DIY Screen Curtain

Have you seen the ads on TV for a curtain made of screening for your patio and sliding doors? We've had one for our sliding doors ever since Keli was a puppy. We usually set it up on the first warm day of spring and leave it there through the summer into mid-fall. On nice days, both Keli and Penny like to go out onto the deck to sunbathe and watch the squirrels, birds and other passers-by. The curtain allows them to go out and come back in when they get too warm and helps keep out most of the insects and airborne objects.

At the end of last year, our poor screen curtain was showing its age - the weighted strip had fallen off of one panel and both panels had small rips and tears all over.

We've had warm sunny days for the past week and of course, the girls wanted to go in and out - which meant we either had to keep opening and closing the sliding screen door for them or leave it open and deal with the bugs. And there were a few head-bumping incidents when Penny tried to push through the screen door. So I decided it was time to make a replacement screen, re-using the weights from our old screen, a spare tension rod and pet screening:

DIY Screen Door Curtain
It turned out great - and you can see that Keli is very happy to get out and soak up the sun!

I used the old screen curtain as a guideline for constructing the new curtain. It's constructed very much like any other curtain, but without the fuss of making pretty hems.

The first step was to measure the door opening to determine the finished size needed for the curtain. To calculate how much screening I needed, I added 1 inch to the width and 6 inches to the height of the doorway. (I forgot to take photos as I went along, so I have a few drawings to help explain the process.)

My doorway opening is about 32 inches wide by 76 inches tall. The two panels will overlap about 2 inches at the center, so for each panel I needed about 18 inches wide (32+1 = 33; divided by 2 = 16.5 + 2 = 18.5) by 82 inches long of screening.

I decided to use vinyl pet screening because I've seen it used for bag-making and embroidery and it won't hurt my machines. It's a little bit heftier than typical screening. I found a package of pet screening at Home Depot that measures 36 x 84 - perfect sizing for my curtain.

To cut the two 18 inch panels, I unrolled the screening on our patio table where it could lay flat. To mark the cutting line, I measured 18 inches from one edge and marked the center with pieces of blue painters tape. I used my craft scissors to cut along the edge of the tape - don't use your good sewing scissors for this!

To make the sides of each panel look finished, I used my serger and a 3-thread narrow overlock stitch along each long edge, barely trimming the screen. No fancy threads were used - just regular black serger thread. This step is for appearance only, but it also helps smooth the edges of the panel.

If you don't have a serger and would like a nice finished edge, many sewing machines have some sort of overcast or edge finishing stitch.

DIY Screen Door Curtain
The weighted pieces from the old screen were in good shape, so I sewed them to the bottom of each panel - instead of sewing pins, I used 4-5 clothespins to keep the screen and weighted strips aligned. To sew up close the edge, I used a narrow zipper foot, a size 100 topstitch needle and a long straight stitch of 5mm.

The recycled weighted strips feel like rectangular metal pieces, inside a vinyl or faux leather casing.  If I needed to make something like it, I would probably try using drapery weights inside a casing made of sport nylon or outdoor fabric.

DIY Screen Door Curtain
Here's how the weighted hem looks from the other side. No fancy finishes on the bottom of the screen.

I used regular sewing thread again, because that's what I have on hand. Upholstery or heavy duty thread could be used, too.

After the panels were done, the curtain was ready to be assembled.

Back outside on the big patio table, I set the panels flat, overlapping them about 2 inches at the center. I measured across the bottom, center and top and adjusted the top panel so that the finished width was 33 inches at each point, and used more painters tape to keep them together at the center.

To form the rod pocket of the curtain, I measured from the bottom of each panel and marked 77 inches - my doorway height plus 1 inch. That's the finished top edge. I folded the screen at this mark, securing the edge with tape and more clothespins, especially at the center overlap section.

To transport the curtain to the sewing machine, I rolled it up from the bottom. The rod pocket and header are formed by stitching across the folded section two times. The height of the rod pocket depends on the size of the tension rod; mine is about 1/2 - 3/4 inch in diameter, so my rod pocket is 1-1/2 inches tall. 

I stitched once at 1-1/2 inches from the top and a second time at 3 inches from the top. The stitching was done with the folded edge on the right side of the needle and the rolled up screen on the left side. To measure the 3 inch and 1-1/2 inch sections, I used a quilting guide attachment and let the folded edge 'ride' up against the guide.  

Be sure the table behind your sewing machine doesn't have anything on it, because the screen will knock it off as you get near the end of the seam.

DIY Screen Door Curtain
This photo shows the rod pocket and header with the tension rod inserted.

DIY Screen Door Curtain

After stitching the rod pocket, about 3 inches of excess screening remained, so I trimmed it off 1/2 inch lower than the bottom seam. As I was trimming, I accidentally snipped part of one of my panels where they overlap, so I had to 'patch' it with some extra screen. 

The old screen had velcro and magnets attached at the edges and in the overlap section; I never felt that they worked very well, so I didn't bother adding them to the new screen. If I feel I need them, I can always add them later on.

That's all there is to it! The entire project took about 2 hours from start to finish (with a few interruptions from the Pesties) and it only cost a little under $15 for the screening.

 Happy Spring!


  1. Wonderful! Just made one for my 9' tall French door. Thank you for the instructions!

  2. I love the clever approaches to holding the "fabric" with clothespins and marking the cut edge with tape!!!! I chose to make grommets for some tie backs. Just more fun!

  3. Did you use velcro to tie down the sides of the screen?

    1. The original, purchased screen had velcro at the sides, but it didn't work very well, so I omitted it on my screen. Because the tension rod is mounted inside the frame of my sliding doors, the edges don't blow around much. And my doggies sometimes go in and out at the sides of the screen instead of the center.

  4. You flipping rock!
    Did two of these so far.
    One for me and one for a neighbor.

    We are in old 60's 70's apartments and can't just put a screen door on.


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