Curtain Swags & Tails Instructions

Updated February 21, 2017

Curtain swags and tails are a lovely window treatment in that can look soft and romantic or quite formal depending upon the fabrics chosen. A swag window treatment creates a pleated drape at the top of the window. Tails fall to each side and may fall in between each swag on a larger window. Learn how to make this elegant window treatment to add style to your home.


There are two options when making curtain swags and tails or jabots. One is a simple drape of fabric, while the other is quite formally constructed. The former can work well in a casual and romantic bedroom, a feminine living room or a sunroom. Choose the latter for a more formal living, dining or sitting room. Formal curtain swags and tails require a pelmet or cornice board. These can be purchased or made. Use board lumber or MDF for your pelmet board. Choose softer medium or lightweight fabrics for a draped swag. Brocades, silks, velvets and other heavy and sturdy traditional drapery and upholstery fabrics work best for a formally constructed swag.

A simple draped swag

Make a simple draped swag by first installing a decorative curtain rod. Your curtain rod will be seen, so look for one that coordinates nicely with your home decor. Drape a measuring tape around the curtain rod to determine how long you would like your tails and the overall measurements you will need for your fabric panel. Sew the right sides of the fabric and lining together, leaving an opening for turning. Turn right side out, press and slip stitch the opening closed by hand. Use masking tape or a safety pin to mark the centre of your fabric panel, then drape it over the rod. Start with one tail end behind the rod and swag in front of the rod and move behind the rod for the other tail side. Work with the fabric until you are happy with the overall appearance of your swag window treatment.

A constructed swag

Install your pelmet or cornice board before beginning to work on your swag window treatment. Use a string to determine the size of each swag, draping it from point to point to create the desired shape. Constructed swags rely upon fully lined fabric panels cut into a trapezoidal shape. The top of the trapezoid should be the desired width of the swag. The bottom should be the length of the string you used to measure out your swag. Cut the trapezoid twice the desired length of your swag to allow for pleating and gently curve the bottom hem. The lining will be visible, so it should be attractive. Shape your swag into even pleats, pinning as you go. When you are happy with the pleating, stitch the pleats into place. Attach swags to your pelmet board with pins, staples or hook and loop tape as you prefer. Cover the edges of the pelmet board with tails. These can be simple rectangles or angled polygons, but should be lined. Attach as you did the swags.

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About the Author

With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.