Curtains & Drapes

Archived Q&A and Reviews


New drapes and window seat cushions

Dec 2012

I need drapes, hardware and window seat cushions. Does anyone out there have experience with this? There used to be a business on Ashby near College, but I think it's long gone. Not sure where to start on this. Has anyone had experience with the fabric store on Piedmont Ave for making drapes? Would be grateful for any recommendations. Thanks. Meredith

The Alcatraz Shade Shop still does all that. Or check the fabric shop books for an individual to come do it for you. A

Dyeing curtains in the washing machine?

Dec 2010

Am I asking for trouble if I color dye my kitchen curtains in my home washing machine? They are a light yellow and I would like something darker, maybe a terracotta color. I have a top loading Maytag washer about 5 years old. I don't want to ruin my washing machine and have dye color my laundry for months to come. What about my dryer? valerie

I'm told it's not a problem to do this in your washer, but mine is about 15 years old so I dye stuff in a large pot on my stovetop (bought the pot at a thrift store) and then do the rinse in the washer. If you are concerned about residue in the washer, run a large empty load on hot with bleach or vinegar before doing regular laundry again. Dryer should be fine in my experience. Have fun! Nicole

I am a textile artist and have often used washers for dying. It is quite easy and if you run a load of rags after, or do a double rinse (recommended anyway), it should be fine. For cotton, you can use a simple cold-water dye that is fiber reactive. These are not super toxic, but the worst thing is to not rinse the dye completely. Dried dyes become particles again and can be breathed in or injested. Avoid dyes like Rit that have many kinds of dyes to cover multiple fibers. Fill your washer with warm water, as little as possible to allow the fabric to agitate freely. soak the cotton till it is all wet. remove from water, add dye as directions indicate, close lid and allow to agitate to blend dye evenly. Add fabric and then let it penetrate the fibers for two cycles before spinning and rinsing. Repeat rinse till water runs clear. Dry in dryer is ok. If dryer gets any dye on it, wipe clean with rags and a simple cleanser, wipe with water after. If you are unsure, run a load of rags or dark clothes in washer and dryer. Happy dying! Kaibrina

I don't have an answer about dyeing. But twice over the past 15 years or so I tried to wash curtains, of normal heavier curtain fabric that had sun exposure for years but seemed fine aside from needing a bit of a wash. Both times I used delicate cycle and both times they fell apart! It seems the sun had weakened them in a way that wasn't visible to the eye. Now, at least 5 years had passed with both sets of curtains so maybe it won't be an issue for you. - careful with old faded fabric

I have dyed many things in my washing machine over the course of many years. Never a problem....

Hints - Leave the lid open while it agitates so the color doesn't drain immediately and you can go through the cycle a number of times

Rinse cycle once

Re-wash everything in regular wash cycle (unless it is delicate or something....)

All should be fine! marwoo

Draperies for bedroom

Oct 2009

Hello we are looking for an experienced drapery person to help us create pinch pleat drapes for our bedroom. We have traverse rods installed. We have a pattern from older drapes but are looking to update fabric, color and possibly style. Please send examples when emailing. Or if you know of someone you can recommend. (IKEA, or other basic manufacturers will not work, we have traverse rods installed) We are looking for someone to come in and give us an estimate on labor, we will pay for materials. best lisa

The JC Penney home store does a very good job on draperies at a pretty affordable price. They come to your home with the swatch books and everything. Can't remember the name of our designer, though. We had draperies with traversing rods put in. It was cheaper than buying the premade stuff from Pottery Barn. Mary

Ideas on where to buy curtain rods?

July 2009

I am trying to buy curtain rods for about 15 windows of various sizes and cannot seem to find any that I like that are also reasonably priced. I looked at Ikea already, Any other suggestions? gretchen

Try Target - I bought a lot of curtain rods there that looked nice and were much more reasonable than the dedicated curtain stores. Cheap Curtains

I've had very good luck with JC Penny's home decorating department. I used the Concord/Pleasant Hill store, which is a self-contained JC Penny Home Store, separate from the regular mall dept. store. They also have a good website. Their products seem to be of pretty decent quality and they have some very inexpensive curtain rods.

Bed Bath and Beyond has a pretty good selection of curtain rods, sheers, drapes, etc.

Smooth curtain rods

June 2009

I've used expandable curtain rods for homemade curtains in the past but there is always a ridge in the middle where the fabric or curtain rings get caught. Any ideas on how to get/make a curtain rod that is smooth and doesn't catch on the curtains when opening and closing them? thanks a bunch

I had the exact same problem. I ended up buying some duct tape in the same color as my rod (Ace Hardware sells a variety of colors beyond standard gray) and wrapping a strip around the bump area. It solved the problem and since the rods are high enough you can't really notice it unless you focus on it. anon

We use copper plumbing pipe for long curtain rods - they come in 10 ft. lengths, & in two gauges (more & less rigid - I can't remember which one we have...) . The folks down at Ace Ellis on MLK can help. arirance

I have ordered custom metal curtain rods for a particular length from Smith & Noble. They cost more than most other kinds because they are cut to your specifications so there is no center bump where the two pieces join. On the other hand if your window is wider than about 40 or 50 you will need a center pole support anyway, which means you can't draw your curtains all the way across. There are some types of traverse rods where the hooks holding the fabric bypass the center support, so you might look in to those too.

Where to find nice curtains of a certain style

Sept 2005

I'm not a ''shopper,'' and so have no clue about where to get this kind of thing, but I'm looking for good-quality curtains, white, on the sheer side, with interesting patterns. I've seen some with green dragonflies, and a pair with leaves in the Hugh Grant movie where he's the prime minister (I also have bad recall of movies (:). I didn't see anything at IKEA, and I don't really know where else to look. Any ideas appreciated. -Naked Windows

Try Poppy Fabrics and have them made for you. They have an ulphostery department, or refer to their book of local seamstresses, or look in the archives here. Ellen

Garnet Hill, known for its beautiful, high-quality linens, has some white sheer curtains. You can go to the web site ( or get the mail order catalog. nbs

Try Bed, Bath & Beyond (in the El Cerrito Shopping Center); they have a large selection of window coverings. I bet you could find one like the one you mentioned. Heidi

You could find nice curtains - ready to hang- or fabric of your choice at EXPO in Emeryville. If you want custom made curtains, it's of cours more expensive and will take a number of weeks for delivery.

Earlier Recommendations

Curtains -- where to buy

June 2005

I am seeking advice on where to find reasonably priced curtains for my home (living room, bedrooms, kitchen). I had someone come out to give me an estimate on custom curtains and am a bit in sticker shock. I would appreciate any recommendations on stores or even custom vendors, as long as they are on the cheaper end. I checked out previous postings but they are quite dated. Thanks! Marjorie

I checked out Smith and Noble per many of the recommendations found here. A couple of months ago, I purchased roller shades for my breakfast nook, relaxed roman blinds for my dining room and drapes for my living room. Their website is : You can obtain free swatches and they have great discounts from time to time. I noticed that they have added new fabrics as well. They can get expensive depending on the fabrics and styles you choose. I love that you can add on darkening elements and the fact that you can customize especially if you have windows from an older home such as mine where the window sizes are larger. Also, they really do look great with my color schemes in the various rooms. Part of my issue was determining what type of coverings to use and that's why I went with the different styles because of the various size of my windows/rooms.

For my son's bedroom, since it gets the most light in the afternoons, we chose to go with plantation shutters from Macy's of all places! They did a great job of installing! BTW, if you do buy from Smith and Noble, you'll have to install yourself! Good luck - I had fun picking fabrics/styles! Eileen

Ceiling Curtains

April 2004

I am looking for a recommendation on where I could buy curtains / curtainholders that are suspended from the ceiling. We built a Container Store type corner shelving system in one of our rooms and we are looking to somehow close it off so that it can be used as a regular closet. I was thinking of curtains, but I'm not sure how to suspend it from the ceiling especially since it will have several corners (the shelves are L-shaped). The only thing I could think of are those 'curtain runners' that you sometimes find in motel rooms in front of the windows (I think they are attached to the ceiling), but I have no idea who would sell them. I was therefore wondering if anyone knew who would sell these or does anyone know of any other 'contraption' that could be used for this purpose ? (I don't want blinds that need to be pulled up and down). tired of doorless closet

I would think you could just get some brackets that you could attach to the ceiling and hang curtain rods from them. I'm picturing something that has a hook like area where a curtain rod could hang but sort of L shaped with holes to put a screw or bolt through....Probably something you'd find in a hardware store or the curtain section of a department store. Something really inexpensive. Good luck. anon

2003 & Earlier

Where to Have Drapes Made

April 2003

Any recommendations for skilled and creative upholsterers of older furniture? What about someone who can make Roman shades and other types (fabric, not blinds)of window coverings? Christina

Carrie Bishop does very nice roman shades, upholstering and slip covers from her studio in Oakland/Emeryville. She also has a great eye for color and design. You can reach her at 652-9224. Lisa N.

Curtain rod for a corner

September 2002

I want to hang curtains over two windows that join at the corner of the room, i.e, one window is on the north facing wall and the other's on the east facing wall and they connect right at the ne corner of the room. I wanted to get some kind of decorative curtain rod, but the ones I've found all have ornaments that extend beyond the window trim and therefore won't fit. Can anyone suggest where I might find an attractive rod that can turn a corner? alisa

I had great success with Country Curtains, a mail-order drapery catalog. They noticed that I was ordering the wrong rod for the valance I'd chosen, and steered me toward the correct one. or 1-800-456-0321 Jenifer

Ikea sells a corner piece that will attach two curtain rods to allow you to turn the two rods into one curtain rod that runs around a corner. Its only a few dollars. The piece seems to be a standard size--we used it to attach two curtain rods that we baught at Target. Mara

Drapes for sliding patio door

August 2002

Would like a recommendation for a place for getting drapes made or purchased for a family room sliding patio door. This area also gets a lot of direct evening sunlight so any suggestions will be most welcomed.

We thought JC Penneys had a large selection of drapes/curtains, especially the beautiful sheers. As for thermal or lined drapes, we didn't feel they had much of a selection, but in the end it worked out fine. If you place your order by going into the store, they waive shipping charges (we went to the Pleasanton store). And you can return drapes at their customer service desk at the store. This was very helpful since we had to do MANY exchanges/returns since it was so difficult for us to really visualize what the drapes would look like in our rooms. So, the return policy is very good.

Storing drapes

April 2002

Are there things such as storage boxes specifically for drapes, and where can I buy them? Our drapes are about 8 feet tall. I guess it would be desireable to store them upright to minimize wrinkles? hana

Cleaning drapes is expensive but it solves the storage problem. They will come back to you folded into the pleats and in a long plastic bag. It would be best to store them by hanging them somewhere.

FYI I priced the cleaning and got vastly different quotes--count the pleats; it is how they price them. I went with the lowest price which may have been a mistake---the drapes were old (and dirty) and came back shredded in places. Mary Ann

Curtains for Kids' Rooms

Can anyone recommend a good place to buy ready-made curtains for a child's room? I need 3 matching pair for a room that is now for babies, but the pattern needs to be usable when they are older too. Thank you!

Try IKEA...they have some very cute stuff. It not too expensive either. MOM2TWOBABIES Pottery Barn Kids catalog has some really cute pre-made curtains. Pottery Barn just went on-line http// I assume their kids stuff is there too. Ilana

I bought some curtains from the Pottery Barn Kids catalog that were pretty inexpensive. They're simple sailcloth panels, which I liked because they didn't seem limited to a baby. Dashka

IKEA has some choices - pretty reasonably priced. Some are rather loud for my taste, but there's one or two quieter ones. Suzanne

This isn't what you asked, but here's what I did. My son had beautiful, homemade thermal roman shades in his room, until he developed a dust mite allergy! Then, no more curtains. I bought white vinyl blackout shades to fit his window. He was as excellent artist interested in animals, and especially the rain forest. So I had him draw a design that he wanted on some 8.5 x 11 inch paper. (He drew 3 scenes an Amazon rain forest, a Congo rain forest, and a Tasmanian rain forest(?)). I then transferred the designs to the shades using permanent markers and marker paint, available at Office Depot. He helped color them in, too. Now (5 years later) they are still a source of pride, and he says he goes to sleep smiling every night when he looks at them. Of course, if your child is a baby, you would have to do all the work. But part of the beauty of this is that they are cheap enough to replace whenever your child's (or your) taste changes. . .which hasn't happened yet with us! (Also, I saw someone who later decorated miniblinds with designs cut from solid color contact paper; this could probably work on shades, too.)

Try Ikea in Emeryville -- they have some cute ones in the kids' dept., but look in the regular curtain dept., too. We bought some funky flowered sheers there for our daughter's room. The Pottery Barn Kids catalog also has nice kids' curtains, thought they're a bit pricey. Leah

Try IKEA for children's curtains. Ruth -

I second Pottery Barn as a good choice for children's curtains. I got the sheer pocket panels which allows you to put stuff into the curtains. You can buy their pre-made letters, leaves etc., but I made my own out of felt into letters and the shapes of animals. Also I put some pictures of me and my husband as babies and a few other little funky things. During the fall, when the Chinese Pistache trees turn a vibrant red, and put the leaves in the pockets. So it can be changed whenever you want, and as your child grows, can become another artistic outlet for them! hilary

Have you tried IKEA in Emeryville? You don't have to spend that much to decorate with some of their accessories. BLEW333

Where to Buy Simple Curtains


I just moved to an old house that needs a bunch of curtains. Some of the windows are standard size and some are definitely not. Can anyone recommend a good place to buy curtains? Or to have them specially made? I like simple, non-frou frou stuff in plain colors, linen, etc. Thanks! Lynn


We also moved to a house that needed curtains for approximately 25 windows! We did a couple of things. For two rooms, we purchased accordian blinds in a soft material from 3-Day Blinds -- cheap, fast, no hassle. We purchased pre-made curtains from several stores -- Pottery Barn, Bed Bath and Beyond, Restoration Hardware, Z Gallery. Some have catalogues to order from. Then for our large front window, we had The Magazine (on the I-80 frontage road, near Hearst and Fourth street) make custom curtains and purchased the hardware (rod and rings) from a store in San Rafael that I am forgetting the name of, but that The Magazine recommended). We are happy with all the window coverings, and we did it fairly cheaply.

I missed the original request about curtains, but I take every opportunity to pass on an idea we had. We had to take curtains down in my son's room because of a dust mite allergy. I went to Home Depot and bought plain, white, black-out shades. My son then drew pictures (3 rain forest scenes, because he was then studying rain forests in kindergarten). I copied the pictures, enlarging them, onto the shares and then colored them in with permanent markers (Sharpies, Magic Markers, etc.) My son still says (4 years later) that heFs happy when he goes to bed because the last things he sees are his shades. As a bonus, the whole project is cheap enough that you could replace them whenever your child outgrows them. You could probably also put up seasonal shades, saving the normal ones for post-holiday times. Wendy