All about curtain headings

The curtain headings style you use will be an integral part of your draperies. The headings affect everything about your drapes, so deciding on the type to use is very important.

There are two main ways of heading up your curtains.

  1. Machine sew a styling tape to the top of the panels.
  2. Make the pleats by hand.

There's no right or wrong way to make headings. Often it's just a matter of preference, or which method is quickest. Here are the pros and cons of each method.

Machine sew your curtain headings

With this method you select a styling tape of your choice and sew it onto the back of the panels with your sewing machine. (Styling tapes are also called pleater tapes, or drapery tape.)

There are many styles of tape you can use. The following are just a few of the options available:

Examples of curtain headingsSome of the many curtain heading styles you can make
  • Pencil
  • Triple
  • Goblet
  • Smocking
  • Box

You need to decide which method you're going to use before you obtain your fabric. Each tape will recommend a specified fullness, and you'll use this to work out how much fabric you need. (See the drapery yardage page for an explanation of fullness and how to calculate it.


Quick and easy. You just machine sew the tape in place, then pull up the draw cords to form the pleats.


You have no control over the depth of the pleats. You can't decide how much space you have between the pleats.

Hand sew your curtain headings

There are a number of ways to hand sew you headings.

Use a styling tape

Here you use a standard pencil pleat tape, but the draw cords in the tape are not used. The tape is used for its stiffening properties. A piece of dowel in the shape of a pencil is used to form the heading.

This method can be used for headings which will be hidden behind a top treatment, in which case you use a narrow tape. It can also be used for a normal pencil pleat heading - say, 3" deep - and here the depth of the heading is determined by the depth of the tape.

Shallow curtain heading tapeShallow heading tape hand stitched to form heading
Finished back of curtain headingFinished heading with lining covering heading tape

Use buckram for the stiffening

When using this method you usually use a curtain buckram. This is a white stiffening which keeps the pleats in place where they are sewn.

You have to work out all the spaces and pleat sizes, but it's not difficult, and the results can look much better than machine sewing. Hand headed drapes are often preferred by professionals, especially when used with longer length drapes.

Once you have your basic pleats in place, you can then go ahead and finish them as Pinch, Goblet or Box pleats.

Your drapes will need to be supported by hooks, and there are a couple of options for fitting these.

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