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“In our old Brooklyn brownstone attic apartment, we only had one north-facing window; it was high off the ground and relatively short,” Reading My Tea Leaves blogger Erin Boyle remembers of the less-than-500-square-foot unit. Motivated by all the way-too-high hardware prices she encountered and the lack of room above the dormer (the deep sills and sloping walls didn’t help matters), Boyle came up with multiple fixes for how to hang curtains without a rod. Equally important? Not completely obscuring the glass—natural light is everything in a small space. 

How to Hang Curtains Without a Rod

Option 1: Install a Series of Tacks

Photography by Erin Boyle

The Supplies

  • Ladder or stool
  • Curtain sewn to fit the window’s dimensions (Boyle hand-stitched her own) or store-bought curtains with loops or tabs for hanging
  • O-rings (if making your own curtains)
  • Oversize wrought-iron tacks or long nails
  • Scissors
  • Thread in a color that matches your curtains
  • Tape measure or ruler
  • Needle
  • Fabric marker 
  • Pencil

Step 1: Mark the Spot for Each Curtain Ring

If you’re working with fabric, determine the number of O-rings you need along the top edge, based on how you want your panels to fall (do you want close folds or looser waves of fabric?). Flip the curtain over, hem side facing up. Then using a ruler or tape measure and a fabric marker, label each ring’s spot at the top of the fabric at the hem line. Ensure there are equal amounts of space between them—spread the rings wider for heavier fabrics and closer together for lighter ones. 

Our favorite store-bought curtains for this project:

Step 2: Figure Out Where the Tacks Will Go

With pencil in hand, climb on the ladder to designate where you want to pin the tacks—you’ll want one for every ring you planned for in Step 1 or every loop already on your store-bought curtain. To ensure even spacing, start by marking one at the top-left corner of the window frame, another above the middle of the window, and a third at the top-right corner. Pencil in any additional tack placements in between. Mount the ladder again to push the tacks firmly into the wall at each marked spot.

Step 3: Thread the Needle

Cut off a 10-inch piece of thread (the longer it is, the more knots you could possibly create) and dampen one end to help it glide through the eye of the needle a lot smoother. Push this end of the thread through the needle eye until about three-quarters of the thread is hanging out the other side of the opening. Take the shorter end, loop it over the longer portion, and tie a knot, pulling it taut around the needle eye. Do a double knot to ensure the needle is threaded tightly. 

Step 4: Sew On the Curtain Rings

If you’re a skilled seamstress, use a chain thread loop for this step. Otherwise, Boyle says a rudimentary stitch can work. Starting at the first marked spot on your curtain, use the prepped needle and thread to make three stitches, one on top of another. Avoid pushing the needle all the way through to the front of the curtain; you only want your stitches to be seen from the back side. Instead, stitch just the folded-over piece of fabric at the hem line. Loop the loose end of the thread through the O-ring, then pull the ring close to the curtain and add three more stitches to the same marked spot. Tie off each stitch with a triple knot and trim the excess thread. Repeat this process until all your rings are attached.

Step 5: Hang the Curtains

Pick up your curtains by the O-rings or tabs, making sure the hemmed side is facing the window. Step onto the ladder and hang each loop over a nail. To let in as much light as possible, Boyle simply removes the curtain from its tacks during the day and puts it neatly folded in a clean, safe spot until she’s ready to hang it again at night.

Option 2: Use Metal Clips and Wire

Photography by Erin Boyle

The Supplies

  • Ladder or step stool
  • Cotton fabric with selvage edge, cut to window’s dimensions
  • Small metal clips
  • Annealed wire
  • Wire cutter
  • Drill
  • Two drywall screws
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

Step 1: Attach the Clips to the Curtain

Use the pencil to mark where the clips—alternatives to the usual curtain rings—will hang; measure with a ruler or tape measure to ensure you have equal space between each. Then clamp them onto the panel accordingly. Set the fabric aside on a clean surface until you’re ready to hang it.

Step 2: Measure and Cut the Wire

The wire will take the place of your standard rod. Use a tape measure to measure the width of your window frame from its outer edges. Roll out enough wire to cover it, adding a few inches to the total (the excess will be used to affix the wire to the two screws), and snip it with your wire cutter.

Step 3: Figure Out Where the Screws Will Go

Step up on your ladder and use a pencil to mark the entry points for each screw at the top corners of the window frame. Drill the screws into the wood window frame, leaving a tiny bit of space between the screw and the surface for the wire.

Step 4: Secure the Wire “Rod”

With wire in hand, mount the ladder again. Take one end and loop it around the left screw a few times. Move the ladder over to the right side of the window and repeat with the second screw. The wire should be taut but not too tight.

Step 5: Hang the Curtain

Using the ladder, affix the curtain to the wire with the clips.

Option 3: Swap the Rod for String and Do Café Curtains

Photography by Erin Boyle

The Supplies

  • A small tablecloth, old or thrifted
  • Twine string (or any other thick variety)
  • Two nails or two thumbtacks
  • Hammer
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure

Step 1: Choose the Nail Sites

Since this style is only meant to cover the bottom half of the window, measure halfway down the side of the frame and draw a small X on the wood with your pencil to highlight the two nails or thumbtack placements, one on the right and the left. 

Step 2: Hammer in the Nails

Carefully and slowly hammer the nails into the frame. Avoid applying too much pressure so the wood remains intact. If you’re using thumbtacks, simply push them into place. Leave enough space between the nail (or tack) and the wall to loop the string around it.

Step 3: Measure and Install the String

Measure the width of the window with your tape measure and cut a piece of string a few inches longer than the total. Take one end of the string and loop it around the nail or tack a few times. If the string is thick enough, you can alternatively remove the tack while holding the string in place, then stick it through the string and push it back into the wall to secure it.

Step 4: Drape the Tablecloth

Hold the fabric by the shorter corners and place it over the string, allowing the top quarter of the material to hang in front as a partial double layer. You’re done! There’s no mightier combination than DIY genius and a few hardware supplies.