Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Simple Valances

I love the "mistreatment" trend.  If you haven't heard of mistreatments, they are basically no-sew window treatments and some of them are really quite clever.

Thankfully, I can sew a little.  And my living room has been making me itchy.  Brew a cup of coffee and make a sandwich.  This is a l-o-n-g post.

A - Wall color (Olive Grove by Sherwin Williams)
B - Lampshades
C - Fireplace surround tile
D - Sofa & Loveseat
E - Valace (fabric from Joann)
F - Area Rug
G - Throw pillows (fabric from Joann)
H - Wall color from adjoing foyer (White Raisin by Sherwin Williams)

Here's the low-down on my decorating problems:
1. The fireplace surround is blue tile. As I've mentioned before, our house was built in 1993 when jewel tones ruled.
2. Our sofa and loveseat are also blue. They looked great in our FIRST house which featured a 20 foot knotty pine cathedral ceiling, a chunky limestone fireplace and a blue accent wall. It was kind of a cabin look.
3. About two years ago, during the height of the "Earthtone Browns Era," I decided to ditch the enormous, jewel-tone, multi-layered, faded floral swag that the previous owners left behind. Seeing that our uber-traditional house wasn't going to transform into brown-chic without major investment, I did the next best thing. Painted. I used Sherwin Williams's Olive Grove in an attempt to move away from the blueness of the room. Olive Grove turned out to be darker than expected. Not happy.
4. So I bought a red rug that included same green tones to brighten the room. And our existing yellowish lamp shades looked good with it. I recovered the toss pillows for the sofa in a red fabric.
5. And I still wasn't happy.
6. Fast-forward to 2010. Now, blue is EVERYWHERE. Mr. Tallgrass is frowning on repainting again (even though I'd be the one repainting it). And there's a fair amount of $$$ invested in the huge RED area rug
I turned to the windows as my last resort since they hadn't been touched since I pulled down the old swag and had 2.5" white blinds installed. I found a great print that I thought would FINALLY tie the room together.
Since the spousal unit is grumbling about putting anything on the windows, I figured I would keep it simple.  And simple it was.

If you can draw a straight line, cut a straight line and sew a straight line, you can make this simple valance too.  Here's what you'll need:

A. Enough fabric for your window(s).  I'll be calling this the feature fabric.
B. Same amount of drape liner.  This stuff is what separates the men from the boys, so don't skip it.  It's not expensive and it's often on sale at 50% off.
C. Fusible interfacing.  I use Decor Bond.  You'll need enough to cover the width of your window.
D.  You can save yourself a lot of time if you have a rotary cutter, a straight edge and a self-healing mat.  Other than trimming the interfacing in Step 9, I didn't use scissors to cut any of the material.

1. Measure your window and determine how wide you want your valance to be.  I have a bay window in the living room, so this example is for a valance I want to be 30" wide to fit one of the smaller windows.  It will be 20" long at its tip.

2. I added 7" to this measurement to accommodate the side returns.  Divide this number in half.  That's 18.5" for the mathematically challenged.  :-)
3.  Usually decorator fabric is 54" wide.  I folded it in half, matching the selvaged ends, then cut a little off the end with a straight edge to ensure I was starting with an even edge.

4.  Keep the fabric folded in half.  Measure 23" and cut straight across.

Keep the fabric folded.  Since my magic number from Step 2 is 18.5 inches, I measure 18.5" from the FOLD and cut a straight edge.

5.  Don't unfold the fabric yet.  Measure 6.5 inches from the bottom on the loose end and make a small mark on the edge of the fabric.  Using a yard stick* I line up this mark with the bottom of the opposite (i.e. folded) side and draw a line to connect the two points and trim along this line.

*I recommend investing in a METAL yard stick.  The first time I tried to make a window treatment, I used a wooden yard stick.  Who would have thought that it wouldn't have a truly straight edge!  Save yourself the drama and headache and invest in a metal yard stick that won't warp.

6.  Repeat the same process on the liner fabric.

7.  From the Decor Bond, cut a piece that is 14" tall and as wide as the FIRST number from Step 2.  So my piece of Decor Bond is 14" tall and 37" wide.

8. Fuse the Decor Bond to the wrong side of the pointed end of feature fabric by following the manufacturer's instructions.  I like to fold the Decor Bond in half before I start this process as the center crease helps me line up the Decor Bond with the pointed end of the feature fabric.

9.  Trim the excess Decor Bond from the feature fabric.

10.  Pin the feature fabric to the drape liner, right sides facing each other.  I'm not a great seamstress.  No matter how well I pin, the two pieces of fabric are never even at the end of a long seam.  So, rather than starting at the top and stitching all the way around, I like to start AT THE POINT.  With a light pencil, I draw a one inch line along the crease that I made in Step 8 so I know where to start.  Using a 1/2" seam allowance*, sew from the center point to the end.  Repeat on the other side.  By starting in the center, I'm ensured to have a crisp point.

*My sewing machine's mark for the 1/2" seam allowance is tiny, so I use blue painter's tape to mark it more clearly.

11.  Trim the excess from the three corners along the bottom, taking care not to cut through the stitches.

12.  Turn the valance right side out and carefully push out the corners.  These aren't tight angles, but if you are having trouble pushing out the corners, a wooden chopstick works great.

13. I like to finger press the seams before flattening them with an iron.

14.  Zig-zag stitch the top closed.  Yeah, I'm a lousy zig-zagger.

OK, this is where the project gets a little shady.  Call me commitment-phobic, but I HATE drilling holes in my walls.  Usually valance patterns call for you to staple the valance on a 1x3 piece of lumber and then it's anchored on the wall with brackets.  I've got a piece of fabric that weighs about as much as a man's t-shirt and I'm going to have to drill drywall anchors into the wall?  I don't think so!  My final outcome will simply perch on top of the existing blind valance and gravity and friction will do the rest.

DISCLAIMERS:  1) These valances are going in a room with a 9 foot ceilings, so the top is about 8 feet from the floor.  And there is a loveseat under the windows.  Not much chance they'll be bumped.  2) We do not have children.  I do not recommend using the following technique in the bedroom of a rambunctious four year old.  3) We do not live in an earthquake prone area.  4) Our windows are tall and open from the bottom (if we can get them to open at all since they like to stick), so this may not be appropriate if you have casement windows.

USE YOUR BEST JUDGMENT.  If in doubt, attach the valance to a 1x3 and mount the sucker to the wall with L brackets and drywall anchors.

15.  MY WAY:  Rather than using a 1x3 piece of lumber, I cut two pieces of foam core board that are 3 inches by 30 inches.  Remember that 30" is the width of my finished valance.  Tape the two pieces of foam board together for added stability.  Foam core board is 30" long.  For the larger, 42" window, I just spliced two pieces together, making sure that I offset the cut ends for stability.

16. Center the valance on the foam board.  Using a heavy duty stapler, attach the valance to the foam board.  DO NOT DO THIS ON A SURFACE THAT COULD BE DAMAGED BY THE STAPLE POKING THROUGH ON THE OTHER SIDE.  Like a dining room table.  (For the record, NO furniture was marred during this project).  My staples just barely poked through, so I just tapped the points gently with a hammer.

17.  Wrap the return around the short end of the foam board and carefully staple as close to the end as possible.  Fold the excess onto the top and staple again.

18.  At this stage, the returns have "wings" at the bottom.  I measure 3" at the bottom and finger press along the side to coach the fabric into a nice even edge.  When I'm happy with it, I use an iron to press the crease.  Repeat on the other side.

19.  Place finished valance on top of the blinds.  The returns should fit snugly around the top of the blinds.

And I'm not itching to paint anymore!

Final Note: Astute eyes might notice that the angle is not quite the same on the big center window as the smaller side windows.  I was concerned about this too. 

And I got a B+ in high school Geometry.  Twenty-one years ago.

I made the largest valance first, which was 42" wide finished.  I followed the same formula on the smaller ones, measuring 6.5" up on each side for the angle cut.  Afterwards, I thought maybe I should have just started the small valance by making another large one and then trim it to 37" wide so the angles would be the same.  I sat on the sofa a long time studying it.  Then I realized that if I made the ANGLES the same, the SIDES won't line up.  That's not good.

I'm sure there's some theorem or formula for this that I've forgotten.  Probably forgot it twenty years ago.

Maybe I'll find a use for algebra today.

I'm linkin' up...


  1. Not understanding. How did you get them to stay up on the wall?

  2. The valances are just resting on the blinds. The blinds are mounted to the window frames and they stick out about 3 inches from the window. The valances neatly rest on top of the blinds.


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