Secure teal fabric to an old gray curtain to lengthen and update it.

How to Convert Old Curtains Into New

by Amanda Bell

When your windows are sporting old, worn-out curtains, they make the rest of your home feel dingy. And with kids underfoot, as well as their proclivity for creating messes, anything that makes your space appear more worn or in disarray than it actually is needs to be updated. You can convert old curtains to new by utilizing one or several methods. Start by washing and drying the curtains according to the tag directions so they’re fresh and ready for updating.

Covering Stains and Altering Fabric Color and Pattern

Purchase a fabric dye or paint that is darker than the current color and fabric of the curtain. Material composition information is typically located on a tag sewn into a back corner.

Mix the fabric dye with water according to manufacturer directions. Soak the curtain for the recommended length of time, typically about a half hour, stirring the fabric in the dye. To create patterns, tie the curtain into knots or twist it with rubber bands prior to soaking. Rinse the item thoroughly until the water runs clear, and then wash and dry it according to the tag directions.

Stretch out the curtain panel on a large work surface or the floor, pinning the corners down. Create a design with fabric chalk, a stencil or painter’s tape, positioning the pattern so that the fabric paint will cover any stains, if applicable. Paint in the design with a quality fabric paint and a dense stencil brush, and remove the painter’s tape or stencil immediately after you finish. Let the paint dry, and then wash and dry the curtain according to the tag directions.

Lengthening Curtains

Cut the lower third off of the existing curtain panel, or remove the seams from the hem and trim off any frayed fabric at the bottom. Fold the bottom over enough so that it creates a crisp edge. Iron the edge to create a stark crease. Add a few small stitches by hand to hold this in place if desired.

Measure the new length of the curtain panel and subtract this from the total length you want the new curtain to be. Add four inches to this and then cut a new piece of fabric that coordinates with the existing curtain panel to this length and the width of the existing curtain.

Fold the bottom of the new fabric over four inches and iron. Fold the sides in the same hem width as the existing curtain and iron. Use hemming tape to seal all of the edges. Leave the top edge raw.

Lay the existing curtain panel on a large work surface, face down, and pin the edges so that the fabric is pulled tight. Cut a piece of permanent fabric tape to the width of the curtain and press it onto the back, bottom edge of the existing curtain panel, being careful to keep the folded portion in place. The adhesive should cover the fold and go onto the back of the curtain, so use two pieces if necessary.

Peel off the backing and then press the new piece of fabric in place. This places the raw edge of the new fabric on the back of the converted curtain. Apply a no-fraying product along the edge of the new fabric if necessary.

Quick Updates

Cut the old curtain panel into a cafe-length curtain or a valance, leaving two to three inches at the bottom to create a fresh hem with hemming tape.

Utilize curtain hanging clips rather than the rod pocket or existing grommets. Cut the top panel or tabs away, hem the edge, and then hang the curtain with the clips. If the panel has decorative grommets, clip the curtain up from the bottom edge, using the grommets as a unique lower border.

Add a decorative trim to the bottom of the curtain to update it. Cut the trim a bit longer than the curtain is wide and fold the edges over, sewing them closed. Secure the trim to the curtain with permanent fabric tape.

Items you will need

  • Fabric dye
  • Fabric paint
  • Laundry detergent
  • Fabric chalk
  • Stencil
  • Painter’s tape
  • Stencil brush
  • Hemming tape
  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Curtain clips
  • Decorative trim


  • Use a sewing machine in place of hemming and fabric tape if desired.
  • When adding fabric to a curtain, opt for a material that is about the same thickness to keep the look smooth.

About the Author

Amanda Bell spent six years working as an interior designer and project coordinator before becoming a professional writer in 2010. She has published thousands of articles for various websites and clients, specializing in home renovation, DIY projects, gardening and travel. Bell studied English composition and literature at the University of Boston and the University of Maryland.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images