Puppet Theatre Curtain

by Tania Willis

Every child's imagination is sure to run wild when they are propped behind a playful puppet theatre, hands donned with colorful puppets. All it takes it a curtain, some coordinating fabric and embellishments and a few hours to watch their stories unfold while they puppeteer.

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Supplies you will need to gather are: a store-bought curtain, 2 yards of coordinating solid-colored fabric, sewing machine thread, pins, twisted cording (12 yards), trim or feather boa (1 yard), pom-pom trim (3 yards), pre-made flower, poster board, scissors, sewing machine and an iron.

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First thing you will do is cut your poster board to 1" smaller in both height and width than you want your window opening to be for the puppeteer to put on their show. Then, make a vertical fold in your curtain and lay it on your work surface with edges matched and wrinkles smoothed. Put the poster board on the curtain approximately 12 – 15" from the top, allowing half of the poster board to hang off the folded edge since your fabric is folded in half. Mark the perimeter and cut the window out of the curtain along the marking. (Tip: You may use your smaller cutting mats in place of a piece of poster board.)

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Then, at each corner use your scissors to make a 1" snip in the fabric at a 45-degree angle toward the outside edge of the curtain.

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Create a hem for these raw edges by folding and ironing one raw edge of the window opening ½" toward the wrong side of the fabric, then fold over another ½" and iron. Pin in place and sew a straight stitch along the edge of the fold closest to the wrong side of the fabric. Repeat for the other three sides raw edges.

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Once those are complete, pinch the raw corners toward the back and sew a forward-reverse or zigzag stitch over the fold to miter the corners and trap the raw edge. This will display as a small pleat on the front side of the window, but will be covered by other fabrics when the theatre is complete, so perfection isn't necessary.

If you've created a large window opening (room for two or more puppets) your window opening will sag when you hang the curtain. To resolve this, make a horizontal fold of the curtain so the fold is 1 ½" from the bottom hem of the window opening. Stitch a horizontal line across the whole curtain so it runs approximately 1" below the window hem. This will create a pocket for a tension rod to run through. (Tip: If you're using a rod thicker than a standard tension rod, you'll need to adjust how far the fold is from the bottom of the window opening to accommodate the larger rod.)

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To create the curtain panels for the window opening, cut your coordinating 45" wide fabric in half using your scissors so you have 2 pieces that measure 36" wide x 45" long. Hem the two long sides with a ½" hem. Then hem one short side with a ½" hem and the opposite short side with a 2" hem. Repeat these hems on both panels of fabric. (NOTE: Creating a ½" hem is as simple as folding your fabric over ½" and ironing it in place, then folding that same fold over again ½" and ironing. Then stitching along the length of the fold that is closest to the wrong side of the fabric.)

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Stitch along the top edge of each panel (top edge is the ½" hem opposite the 2" hem), just below the hem stitching, using the longest stitch your machine will allow. Before cutting the thread from the machine pull out a 4" tail of threads. Use the top thread on one side and the bottom thread on the opposite side to use to gather a ruffle in the material. Just pull a little from one side, smooth the ruffle towards the center and repeat. Whatever you do, don't cut these tails of thread. Since you have made a custom window size, you'll need to be able to loosen your ruffle or make it tighter in the next step.

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Lay your store-bought curtain flat with right side up and pin one side of the ruffled end of your coordinating curtain panel approximately 2" above the center point of your window opening. Pin the opposite end approximately 2" above and 2" outside the edge of the window opening. Then tighten or loosen the ruffle on the fabric between, pinning as you go. Repeat for other curtain panel. Sew panels to curtain. Now, you can knot and trim excess ruffle threads or use a seam ripper to remove them completely.

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Now you're ready to embellish your theatre. To do so, pin and sew on fuzzy trim or a feather boa along the bottom edge of the window opening. Create tiebacks for your window curtains with cording. Drape pom-pom trim like party garland along the top of the window curtains and embellish with a flower embellishment at the top seam of the window curtains.

Thread a tension rod through the top of the store-bought curtain, and another through the pocket just below the window opening and adjust them for your doorframe. I find it much easier to thread the rods through by first removing the rubber stopper from one end and replacing it once the rod is through the fabric.

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Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy lots of giggles as you see imaginative story-lines come to life with your children and their beloved puppets.

**Note: If you can't find a curtain that you like, you can make a basic curtain panel by measuring the length you want it to hang and add 8" to the measurement for hem allowances. Then cut the width to 1 ½ times the width measure to allow for gathering at the sides and hem allowances.

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