We love natural light as much as anyone, and the big windows in our van were something we were super excited about.
But when you're living in a van, you'll want some privacy. Trust me. Oh, and try sleeping with lights streaming through your campervan windows. Not happening.
Added bonuses to having curtains on your campervan or RV:
If you park somewhere hot, your van will stay cooler.
It will make your van look so much more homey. And having a cute home is important. (Even if Ben disagrees.)
There were sun shades on some of our windows when we bought the van, but they didn't keep the light out (for mornings when I want to sleep in, duh!), and the gap around the edges needed to be covered to prevent peeping eyes. Our Chevy van was made in 1994, after all, so I guess it makes sense that the curtains weren't as functional as they once were.
But the mere thought of making my own curtains was a task I was wary of. It had been years since I had sewn anything more than reattaching a button, and I was feeling overwhelmed.
After lots of brainstorming and some trial and error, I think we perfected the process of making easy DIY curtains for a campervan. They were cheap (total cost is listed at the bottom of this article), and I got them done pretty quickly.
If you'd like to make curtains for your campervan or RV, this is the perfect tutorial for you!
Fabric or sheet (The amount you get will depend on how many windows are in your vehicle. Step#2 will go over how to measure the windows.)
Picture hanging wire (Get the plastic-coated kind! It's a bit more expensive, but it is SO much easier to slide the curtains on. We used both, and wished that all of ours were coated. Again, the amount you need will depend on how many curtains you need to make. )
Screws (4 per window)
Sewing machine (hand-sewing will take infinitely longer!)
Twine or rope (optional)
1. Plan where you want curtains
Obviously, you'll want them covering each window, but there are some other less obvious spaces you'll likely need curtains.
We made a large curtain that is strung up right in front of the driver and passenger seats to keep out all light (and wandering eyes!) from the front of the car. We also made a curtain for the kitchen counter so we could store our pots, pans, waste bucket, and water tanks.
2. Take measurements
Some windows may be slightly different sizes, so be sure to measure each one individually. Write down each measurement. Then add 2 inches to each window's vertical height, and two inches to the window's horizontal length. (You will need each piece to be larger than the space itself.)
Tip: Don't forget to make one giant curtain that blocks light from the main windshield - the biggest window in your car! We kept this curtain open during the day, but closed it at night to block out lights and give us privacy.
3. Get your materials
We bought 2 sheets from Goodwill for $3 each. We would have only needed one, but I liked both patterns and wasn't sure how much I would "screw up".
Money-saving tip: buying sheets was way cheaper than buying fabric at the craft store, by the way. And the ones we picked out at Goodwill were in perfect shape. You could even use old ones you have lying around at home!
Your measurements should also give you an idea of how much picture wire you'll need. You'll need 2 pieces per window that stretch the horizontal length of the opening. Add 2 inches to the actual measurement so you have enough to secure it to the screw.
Tip: You can find picture wire at craft stores, Walmart/Target or for cheaper online here.
4. Cut curtains according to window measurements (see Step #1)
Don't forget to add 2 inches to the window's vertical height, and two inches to the window's horizontal length.
5. Cut each piece in half
In this tutorial, we will be creating 2 curtains for each window, so they can open on either side and come together in the middle when closed (see photo above). Once you have your fabric cut to cover the window, find the middle and cut it in half vertically.
5. Fold and pin
Place your fabric underside-up on the table you're working on. It should be laying horizontally in front of you, the way it will cover the window.
Using the tape measure and pencil, make two markings:
First marking should be 1/2 inch from the top
Second marking should be 1 inch from the top
Fold the fabric over so the crease is on the 1/2-inch mark. Use safety pins along the length of the fabric to hold the fold in place. (Since you cut your fabric 2 inches taller than the window's height, you've already accommodated these folds.)
6. Start sewing
Now, sew a straight line near the 1-inch mark, to create a "tunnel" for the wire to be strung through. Make sure the "tunnel" is not too tight because this is where the wire will be strung through.
7. Repeat this step on the bottom edge of the fabric
Now you should have a "tunnel" on the top and bottom of this piece of fabric.
8. Clean up the edges
Now, your horizontal edges should be looking nice, but the vertical edge is still raw. Fold the vertical edge over and sew it up on either side. (You don't need to worry about creating a "tunnel" since no wire will be strung through this edge.)
9. Repeat Steps #4 - #8
Repeat this process with the other half of the fabric, to complete the curtain for one window. Once you're finished with one window, you can start from Step #4 until all curtains have been sewed.
10. Secure picture wire to each window
Using a drill, put screws in the 4 corners of each window, only screwing them in halfway. Start on the top left screw and attach the picture wire by wrapping it around the screw tightly. Now, drill the screw in until it is firmly in place and holding the wire.
11. Thread the curtains
First, cut a small hole in the outer edge of each corner of the fabric with a scissors into which you can insert the wire. Now, thread the wire curtain through the "tunnel" you created in the fold of the fabric.
Repeat this process on the bottom edge. Now thread the second half of the curtain.
12. Drill it into place
Now, pull the wire along the length of the window, keeping it super taut. Wrap the wire around the second screw and use the drill tighten the screws until the wire is secure.
Now you have curtains! Yay!
13. Final (optional) touches
If there are any gaps between the curtains, you can add velcro to close them. You can also use twine or a rope as ties to hold the curtains back when you're not using them.
Note: Yes, you will need picture wire along the bottom of the window. I didn't think it was necessary at first, but without this second line of wire, the curtains will fall inward and leave an awkward gap.
Bonus: Repeat the same steps and make curtain for under your campervan kitchen counter. It's a fun and practical way to add a splash of color to your interior while concealing extra storage.
How much do DIY campervan curtains cost?
With the thrift store sheets, thread, picture wire, screws and velcro, we spent a total of $26 for all our curtains. This cost will be higher if you get your fabric from a craft store.
How long does this DIY campervan tutorial take?
This will vary depending on your sewing experience. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I had to start with a video tutorial on how to use the sewing machine, so I started out pretty slow. I worked on this project for a couple hours a day for 3 days. I would say in total, I spent about 6 hours on this project.
But if you're pretty savvy with a sewing machine, I bet you could whip out some curtains in just a couple hours, then spend another half hour or so securing them in your van.
Now you have privacy curtains that not only keep the light out, but also add a touch of style to your new home. For other projects, check out how to build your own campervan bed frame and campervan kitchen counter in our step-by-step tutorials. Find out other tips and tricks on our DIY Campervan Conversion on a Tiny Budget in less than One Week.