Curtains – Dressing Up the Boat’s Interior

20121222_saloon curtainIf your boat is your home – full time or for weekend time, you’ll want it to reflect your style and provide some comforts of home. There are a variety of styles for curtains to add some warmth to you home afloat. What fits your boat’s personality and your lifestyle on the boat?  A fun nautical or tropical print?  A solid darkening curtain just to keep light and heat out?  Do you want a simple snap on cover?  Blinds?  Curtains with tabs that roll up or curtains that slide on a track?  Pleats for a bit more formal style or something softer? And there are those times when you may want to keep others from peeking in.  You may even get a bit of warmth from curtains.  So whether for style or comfort think about what your curtains can say about and do for your boat.

We chose to use the existing curtain track for sliding tabs behind the teak rails on our boat, Magnolia.   First we took down the stinky, moldy, old, dark formal curtains.  I took them apart to reuse the slider tabs.  Ditch the pleats for us.  These curtains with slider tabs aren’t hard to make, but need exacting measurements to fit and slide easily on the track.

Here are the materials I used:

Tracks and screw stops

Sew On tabs (also comes on a tape but more expensive)

Eyelet Tabs

1/4″ width elastic

Washable marker or tailors chalk

Decorator indoor/outdoor fabric (cream background with a blue styled compass rose) and matching thread

Black-out lining fabric (one side has a “plastic” coating)

Instructions for track curtains:

  1. Install track.  Install so that the track run is closest to the front, not the  interior cabin bulkhead.  Hide track behind a rail if possible.  Measure space between tracks for height and length of track you want to cover  (e.g., entire length or just in front of port lights).
  2. Plan how many curtains you want.  One or two per port light?  Will you want them bunched on both sides of the  port lights or in front or behind it?
  3. Figure fabric width adding 1” total for 1/2” side seams.  If you want some fullness, multiply by .25 or .5.  I used .25.  Adjust to allow for 4” between tabs after subtracting 1” for ends and 1” for seam allowance. Make remaining width divisible by 4.
  4. Figure total curtain height less 1/2″  for tab each extension top and bottom (1″ total).  Take height measurements at a few points along the track in case there are areas that are slightly different.
  5. Double check your measurements.
  6. Secret trick:  You may want to test how far the tabs need to be positioned in the seam to allow the tabs to slide in the tracks but have the fabric close enough to the track to minimize any gap and hide the tabs behind the rails if you have them.  I redid a few curtains once we tested them and too much of the tab or elastic showed for our liking.  Also check to see if the space between the tracks is the same along the length of the track.  (I swear ours wasn’t so the curtains were fitted to their space and numbered in order of position.)
  7. Measure and mark cut lines with washable marker  using your measurements and preferably metal T square or yard stick.  Cut decorator and lining fabrics with good fabric scissors or hot knife.  Seal edges with hot knife if needed.
  8. Mark ½” seams on both sides of lining, mark plastic tab and elastic tab placement on right side of lining leaving 1/2” within seam mark at ends. Divide length between end tabs by 4” for placement spacing.  Mark tab placements on right side.  Tab placements should match top and bottom so you have a 1/2″ space before the first tab at the end on both ends.
  9. Baste sew on plastic tabs on right side of lining within ½” seam allowance with tab facing towards center of fabric using right presser foot/needle on left (at about 3/8”). Plastic tab edges should be ¼” over edge (at mark on tab).  Leave 1/2” on each end by putting the last tab at 1” from cut edge.  Cut elastic about 1 1/2″ and insert into each eyelet tab.  Baste elastic edge 1/8” over edge of fabric.

    Note how the tabs are spaced apart and in relation to where the seam will be sewn.
  10. Check placement of tabs on both top and bottom sides. These should match across sides.
  11. Pin and stitch 1/2″ seams with panel and lining right sides together, leaving 4” open at about 2” from corner to allow turning curtain right sides out. Watch that tabs are sewn straight holding fingers over area carefully.
  12. Trim corners. Turn right side out. Push out corners carefully.
  13. Test on track.
  14. Press.
  15. Hand sew opening with hidden stitches in the folded 1/2″.  Sew a tab to mark position of each curtain if each has a specific order on the track.
  16. Slide on track a few tabs at a time.  Use small screws with small nuts at the track end.
Tabs should be spaced the same across the top and bottom so they will slide easily and gather nicely.



Aft overhead curtain
Aft Cabin Overhead Curtain – stapled to batten which is screwed into ceiling at top. Snap used at bottom.








Sundowner makes curtains.


Track parts at Beacon Fabrics offers some advice

Catalina puts out a pdf of track instructions and curtain fabrication

Workspace curtain - top track
Workspace curtain – top track

6 thoughts on “Curtains – Dressing Up the Boat’s Interior

  1. I love your blog! I’m working on winch covers right now and took measurements for fitted sheets per your blog post! I was hoping that you might have a list of links for curtain making like you had the links for fitted sheets. I love your curtains but I need more inspiration! Thanks for your blog!

    1. Welcome! And congratulations on your Seamless Sailor projects. I don’t have a ton of other links for boat curtains. I added a few today. Take a look. Did you try the Sailrite videos? I think they have one on making track curtains. I’ll post on the Seamless Sailor Facebook page and see if we get any feedback there. Good luck and let me know how they turn out. -Annette

      1. Thank you! I love the Catalina link and Sundowners sewing space makes me green with envy 🙂 I will check Sailrite as well. I recently discovered that many of the videos are free! I made some life line covers the other night and they are wonderful! Wasn’t sure if my machine was up for canvas, but it did great! You inspire me 🙂

  2. Hi! Thank you for your blogs, very helpful! I am replacing original curtains that are pleated and have fusible web. Do I need fusible web, and I can’t decide whether to pleat or not, are there any pros and cons?

    1. Karen,

      Sounds like the curtain project I did over the winter. We had the original pleated curtains, but I decided against pleats for our new curtains. I ended up just making the curtain panels “full” and gathered. Pleats are really a matter of style and taste. I think pleats are a bit more classic and formal. Might be a bit more work. If you like the look of pleats they aren’t that hard. Need a bit of planning. There was a You Tube video that I looked at when I was trying to decided which style I wanted.

      I’m not certain I know what you mean by fusible web. I used plastic tabs that slide on tracks. Seemed to work well. There are tabs pre-attached to webbing that you sew on ( Is that what you mean? (The fusible material I used to use was for interfacing.)

      Hope this helps. Let me know.

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