How to make swags

If you've followed this page on how to make swags, you'll have noticed the serrated sides.

There's another way to make a pattern, which avoids these intricate shapes. Here's how it's done. Remember, use some old lining or unwanted fabric to make the pattern.

Form the shape

Use a chain weight draped over the pattern paper to give the shape you need. The details are shown in the illustration.

You may want to keep a record of the swag shape for future reference. If so, when you've completed the pattern, mark out the shape formed by the chain weight on the pattern paper.

Don't forget to write the sizes on it.

If you cut out the shape, you'll be able to hold it up to a window to demonstrate it to someone else.

Form the swag

rough shape for swag fabricMarking out the rough shape for the swag fabric

Fold your lining or fabric in half across the width, and use an iron to press the fold. Then trim to the shape as shown in the illustration.

Mark the pleat positions at about 5" (7.5cms) intervals.

folding swag pleatsFolding the pleats

This is where there is a subtle difference between this and the other method of how to make swags. Instead of starting the pleats at the top edges of the swag shape, start them about 2" (5cms) in from the sides as shown.

Pin the lining onto the top of the pattern paper set in this distance. The 2" is an approximate amount.

Take the first pleat on one side and move it up to the top as shown. Adjust the fabric at the fold so it forms a neat arc towards the center of the lining. Pin the pleat in position, and then do the same immediately opposite on the other side.

Repeat for the other fold marks. Make sure all the tops of the folds meet in the same place.

How to make swags - adjust the folds

Stand back and see how the folds look. Usually you'll need to adjust some of them. Some will be too thin, others too fat, some too high, others too low.

The usual adjustment is to pull a fold slightly outwards if the pleat falls too low, or move it in slightly if the pleat is too taut.

Always check:

  • The pleats form evenly about the vertical center line.
  • The pleats stand out the same distance from the wall.

That last one is very difficult to achieve in practice. So concentrate on the top and bottom ones. The top one is often too thin, and the bottom one too thick. Look at the swag from the side, and try to get all the pleats as similar as possible. This can get a bit tedious, but it's all part of how to make swags which look professional.

Making the pattern

pleats pinned in positionAll the pleats are pinned in position. Remember to cut the fabric at the top horizontally in line with the top edge.

Decide which side looks best, ie, neat, even folds. Now trim that side to the shape formed by the chain.

Include trimming the top where all the fabric is gathered. Trim it in line with the top of the swag.

If your swags are anything like mine, there will be a lot of fabric hanging over and looking most untidy!

swag edge cutSwag edge as cut (black line) with line to mark on new piece of lining.

Hopefully you'll end up with a shape as in this illustration. Take another piece of lining and lay your cut one over it. Draw a line through the edges as shown (red line).

Cut the new piece to this line and along the bottom. This is the swag pattern. Mark the 5" divisions for the pleat positions on this new pattern. You can do this by laying the old piece on top and marking where the indentations occur.

completed swag patternThe completed pattern

If you want to keep this pattern for future reference, trace the outline of one half of it onto pattern paper. Remember to add an allowance all round of ¾" (2.0cms) for turnings (yellow dotted line).

You now have your swag pattern completed, a major part of how to make swags!

(See the page on the other method for a discussion on how to adjust the swag if it comes out too short or too long.)

Either method works

Whether you use this method or the other one which produces serrated sides is up to you. With this method the smooth lines on the left and right are easier to sew when you come to complete the swag.

But there's no right or wrong. Select whichever method you're happiest with and which gives you the best results. Then move on to making the swag by sewing the different components together.

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