Using drapery frills

Drapery frills are often thought of as being fussy, but I've never thought this. Gathered frills can be fussy if overdone, but they give a pretty finish, while pleated frills are more tailored. By selecting different fabrics, a frill can be light and airy, or more formal and restrained.

Before you start…

There a few things you should know about frills.

  • They take massive amounts of fabric.
  • They take time to make.
  • You'll need lots of patience, especially if this is your first time making them.

But the efforts involved are well worth the final results.

Gathered frills look informal and pretty. Pleated frills look more tailored and elegant.

Don't go mad with your frills

Small drapes for cottage style windows can take lots of frills, but larger windows can look overdressed if you have trimmings everywhere.

So exercise some restraint when you plan your frills. Frilled edges on cornice boxes and valances may be all that's needed. Or just set your drapery frills down the inside edges of your drapes.

How much fullness should you have?

Don't be mean with your fullness! I'd try to have a fullness of between 2.5 and 3. (If you're not sure what fullness is, this page has more details.) For a gathered frill use a minimum of 2.5, and 3 for a pleated frill.

How deep should they be?

Make them deep enough so they have an impact. For most drapery purposes I'd suggest a depth of between 3 and 4 inches (7.5-10.0cms).

Calculating fabric for drapery frills

  1. Measure the length of frill you'll need.
  2. Multiply this by the fullness ratio.
  3. Divide by the width of fabric you'll be using, and round up to the nearest whole number. This is the number of widths you'll need.
  4. The cut length for each width will be double the depth of the frill plus 0.75" (2.0cms).
  5. Total fabric needed will be the cut length times the number of widths.


  1. You want to have a gathered frill down the inside edge of a pair of drapes. The drapes are 6 feet long (183cms), so you'll need 12 feet of frill (366cms).
  2. 12 feet times 2.5 (fullness ratio) = 30
  3. Fabric is 4'6" wide, 30 divided by 4.5 is 6.66, rounded up to 7 which is the number of widths of fabric needed.
  4. Assuming a 3 inch frill, the cut length will be 3 times 2 plus the seam allowances. So we get a total of 6 inches plus 0.75 inches which is 6.75 inches.
  5. The cut length times the number of widths is 6.75 times 7, which is 47.25 inches, say 4 feet.

What about lining and trimming?

Most frills are too small to be lined. It's normally best to use the same fabric for the backs as you use for the main effect. Also, your frill might be seen from outside, and can look very attractive.

By all means trim your frills. This can give added impact, and a contrasting narrow trim on a gathered or pleated frill is a great way of making your treatments unique. Because of the seaming involved, I'd suggest you use the trim fabric as a lining, and just carry it around to the front so it forms a narrow trim.

Patterned fabrics

If you're using a fabric with a large pattern repeat for your drapes, you may find you have enough left over from the main cut lengths to do your gathered frill. Or you may have enough for half of the frill cuts, so just order more fabric to make up the rest.

For small patterns you can cut the frill cuts to the pattern repeat so your seams match up. Larger patterns, however, can be very wasteful. Here it's best to make the frill cuts ignoring the repeat, and match them together so you get the overall look of the pattern colors. This might mean cutting out plain areas of the pattern so you get more of the colors in your frill. Just make sure you hide the joins so they're not visible.


Drapery frills take lots of fabric, time and effort, but when used sparingly and with sensitivity they can be wonderful additions to your drapes.

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