Turn Indoor Curtains Into Outdoor Curtains

detail of yelow and white striped outdoor curtain

When I heard about the new Rust-Oleum NeverWet, my first thought (I may have even blurted it out loud in a meeting) was, “Outdoor curtains!” I love the look of outdoor curtains — sophisticated, ethereal, vacation-y — but they can be so expensive. I sew, so I love to make my own curtains for indoors, but weatherproof fabric can cost a pretty penny and it would be hard to justify that expense for our outdoor space right now. Weatherproof fabric also often has a stiff feel, and I was looking for a more fluid look for my patio.

“But if a spray product could turn indoor curtains into outdoor curtains,” I thought, “that might be just the hack I need!”

In addition to sewing, I also love to dye fabric using natural and handmade dyes. I’ve tried several sources of color, but I keep coming back to turmeric. This Eastern spice colors not only curry dishes but also almost any type of fabric. It’s so easy to get a rich, bright natural yellow dye from a little bit of turmeric. And it just so happens that yellow is a super popular color right now (especially in yellow and white stripes!) and a perfect choice to brighten any space. So I set out to make outdoor curtains out of naturally dyed fabric. Did someone say “challenge”?!

turmeric in a tablespoon

The packaging for Rust-Oleum NeverWet cautions that the product yields a “milky haze” on fabrics, so I knew it was a bit of a gamble. In anticipation of this dulling of the color, I added a little more turmeric than normal to the pot and kept the fabric in the dye bath as long as I could wait for it. The spray did dull the bright yellow some, but the result is still bold and colorful, as you can see. And a little water or other liquid just sheets right off the curtain! I can say from experience, though, that an all-out downpour of rain will wet the fabric. See?

yellow and white striped outdoor curtain in rain

I am imagining that this effect is specific to fabric, which is listed as a secondary application for this product. (Primary applications include wood and metal.)  After I had such an experience (it has been raining non-stop here), I threw the curtain in the dryer, hung it back up, and tested a little water on the surface again. To my surprise, the treated fabric retained its hydrophobic qualities, even after being rain-soaked and heat-dried. Amazing!

My only issue with my outdoor curtain project is that it does have a slightly sticky feel, but that’s a small price to pay for a beautiful, handmade, hand-dyed outdoor curtain — don’t you agree?

Watch this video to see my project in action, then check out the how-to below for the steps I took to create this project, from buying fabric to hand dyeing to hanging outdoors. And let me know what you think or if you have any questions in the comments!

This post is brought to you by Rust-Oleum NeverWet — “You’ve never seen water behave this way!”

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Step 1

 Open Gallerymaterials for making outdoor curtains Gather materials and measurements. I chose 108-inch-wide unbleached muslin. My design has four strips of fabric, each 26 x 65 inches for a total curtain size (before hemming) of 104 inches long x 65 inches wide. This width and length fit our pergola perfectly but you’ll want to adjust for your own space.

Step 2

 Open Gallerycut fabric into stripsCut pieces of fabric according to your design.

Step 3

 Open Gallerysoak fabric in water for 30 minutes before dyeingFor pieces that you’re dyeing, soak in water for 30 minutes to an hour before adding to a dye bath. Prep your dye while the pieces are soaking.

Step 4

 Open Galleryadd fabric to the dye bathMake your turmeric dye bath by adding a few tablespoons of turmeric to a stock pot of water and stir to mix. The amount of turmeric needed isn’t an exact science. Just add more for a richer yellow color, less for a lighter hue. Add the pre-soaked fabric to the cold dye bath, then bring it up to a simmer.

Step 5

 Open GalleryLeave fabric in the simmering dye for 30 minutes to an hour. After that, remove the pot from heat. You can remove the fabric immediately or let it sit and soak up color for longer if desired.

Step 6

 Open Gallerywash fabric after dyeingAfter you remove the fabric from the dye, rinse it until the water runs clear and then wash it lightly with pH-neutral soap. I just use dye-free dishwashing liquid or castille soap like Dr. Bronner’s. Rinse thoroughly and ring out excess water.

Step 7

 Open Galleryhang fabric to dryHang your fabric to dry. It will drip, so plan accordingly.

Step 8

 Open Galleryline up yellow and white fabricWhen your fabric is dry, iron it smooth and prepare for sewing the dyed and undyed pieces together. You’ll notice that your yellow fabric has shrunk a bit during the dyeing process. That’s OK. You can trim your undyed fabric to match the dyed if desired, or just fold under the longer edges while hemming.

Step 9

 Open Gallerysew white and yellow stripes togetherAlign long edges of white and yellow pieces, right sides together, then fold a hem (turning raw edges under) and pin in place. Sew using a straight stitch or zig zag stitch. Repeat with another set of stripes so you have two sets of yellow and white stripes, then sew those two sets together in the center to complete the four stripes.

Step 10

 Open Galleryhem edges of curtainHem all around the edges of the curtain using a straight stitch or zig zag (as I did), turning the hem to the wrong side of the fabric.

Step 11

 Open Galleryapply neverwet according to directionsCover the entire curtain with Rust-Oleum NeverWet, according to package directions, to make the curtain resist water for outdoor use. Because my curtain is so large and it was about 500% humidity at our house, it took two boxes to cover my project. I sprayed outdoors on a dropcloth meant for painting. It would have been nice to spray while the curtain was hanging, but I wasn’t set up for that.

Step 12

 Open Galleryhang curtainHang your curtain. I hung mine from our pergola using a tension rod and curtain rings with clips. I find drapery clips just easier than other methods like sewing tab tops on curtains. Yellow stripes really brighten up a dreary day, eh?

Materials

  • Undyed cotton fabric, such as unbleached muslin
  • Turmeric
  • pH-neutral liquid soap
  • Rust-Oleum NeverWet
  • Tension rod
  • Curtain rings with clips

Tools

  • Sewing scissors
  • Ironing board and iron
  • Sewing machine, thread and pins
  • Non-reactive stock pot (such as enamelware)
  • Sink
  • Respirator mask for painting
About Kelly Smith Trimble 

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I grow vegetables wherever I can find enough sunlight and forage roadsides and hiking trails for plants that can be used to make natural dyes. You can find both vintage ...

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5 Responses

  1. Lisa says:

    How many cans did this curtain take?

  2. Judy smith says:

    Great ideal, it looks amAzing! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Omcguire says:

    I love this idea. Just love it and up my price range. But do you think I could use flat bed sheets. I know of a store that sells queen size flat sheets and in all different colors. For like $5.00. I could use the Rust Oleum Never Wet once I'm finished. Right?

  4. Missy says:

    Thank you so much! We are building a covered patio at this time and I wanted curtains for it, but as you said, I can't afford the proper fabric. This is a great idea. Soooo nice of you to share, and they are so pretty.

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