Hand sewing drapery pleats

Hand sewing drapery pleats will give you a superior finish than machine sewing them using styling tape.

  • You can decide how deep your pleats will be.
  • There are a number of ways of finishing off your pleats to get different variations.

Once you've worked out the measurements for your pleats, you can progress on to the final stage of making them!

Where we've got to

At this stage you'll have your drapes panels made up except for the top. You'll have also worked out the sizes and position of your pleats.

(If you want to refer back, here is how to make lined drapes or interlined drapes, and this is the section on working out the sizes of your pleats.)

Make great looking curtain folds

curtain buckramA roll of 6" curtain buckram stiffening

The secret to great looking folds when hand sewing drapery pleats is to use curtain buckram. (It may be known under another name in your part of the world.) This is a white, stiffened fabric, which comes in pre-cut sizes normally available between 4" and 6" deep (10 and 15cms). It's thin enough to keep the pleats in crisp folds, but not too thick that you can't sew through it.

If you want 5" deep pleats and you can only get buckram 6" deep, trim off the excess for the length you need.

When hand sewing drapery pleats, how deep should the pleats be?

As with many aspects of drapery design, the final decision is up to you. But as a guide I've prepared a table giving approximate sizes which I would use.

Heading depth and drape length


Floor Length

Sill Length

Pinch (triple)

4" - 6" (10 - 15cms)

3" - 4" (7.5 - 10cms)


4" - 5" (10 - 12.5cms)

3" - 4" (7.5 - 10cms)


5" - 6" (12.5 - 15cms)

4" (10cms)

For valances use the same values as for sill length.

But don't stick rigidly to these. Many professionals will disagree with me on the depth of goblet pleats. I like to have them almost as long as other types, but there are those who say that they should be no deeper than about 4" (10cms).

So use the table as a guide, but feel free to vary from it.

Ok, on with the making!

Attaching the buckram

sewing buckramSewing buckram into panel when preparing to make pleats

We'll assume the top of the drapery panel is unfinished. Measure off the finished length of the drape from the hem, and mark with pins on the right side of the panel.

If you haven't already done so, use pins to mark the position of the pleats and the spaces between them on the front of the panel.

Sew the buckram to the interlining. Use an interlocking stitch, because you only need to secure the buckram in place until the pleats are formed. Once the pleats are sewn, the buckram will be secured.

(If you're not using interlining, sew the buckram to the fabric very carefully, trying to make as few stitches as possible while still attaching the buckram reasonably securely.)

Fold the fabric turning over the buckram, fold the lining back to the top, and slip stitch it onto the fabric.

Forming the pleats

first part of making pleatsMaking the first part of the pleats

Now you can pin the pleats together. Make sure that the top edge of the drape is absolutely level. This is one of those crucial stages. If the top is not level, it will be very evident when the drapes are hung, and you'll spoil the effect.

(For most types of pleats you can now go ahead and sew them. If you plan to use pinch pleats, I'd hold off sewing them for the moment. There's an alternative method which uses a slightly different construction.)

Although it's possible to machine sew the basic pleats, I recommend you sew them by hand. A machine has to sew through a lot of layers, and the line of stitches will be evident. It's far better to hand sew the pleats with a small back stitch. Sew down from the top to where the buckram finishes.

Where to go from here - Triplet, Goblet or Box pleats?

How you proceed from here with sewing drapery pleats depends on which sort of pleat you want to use.

One main method for different styles

By hand sewing drapery pleats as described here, you can use virtually the same method up until this point, and then finish off with whichever heading style you like.

And finally, the best way to learn how to make pleated drapes is to just go ahead and make some! Even if you're doing it as an experiment, you'll soon discover that you can make great looking draperies with hand made pleats.

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