Bathroom makeover on the cheap

Shower curtain, wall hangings and fancy towels

My guest bath used to be an awful chocolate ice cream color. I’ve hated it for the last few years, but not enough to bother painting it. I finally had it painted a cheerful yellow, and I knew it was time for a whole new look. I felt inspired by the black and white accessories, and set out on a mission to create a whole new bathroom with very little money.

This post will cover three tutorials:
1. how to make a dramatic, ruffled shower curtain
2. how to make fabric wall hangings on the cheap
3. how to fancy up your plain towels

Here’s what my bathroom looked like before. Ummm … I never noticed how ugly the light fixture in my bathrooms are until I was examining this picture. I was initially thinking of a earthy brown/turquoise sky combination, but being the cheapskate that I am, I decided to use some greenish towels I already had and some bathroom decor accessories of the same color that I bought simply because they were on sale. Can you blame me, though? Those things really add up.
I knew this time I wanted a cheerful and sunny room, so I went with a yellow. And then I realized that my towels, shower curtain and accessories really did nothing for the room anymore. Especially the shower curtain. Phooey! Now I have to buy new stuff, and with a baby a few months away, I really want to pinch pennies.

I awaited inspiration as I stared at the freshly painted walls. I kept thinking of the crispness and warmth of hotel rooms, which often have a yellowish hue and white contrast. I don’t know who wants to live in a hotel room, but there are some aspects of nice hotel rooms that are desirable.

So, where do you go when you want cheap stuff? How about Tuesday Morning? I found my way to the bathroom section and wasn’t particularly impressed with the selection or prices. I found some white items, but I didn’t love them — or their prices. Fortunately, Target is in the same shopping center, so I walked over to do some comparisons.

And that’s where I found these. Why, they are perfection! I loved them so much. I loved the black and white. I loved the different patterns that all somehow go together. And the prices were actually better than the Tuesday Morning prices!
I decided against the trash can and the tissue box holder to save money. The previous tissue box holder was this greenish color of the other accessories, but it is ceramic and of decent quality.
And so I turned to my old friend: black spray paint. It worked perfectly. I kept waiting for my husband to ask why I couldn’t just spray paint all of the old bathroom accessories, instead of buying this other stuff. Fortunately, he didn’t. (And he’s always bragging about how observant he is. I bet he didn’t even notice the new look in the bathroom at all.)

Part 1: Dramatic, ruffled shower curtain

What’s black and white and elegant all over? My new shower curtain. Inspired by my new bathroom decorations, I knew right away which fabric I wanted for my shower curtain. Here’s how I made it.


(Click fabrics for direct links for purchase at Warehouse Fabrics Inc.)

Traditions black/white - TRSBLK

2.5 inch wide ribbon
I needed to match prints, so I used 5.5 yards of the fabric. I used 3 yards of the ribbon.

The pattern

I sort of made this up as I went, and this is how I did it:

The process

I took my 5.5 yards and opened it up. I folded it in half so that the cut edges were at the top and the fold was at the bottom. The selvages were on the sides. I cut across the width of the fabric at 82 inches. Now I have two pieces that are the full width of the fabric times 82 inches. This leaves me some room for matching the pattern lengthwise later.

Set aside the piece of fabric at the bottom, where the fold is. You’ll need this later. Also set aside one of the big pieces you just cut.

The other big piece will be your main shower curtain panel. The shower curtain will consist of three panels: one wider one and two smaller ones on either side, which is standard in home decorating sewing when it comes to things like curtains. It is more pleasing to the eye and helps the curtain hang more nicely. I was aiming for a center panel of about 50 inches and two side panels of about 12 inches each. (A standard shower curtain is about 72″x72″, but you have some leeway here). My center piece, once I accounted for the pattern repeats, was about 51.5 inches wide.
Because I wanted to match the prints across the span of the curtain, I selected a part of the pattern that would be easy to line up all the way down the length of the curtain. Click the photo for a larger version. The top edge of my ruler is lined up where I’m going to match my pattern to the piece attached to it. I also added a red dotted line.
But, I want this to be my seam line, so I need to add a 1/2″ seam allowance. The dotted line shows where my pattern will line up, as in picture above, and the blue line I have drawn on my fabric (and where the ruler edge now is) will be my cutting line. So, basically, I have lined up the 1/2″ mark on my ruler with the “matching line.” I drew a line with fabric marker all the way down.
Cut along this line. This will be the piece you match to the center panel of the curtain.

Then measure 12 inches  from this edge and cut. This will be your outer edge of the curtain.

You’ll end up with this. Do the same on the other side of the fabric. You’ll want them to be reverse images of each other, as far as the pattern goes, since they’ll be on opposite sides of the main curtain panel.
Line up the patterns and pin center panel to outer panels. Now, the tops and bottoms of the curtain may not line up. Line up your pattern and then trim the top and bottom later. That’s why I left some extra room in the length.
Sew panels together with 1/2″ seam allowance. I also serged my seams allowances with a serger. You can finish them with a zig-zag on your regular machine if you don’t have a serger.
Hem outer edges of curtain with a one-inch hem (fold and press 1/2″, then fold and press another 1/2″).
Make a 4″ hem on the top by pressing down 2″, then 2″ again and sewing.
Now it’s time for the ruffle. Remember how you initially cut off the folded end of the big piece of fabric and set it aside? Now retrieve that and cut it lengthwise along the fold so you have two pieces. Sew them together in the center. I then serged my seam. My pieces was 114″ across and 17″ tall.
Hem each side with a 1″ hem (1/2″ fold, press, 1/2″ fold). Make a 2″ hem along the bottom, being mindful of the direction of the pattern so that it goes the same way as the rest of the shower curtain.
I initially decided to use the ruffler feature on my serger to gather this piece of fabric, but it was so long that it just didn’t gather it enough. So I decided to do a sort of pleated ruffle by hand. I decided against trying to do long running stitches and pulling to gather because the fabric is heavy and the piece is so long that I knew it would probably just break the thread.

I roughly hand pleated every few inches and pinned until it was the same width as the shower curtain. I first marked the center of the shower curtain and lined that up with the center seam of the ruffle. The yellow pin at top right is marking the center of the shower curtain and below that is the center seam of the ruffle.

Next, I basted these pleats in place using the long stitch on my sewing machine.

Along the top of the shower curtain, evenly mark a dozen spots for buttonholes. Start about an inch from each edge and space as evenly as possible. Using your sewing machine, make a buttonhole at each dot. I made them approximately 6-1/4″ apart and 3/4″ long. For help with buttonholes, see our tutorial here.
Then, I sewed the ruffle to the bottom of the shower curtain.

The bows are optional. I took wide ribbon and tied two bows, then used safety pins to secure them to the curtain so that they are easily removable if I want to wash the curtain.

Part 2: Fabric wall hangings

I needed something on the walls, but even crummy, generic “art” costs a lot. So what to do? Once I bought the Target bathroom accessories in the different black and white prints, I got the idea of using some leftover black and white fabrics to do something for the walls.
I decided to use a triple picture frame of some sort, but I needed at least two of them, and they were a bit pricey everywhere I looked. So off to good ol’ Big Lots.


(Click fabrics for direct links for purchase at Warehouse Fabrics Inc.)

Tunisia black - TUABLK

Small houndstooth black/white - SMHBLK

Madison black/white - MANBLE

Carrie black/white - CAEBLK

Glue stick

3-photo picture frames
I simply used scraps of the fabrics above and mixed prints up. I bought two picture frames.

The process

I found these two frames on a clearance shelf for $8 each.
They were painted gold, but I have my secret weapon: black spray paint. I like the designs on the frame, which lend themselves to the curlicue fabrics in the bathroom.
After spray painting. It took a few coats.
I then cut and pieced fabrics together in different shapes and secured them to the back of the mat using a glue stick.
Popped it all into the frames, and I was done! Visually interesting, one of a kind, and it hardly cost a thing.

Part 3: Dressed-up towels

I had purchased simple, white towels on sale at Kohl’s, where everything is practically free! After all was said and done, I felt like a dash of black on the towels would pull things together nicely. I simply sewed some ribbon on for a quick and easy fix.


Wide ribbon

You’ll need enough ribbon to cover the width of the number of towels you’re decorating. I did two bath towels and one hand towel.

The process

My towels have a ridge about 2-1/2″ wide, so I bought ribbon that same width.
I put black thread on the spool and white in the bobbin.
Start by making a narrow double fold on the edge of the ribbon. Pin it in place to the edge of the towel and sew close to the edge to secure.
Pivot and sew down the length of the towel, close to the edge of the ribbon. When you get close to the other end, trim the ribbon, allowing enough for another double fold to hide the raw edges. Sew that fold, pivot and go down the other long edge of the ribbon.

Other views

(Click for bigger views)