Sewing a Lined Straight Valance

by Linda Erlam

A lined straight valance is a contemporary style well suited for use in almost any decor scheme. In a child’s room, it can conceal the blind or shade hardware while adding a dash of color, or repeat the print on the bedding, for example. Use it in the family room, or media room; or as a concealer for the bathtub shower rod. It doesn’t require much fabric, and you need only basic sewing skills, so with a few tools and some drapery-makers insider knowledge, you can design and make this valance with confidence in the outcome.

1 Decide how you will hang the valance. If you want to make a rod pocket valance and use a curtain rod with the finial ends exposed, you need room on the window wall for mounting the rod brackets. Brackets usually need at least four inches of mounting space, and if the rod is more than five feet long, you may need a center support. This will mean cutting a slit in the back of the valance to allow the rod to sit on the center support. Valances stapled to a mounting board don’t require center supports but do require enough space to install an angle bracket. The bracket legs must be as long as the board is wide. For example, if you use a 2-inch-wide board, the two legs of the angle bracket should each be 2 inches long.

2 Check the fabric label or ask the fabric retailer if you are unsure of the type of fabric you wish to use for your valance. If you want to wash or dryclean the valance, board mounting is not suitable. If you want to wash the valance, your washing machine must be able to handle the amount of fabric in the valance on gentle setting -- to reduce wrinkles. Some fabrics, such as rayon, will shrink more than once and may even shrink in drycleaning.

3 Use stabilizer on your fabric. This is a fusible product applied to the wrong side of the decorator fabric which adds stiffness and helps prevent the fabric from sagging across the width of a flat valance. Test the stabilizer on a sample of the fabric first. You will need a hot steam iron for this application; typically, an iron less than 1200 watts doesn’t produce enough heat to properly fuse stabilizer. Find the wattage of an iron stamped on the end.

4 Choose lining that is the same fiber content and about the same weight as the decorator fabric. For example, if your fabric is 100 percent cotton, choose 100 percent cotton lining. This prevents uneven shrinkage if any should occur. Cotton fabric may shrink when steamed; always test your iron on scraps before ironing the valance.

5 Make a pressing board as long as the valance width. A straight valance depends on cutting and stitching in straight lines, and drawing these lines means you must be able to lay the fabric out flat. Pressing the finished valance also requires a surface at least a few inches larger where you can leave the valance in place to dry after the pressing. Cover a piece of plywood, or several boards joined together, with a layer of cotton quilt batting. Cover that with cotton fabric, wrap the edges of the fabric around to the back of the wood, and staple the cover in place. Keep the fabric snug.

6 Keep the two layers of fabric (the decorator fabric and the lining) from feeding unevenly through the feed dogs of your machine by reducing the top tension and increasing the stitch length. Consult your sewing machine manual for instructions on how to reduce the tension. Sew the side seams from the top to the bottom and sew with the lining on the underside on all the seams. If take-up occurs, it will then happen on the lining fabric and not the decorator fabric. Take-up is the result of uneven feeding -- one layer of fabric will end up being shorter than the other.

Tips

  • A large-enough pressing surface and a good iron are the two tools that will set your finished product apart from a “homemade” valance. If you want professional-looking results, you must copy the professional methods. If you opt to wash your finished valance, you will need the pressing board each time, and your high-heat iron will be critical to getting the washed valance back to looking new.
  • Use iron-on spray starch to help return the washed fabric to prewashed stiffness.