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Spruce up your home as we show you how to make your own curtains 

Voice Of EU



This step-by-step guide from John Lewis shows how to make lined pencil pleat curtains.

It covers everything from working out how much fabric you need to how far apart to place the hooks in your finished curtains.  

What you’ll need 

Curtain fabric, lining fabric, matching thread for the face fabric and the lining (for patterned fabrics choose the dominating colour), pencil pleat heading tape, sewing machine, scissors, tape measure, ruler, and pins  

Measuring and estimating fabric quantities 

1. Measure the width of your curtain track or pole and multiply this by the required fullness. For pencil pleat heading, multiply this by 2 – 2 ½ times depending how full you would like your curtains to be.

2. Divide the answer by the width of the curtain fabric, this will be the same for the lining.

3. Measure the overall finished drop that you would like for the curtains and add on the hem and heading measurements (add 16cm for the hem and 5cm for the heading).

4. To calculate the amount of fabric required, multiply the overall figure by the number of widths and this will give you the total amount of curtain fabric and lining you require.

For example:  

– If the curtain track length is 206cm x 2.5 for the pencil pleat heading = 515cm 

– Then divide the width of the curtain fabric which is 137cm by the curtain track length which we have already worked out is 515cm = 3.75 widths (round down to 3 for double fullness or up to 4 for extra fullness)

– Then measure the overall drop required 134cm + 16cm for the hem + 5cm for the heading = 155cm this is the cut length. Then multiply by my 3 widths = 465cm. Round that up 5 metres of fabric and 5 metres of lining)

– Then work out how much heading tape is needed by multiplying the width of the curtain fabric, 137cm, by the widths needed, 3, = 411cm. To be on the safe side, and to allow for turnings (to hide the heading tape), round this up to 5 metres of pencil pleat heading tape.

Making lined curtains 

1. Cut the fabric to the required cut lengths and cut the required number of drops and repeat this with the lining. If there is a half width per curtain this width will need to be split into two up the length of the cut. This can be done by folding the length selvedge – the finished edge – to selvedge and then cutting along the fold. It is a good idea to mark the fabric with a small arrow in both the top left and right corners of each cut, chalk can be good for this as it can be easily removed when you are finished. This is useful for indicating the face side of the fabric and the direction of the fabric.

2. Join the fabric together with a flat seam. Use approximately a 2cm seam allowance.

3. Repeat this process with the lining fabric.

4. Measure the overall width of the curtain fabric and the lining in each curtain. The lining fabric will be slightly wider than the curtain fabric, you will need to cut this down so it’s approx. 16cm narrower than the curtain fabric. This will allow the curtain fabric to turn back onto the finished curtain down both the leading (inside) and trailing (outside) edge.

5. On the lining fabric, fold and press a double 5cm hem (turn fabric over twice) along the bottom edge and using a sewing machine run a flat running stitch with a matching thread to the lining colour. Repeat on both curtain linings and put aside.

6. On the curtain fabric now fold and lightly press a double 8cm hem(turn the fabric twice) along the bottom edge of both curtains and hold in place with pins. This can be sewn several ways depending on how confident you are. It can be hand sewn using a herringbone stitch, sewn using a machined hemming stitch or machine it through with a flat running stitch. The choice is yours. Make sure you use matching thread to the face fabric colour.

7. Lay the curtain fabric right side up on a flat surface. Now lay the lining fabric on top, right side down, setting the bottom of the lining hem 4cm up from the bottom of the curtain fabric hem. Aline the selvedges or raw edges together and pin in place along one side. Machine stitch with a flat running stitch down this side starting at the edge of the lining and sew from the hem towards the heading. Repeat this process down the other side of the curtain. It will appear that the face fabric is wider than the lining and this is correct. Repeat with the other curtain.

8. Turn the curtains right side out and then fold/roll the sides of the curtains to show 4cm of curtain fabric on the reverse of the curtains down each side. It is a good idea to pin down the sides to hold this in place while you complete the next stages.

9. Neaten off the bottom corners by folding the curtain fabric under itself creating a diagonal line from the corner of the curtain fabric to the corner of the lining. This can either be invisibly slip stitched to hold it in place or held with a single large tacking stitch created by threading double tread through a needle, bring the ends together and tie in a knot so you have four thicknesses of thread to sew with. Sew a single stitch over the fold attaching it to the double hem but not going through to the face side of the curtain. Go over this a couple of times to hold the fold in place. Do this close to where the lining hem is. Repeat this on all four bottom corners of the curtains.

10. With your curtains lying flat, with the lining fabric on top fold over the curtain fabric and lining to the required drop, Pin this into place and repeat this on both curtains.

11. Now trim back the excess lining so you have a single 5cm fold along the top edge. Take the heading tape and place this along the top edge about 0.5cm from the top with approximately 10cm excess tape at each side of the curtain. Pin this in place.

12. Fold the excess tape under itself enclosing the fabric fold between the two layers of tape and hold in place with a pin. Repeat this on all four corners.

13. You are now ready to sew the heading tape into place. First, machine along the top edge on the tape side as close to the edge of the tape as possible. Now remove all the pins and sew along the bottom edge of the tape.

14. On the leading edge of each curtain pull out the strings and knot them together with a double knot. Machine sew the open end of the tape on the leading edge and repeat this on the trailing edge but don’t sew down the open edge as this forms a pocket for you to tuck the strings in once you have gathered the curtains up.

15. Repeat this process on the second curtain remembering that the leading and trailing edges will be opposite handed.

16. Gather each curtain up to half the length of your track or pole plus approximately 10 per cent to allow for the curtains to meet in the centre without springing back open. Tie off the strings, wrap them up neatly and tuck them into the open pocket at the end of the tape.

17. Insert the curtain hooks into the tape at approximately 10cm intervals. If they are to be hung from a pole then use the top pocket and if they are on a track and you wish to mask the track, place the hooks in the bottom pocket.

18. Now your curtains are ready to hang


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How do you feel about the new carbon budgets?

Voice Of EU



We want to hear your views on the proposed new carbon budgets which, the Government says, will change how people live and work. The proposed budgets, published by the Climate Change Advisory Council, will apply to every sector of the economy and will outline a limit for total emissions that can be released.

The first carbon budget, which will run from 2021 to 2025, will see emissions reduce by 4.8 per cent on average each year for five years. The second budget, which will run from 2026 to 2030, will see emissions reduce by 8.3 per cent on average each year for five years. The council says the budgets will require “transformational changes for society” but that failing to act would have “grave consequences”. Environmental campaigners say the budgets will provide a cleaner, healthier and safer future but some rural groups such as the Irish Farmers’ Association say they will have “serious repercussions”.

How do you feel about the new carbon budgets?

Now we’d like to hear your views: Do you support the budgets or are you against them; do they go too far or not far enough?

We will publish a selection of your responses online (If you are reading this on the Irish Times app, click here to access the form for submissions).

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House sales shoot up a THIRD in September amid fears of mortgage rate hike

Voice Of EU



The number of homes bought and sold in Britain rose by two thirds in September compared to August, with experts believing buyers are seeking to get ahead of a potential rise in mortgage rates. 

There were nearly 161,000 property transactions in September on a seasonally-adjusted basis, a 67.5 per cent increase on the previous month, according to latest figures from HMRC. 

They also increased by 68 per cent compared to September 2020, and 63 per cent compared to the ‘normal’ market average in September 2017 to 2019.

The cost of a mortgage could be set to increase, if the Bank of England base rate rises

The cost of a mortgage could be set to increase, if the Bank of England base rate rises

Experts say the sharp rise was only partly a result of the Government’s stamp duty holiday, which has fuelled price growth of around £25,000 in the last year but finally ended on 30 September. 

It initially allowed buyers to save up to £15,000 in taxes as they did not need to pay stamp duty on the portion of their property purchase under £500,000. 

But in September, the tax break would have had a more subdued effect.

In England and Northern Ireland, it was tapered down between July and September so that buyers could only save £2,500.

And the holiday had already expired in Scotland and Wales, on 31 March and 30 June respectively. 

Given that the impact of the stamp duty holiday was lessening, some suggest that other factors have become more important in maintaining high levels of activity in the housing market. 

There are a number of things at play, according to Lawrence Bowles, senior research analyst at Savills.

‘There’s more to this activity than a stamp duty holiday: record-low mortgage rates, desire for more space, and a core of unmet pent up demand all continue to push up transaction volumes,’ he says. 

Although it is one of several reasons why the housing market remains hot, the desire for a cheap mortgage has become more of a pressing issue for buyers in recent days and weeks. 

This is because speculation about a rise in the Bank of England’s base rate has threatened an increase in the current super-low rates.

At the moment, rates are available as low as 0.89 per cent – but they are already rising. At its lowest, the cheapest fixed rate on the market was 0.84 per cent.

Major lenders including NatWest, HSBC and Barclays have all moved to increase rates on some mortgages, after months of sustained falls. 

With a base rate rise being predicted by some for December, experts are suggesting that the threat of mortgage rates going up is the ‘new stamp duty holiday’ and that the rush to complete sales before rates rise is now keeping the housing market buoyant.

Simon Bath, chief executive of technology company iPlace Global which created the property advice app Moveable, says: ‘We have reached another crossroads in which following the stamp duty holiday, there is another potential deadline for Brits to prepare for.

‘It seems likely that house prices will continue to rise before demand slows down, as Brits race to obtain lower mortgage rates.’

Rising costs: Those buying homes have seen the typical sale price increase by £5,000 in the last month alone, according to data from the property platform Rightmove

Rising costs: Those buying homes have seen the typical sale price increase by £5,000 in the last month alone, according to data from the property platform Rightmove 

Early statistics back his price rise theory up. According to Rightmove’s latest house price index, which covers the first half of October, the average house price jumped £5,000 compared to the previous month. 

In addition, every UK region broke asking price records for the first time since March 2007.

The property portal noted in its report: ‘The continued fast turnover of property for sale and a window of opportunity to buy before a potential interest rate rise seem to have overcome the final expiry of all stamp duty incentives and are keeping activity robust.’

This trend is keeping the market buoyant for now, but could it really lead to another buying frenzy? Iain McKenzie, chief executive of The Guild of Property Professionals, says so. 

‘With demand for properties still high, and a potential mortgage rate rise on the horizon, this could be the perfect storm to see another frenzy to buy, so long as the shortage of stock doesn’t continue,’ he says. 

There is also the simple fact that people who were trying to meet the September stamp duty deadline, but failed, are unlikely to abandon their purchases, and will continue to add to the totals over the coming months. 

But others are less sure about talk of another buying boom. With the base rate rise only tipped to be from 0.1 per cent to 0.25 per cent, the difference in people’s mortgage payments may only be a few pounds per month. 

For example, for someone with a £120,000, two-year fixed rate mortgage on a £200,000 home, the difference between a 0.89 per cent rate and a 1.04 per cent rate would be just over £8 a month, or just under £200 across the fixed period. 

Office for National Statistics data showing house price increases over the past 15 years

Office for National Statistics data showing house price increases over the past 15 years

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, says: ‘People will still move without stamp duty holidays and will continue to refinance their homes, whether mortgage rates are below 1 per cent or around 2 per cent.

‘Borrowers are keen to secure these historically-low mortgage rates but if the right property comes along, they are still likely to buy even if they have to pay say 15 basis points more and won’t qualify for a stamp duty holiday.’

But as the stamp duty holiday proved, the psychological impact of thinking you are saving money can be powerful, even when the actual cash saving is negligible. 

While buyers did indeed ‘save’ up to £15,000 in tax, house price rises during the stamp duty holiday were upwards of £20,000, eclipsing the actual saving.   

The true impact that the mooted rise in mortgage rates will have depends on myraid factors, including whether there is further clarity on if and when the base rate change might actually happen, and how mortgage lenders continue to respond to the situation. 

All eyes will be on the October transaction statistics and house price indices to see whether the market is remaining buoyant. 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Covid grips Europe’s unvaccinated east

Voice Of EU



Hospitals are struggling to cope as Covid-19 sweeps through large unvaccinated populations in central and eastern Europe, where low levels of trust impeded acceptance of inoculation programmes.

Austria, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands and others have teamed up to send oxygen supplies, medicines and ventilators to Romania after it appealed for help from the European Union to cope with a crushing fourth wave of the pandemic.

Just 36 per cent of adults are fully vaccinated in the country, according to EU figures, the second-lowest level in the union after Bulgaria, where the rate is just one in four adults, far below the pan-EU rate of 75 per cent.

Both countries are suffering a brutal surge of infections, hospitalisations and deaths. Romania has seen an average of more than 400 deaths a day for the past week, in a population of 19 million, the highest rate in the EU according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. In Bulgaria, in a population of seven million, more than 100 people have died on average each day for the past week.

Romania on Monday imposed a night-time curfew, shut schools and introduced mandatory Covid-19 passes for most public venues in a bid to curb the soaring infections as its intensive-care wards ran out of beds.

Reimpose restrictions

Infections are also soaring in the Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia, which became the first European country to reimpose sweeping restrictions last week by shutting schools and all non-essential shops, and imposing a curfew from 8pm to 5am for a month. Restrictions were also tightened in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia.

In neighbouring Russia, daily Covid-19 infections reached a record high of 37,930 in 24 hours on Monday, and some regions shut workplaces in response.

World Health Organisation director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that with 50,000 Covid-19 deaths a week the pandemic was “far from over”, but he said it would end “when the world chooses to end it”.

“It is in our hands. We have all the tools we need,” he said. “Unlike so many other health challenges, we can prevent this. Complacency is now as dangerous as the virus.”

 In Austria, where 73 per cent of adults are fully vaccinated, chancellor Alexander Schallenberg warned that restrictions could be placed on the unvaccinated if Covid-19 patients began to take up the country’s ICU capacity.

“The pandemic is not yet in the rear view mirror,” Mr Schallenberg said. “We are about to stumble into a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

He warned that if Covid-19 patients took up a quarter of national ICU beds, then only the vaccinated or people who had recovered from the virus would be allowed entry into restaurants and hotels. If the percentage reached a third, the unvaccinated would be allowed to leave home only for specific reasons.

Vaccination rates have reached above 90 per cent for those eligible in several countries in western Europe including Ireland, though coverage is lower in some cities and particular populations.


This is helping to keep hospitalisations under control, but infections are still rising and many countries have opted to continue with some precautions including mask-wearing, working from home recommendations, and mandatory Covid-19 passes in public settings. Last week, Italy made the passes mandatory for workplaces.

The WHO warned last week that Europe region was the only region in which Covid-19 cases were rising, led by surges in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.

Emergencies chief Dr Mike Ryan appealed for the unvaccinated to come forward for jabs, and said the rise in infections came as restrictions were dropped in many countries, coinciding with “the winter period, in which people are moving inside as the cold snaps appear”.

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