Sewing curtain headings by hand

This is one of the easiest ways of sewing curtain headings by hand. You use continuous stitches across the top of the drapes. The threads are then pulled to concertina the pleats together. This produces what are known as 'pencil pleats'.

It's the hand version of using styling tapes, but has the advantage that the stitches are almost invisible from the front of the drapes


Make a template

heading template

Section of template for 1" heading

Sewing curtain headings by hand is best done by having templates to work from. These templates show you where the stitches need to be. You can make them for many types of heading.

The illustration shows a template for making a standard gathered heading. This heading is used for drapes where a top treatment hides the top of the drapes. It produces a simple pencil pleat effect.


By making the template deeper and adding more guide holes, different heading depths are achieved. To help you with this, you can download a PDF file which has three templates on it. You can print off the file, cut out the templates and stick them to card for ease of use. Don't forget to make the holes in your template.

locating template and holes

Dots mark position where stitches are taken through to front of drape

Make the heading

If you haven't yet done so, take your drape and fold the top of the fabric over to the finished length. Fold the raw edge of the lining under so the top is just under the top of the drape, and slip stitch the lining to the fabric so you have a completed panel.

Put the template on the drape. Make sure you place it so the resulting heading allows you to insert the drapery pins or hooks in the correct position to achieve the drop required. Now mark the hole positions on the drape.

heading stitches across seams

Overlap stitches where they occur on seams. Remember to use a separate thread for each width!

Next, sew running stitches along the line of holes, using a single length of thread for each width. Use a strong thread for this! Take a stitch through to the right side of the heading either side of each mark.

For each width start a new line of stitches, making sure to overlap the ending and beginning threads at the same place.

Do the same for the other lines of stitch marks.

When all the threads are in place, pull them to form the headings, one width at a time. Make sure that:

  1. The pleats are evenly divided across all widths.
  2. The total heading width is correct.

Tie off the ends of the threads and then sew them so they are secure.

Adjust the pleats

Lay the drape flat on the table so you can see how the pleats have formed. Many of them may need adjusting to get them to form in a regular fashion. This is something you should do whichever method you use for sewing curtain headings.

Support for drapery pins or hooks

Now you'll need to make a support for the drapery pins or hooks.

You can either use drapery tape or heading buckram.

To get a good finish, cover the tape or buckram with lining, and sew it to the back of the heading. Make sure it's in the correct position so when the pins or hooks are inserted you get the correct drop measurement.

When the drapes are in use you'll find that the heading slips on the threads, and tends to 'bunch up' in different places. To prevent this just put a stitch every 6" or so through the tape or buckram into the heading to lock it in position.


Once you've done this a few times you'll find it an effective way of sewing curtain headings. By using different templates you can get any heading depth you want.

There are two things you should always check before you start to make your headings.

  1. You know exactly what your drop measurement is.
  2. You know how deep you want your heading to be.
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