If you’ve ever looked into the cost of curtains, you know that they can be expensive. And since most rooms require more than just one curtain, updating window treatments can end up being quite a costly change. Enter: drop cloth curtains. Using pre-cut, pre-hemmed canvas from your nearest hardware store, you can get chic, crisp, linen-looking curtains at a fraction of the cost. They come in at about $13 per panel (including drapery hooks), are easily washed, and the length is totally adjustable.
Finding new curtains for our living room is a task I’ve been putting off since we moved in… almost a whole year ago.
Our old curtains
The curtains that we’ve had hanging in this room were left by the previous tenants. When I first saw them, I thought they were cheap sheets from Walmart that someone had fashioned into a curtain (not the worst idea!). They were actually curtains though — From Ikea!
These bad boys have been good to us. I liked that they were slightly sheer, so you could have them closed and still see the outside. But there were a number of reasons I wanted to replace them.
First, they became too short.
Let me tell you why… Ikea makes their curtain panels really long, which is most definitely better than making them too short. However, the previous tenants had cut them and didn’t hem them (I guess dudes in their mid-twenties aren’t into hemming their curtains). When we moved in, they were about 8″ too long and fraying like nobody’s business. Having heard a horror story from our vet about a cat dying from eating string, and wanting to be a responsible pet owner, I just gave them a fresh cut. I didn’t want to spend time sewing curtains that I knew I wanted to replace, so anytime I saw fraying, I grabbed my scissors and snipped a couple inches off. Over the course of a year, they started getting pretty short. And they were all different lengths.
Second, we don’t have air conditioning. I am a person who literally cannot handle the heat. I once read that a good way to keep your house cool(ish) without AC is to have heavy curtains that you keep closed during the day. This prevents your lovely natural light-filled room from becoming a greenhouse and making you melt/turn into a mean person. I was willing to try anything, and heavier curtains seemed easier than moving.
So, I started looking into buying new curtains.
…And they were quickly added to the very long list of things I had never realized were so expensive. Along with furniture, health insurance, steak, and many, many others.
Drop cloth curtains
I love the look of linen panels (like this), but they cost a whopping $110 per panel. We have five windows in our living room, which is probably my favorite thing about it, but there was no way I was going to spend $550+ to replace curtains. I was prepared to snip the panels all the way to the curtain rod before spending that kind of money. I also didn’t want to spend any money on a cheap/low-quality replacement that I didn’t like.
So close to a year passed while I avoided deciding between spending way too much money, and spending a decent amount of money on cheap curtains I probably wouldn’t like. And then I stumbled upon drop cloth curtains. Not only does canvas drop cloth look like the crisp linen that I love, it costs about an 11th of the price. And it requires no sewing to get to the length you want. As a renter, I love this. When we move, I can take my drop cloth curtains with me and use them on new windows!
Step 1: Get some drop cloth
The drop cloths I chose came from Home Depot (here), and cost $11 per panel. They are the perfect size to be curtains and already have sewn edges. No cutting, no sewing; all you have to do is hang them.
Step 2: Wash drop cloth
When I opened drop cloths up and unfolded them, I was surprised by how big they were. They also smelled very factory-esque so I decided they could use a wash. Cold water, and high heat to dry because I wanted them to shrink just a smidgen. I can’t tell whether or not they did, so if you are worried about shrinkage, I don’t think it’s too big of a concern.
Step 3: Iron drop cloth (completely optional and avoidable!)
I ran out of steam after taking my drop cloths out of the dryer, so they stayed in a basket for a while. I had underestimated canvas’s ability to crease and, unfortunately, made a lot more work for myself because the drop cloths had to be ironed. I think if you were to promptly remove your curtains from the dryer and hang them, they would have that casual, tussled look and not the I’ve-been-sitting-in-a-laundry-basket-for-a-week look.
Step 4: Decide on length of curtains and fold drop cloth accordingly
By far the hardest thing about hanging curtains is figuring out what length they should be. I found this article super helpful, but honestly, I think no matter what it just takes some trial and error to figure out what look you like. And thankfully, with these curtains you never have to fully commit to a length.
For my first couple of panels, I made the mistake of measuring the length of the ruffle instead of the length of the curtain. As it turns out, the drop cloth manufacturer isn’t too precise when cutting canvas, so the sizes do vary slightly. This is really easy to tell when your curtains are all different lengths, but I don’t think it’s noticeable for the ruffle length to be an inch or two off.
My method for measuring was to use our geometric rug. I figured out what part of the pattern to line the bottom of the drop cloth up with (top of those points), then folded the top over at the top of the rug, and clipped my clips at the fold. It was SO much easier than trying to use a tape measurer. (Believe me, I tried).
Let’s talk ruffle length real quick. I initially wanted them to be about 10″. Don’t know where I came up with this number, but I clearly didn’t pay too close attention to the length of the drop cloths I was buying because they were way too long for a 10″ ruffle. I ended up having to do a 24″ ruffle to get the curtain length I wanted, and now I feel like 10″ would have been puny. If you like a shorter ruffle, you can hang your curtain rods higher, fold your ruffle more than once, or sew them.
I dig the long ruffle.
Step 5: Hang curtain rod if you don’t already have one, or adjust current rod (optional)
Want to know what I decided to do midway through this project that made it take a lot longer than anticipated? Hang the curtain rods about 4″ higher. It had always bothered me that they were hung right above the window frames. It made the room seem shorter to me. So I took them all down and re-hung them. I would have hung them wider too, but thankfully realized the curtain rods didn’t extend that far before I started drilling holes.
I also realized I love bare windows. Too bad I also love privacy.
Step 6: Clip drapery clips along fold
Drapery clips are far and away the easiest way to hang these curtains. Just clip onto the drop cloth wherever you have it folded and hang on your curtain rod.
I started to get a little worried that drop cloth curtains wouldn’t be as cheap as I expected when I began to look at drapery rings. Target has some that have good reviews (here) for about $0.90 per clip. Hobby Lobby has some as well for $0.67 per clip (here). Walmart had the cheapest option by far at $0.29 per clip (here). They are slightly different sizes, but otherwise I noticed no difference.
I used Walmart’s clips and was pleasantly surprised by the quality. I used 6 per panel. I started out measuring the distance between clips, but ended up eyeballing. Feel free to be more precise if that’s your style.
Step 7: Hang hooks on rod
Now sit back and admire your fresh, new, and totally affordable curtains!
I love the look of these curtains. Neutral, clean, and crisp. I think they will look really great with the other updates we have planned for this room. And what makes me love them even more is the fact that all five curtains in the living room came in at under $75, including the drapery hooks!
And YES, if you’re wondering — They do keep our house cooler!