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How to make swags and tails

Updated November 22, 2016

A simple way to add a touch of elegance to the window of any room with very little effort or cost is to create swags and tails. To make swags and tails only requires one piece of prepared fabric and a personalised style of hanging it over a decorative curtain rod. You can leave the swags and tails in place as they are, or change them as often as you’d like to new fabric or just a new hanging method.

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  1. Measure the width of the window you want to drape with swags and tails. Decide how far down you want the tails to hang from the top of your rod down the side of the window and measure this distance. Add the width of the window to two times the length of your tails.

  2. Choose how many swags (swoops of curtain) you want to have droop down from the front of your curtain rod. Multiply the number of swags by 16. Add this number to the number you have from step one; this will be the length of fabric you need to purchase both your patterned fabric and the lining.

  3. Cut the width of your patterned fabric and lining fabric down to only 30 inches wide. Pair up your two pieces of fabric with the patterned sides facing one another and sew a 5/8-inch seam all the way around the edges of the fabrics, leaving a 6-inch gap open along one side. Turn the fabric right side out through the opening and hand sew the opening closed.

  4. Fold your length of fabric in half widthways and loop the folded portion over the curtain rod by pushing it up between the wall and the curtain rod, and forward over the rod. Pull the loop until the tails on each side roughly line up to the length you wanted them to be.

  5. Adjust the fabric so the lining is facing the window and the patterned fabric is facing out into the room. Adjust the draping of the swag as needed if you only want one swag. To create multiple swags, use a coordinating ribbon to draw up the fabric to the curtain rod in evenly spaced intervals. This same ribbon can also be used at the tops of the tails to create decorative bows at each corner of the window dressing. Adjust the tails as needed to even them up with one another.

  6. Create different effects in the room by varying the size of the swags on your window so they aren’t all the same or alter the spacing between them. For example, if you are going to have three swags, consider making the centre swag larger than the two outer ones, or allow the two outer swags to be larger than the centre swag.

  7. Tip

    To create an overlapping effect with your swags, start by adjusting the tails on one side of the curtain rod and bringing all of the remaining fabric forward. Loop the remaining fabric in loose spirals around the rod until the other tail is the correct length. Adjust the drape of the swags as needed. For a light and airy look to a room, use one piece of netting, monk’s cloth, or other loose mesh fabric instead of a fabric and liner.

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Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Lightweight patterned fabric, 44 to 45 inches wide
  • Lining fabric, such as muslin
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Hand sewing tools (needle, thimble, thread)
  • Ribbons, if desired

About the Author

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