Swags and cascades - cascade styles

types of cascade

Three shapes

When it comes to swags and cascades, there are all sorts of wonderful (and weird!) shapes you can use for cascades. But the main ones are these.

  1. Straight. The width is the same throughout the length.
  2. Staggered. The folds are set in a small amount from each other.
  3. Cone. The shape tapers in at the top.

The straight shape is used most often, so that's the one we'll concentrate on. It's also the easiest to make!

(Cascades are often called 'tails' in many places. So 'swags and cascades' becomes 'swags and tails'.)

Making your cascade

Number of pleats

They can have any number of pleats. Without going into details, I suggest you make them with three. This is plenty to show off the pleats, but doesn't make the end result too thick.


cascade length

Dimension details

There are two dimensions you need to decide on.

  1. How long it should be.
  2. Where the shaped section begins.

For the length a general rule is to make it between 2 and 3 times the depth of the swags. Tall windows look best if it's 3 times the swag depth. If your window is wide rather than tall, then make it 2 or 2.5 times the depth.

Where should the shaped section begin? Start it where the cascade overlaps the swag, or if you prefer it lower, in line with the bottom of the swags.

Width of fabric

Unless your window is very wide and you need wide cascades, you can normally get one cascade from one width of fabric (normal width of fabric is 4'6" or 137cms). This is usually enough for about 1'0" (30cms) finished width for the cascade and about 6" (15cm) for the return.

Make the pattern

pattern for cascade

Equally spaced pleats

You can use lining, old fabric or paper for this. The basic shape will be as in the illustration. The section labeled 'Return' is equal to the width of the mounting board so this section will fit around the side of the board and just touch the wall.

Equal pleats, or staggered?

You can have your cascade with equal pleats, or make them slightly larger as they progress from the middle to the return section. The illustration shows the difference between them.


staggered pleats

Different width pleats are not placed directly on top of one another, but are offset.

Equal pleats are easiest to make. Once you've measured off the the return distance, simply divide the remaining width by 7.

If you want to stagger the pleats, the best way is to cut the basic shape out of your pattern fabric, and just play around with folds until you get the result you're happy with. (There is a mathematical way to calculate this, but I don't want to complicate matters.)


Why not take a look at the patterns we've designed, for swags and cascades? This way you can use professionally designed patterns, and try out one of the swag designs for free to make sure it all works for you.


Once you have the basic shape, fold it to check it gives the finished effect you want. Then you can keep it for future reference.

Unless you're using thick fabric such as velvet, I suggest you use interlining. It will give body and shape to the finished result.

Cut out the shape for the fabric and lining, remembering to add ¾" (2.0cms) allowance all round the edge for turnings.

For the interlining, cut the shape to the finished size.


Unlike swags, because the folds are vertical it's easy to experiment with shapes for cascades.

Just cut out the shape to scale on a piece of paper and fold it until the pleats are as you want them. The paper can be as little as a few inches wide.

For sewing the components together the method used is exactly the same as making a swag (so rather than repeat it here, refer to that page for details). Use a herringbone stitch to attach the fabric turnings to the interlining, and then a slip stitch to sew the lining to the edge of the fabric.

Once this is done, fold the cascade into its pleats, and check it against the mounting board to make sure it fits. Then sew the pleats together at the top together with a tape so you can attach it to the board.

So now you can make your own cascades!

Swags and cascades are frequently ignored by those who aspire to design and make their own drapes. But now you know it's possible to make your own cascades.

If this type of treatment is suitable for your window, why not go ahead and use it?


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