Pinch Pleat Drapes – How-To

Pinch pleating details is usually a sign of custom or more expensive draperies. A simple way to get these drapes for less is to purchase standard, lined drapery panels from a store and then add the pleated detail yourself.

Pinch Pleat Drapes


Sewing Machine (I use a Singer HD-250)
Seam ripper
Tape measure
Tailor’s chalk
Drapery hooks

Step 1:

Adding pleats shortens the width of the top of the panel (the heading) by about half, so you’ll probably need several panels to get that full, gathered look. I used three panels of these silk drapes from JC Penney. Using a seam ripper, I opened up a side seam on each panel, pressed the seams open and then sewed the three panels together to create one large panel.

Step 2: 

If necessary, cut down the curtain panel to fit the height of the window, and then stitched in a piece of 4″ buckram cut to fit the total width of the panel.

Step 3:

Roll down the stitched in buckram once and sew into place.

Step 4:

To calculate the placement and number of pleats in your panel, you’ll want to do a little sketch and some simple math. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind:

1) For every triple pinch pleat, you’ll need 6″ of fabric – 2″ of fabric per pleat.

2) I like the spacing from pleat to pleat to be no less than 3″ and no more than 5″. I used a 4″ spacing for these drapes.

3) I like the first and last space to be a little longer (4-6″) when adding trim to the panels especially.

4) Formula:

Flat Panel Width = first space + last space + 6(# pleats) + 4(# pleats – 1)

Once you have calculated the corrected spacing for your pleats, use a tape measure and tailor’s chalk to mark where each pleat series begins and ends (the yellow chalk) and also where to fold for the individual pleats (there are three pleats per pleat series, or four lines, each 2″ apart).

Step 5:

Buckram is easy to manipulate and to fold and it holds its shape very well. Fold on the chalk lines and created creases.

Step 6:

Using a heavier duty needle, sew along each crease. You will sew three creases for each pleat series for triple pinch pleat drapes.

Step 7:

Repeat step 6 for all marked out pleats.

Step 8:

Once your pleats have been sewn in with a sewing machine, you can hand-tack each of the pleats together for a more finished look. You can also sew or glue on flat tape trim for more color and pattern.

Step 9:

Insert drapery hooks in to the backs of each pleat. Try to insert the needle into the middle pleat. Then hang your beautiful, semi-custom, fully lined silk pinch pleated drapes and brag to all of your friends and family!

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