drapery blowing in open window

Outdoor Curtains Which Won’t Take Your Eye Out When the Wind Blows

A few years ago I was asked to make outdoor curtains for a deck.  I made it very clear to the client that curtains blow around in the wind. That’s the nature of fabric and moving air. Unless you open them totally and tie them back in several places to prevent any movement, they will blow around in the wind.

While she agreed, and acknowledged that fact, I wasn’t surprised to get a phone call a few weeks later saying that the curtains were blowing around in the wind and what could I do to stop that. While I may,  (MAY,)  have thought about suggesting a piece of plywood, I didn’t say that. I had to remind her that “fabric + wind= moving curtain”.

drapery blowing in open window
Beautiful to look at, but with a weighted hem, they are dangerous.

There have been a few “solutions” to the blowing in the wind phenomenon over the last while, probably due to the increase in outdoor rooms in homes.  

I just saw one solution the other day where the answer was to stake the two outside bottom edges down with humongous cup hooks put through grommets in the bottom of the curtain. It did hold the edges down, true, but the center of the curtain made a really nice sail. And in the demo it looked like the whole thing could have wind-powered a small boat across Okanagan Lake at top speed.

I’ve been asked to put more weights in the bottom hem. Which I won’t do because that just makes the bottom hem a weighted projectile. Imagine your eye in the path of that.

I’ve been asked to fasten the bottom edge to the floor somehow or to run a rope through the bottom hem and fasten the ends down. Like a sail.

sail effect on curtains

And I have to go back, every time, to the basic issues of “fabric +  wind = moving curtain”.

I always thought there should be a solution.  There had to be one. Somewhere. There are a lot of outdoor curtains in this world, someone must have figured this out.

I kept thinking that the solution revolved around vertical slits in the curtains – just like the vertical slits in banners strung across roads. But I knew that alone wasn’t the solution. I have a way of making them now which drastically reduces the blow-around effect.  Here’s how.
You need to think this through. No, there isn’t a pattern. Any even semi-accomplished drapery maker will understand.

First of all, the top of the curtain must allow the wind to blow over it with the least amount of resistance possible. A straight-across top will create resistance. Oh — ‘resistance’. Think: ‘curtains billowing uncontrollably’.

A top edge which is not straight will let the wind pass over without creating the sail effect. So how do you accomplish that? DEEP scallops between the tab tops or grommet tops. Simple as that.

And to prevent the sail effect on the drapery itself, position long vertical slits in several places across the width of the panel.  Fasten the slits together every 16 inches or so down the slit. Just a solid tack or two from one side to the other will work. 

Try to position these slits so they are on the side on a backward fold of the pleat. That way, when the drapery is closed and hanging, the vertical slits are less visible.

I’d also suggest that these slit edges have a double fold and a good solid double line of stitching. NO exposed serged edges.

I don’t weight the hems at all. 

You might also want to consider several tie backs down the length of the panel when it’s closed. 

Contact me if you’d like more information.

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10 thoughts on “Outdoor Curtains Which Won’t Take Your Eye Out When the Wind Blows”

  1. Hi Tonya.
    No, there isn’t a video. This issue is that a gal had sold a pattern for these curtains, and removed it from sale because she said she was patenting the process. She had a video up, but took it down. This was about 4 or 5 years ago.

    All I can say is that I found that one slit, going from about 4 inches below the header to about 12 inches above the hem worked well. Tack it closed at 20-inch intervals. This seam should be placed along the side of the back fold of the panels so it doesn’t really show when the drapery is closed.
    To make the slit, cut the panel in two pieces from top edge to bottom. Right sides together, sew from the top down at a 1-inch seam allowance. Sew down to where you will be 4 inches below the header (this will be below the added facing) Then pick up the seam again 12 or so inches above the hem, and sew to the bottom. Press the unsewn section open along what would be the seamline if you’d sewn all the way down, and make a double fold with this 1-inch seam allowance. Sew down from the top to the bottom of the panel on each side of the opening to secure this double fold.

    Attached to the rod: You need to have the top edge allow the wind to pass over, so the top needs to be a tall tab, or grommets with a cut-out on each side of the forward fold.
    I realize this may not be as clear as you’d like, but I’m just imparting what I found out while making these types of curtains.

    The key is twofold: Make sure the top edge is not straight across, there needs to be relief for the wind to pass. And put vertical slits in the drapery. Oh, and do NOT weight the bottom hem.
    I hope this helps.

  2. Hello,
    Is there a video regarding putting vertical slits in the fabric & how it’s attached to the rod?
    Our patio curtains are 84 x95,
    Thank you

  3. The video has not been replaced, wish it had, but so far no.
    It’s not a ‘magical’ solution, it’s just simply how fabric and wind react.
    If you think of the banners tied across roads, promoting the local rodeo, for example, you will see there are vertical or U-shaped slits in the fabric which allow the wind to pass through. That’s the key. You can’t stop the wind, you have to accommodate it.
    Vertical slits in the panels and a heading which is not straight across the top allows the wind easier passage.
    And tie the drapery back when not in use.

  4. Please Help keep my curtains from blowing in cold windy days. Let me know when this magical solution/product is available or when the video is back up. Thanks.

  5. Hi Rose. If you read the other comments on this post, you’ll see that there was a video on Youtube but the owner took it down as she is patenting the process.
    I bought the pattern she was selling before she started the process, but I understand I can’t tell you exactly how to do this because of copywrite laws or some thing. Which I personally think is just stupid.
    So here is what I can suggest.
    Think of the banners hung across a street to announce the local rodeo… they have vertical slits in the banner itself which allows the wind to blow through, and prevents the ‘sail’ effect.
    The other thing to consider is that where ever you can, remove any place where there is a horizontal straight line and replace it with a curve, if possible. i.e. across the top of the curtain. The straight line of the top of pinch pleats, for example, doesn’t help the wind go over, whereas a scalloped top — think of a tab top, for example, which creates a deep U shape at the top of the drape. Wind will blow through this, rather than across the top. Reducing drag.

    I’ve heard some people have had success with grommet tops, but I’d be inclined to add some kind of an scallop between the forward folds of the grommets to allow the wind to pass through.

    Also, do NOT weight the bottom hem — it creates a projectile if the wind blows. Do NOT try to tie the bottom edge down, this will encourage the sail effect.

    I wish I could help more. The owner of the process still doesn’t have it straightened out,,, so we just have to do our ‘best’.
    I hope this makes sense. Pls feel free to reply if you need a bit more clarification.

  6. I just saw your article on “Outdoor Curtains Which Won’t Take Your Eye Out When the Wind Blows”.
    Is there an actual video or instruction on how to do the slits and hanging of the outdoor drapes? Please, I am desperate for a solution.
    Thank you.

  7. Melissa took the video down because she wanted to have a more professional one, which I think she now has. But basically the idea is that there are slits sewn into the drape, and the heading is constructed considering particular calculation. This allows the wind to blow through, below, and above the drapery without a huge amount of blowing around. It is quite amazing how much the blow-back is reduced.

    If she posts the new video, I’ll make a comment on this site. I’ve seen it and it’s quite wonderful, the drapery did not move one iota and the palm tree fronds were horizontal.

  8. Hi,
    Please explain your idea as the video is “unavailable” and the web link to Melissa doesn’t work. Maybe just a quick description of the finished idea would suffice.
    Thanks so much

  9. HI Karen. Sorry for the delay, I don’t know why this didn’t come directly to me..
    Anyway, yes there is a solution to the blowing drapery and it isn’t in adding weight to the hem. It’s in the construction of the drapery. If you are in the U.S, contact Melissa Hammann at https://rivieradecorinc.com. In Canada, I’m it. The solution is in vertical slits in the fabric AND how it’s attached to the rod. Be aware, tho, that nothing will prevent them blowing, the fixes will reduce the blow substantially.
    Do you sew?

  10. I have outdoor drapes that are blowing in the cold windy weather. I’ve put chain in the hems, it they’re still blowing in a big way! You seem to know an solution. Please advise.

    Thanks so much.

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