brett bara by 57

sewing 101: pleated + lined drapes

Curtains are one of my favorite things to sew for the home. They require only the most basic sewing skills, and stitching them yourself allows you to create distinctive, custom draperies that could cost a fortune to have professionally made. Luckily, if you have a sewing machine and a spare weekend, you can sew curtains that are guaranteed to look professional and add a truly polished finish to your room. In the past we’ve looked at how to make a basic curtain panel, but in this post we’re taking it up a notch and making pleated curtains that are also lined. These curtains are the real deal, and I promise that they’re easier to make than you think — the trick is using pleating tape, which makes perfect pleats a breeze. Let’s get started! — Brett Bara

Read the full how-to after the jump . . .

Materials

  • fabric for the exterior of your curtains (You can use a wide variety of fabrics here, from medium-weight cottons to heavy-weight decorator fabrics. Calculate the amount you need below.)
  • fabric for lining (A medium-weight cotton or special curtain-lining fabric, which comes in many weights and options, including black-out. You can also use a white sheet for the lining.)
  • pleating tape
  • drapery hooks
  • drapery weights
  • sewing machine, pins, scissors, iron and basic sewing supplies

In addition to your selected fabric, these are the special materials you’ll need to create pleated curtains. At the top is pleating tape, which is what makes all the magic happen. It’s a special tape that you sew to the inside top of your curtain panel. It has skinny vertical pockets every inch or so; you insert the four-pronged drapery hooks (bottom left) into the pockets, cinching the tape and creating perfectly even pleats. There are many types of pleating tape on the market that allow you to achieve all kinds of effects — from shirring to box pleats to pencil pleats — so feel free to explore and choose whatever you like for your windows.

In this post, I’m using four-pronged long-neck/ceiling pleat hooks. Like pleating tape, there are many types of drapery hooks on the market, and they all interact with the pleating tapes and your curtain rod/rings in different ways to achieve different effects. So take a look at what’s out there when you’re deciding which hooks to use.

At the bottom right is a curtain weight, which is not absolutely crucial but will lend a more professional look to your curtains. The weights get sewn into the bottom hem of the curtain panels, helping them hang nice and straight.

1. Measuring

To determine how large to cut your fabric, first you’ll have to measure your windows. I start by installing my curtain rods wherever I want them so I have a fixed place to measure from. Then, measure for the finished length of your curtains by measuring from the spot on your curtain rings or rod where the curtains will attach to the point where you’d like the bottom of the curtains to fall. Write down this number as measurement A. Next, measure your desired width of each curtain panel and write this down as measurement B. (Note: Each type of pleating tape creates a different gather, so check your specific tape to see how much extra fabric width you need to plan for your pleats. In most cases, it is at least double the desired width of each panel.)

For the exterior of each curtain panel, you’ll need to cut a piece of fabric that is as long as A + 11″ and as wide as B + 4″. For the lining, cut a piece that’s 5″ shorter and 4″ narrower than your exterior piece. (Note: If your fabric isn’t wide enough to reach your measurements, seam two pieces together vertically and then proceed.)

2. Cutting the fabric

Okay, I know I said that sewing curtains is extremely easy, but there is one tricky part, and that’s wrestling with the large pieces of fabric and keeping everything straight and even. First things first: It really helps to have a good workspace for a large project like curtains. Try to set yourself up in a space where you have enough surface area (usually on the floor, unless you have the luxury of giant work tables) to spread out your fabric comfortably. If you need to move furniture out of the room to make space, do it!

Once your fabric is all spread out, it’s time to cut. To keep your pieces of fabric straight and square, use the selvage of your fabric as a guide. The selvage is the finished edge of the fabric, which is where the fabric was attached to the loom when it was manufactured. Often the selvage will be a different color and have some writing on it that indicates who made it. Here’s the important thing to know: You should trim off the selvage before you start sewing. Because it is a different texture than the rest of the fabric, it can cause puckering in your seams if you don’t trim it off.

When you trim off your selvage, know that that edge of the fabric is a true straight edge, so use it as a guide when you cut. Use a long ruler and pencil to draw a line (or a rotary cutter and straight edge, if you have one) and make your first cuts parallel to both selvage edges. Then when you make your perpendicular cuts for length, be sure to make them at right angles to your selvage cuts. These steps will ensure that you have nice, straight pieces of fabric to work with. I find it very helpful to use my cutting mat as a guide for this, but if you don’t have a cutting mat, you can use a carpenter’s square to check your edges and corners. (I’ve even been known to use a laser level square to check my edges when sewing big things!)

(In this post I’m making a miniature curtain panel so you can see all the elements, but in small scale.) After you cut your pieces, this is what you should have: your exterior piece plus your lining, which will be a bit smaller on all sides.

3. Hem the bottoms

The first step is to hem the bottom edges of both the exterior and the lining. To do this, fold up the bottom edge 4″ and press. Fold it up another 4″ and press again.

Pin the layers in place, then sew the hem by stitching about 1/4″ from the interior folded edge.

Hem the lining in the exact same way.

4. Sew the sides

It’s time to attach the lining to the exterior. Lay out both of your pieces, with the right sides of the fabric facing together. Align them so that the hemmed edge of the lining is 2″ above the hemmed edge of the exterior (as shown in the right edge in the photo above) and the raw edges of the pieces are aligned along one side (as shown in the top edge in the photo above).

Sew the two pieces together along the aligned raw edges, with a 1/2″ seam allowance.

Next we’ll sew the other side. Because the exterior is wider than the lining, you’ll need to shift the fabrics to line up the raw edges of the side opposite the seam you just sewed. Be sure to keep the hem of the lining 2″ above the hem of the exterior. Pin the fabrics in place, then sew along this edge as you did before.

Turn the two pieces right-side out, and this is what you’ll have: The exterior fabric will fold in and create a border on the lining side.

Be sure to evenly distribute the fabric so the lining is centered and the border on each side is even, and then iron the sides so that the seam is flat and the edges are creased.

This process makes the exterior fabric wrap around to the lining side so that if the edges of your curtain panels flip out slightly, you’ll see your decorative fabric and not the lining.

5. Insert the weights

Now we need to finish the hem and insert the weights. As you can see, when you turn your panels right-side out, there will be a spot at the bottom where the raw edge of your fabric is visible (in the 2″ space where the lining doesn’t cover the seam). Turn this raw edge under 1/2″ and press it.

Then slide a weight under the edge of the fabric, tucking it into the space where the fabric wraps around to meet the lining. Using a needle and thread, tack the weight in place by sewing the fabric tab on the top of the weight to the inside wrapped portion of the curtain. Finally, use the needle and thread to sew the interior folded edge closed (i.e., the edge you just folded under and ironed).

Repeat to add another weight on the other bottom corner of each panel.

A note about the hem: The hem of the lining and the hem of the exterior do not get sewn together. The idea is that they each hang freely, which helps the curtain panels to hang straight, without puckering. The hem is made 2″ shorter than the exterior just to avoid any chance that the hem might peek out from the bottom or become visible when the curtains move.

6. Finish the top edge

Here’s what the top edge of your panel should look like: The exterior will extend 3″ above the lining.

Simply fold the exterior down 3″ over the lining, and press it in place.

7. Attach the pleating tape

Finally, it’s time for the pleating tape! Simply cut a piece of tape that is as wide as your curtain panel (folding under the raw edges of the tape 1/4″ and pressing them). Align the tape with the top edge of the curtain panel.

Okay, now we’re going to take a brief detour so I can tell you about a little trick. As you can see, the drapery hook here is not as tall as the pleating tape. (I could not find hooks the same size as my tape.) If I were to sew the tape in place as is, the hook, as you can see, would fall about 1″ from the top edge of the curtain panel. What this would mean is that my curtain fabric would extend 1″ beyond the spot where I hang it, which in my case would mean that it would partially cover my curtain rings. I wanted my panels to float just below my curtain rings, so I needed a fix for this.

My solution, since I couldn’t find skinner pleating tape in the style I wanted, was to simply fold under the top edge of the tape and iron it in place. This solution worked just fine, and as you can see, now the hooks meet the top edge of the curtain. So if you have a similar issue, know that you can play around with the tape to make it do what you want!

Once you’re happy with the placement of the tape, pin it in place, using lots of pins along both edges so nothing will shift. Then simply sew it to the curtain panel, stitching along the dotted line at the bottom of the tape, as well as along the top edge of the tape. (Be sure to check that the pockets of your tape are situated at the bottom with the opening of the pockets on the outside!)

Here’s how everything will look at this stage: The panel is finished on all sides with no raw edges visible, and the tape is stitched flat to the panel, flush with the top edge.

8. Time to pleat!

We made it! It’s time to pleat! All that’s left is to insert the prongs of the pleating hooks into the pockets of the tape.

Slide the hooks all the way in . . .

And you’ve got pleats!

You can place the hooks at any interval you like, depending how close you want your pleats to be. I placed mine with three or four empty pockets between each pleat.

Here’s how they look on the front. Magic!

Place each hook on your curtain rings or rod, and sit back and admire your work!

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brett bara / diy projects / sewing 101

57 Comments

michelle

thank you!! i really appreciate this lesson!

i agree that the most terrifying part about this is the handling of the large amount of fabric.

Shauna

Heck yes! Design Sponge comes through for me, as usual! I’ve been agonizing over the lack of curtains on my many living room windows, wanting lined ones but not finding any I like. And just last night I was combing through some books at the library for a pattern so I could make my own- to no avail. And here you are today. Coming through for me again. Design Sponge: you RULE!

a.k.

What a fantastic tutorial! Quick question – what kind of pleating tape did you use?

Lauren

I’m excited to eventually utilize this post! I feel like I can never find the right style that I’m looking for in my budget. I’m down to try it myself!

Sarah

Wow this is awesome! everything about it. It looks so professional too since you added the little weights and stuff.

Brooke

Thanks so much for this! It’s exactly what I was looking for and looks easier than I though.

Sheila

I have wanted to do this forever and this post is just the trick to get me going. Thank you!

Kristin

I noticed from the salvedged edge that the fabric is from Project Runway designer Jay McCarroll for FreeSpirit Fabrics. I’m not quite sure what the design is called but I like it. Thanks for all the great info.

Brett Bara

hi all!

The fabric is Birch in Peach from Jay McCarroll’s Habitat collection from Free Spirit fabrics/Westmister Fabrics. It’s running out of stock in many places but I did find it at this Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/listing/71707900/birch-in-peach-from-jay-mccarrolls

AK, the pleating tape is 4″ multipleat tape.

Karen, the light fixture is Finn by West Elm – currently on sale! http://www.westelm.com/products/finn-chandelier-w666/?pkey=csale-lighting

Happy curtain making!
xo
Brett

k8 keller

I normally dislike curtains as a rule, but in this fabric they look great. What is the fabric and where can i get some!?

Kristy

Can you give an estimate of how much it might cost to do two panels for one window? I know fabric choice plays a part, but in terms of supplies?

sarah scott

Wonderful tutorial done with really attractive materials. Thank you!

Catie

Just curious – you didn’t sew down the sides of the drapes, right? Why not? Other tutorials indicate a seam down the sides.

Also, do the weights help prevent the curtains from flipping up (like a j) at the sides?

Gail Schulenburg

I notice that this fabric is quilter’s fabric and only 45″ wide. Did you use two widths on each panel? They look great!

Gail Schulenburg

Is there a reason you made them short? I must admit, I would have them go to the floor.

Abby

Oh yay! I am totally going to make these…thanks for taking the mystery out of it…that pleaters tape is fabulous….

Bérangère Bouffard

I admit, I am eagerly waiting for a reply to the last comment above that questions the short curtains. I’m curious because I like curtains going to the floor but am cursed with electric heaters under every freakin’ window. I would ignore it but my father in law who’s a retired fireman has seen a few horrors with curtains hanging against electric heaters. I’m stubborn, they are all long and touching the floors but a little voice tells me that I should put more thought into it. It would kill me (and my love for good taste and design sense) to shorten my expensive curtains to float above the heaters which would mean 7 inches above the ground. Just like nerd pants! What do you think? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Also, GREAT POST!!! Love the curtains! Even if short. Nice job! :)

Heather

Thanks! Now I finally know why the curtains I made pucker at the bottom! I think I may have to change that someday soon, now that I know the correct way to make them!

Peg

Your new draperies are very pretty, but I do agree that they should drag the floor. Of course, you may have needed to shorten them because of the heating units. I just made draperies with the help of a friend who is a drapery professional. She had me make mine 3″ longer than the measurement to the floor. I did the hem and side seams by hand so the stitching would not show on the face fabric. She had me add inner lining, a heavy flannel, to make the draperies hang better. I didn’t use the pleater tape; I measured and sewed the pleats, then did the three little folds in each pleat by hand and stuffed the top of each pleat with cotton batting. I offer these suggestions because draperies take so much pricey fabric and they look so much better when they are lined and innerlined like a professional would do. The construction is not difficult.

Christine

Am I the only one having trouble printing this column? Is there a trick I’m missing?

Angie

Thank you so much for these clear, easy to follow instructions. I am a novice and used them to make my first curtain this week. It took 12 hours, but I enjoyed it immensely and will be doing curtain no. 2 as soon as I am rested!

Laura

I disagree with the folks who want them all the way to the floor. Aesthetics aside, it’s so much easier to clean the floor when the drapes hang high. And as a cat owner, I actually made the curtain in my kitchen 14 in. off the floor intentionally since the previous blinds got cat hair all over them when the cats tried to go under the curtain to look out the sliding doors. Sometimes practicality supersedes looks. I think Brett’s are stunning as they are.

Tina Stokley

Thanks so much for the wonderful directions. I have just redecorated my bedroom and wanted some really nice curtains (but didn’t want to pay the price. Mine are a beautiful cream floral chennile and I lined them with blackout lining (per my husbands request). The hardest thing definately was dealing with the 90 inches of heavy curtain. I could NOT have done it without this tutorial. THANKS AGAIN!

Tina

Amy

These are awesome instructions! I have been following them and have completed 1 of 4 panels. Who knew how hard it would be to manage almost 30 yards of fabric (drapes and liners)! I am having a heck of a time getting the pleats to turn out looking nice. What’s your trick? Did you skip every other pocket like most do? i may have just been frustrated, but if there’s a trick or something I’m overlooking I would love to know!

I also modified these a little so I can hem them on the rod since our rods haven’t been hung yet.

Emily Dodd

Seriously, thank you so much for this tutorial. I’ve searched through several books, and blogs to figure this out. You’re pics of each step really made it easy to understand where as other books and blogs had way more text and only 3-5 pics. I could not have finished my beautiful drapes without you!

suzanne

I just purchased 4 bedspreads from IKEA that I’m turning into drapes. Just need to get some lining material. Thanks for the tutorial! I didn’t want my drapes to just be “clipped” and hung…I’m ready for some “grown up”drapes, but without the fat price that pottery barn charges. Thank You for the tips….!!!

Gaby

I have daperies witha pocket. They are 109 inches wide finished. I would like to pinch pleat these. What would my measurements for the pleats be. I have made pinch pleated drapes before but i need to get the spacing correct. any help would be appreciated

gaby

jeri walsh

Need help in pinch pleating a fabric that is 109 inches wide. that is the finished width, including side seams. What would the meaurement be for pleating

thank you.
Gaby

michelle t

where did you get the hooks you used, can find them on your link.

Jess

Thank you very much for the easy-to-follow tutorial. I’ve now successfully sewn my first set of curtains!

Malissa

If your doing more than 1 cut of fabric this technique could be disastrous. The best way to finish draperies and have them hang correctly is by hand stitching or blind hemmer. The layers need to be tabled together and properly fit to not have a lining that is baggy or tight. A cut of light weight cotton about 45″ square isn’t going to act like 2.5 widths stitched together,108″ long, to cover a window 100″+ wide, especially if there is a large variation in the weave and the weight of the face fabric and the lining.

Lani

I was searching on the internet for private sewing lessons — someone in my area who could teach me to make lined, pleated drapes. I’m an accomplished “simple sew-er,” so just needed to be taught the details and tricks. This is terrific; no private lessons needed! Thanks a million.

Jenn

Thank you for this post–it has been so helpful. The last drapes I made, I didn’t use any kind of pattern. I just kind of winged it and each panel was different. The lining was all scrunched up and didn’t hang well. I moved and for my new windows, decided to use your post as my guide. My new curtains are gorgeous! So professional-looking. This was easy to follow and just what I needed. Thanks!!

Jenn

I’d also like to say that the comment Malissa wrote above is not correct. The drapes I made using this tutorial are 2 widths wide and 92″ tall. The lining was much lighter-weight than the heavy outer fabric, but everything hangs great. I am very pleased. Don’t be scared if you are doing this too, folks!

Christina

Hi there! I followed your awesome instructions and now have a beautiful set of custom lined French pleated drapes that look like they cost literally hundreds of dollars. We have a light that shines in our window at night so I used a heavier black out lining and everything still worked perfectly. I have very meager sewing skills, but this made me look like a rockstar to my husband (and my parents!) Thank you so much.

Anne

Hi ,I have been sewing and making drapes for years none recently until I decided to make pinch pleated drapes for two windows in my bedroom After I sewed the tape on and inserted the hooks I went to the store to find the rings to hang the hooks on but I could only find rings with little :clothes pins : so I removed the pins and inserted the hooks on to a circle at the bottom of the ring ,hope all this makes sense but on the window it looks just perfect.

Jen

These instructions were great – without them I wouldn’t have attempted this project, and the curtains look professional and beautiful! But, if you are like me and have never used pleating hooks before, and you use the exact kind in the picture, a little more guidance may be necessary. Each prong goes in a separate pocket. And you have to skip pockets. Otherwise, it doesn’t work out! But they do look awesome when done correctly!!!

Barbara Domizioli

I am a complete novice and accomplished making these beautiful drapes. Thank you so much for the comprehensive instructions. As for the length…..I made mine to stop just under the window sill for a small window and they look so professional. Now I am making some for the bedroom and the old drapes went all the way to the floor. These will be about 6 inches from the floor. One window is already finished (there are two) and the shorter length allows the drapes to hang well, much better than to the floor.

Erica

Thanks for the detailed instructions. I’m off to make some drapes for my sliding glass door now!

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I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you have
hit the nail on the head. The issue is something nott enough folks are speeaking intelligently
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hunt for something relating to this.

Cathy

I’m starting my drape project this week and have a question. My panel will be three widths of fabric wide. The lining also will be three widths wide. Do I have to tack the lining anywhere along those widths or will it be OK to just sew the lining to the outside edges as was shown in tour tutorial?

Cathy

I have a question on the lining. My panel will be three widths wide as will my lining. Do I need to tack the lining along any of the width seams, or will attaching it only on both sides as shown work?

Diana Wells

Can I use the pleated tape to convert back tab curtains into pinch pleated? I have the pattern chosen in ready made drapes but they only come in back tab style.

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