Curtain Top Styles

When choosing curtains or draperies for your home, consider not just their fabric, colour and length but also the top of the curtain, often called the curtain header or drapery header. Curtain headers can be cut and sewn into many different configurations, from simple rod pockets to fancy, formal pleats. Consider your home's overall style and choose a header that works well with it.

Rod Pocket

In curtain lingo, a "rod pocket" refers to a casing that is sewn across the top of a curtain panel. You thread the rod through the casing to hang the curtain. Often a curtain panel has two rod pockets across the top, one at the very top and one a few inches from the top. Hanging the curtain by the lower rod pocket produces a ruffle across the top, above the rod. You can also choose not to use the rod pocket and instead clip curtain rings to the panels. For a full, gathered look, purchase curtain panels that are twice as wide as the rod.


Pleats are often used on more formal-looking draperies. Vertical pleats are folded into the tops of the panels, then stitched into place. Although the pleat styles look similar, there are many different techniques for folding and stitching them. Some of the pleat styles often used in curtain headers include pinch pleats, reverse pleats, box pleats, goblet pleats and pencil pleats. Hang pleated drapes on a rod with clip rings or with curtain hooks.

Tab-Top and Tie-Top

These two styles are similar in that fabric is looped around the curtain rod. Tab-top curtain panels feature a series of either "tabs" or ties across the top. Tabs are fabric loops that the rod is threaded through. Ties, as their name implies, tie the curtain directly onto the rod. These two styles are usually quite casual in appearance.


Another casual style, grommet-top curtains features a row of metal grommets across the top of the panel. The rod is threaded through the grommets so that the curtain can be hung. Grommet-top panels have clean, uncluttered lines that go well with modern or contemporary decor.


There are many additional styles of curtain header. Although they are not used as often rod pockets, pleats, tabs, ties and grommets, they are very interesting and quite beautiful. Ruched headers, for example, feature deep gathers and are very luxurious; cuffed headers are folded down to reveal a band of contrasting fabric across the top. Smocked headers feature an intricate series of embroidery and tiny pleats.

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About the Author

Sandra Rousseau has been writing since 1990, covering such topics as home decorating, fashion, health, beauty, gardening and cooking. Her articles appear her hometown newspaper, the "Aledo Community News," and on various websites. Rousseau holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and advertising from the University of Texas at Arlington.