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DIY Sliding Panel Curtains

My latest ambitious home project was these DIY sliding panel curtains that I created to cover my laundry room shelving. Ever since we’ve moved here, I’ve been dreaming of these and now they are finally a reality! If you’ve got some shelving to cover, and you’re wishing for a more modern option, check these out! More contemporary than a gathered fabric curtain, but less expensive than a cupboard install.

Open shelving in a laundry room is just unattractive. Our laundry room is between the garage and the kitchen and consequently has to store a lot of unattractive items. Which is fine if the door remained constantly closed, but of course, that’s rather unrealistic for us. Part of the way I create a peaceful and inviting home is by creating visual harmony between spaces. And this laundry room space broke up the visual line of kitchen cabinatry as your eyes scanned across our cupboards over to an open door with cluttered wire open shelving. You feel my pain all too well if you have similar shelving.

A view of the laundry from the kitchen before panels and after panels

Opting for Inexpensive

But I kinda hate to spend money so I was considering my least expensive option to cover the shelves. I have had this bolt of fabric that I bought on clearance eons ago for $1 a yard. I don’t usually stock pile clearance fabric, but you have to understand that this fabric totally fits my aesthetic! Such a perfect match with my botanical decor before I even had botanical decor! This fabric was perfect shade for this project, and I had lots of it. The design had a slight pattern that didn’t overwhelm any other visual elements.

The very easiest and cheapest option to cover shelving is, of course, to hang gathered curtains. In my mind I couldn’t imagine any way that these would look anything but shabby chic. Shabby chic can be welcoming, no offense to those loving it! But I wanted to bring sophistication and calm.

Also, I didn’t want to be yanking gathered curtains open and shut. No, what I had in mind was DIY sliding panel curtains that would be smooth, stylish and minimalistic.

Design Challenges

This room has a high ceiling which meant I didn’t want to hang curtains from my ceiling. This would just be adding expense as I multiplied my materials. Of course by having shelves, I wasn’t able to mount any sort of curtain hanging hardware on the wall behind. Which left me only the side walls as possible mounting options for DIY sliding panel curtains. And the width I needed to cover was a whopping six feet length!

If you’ve ever mounted curtains before, you know that the weight of curtains requires support, and that as the distance of your width increases, so increases your need for center supports. In this case, I wanted to forgo a center support for two reasons. 1. I wanted my DIY sliding panel curtains to be able to move freely to one side of the rail and 2. It would take a very long support to reach from my back wall to the curtain rod.

Without a center support, I knew my DIY sliding panel curtains needed to be extrememly lightweight! And that the rods on which these panels traveled needed to be lightweight and strong. Strong enough to hold the weight of the curtain without sagging, and lightweight enough to prevent the added burden of addtional weight.

Additionally, because I wanted the panels to slide completely behind each other, I knew that I needed a separate panel track for each panel curtain.

Shop Along With Me for DIY Sliding Panel Curtains

You can watch the creative process of selecting materials as I shop and problem-solve!

The Final Materials List for my two walls of shelving

Shelved items at Lowes and a Lowes receipt

Necessary Tools

  • hammer or screwdriver for mounting side wall brackets
  • hacksaw for trimming pipe length, if needed
  • sewing machine
  • iron and ironing board

Hanging the dowel rods

Three sidewall mounts and a popsicle stick template with holes marked.

To mount my dowel rods, I made a template on a popsicle stick of the distance between mounting holes. I essentially made my three sidewall brackets mount side-by-side-by-side. This measurement gave enough space between the dowel rods that the black polyethylene pipes could side easily. I held the popsicle stick against the wall and marked the nail/screw distance. The first mark was the front edge of my popsicle stick.

Drywall anchors and screws were included with the sidewall brackets. Since there are so many wall holes to make with this hanging method and since our finished project was so lightweight, we opted to use nails to mount the sidewall brackets. Not only was this faster, it meant less damage to the drywall if these are ever removed. Which was a good choice since I measured poorly on one set and had to do it over.

Mounted dowel rods shown from above where they cross in the corner of the room.

I doubt that anyone else will have the complicated additonal perpendicular shelving that I do in my space. I mounted the dowel rods for the transverse curtain 2 inches higher.

Measuring for the curtain panels

Dowel rods hung with polyethylene sliding pipes.

Now that my dowel rods were up, it was easier to measure for my curtain panels. But of course, you could do these steps in reverse and sew your curtain panels before hanging the dowel rods.

I divided my total hanging space, not the actual dowel length, by three. (If you have the entire 72″ length to fill, you may want to create four panels rather than three.) To this measurement, I added two inches for overlap on the panel. This was the length I cut my polyethylene pipes – 21 inches.

Next I determined the finished fabric panel size. I wanted three 21 inch wide by 24 inch long panels for the higher shelves and three 21 inch wide by 30 inch long panels for the lower shelves.

Then I added 5 1/4 inches to the length and 3 inches to the width for the hems, the pocket, and the sides. So three panels of fabric were cut 35 1/4 by 23 inches, and three were cut 29 1/4 inches by 23 inches.

Iron-on or sew-in interfacing

Pros and cons of iron-in interfacing.

  • No sewing, obviously
  • Sounds like it would be easier, but it isn’t

My first three panels, I tried using iron-on interfacing. Following the directions on the product, I set my iron on a high setting, covered by project with a damp dishtowel, and firmly pressed down for 10 seconds on each space. This did not adhere my interfacing at all. Instead I had to hold each section down for about 30 seconds. Multiple the size of an iron times 30 seconds and you’ll realize this is a labor-intensive method.

I had only bought 2 1/2 yards of the iron-on interfacing, so I had to run back to the store for more. This time I purchased sew-in interfacing.

Pros and cons of sew-in interfacing

  • No laborious ironing
  • More sewing
  • More tendency for seams to pucker

Switching to the sew-in went much more quickly.

Interfacing was cut 21 1/2 inches x 28 inches for the longer panels and 21 1/2 inches x 22 inches for the shorter panels.

Sewing the DIY Sliding Panel Curtains

First I stitched the sides of each panel. I placed the interacing on the wrong side of the panel fabric, 3/4 inches up from the bottom edge. Next, I folded the side edges over the top of the interfacing. Basically one inch. You have enough fabric that you can fold under the cut edge again to protect from fraying. But I didn’t. I just stiched the sides down over the interfacing.

Next, I completed my bottom hem. This I did fold over 1/4 inch and then again 1/2 inch. Ironed and stitched.

Fabric pocket shown to be measured at 2 inches.

For the top pocket, I folded over 1/4 inch along the top edge toward the wrong side. Then I folded this down again (toward the wrong side) two inches to create the pocket for the polyethylene pipe to slip into. I stitched the seam 1 3/4 inch from the top edge of the panel, which was also 1/4 inch from the inside fold. This stitch caught the top edge of the interfacing. (This measurement picture is of one of my first panels that I sewed and later ironed on the interfacing.)

Assembling the DIY Sliding Panel Curtains

Then I slid the fabric pocket over the pipes that I had cut to length. I slid one pipe onto each dowel and hung it on sidewall brackets.

As I note in the video, my shelves were longer than my 72 inch dowel rods. For the lower shelf, the depth of the sidewall bracket was suitable. For the higher shelf, I had to do a little jimmy-rigging.

Curtain rods with couplings and wire covers added.

To extend the length of my dowel rod, I used duct tape to attach the couplings. Since I still needed a smidge more length, I pulled some electrical wire caps out of the ol’ tool box and added them as well (insert evil laugh). I was able to make up the length and hang my curtains!

Completed DIY sliding panel curtains

Headrail

This design can look a little messy unless you cover it with a headrail. This was for my laundry room so I wasn’t afraid to experiment with a cheaper alternative. Again, my main objective was to improve the look from my kitchen into the laundry room. I wouldn’t advise anything like my headrail for real living space. You could purchase a regular headrail and cover it in matching fabric.

But I simply nailed up a long strip of fabric that I had sewn.

I cut two lengths longer than my expanse and sewed them with the wrong sides together. Then I turned the entire strip right-side-out.

Headrail strips being mounted

Rather than hemming the edge, I inserted a small craft stick into the end. Then I folded it back a few times to cover the raw edges. And I nailed directly into the fabric behind the craft stick. I repeated on the other side as well, pulling the fabric tightly. This is best achieved my pressing the nails into the fabric first and then nailing to the wall.

Longevity

Even though these curtains are intentionally lightweight, I imagine that the dowel rods with sag over time, especially the center rods where the full curtain weight is centered. But these dowel rods can easily be replaced as they age.

Other options

If you have exposed shelves like this, but want a different option you could:

Make a gathered fabric curtain.

Or you could also purchase a trimmable sliding panel curtain. Then trim it short for your shelf. Too pricey for me.

Who has other ideas out there? I’d love to have you share in the comments!

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