While Dave was working hard to build the bunk beds in the van, I set to work making camper van curtains. We wanted our camper van curtains to be easy to make, easy to use, sturdy, give us privacy and be colorful. While black out curtains weren’t what we were looking for, you could easily use black out material in the same way we did to make curtains with extra privacy. I also hoped to not make too many structural changes to the van so wanted our van curtains to be able to hang with limited hardware. Having never sewn anything before in my life, I was a little worried that I was biting off more than I could chew, but making camper van curtains turned out to be an easy and fun project. To get ideas, I looked around to see the various ways other camper van owners had tackled this project and modified their ideas to fit our needs. From Pinterest to Youtube, there are lots of ideas out there for making camper van windows. One video I especially found useful was from Exploring Alternatives. Since their set up is a little different than ours, I didn’t follow their plans exactly, but their ideas definitely helped with what we came up with. Tied away when not in use and hanging from small cup hooks when being used, our design is super simple and also works perfectly for what we need. Our curtains not only gave us the privacy we were looking for, they added some much needed personality to our plain big white van.
Making Camper Van Curtains – Materials Needed
- Measuring Tape
- Sewing Machine (I use an entry level Jarome model) with thread OR Hem Tape
- Straight Pins
- Ribbon to use for Curtain Ties
- Velcro Squares
- Grommet Press
- Wine Opener (to make holes for the grommet press)
- Cup Hooks
- Fine tip Marker
- Drill with 1/8th inch drill bit
Making Camper Van Curtains – Picking Out Fabric
The first order of business when making camper van curtains was to pick out fabric. Since budget is always a concern for us, I headed to our local Hancock Fabrics that was going out of business to look for a colorful mid weight fabric. Other options would be Hobby Lobby as they regularly have fabric sales and also always have a clearance shelf of discounted fabric, Walmart, Michaels or Joann Fabrics. I chose a colorful cotton duck cloth because I loved the fun print as well as the structure that duck cloth offers. Since I needed fabric for not only the curtains but also part of the bunk beds and buying all of what was left in the roll gave me the biggest discount, I bought about 25 yards. If just making camper van curtains, you will need a lot less. Just measure your windows before you go and add a little extra for any mistakes to determine how much you need. Because the seat belt holders protrude from our van windows, our curtains overlap all of the window indentations while being under the seat belt holders so that is where I measured from.
While at the fabric store, decide whether you will be sewing your curtains or making them with hem tape and purchase coordinating thread or tape at that time. Since making camper curtains is a pretty straight forward project, I decided to sew ours so they would be sturdier when washed, but hem tape is a very doable option if you don’t have access to a sewing machine. I also picked out 5 rolls of coordinating ribbon to use for the ties while I was there.
Making Camper Van Curtains – How-to Guide
- Step One – In a notebook, I made a diagram of our van windows measurements so that I wouldn’t get confused about which curtain went where. A chevy express van has A LOT of windows! Using a tape measure, I then cut out fabric for each window dimension. To allow for the hem, you will need to add an additional 4 inches for both the length and width of your curtains. Since our Chevy Express 3500 Extended Van has exceptionally long rear windows, I decided to make a mid seam for the back windows with a velcro connector in the middle.
- Step Two– Once my squares and rectangle curtain shapes were cut, I folded over each edge twice, ironed the hem into a straight seam and used straight pins to secure the edges. If I was using hem tape, I would have inserted it to the folded over edges now and ironed them into place. Since I was sewing my curtains, I simply used coordinating thread to sew the hems in place.
- Step Three– Once all my hems were sewn, I determined where we wanted our curtain ties to be. I decided to make all of the side window curtains with ties on the sides and the back two windows would be roll up curtains with ties on the top and sewed the ribbon into place. These are how we kept the curtains in place when not closed up.
- Step Four– I now headed back outside to the van with the curtains to determine where the cup hooks in the van and grommets in the curtains would be placed. The smaller windows each have three hooks to hang the curtains, and the large side windows in the back of the van have eight hooks each. Since the large side windows were in two pieces, I overlapped the mid seam to leave space for a velcro fastener. Using a fine tip marker, I marked placement for both the grommets and hooks.
- Step Five– Using a 1/8th inch drill bit, I drilled holes into the top of each window and screwed in small cup hooks.
- Step Six– In the marked hole spots, I used a wine opener (but any sharp object would do) to make an initial opening for the grommets. Using needle nose pliers, I spread open the fabric to make a small hole to place the grommet. I then used a grommet press at each hole (another first for me that was super easy!) and I now had grommets in place for each hook.
- Step Seven– To keep the curtains in place when closed, I added velcro to secure both the mid seams of the back side windows and the edges of all of the other windows to the van walls. I sewed the velcro into place on the curtains and used the adhesive edge on the plastic walls of the van. When the curtains are closed and velcroed into place, our van is completely private throughout the back. This system has worked beautifully throughout the many times we have closed the curtains!
Making Van Curtains – What About the Front Windows?
We use a different system for the front windows than the privacy curtains in the back because we found custom sun shields for the windshield and the front two windows on Amazon that perfectly fit the van, offered complete privacy and have the added benefit of helping keep the van cool in warmer temps. When these are in place, and the curtains are all closed, you can’t see inside AT ALL! This is a wonderful thing when stealth camping or when overnighting at a Walmart. Available for all types of vehicles and for less than $100 bucks for all three front windows, Heat Shield custom fit sun shields were well worth their cost as they fit our van perfectly.
Making Van Curtains turned out to be a very fun project that was super easy to do. I really loved how they turned out! Let me know if you have any questions on how to make your own.