Erase pencil marks and then screw knobs into the pilot holes.

Attach the clip rings to the curtain panels, hang the rings on the knobs and voila!
Phew!  
Time to go take a nap.


The Girl Creative
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