Heading size and hook finish (drop)

Understanding heading size and how it can be used is important for working out the finished length of your drapes. This page explains the subject in detail.

What is it?

heading size with one inch tape

Heading depth using standard tape

It's the difference between the top of the drape and the hook or pin position.

The illustration shows the top of a drape with a standard heading using 1" tape with a hook inserted into it. As you can see, the hook is set down from the top of the drape by about ¼" (6mm). This is the result of where the tape has to be attached, and the position of the pockets in the tape.

This means that whatever your hook finish measurement is (the distance from the track runner or rod ring to the bottom of the drape), the finished length will be the hook finish plus the depth of the heading.

In this instance where the heading depth is so small it won't make much difference to your finished length. But when you come to use deeper headings it can add a significant amount.

The hook finish is sometimes known as the 'drop'. But I prefer the term hook finish, because it describes the measurement: it's the finished measurement from the hook to the bottom of the curtain.

Finished length = Hook finish + Heading size

Always make sure you know what heading depth you're going to use before you work out your drapery yardage.

Why use different heading sizes?

standard heading size

Sideways on illustration showing standard heading size

If your drapes are to have a top treatment, this will hide the top of the curtains. So in this case the only reason for having a heading is to gather and hold the fabrics in neat folds. This can be done by either machining or hand sewing a standard heading, usually about 1" (2.5cm) deep.

But what if you were using a Swish de Lux track, for example, with no top treatment? If you just use a standard heading you will always see the track, even when the drapes are fully closed. And that looks most unprofessional!

So what you do is set the hooks down a suitable distance. Now the tops of the drapes will hide the track, which looks much better.

How to adjust for any heading size

deep heading

Heading using 3" tape with hook in lower pocket

You could just use a standard 1" tape and set it down the required distance. But the drapes will look much better if you use a deeper pleat. The most common one is a 3" (7.5cms) pleat, and tapes of this size are readily available.

But now you have much more choice. Instead of just having one set of pockets to take the hooks, you can have as many as three, depending on the manufacturer. In the illustrations a tape with two sets of pockets is shown.


hooks in top pockets

Three inch tape with hooks in top pockets

If for any reason you wanted to have 3" pleats but have a minimum heading depth, you could use the top pockets.

On the other hand, you could have a heading depth of 2" - 2½" by using the lower set of pockets.

Note that you are not limited to using exactly the depths provided by the pockets. What if you wanted a heading depth of 1¾"? All you need to do is attach the tape down from the top of the drape so that one of the pockets gives you the heading depth you want.


hooks in lower pockets

Three inch tape with hooks in lower pockets

By carefully taking into account heading requirement and drapery tape size you can make headings for every situation.

Drapery pins - pros and cons

If you use drapery pins, then you can set them wherever you want. So why not always use pins? From a commercial point of view, many clients don't like them. They tend to fall out when the drapes are taken down.

Drapes look much more professional when hooks are inserted into tapes, or brass hooks are sewn in place. (The latter are the best solution when using any of the more advanced pleats such as Triple or Goblet.)


It's important to make your decisions about heading types before you being to work out quantities. The heading size may affect the quantity of fabric you need. This might seem insignificant, but sometimes when using a fabric with a pattern an extra two or three inches can take you into another pattern repeat.

Plan everything, and you'll avoid mistakes.