How to Make Room-Darkening Curtains


Room-darkening curtains are used not only for blocking out light during the day, but---if made with certain materials---can also help save on energy bills. Darkening curtains are slightly different than blackout curtains; while blackout curtains can deprive any given indoor room of over 99 percent of outside light, room-darkening curtains do not necessarily block out that much. They can, however, reduce the 1/3 of heating and cooling energy generally lost through the windows and be made at home for as little as 40 dollars.

Things You'll Need

  • Fabric scissors
  • Sewing machine or needle and thread
  • Pre-assembled thermal curtain fabric (measurements depending on window size)
  • Decorative fabric of your choosing (measurements depending on window size)
  • Magnetic strips or Velcro (length depending on curtain size)
  • Straight pins
  • Curtain rod and rings (to fit the window)
  • 4 pieces of lumber, two long and two short (sizes depend on window)
  • Strong crafting glue, such as fabric glue, Super Glue or Gorilla Glue
  • Nails or carpenter glue

Construct Basic Curtain

  • Measure window.

  • Cut a piece of pre-assembled thermal curtain fabric, as well as the decorative fabric of your choice approximately 2 inches wider and longer than the window frame. This extra fabric provides for sewing and attaching the curtain to the wall when needed. The Campus Center for Appropriate Technology at Humboldt State University recommends the thermal fabric Warm Windows, sold by the Warm Company and available online.

  • Place the thermal curtain fabric and the decorative fabric in two layers, one on top of the other. The insulated layer will face the outside, while the decorative fabric will face the room.

  • Pin the fabric together on all sides, folding 2 inches in on each side.

  • Sew lines of simple, straight stitching---or decorative stitching of your choosing---in vertical lines from top to bottom across the length of the fabric at 4-inch intervals.

  • Sew the edges of the fabric to the main piece of the fabric, as they are pinned, to create clean edging.

  • Cut stray threads or pieces of fabric from the edges, being careful to leave at least 1 inch of room from the stitching.

  • Glue flat strips of magnets or Velcro onto the 2-inch edges of the curtain on three sides: the left side, the right side and the bottom. Long strips of Velcro and magnets are available at large fabric stores and come in two parts---the positive and negative sides. Sew one of these sides onto the curtain edging. Make the strips as long as possible without puckering them. If you must cut the Velcro or magnet strips, do so, but then glue them so the bottom and top edges are touching the next strip to make one continuous line.

  • Cut holes in the top of the curtains to accommodate the curtain rings. Fold the edges of the circles over and sew them back to the fabric to create clean edging. Cut away stray strips of fabric or thread.

Add More Room Darkening Features

  • Glue the opposing part of the Velcro or magnetic strips just beyond the window frame---within 1 to 2 inches---onto the wall. Basic thermal curtains help block light out of a room, but with a few additions, rooms can be made darker. The curtain can now adhere to the wall via magnets or Velcro, blocking out light that leaks in from the edges.

  • Construct or purchase wood planks to make a cap, or hood, to be placed over the top of the curtains. The planks of wood need not be of the highest quality, but they should match your decor, have smooth surfaces to help avoid splinters and be cut accurately. The long piece of wood should be the length of the window frame and 3 to 4 four inches wide, Piece A. Two more pieces should be 4 inches long and the width of the long piece, Pieces B and C. The last piece should be the length of the long piece and 4 inches wide, Piece D.

  • Glue or nail pieces B and C at 90-degree angles to each of the ends of Piece A. When the finished construction is placed so Piece A is parallel to the ground, Pieces B and C should support Piece A off the ground, much like a backless bench.

  • Glue or nail Piece D to the long, thin part of Piece A---so that Piece D's right and left sides touch the long parts of Pieces B and C. Glue the touching edges of Pieces B and C to Piece D. You should now have a four-sided structure: a top, a right side, a left side and a back. This creates a hood (or cap) that can be attached to the window frame.

  • Attach the hood to the top of the window frame via glue or nails. Attach the thin, long edge of the top piece and the thin, long sides of the right and left pieces to the window frame so that it juts out from the frame, much like a ventilation hood over a stove. This will help block out light coming in from the top of the curtain.

  • Attach the curtain to the curtain rings using the holes you cut and sewed. Hang the rings to the rod and hang the curtain rod on the window.

Tips & Warnings

  • A curtain pulley can be used in place of the curtain rod and rings.
  • Different curtain designs can also be constructed at home, including roll-up curtains.
  • Those handy with a sewing machine can create their own thermal curtain fabrics.
  • Use proper safety precautions when constructing the hood and when sewing and cutting the fabrics.

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  • Photo Credit Curtain. image by Victor Samoilovich from
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