When it came to window treatments for Ellie’s room my first priority was making the room completely dark.
Both of my sisters at various points struggled with getting their babies to sleep and eventually resorted to taping black garbage bags over the windows. For my one nephew, the smallest strip of light was enough to hold his attention and keep him awake.
Fortunately, Ellie has been a really good sleeper so far (and please may it continue for all time), but I have found that a dark quiet room is very helpful to ensure she sleeps as soundly as possible.
My first step in making sure I could get the room as dark as possible was the layered window treatments that I used in our own bedroom. Blackout blind, hidden behind bamboo blind (which really acts as just a valance) and then full-length curtain panels for the finishing touch and an extra layer of darkness.
While I still like the dropcloth curtains that I made for the guest room and our room, for Ellie’s room I really wanted white curtains. Some sales around Black Friday netted me four Ritva panels from Ikea. At first when the curtains arrived they looked super creamy to me, but once I tried them in the baby’s room they were white (or white enough for me). They also have a bit of a texture, which I initially wasn’t planning on, but now I like that the fabric isn’t completely flat and boring.
I elected to get four curtains (two packages), so that I could do two panels per side, ensuring that the fabric covers the full width of the window, and also that the curtains look nice and full whether they’re open or closed.
My first step was to wash all four curtain panels to preshrink them. Then, I sewed two panels together so that my four curtains became two, one for each side.
Now, on their own, the Ritva curtains are not blackout–in fact far from it. Since it was important to me that these curtains block the light as well as add style to the room, I added a blackout lining that I bought at the fabric store. Tip: Wait for a sale. The amount of fabric needed is not small, and this lining is not cheap. A discount makes a huge difference.
I cut the lining so that it was just a bit shorter and narrower than my finished curtains were going to be. The fabric didn’t fray or ravel, so I didn’t bother hemming the edges. I sewed the lining to the curtains, just underneath the curtain tape that runs along the top edge of the Ritvas.
I will say that the curtains were absolute beasts to sew. They were huge and I had metres and metres and layers and layers of fabric that I was trying to slide around. It was very awkward, even though I was only sewing straight lines.
But once the curtains and lining were all together, the next step was pleating the curtains.
The curtain tape that comes with the Ritvas is the neatest thing for me about these Ikea curtains. This tape has little pockets at regular intervals and allows you to form pleats in the top of your curtain by inserting special hooks. (When I made our dropcloth curtains, the tape was something I had to buy and sew on separately).
Ikea sells hooks that you can use to pleat your curtains. However, I wanted to replicate the really full, traditional pleats that I made for our other two bedrooms, and the Ikea hooks didn’t do that. I bought four-pronged hooks at my local fabric store (again, on sale) and went to work to figure out how to make my non-Ikea hooks work with my Ikea curtains.
The thing with the curtain tape I’ve used in the past is that each pocket is set up at exactly the right interval to make perfect pleats. The Ikea curtains aren’t quite the same. They’re set up so that you can get as many different looks out of one curtain as possible. There are lots and lots of pockets and then, in the event that you don’t want to pleat your curtains, there are also loops that slide directly over your curtain rod.
So figuring out how to place my hooks took a bit of time… and trial and error… and measuring… and math. For my pinch pleats, I left about 4 sleeves in between the prong of each hook. The spacing varied ever so slightly because those pesky loops threw off my count every other hook. The joint where I’d sewn the two panels was another spot where I had to fudge the hook placement. Between each hook, I left 12 or 13 sleeves.
Once I was happy with the spacing, I went along the back with a marker and made a little dot on each sleeve that was going to receive a prong. I used a permanent marker so that when I wash the curtains, I can reinsert the hooks without repeating the whole trial and error process.
The panels for the other side of the window went much quicker, because I was able to use the first curtains as my pattern. However, I made sure to mirror the spacing, so that each panel is symmetrical.
The hooks simply slide into the sleeves, and it can take some smooshing to make sure that one prong stays in place while you’re inserting the others. My fingertips were a bit tender by the time I finished.
Once the hook is in place, turn over the curtain, and the pleats are nice and even.
As soon as I hung the curtains, I was super impressed by how effective this blackout lining is. But I took one more step to ensure the room will be as dark as possible. Because we have a double rod with the back rod supporting the bamboo valance, I was able to loop the curtains around and hang a few rings on the back rod. This means that the curtain is right up against the wall, and there is less gap to let light in.
The final touches were hemming the curtains to the right length and adding a wand to the edge of each curtain so that we can pull the curtains open and closed without pulling the fabric–a surefire way to get our white curtains grimy over time.
My plan for bedtime or nap time was to simply pull down the blind, and let the curtains block the light around the edges of the window and look pretty. But after the time change this spring, I noticed Ellie was waking up earlier and earlier in the mornings. I pulled the curtains shut over the blind, and morning sleep-ins returned–love that blackout lining.
If you want to make your own blackout window treatments like these, here are the materials I used.
- Ritva curtains (2 packages for 4 panels total)
- Syrlig rings with hooks
- Racka and Hugad double curtain rod
- Bamboo blind (bought on clearance at Fabricland nearly 3 years ago and cut to valance length)
- Pleating hooks (Fabricland)
- Blackout lining (Fabricland)
- Wands (Home Depot)
- Thread, pins, needles (basic sewing supplies)
What is your go-to window treatment? Do you like the look of traditional pleated curtains or are you more modern? Can you sleep in the light, or are you on the dark side? Any tips to help babies sleep?
Wow, that’s a big job! It turned out beautifully. I’ve done similar pleating and my mirror neurons were twanging when you mentioned your finger tenderness!
I doubt I have any tips to get babies to sleep that you’re not already doing. Sometimes I used to put a baby in a car seat on top of the dryer. That achieves a similar effect to a drive in the car, without the wailing at stoplights. 😉
Ha-ha. Ellie is asleep as I type in her vibrating bouncy chair. Probably gives her the same experience as the dryer or the car.
What a beautiful nursery!
Thanks so much, Emory!
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