How to pinch pleat drapes - without pleating tape

Draperies do more than just protect your privacy in your home; they save money by adding an insulating layer to the windows in winter and summer. Sewing your own drapes may seem like a daunting task, but if you can sew a straight line, you can sew your own drapes. Pinch pleats are some of the simplest pleats to make. As the name implies, simply pinch the pleats together and stitch in place. The pleats add fullness to the drapes and interest to the room.

Measure the width of the drapery rails. Measure the distance from the rail to the ceiling and from the rail to the floor. Measure the overlap section of the rail to find the "overlap." Measure the distance from the rail to the wall to find the "return."

Divide the width of the window by two. This gives you the measurement of a single panel and splits the drapes in the middle. Add the return and overlap measurements to the panel width measurement. Add the distance from the floor to rail and rail to ceiling for the height of the drapes. Add six inches for floor and ceiling hems to the drapery fabric, but not the lining.

Add the pleated fullness to each panel. Decide how deep you wish your pleat to be, how many pleats you want in each section and how many pleated sections you want your drapes to have. Double the fabric for each pleat. For example, you may want 12 sections on each panel with three 1 inch pleats in each section. Each section of three 1-inch pleats needs 6-inches of fabric for fullness (three pleats times 2 inches). Multiply 12 by the extra 6 inches if you want 12 sections and you know that you need an extra 72 inches of fabric for each panel of your drapes. You will need the same width for the lining.

Lay the lining on top of the back of the drapery fabric. Fold 1/2 inch of the drapery fabric over at the top and press. Fold 1 inch over the lining at the top of the drapes and stitch down to form the top hem. Fold over the bottom of the drapes 1/2 inch and press. Fold a 4-inch hem from the bottom and stitch in place.

Sew a line of buckram at the top of the drapes. Buckram is a heavily starched, burlap-like fabric that holds your pleats in place. Stitch the buckram at the top and the bottom.

Start from the centre of the drapes when figuring where to put the pleats. Measure the return distance from one end of the panel and mark the fabric. Measure the overlap from the other side of one panel and mark the fabric. Measure the distance between the return mark and the overlap mark. Divide this measurement by 12 if you want 12 sections. This is the pleat distance and tells you how far to measure between pleats.

Measure 1 1/2-inch from the overlap mark and make a second mark on the fabric. This is the centre of the first pleat. Measure the pleat distance from the centre of the first pleat and mark the fabric. Continue to mark all the way across the top of the drape.

Fold the fabric at the centre pleat mark so the backs of the fabric are together. Fold the fabric back so the front sides are together 1 inch from the first fold and fold back. Repeat on the other side of the fold. This is the first triple pleat. Run a large safety pin through the back to hold the pleat in place. Repeat for all the other pleats on the panel. Use two safety pins, one at the top and one at the bottom, for heavy fabric.

Hook the drapery hooks through the safety pins and hang the drapes on the rod to check for length and pleats. Make any adjustments you desire. Remove the drapes and the hooks when you're satisfied with the look of your drapes.

Thread the needle with the button thread. Button thread is stronger than typical cotton. Stitch the back of the pleats together. Place the drapery hook through the centre pleat and hang the hook on the rod.


You do not have to stick with three pleats. You can have one or as many as six.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Paper
  • Fabric, yardage dependent on the window measurements
  • Lining, yardage dependent on the window measurements
  • Sewing machine
  • 6 inch wide Buckram, yardage dependent on the window measurements
  • Water soluble sewing pen
  • Safety Pins
  • Needle
  • Button thread
  • Curtain hooks
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About the Author

Based in Nashville, Shellie Braeuner has been writing articles since 1986 on topics including child rearing, entertainment, politics and home improvement. Her work has appeared in "The Tennessean" and "Borderlines" as well as a book from Simon & Schuster. Braeuner holds a Master of Education in developmental counseling from Vanderbilt University.