Monday, July 3, 2017

No Sew, Drop Ceiling, Classroom Valance

Are you interested in having a window valance in your classroom, but you can't see a good way to hang it, or you don't have an easy way to sew it? Well, if you have a drop ceiling classroom like mine, I might be able to help you make a valance like this one.

You will need:
• fabric
• ribbon
• ponytail elastics
• and binder clips

Yes, that's it. No sewing and no additional hardware.

Start by measuring the width of the windows. To that, add one foot for each rise in the scallop. In the picture above you see I have eight rises between the scallops, and then two more, one at each end.

At first I was going to do a rise at each of the window frames, which is traditionally how it is done. But then I thought, I want more of the window showing, not the frame, so I put the rises between the windows with the scallops hanging down to hide the frame. You don't have to do it this way, it's up to you.

So now that you have the total length and know how many rises you're going to have, you can determine how much you need of everything. What follows are directions to make approximations of the materials you'll need. You might get a bit more of each supply to be on the safe side. (Note at the end of the post I mention getting more fabric for the end swags.)

I wish I had these directions when I started this project, but I could not find any curtains or valances on the internet that would work for me. I thought about it a bunch and then sort of made it up as I went along. All in all, I made pretty close guesses and had enough or a bit too much of everything when I was done, so I think you'll be fine, too.

For each rise you will need one ponytail holder and two medium sized binder clips. I used the heavy duty jumbo ponytail elastics so they would hold better than just regular rubberbands, which seem to disintegrate rather quickly. You will need three or four extra clips to attach the mid point of the valance– more on that later. I got both the elastics and binder clips at the dollar store.

Dollar store purchases make the valances cheap

You will also need two feet of wide ribbon for each rise– I think mine was two inches wide. And for each rise you will also need about two feet of thinner accent ribbons. Mine were about half an inch wide– pictures below. I purchased spools of ribbon at JoAnn's, with a coupon, of course.

Because most fabrics are a standard 45 inches wide, and the valance only needs to be about two feet long, you can cut the fabric in half, width wise. Then you only need half the length of the window in fabric. The fabric I used was indeed 45 inches, and you can see how far it hangs down on my windows when I sliced the 45 inches in half.

Here's a hypothetical window example: you have twelve total feet of windows. In that length you have four framed windows, so you want four scallops, or three rises. You need to add three feet (for the three rises), and then two more feet for the ends. 12 + 3 + 2 = 17, so you need a total length of 17 feet, or roughly six yards, of valance. Because you are going to cut the fabric in half lengthwise, however, you only need half that in fabric, or three yards. With a decent coupon of 40% or 50% off, you won't be spending too much.

Here I am cutting the fabric in half lengthwise on its fold
When you are done cutting the fabric you will have enough for the entire window, with extra to be taken up in the rises.

So let's think about how this fabric is going to scallop and how it is going to attach to the window. A picture is worth a thousand words and will illustrate what I'm talking about.

Here is a photo of my window before I started. You can see that shorter top window, the one I want to hang the valance in front of, is about 21 inches tall. You can also see that the windows have blinds on them.... well, not all of the windows do... how can blinds go missing? Anyway, I don't use the blinds as I have north facing windows that don't get direct sun, and I wanted to cover the blinds up.

Also, note in the same picture below, the most important feature of the ceiling is highlighted– this edge allows the valance to be hung. The frame for the drop ceiling runs right along the edge of the window. This is the edge that the clips attach to, which allows you to hang the valance.

Oh, geez. Never mind that giraffe. He's only there to show that the window is up high. That husband of mine and his photoshop...

See! One clip on.

Now two clips on! The binder clips hold the fabric to the drop ceiling frame, allowing the valance to be hung! Easy-peasy!

But I get ahead of myself. What is that bunch of stuff attached to the ceiling??

The fabric swag is held in place with the ponytail elastics. You gather about a foot of fabric along what will be the top edge of the valance and secure it with the elastic. To bring the bottom edge of the valance up, you use the wide ribbon. The ribbon starts on the front of the fabric and loops under and up in the back, bringing the valance up to the height you want. The ends of the ribbon are held in place with the same elastic that is holding the excess fabric that allows for the scallop. Again, here are some photos to illustrate.

Elastic holding the excess fabric and ribbon end.

Elastic holding the fabric and the ribbon that forms the scallop by pulling up the bottom edge.

Since I wanted to hide that big black elastic and add a bit more color and accent to the valance, I cut lengths of three colored ribbons, two feet each.

Then I tied them around the elastic, covering it.

And now you see where the two clips will go when hanging the valance to the ceiling frame. I bet it makes a bit more sense now.

To bring the end of the valance to a neat finish in each corner, I let a length of fabric just drape down at the end. I attached the wide ribbon, but instead of pulling the bottom edge of the fabric up to the short rise length, I let it hang down, so there was just half a scallop where it came to the wall. Then the extra fabric hangs down beside it.

Here's a close-up.

If you want to have as long a finishing swag as mine, you need to add a yard of fabric to the total that you buy. That extra yard will do a yard long swag on each end. If you are doing several separate windows with wall in between them, then you'll need more fabric. If that had been the case with me, I would have made those end swags half as long– which would still look fine, but require less fabric.

The hardest part of the whole project, after you get your head wrapped around what it is you need to do, is the actual hanging. I did the first couple of scallops by trial and error. Then I measured what I had done, and could better place the elastic and clips in the correct spots. I did the actual gathering of fabric, and placement of elastics and ribbon as I was standing up by the window. I kept supplies in my pocket and at my feet on the counter, and then only needed to climb down a couple times.

Oh, one more thing. Because you are cutting the fabric to get twice the length from one piece of fabric, the valance will need to be attached in the middle. You could sew it on a machine. I didn't want to schlep my machine to school, and I really wanted this to be a new sew project, so I ended up just clipping the fabric together with four binder clips. I have the clips holding the raw edges on the back side of the valance, facing out the window, not into the room. I overlapped and folded the fabric at the top and clipped it on to the frame the same way I did it everywhere else. I rolled the fabric a bit from the bottom before clipping so the unhemmed edge would sort of curl up on itself, something that happened naturally to it all along the bottom of the valance. Here is a close up of that spot on the valance.

Because I let the scallops come down on the frame and not over the window, the middle of the valance ended up being at the full scallop. It still looked alright just clipped together. This won't be an issue for you if you pull up the scallops at the vertical window frames instead of allowing more uncovered window like I did. Your fabric will come together at a rise instead of the middle of a scallop, and the fabric will be easier to clip together and hide with the ribbons when it's up near the ceiling.

Voila! Valance! I hope this all makes sense and inspires you to add a curtain valance to your classroom windows. I think it really puts a nice finishing touch to my room. I get TONS of compliments on it. More important than the fun of it, I believe it is conducive to learning because it helps make my classroom comfortable and homelike... isn't that what brain science says is helpful for growing dendrites?

Thanks for stopping by! PLEASE do leave any comments or questions below– I'm sure I missed something in this how-to. Also, please, please, please, Pin this idea. I searched the internet to find something that would work in my particular classroom and found nothing! I know lots of teachers keep Pin boards on classroom decor and I hope this will be useful to many, not just my loyal followers– oh, how I love you.

Pin Please!

And ONE last thing... this is another post in this summer's series on classroom design. I'm working on a video and posts on various aspects of setting up and organizing the classroom. Hope you'll follow me so you don't miss a series post. Look for this new button to find the series... and Pin it, too!

Now head on back to Monday Made It by clicking on the button! A big thanks goes out to Tara as this linky is one of my favorites and I always find ideas... especially in the summer when there is more time to create. I'll be linking up again.

As always, thanks for stopping by!


  1. Wow! That's one long window but the curtains look awesome! I would definitely try if it weren't for our fire code. I can't use the fabric but love what you did!

  2. Your valance is so cute! I definitely need to dress up my windows. This is perfect for someone like me who can't sew! :)

    1. I can sew, but still will do it some other way if I possible, especially when it comes to a trial and error project like this. Much easier to move clips around than to tear out sewn seams :-P Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Love it, I'm making no sew curtains for my classroom as well but it includes a lot of cutting and tying to get them finished, thanks for sharing!

  4. Just the inspiration I needed! Currently, I have a tired looking pennant garland/bannerish thing that I am hoping to replace...your post came at just the right time...thanks so much!

    1. Oh, goodie. If you come up with questions as you go, just comment again or email. I bet you love them when you're done. Kathleen

  5. Your no sew curtains are wonderful!

  6. That is an awesome idea!!! I just pinned and looking forward to trying in August!

    1. Oh, Good! Hope it goes well for you. I bet it will look beautiful!

  7. I'm so glad I found your site as this is what I want to do in our school library. I ordered the fabric -- fire proof/retardant per state school codes. This fabric is very inexpensive and the school paid for it. I had no idea how to mount it. Now I do! Thank you sooo much.

  8. Oh, so very glad I could help. I bet it will look great. Mine have been up two years now and I still love them. I walk along the window counter each August when I move back in, and using one of those sticky rollers and a swifter, remove/knock the dust off. I am even more glad I took on the project as it has lasted so well. I wish you the best and I hope you'll stop back and let us know how they turned out :) Thanks for letting me know and please do Pin this post for me, okay? Kathleen


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