DIY chevron painted curtains

The boyfriend and I just bought our first house, which means I’ve been slowly chipping away at my first effort at decorating something that’s my own.

The finished project

My Master Plan ™ was to use light gray accents throughout the house to bring everything together. I wanted to use a big, bold, gray and white chevron stripe somewhere in the house. So when the search for a zigzagged comforter crashed and burned, I turned to the curtains. It seemed like a simple enough pattern to find at a fabric store to make them myself. (Read: My mom offered to make them for me.) But I couldn’t find a fabric I liked.

So after some googling, I decided to make my own. It sounded scary, but several blogs have step-by-step instructions. (This one from Kristen F. Davis Designs was my main inspiration, while this tutorial on Remodelaholic gives another method.) The reviews seemed that the curtains didn’t get too stiff or awkward looking, so I gave it a whirl, and I really dig how it turned out. Check out my instructions and more photos after the jump.

What you’ll need
— Curtains
— Paint. Plain old wall paint will be fine. I picked a gray (obviously) hue in a flat finish. I did not use a paint/primer combo since I was painting on white curtains, but your color situation might warrant a primer.
— Plenty of painter’s tape
— Pen/pencil/marker/marking device
— Paintbrush
— Drop cloth
— Hobby knife
— Ruler/yardstick/measuring device

Step 1. Set up your framework/grid: I decided my chevrons would be 8 inches deep, with two chevrons per curtain. Mostly, this was because it required less measuring and less taping. I also wanted to space the stripes 8 inches apart, alternating 8 inches of gray with 8 inches of white.

My curtains had a vertical fold down the center that I used as a guide line. Next, I divided each half into a vertical quarter using a line of painter’s tape from top to bottom. The outside edges and the center fold line mark the peaks of the gray chevrons, while the two tape lines mark the low points of the gray stripes (or the peaks of the white, whichever way you look at it). Then I drew dots at 8-inch increments along each line of tape. Those dots would be the grid for taping out the chevrons — basically connecting the dots — in the next section.

The tape tricks the eye, but the sections are actually evenly spaced at 8 inches. The wider sections will be painted, and the space between them is the same depth as the painted chevrons will be.

Step 2. Tape out your chevrons: From here on out, I taped only diagonal pieces of tape to isolate the gray chevrons. Starting at the top left corner, I pressed down the tape diagonally to the first 8-inch dot on the first vertical tape guide. Then I taped from the dot diagonally up back to the top of the curtain, this time on the center fold line, and repeated with a zig and a zag across the curtain to finish the top edge of the first stripe.

For the bottom edge of the first stripe, I measured down 8 inches from the bottom of the first piece of tape on the left edge, pulled the tape down to the next 8-inch dot on the vertical guide line, and continued across the curtain.

The completed chevron pattern

The first white stripe is the tricky part. Because I wanted both the gray and white areas to be 8 inches deep, I needed to place the next line of tape inside the area that would be white. So I measured 8 inches down from the top of the last tape stripe, and placed the bottom of the tape from the left edge diagonally down to the next 8-inch dot on the vertical guide line. I was careful to place the bottom of the tape, not the top, on the dot to maintain my intervals. I also checked my work often as I went to make sure each section was the right depth, in both the gray and the white sections.

I continued taping the pattern down the rest of the curtain until it was finished and looked like the photo on the right:

Warning: Don't press too hard, or you'll slice your curtain!

Step 3. Trim your tape: I used a hobby knife to carefully slice the vertical guide line off the sections that would be painted. I left the tape on the sections that would be white so I didn’t accidentally paint the wrong spot.

Step 4. Paint! Prep your work area for painting. I did most of my painting on our third floor, which we use mostly for storage right now, so it was out of the way. But that room is carpeted, so I put flattened cardboard boxes on the floor so it would be sturdier to paint on. I did paint one curtain in a room with hardwood floors, which was far easier. Either way, don’t forget to lay down a drop cloth, because the paint will bleed through. I also taped the curtain down to the drop cloth to hold it in place better.

Taking a stretch break while painting. I recommend getting wide painter's tape -- mine was 2 inches -- so you have plenty of room for errant brushstrokes.

I got my best results from painting two thick layers with a paintbrush. My first attempt was with a small foam roller, which took far longer and didn’t coat very evenly. I let the first coat dry for a day before painting the second coat, and I let it dry for another day before removing the tape and hanging up my masterpieces!

Misc. tips:
— I’d suggest using a curtain made of relatively thick fabric, because I can’t imagine this would work very well with sheer curtains. Mine are a cotton-polyester blend that let some light in but aren’t really see-through.

— Don’t expect this to be done in a day. The first curtain will take the longest (both to tape and to paint), but I got faster with every try. By the end, I was taping one curtain in about an hour and painting one in about 90 minutes. I found it was easiest to find a rhythm and do a big batch of taping or a marathon evening of painting.

— Be careful with your hobby knife. You don’t need much pressure to cut the tape, and it didn’t take much pressure to cut into the curtain itself.

— I liked the look of thicker paint, but that might not be your thing. I hung a curtain after one coat, and when the light came through, you could see splotchy areas of thicker or thinner paint. I opted to go for a thick coat that didn’t let any light through, and I like the way it contrasts with the unpainted white areas that do let the light in.

— Buy wide painter’s tape. Although that didn’t stop me from “coloring outside the lines” in a couple of spots, so to speak.

As I mentioned, I was nervous for this project but LOVE how it turned out. What has been your favorite completed project?

Tough to photograph with sunshine streaming in, but here's what they look like during the day.

Jessica Sprenkle

At night, I'm an assistant sports editor at the York Daily Record/Sunday News. During the day, I live in and love York City.

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2 Responses

  1. Peter says:

    Wow! You make it seem so easy. I’m sure it requires a steady hand and some level of craft-ability. Not sure I’m ready to try this or not but good to know that it can be done. Maybe for the kids rooms… hmm… thanks!

  1. November 24, 2012

    [...] to plan. So I’m excited to get crafty. I haven’t done much since I made my famous chevron-striped painted curtains. My creative itch really needs to be [...]

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