Window swags as part of your drapery

Designing window swags involves playing around with different widths of swags, deciding how many you should use and in what order they should go.

Here are some ideas to help you decide on your design.

What size should your swags be?

straight grain on fabric

Illustration showing true cross and bias

First, I'd suggest you always cut your fabric on the straight grain, and not on a true cross.

Straight grain refers to the vertical and horizontal threads, which don't have any stretch in them. True cross (or 'bias') is at an angle of 45 degrees to the straight cross. This will have stretch, which makes it easier to drape the fabric, but you can't use it with patterned cloth.

Most fabrics come in widths of 4'6" (137cms), which is enough to make one swag about 3'0" (90cms) wide. Any wider than this, and you'll need to have joins. Work from a central width outwards, unless a strong pattern dictates otherwise.

Unless you are very experienced, I'd suggest you keep your window swag sizes to between 2'0" (30cms) and 3'3" (84cms) wide. Why?

  1. Smaller than this, and they look forced, and don't hang under their own weight.
  2. Larger than this, and it becomes far more difficult to form attractive folds.


Depth of swags

This should be no less than one fifth of the curtain length.

Width of swags

When they just meet at the top, the width is the length of the cornice board divided by the number of swags.

When they overlap, the width is the length of the cornice board divided by the number of swags plus 3" to 4" (7.5 to 10.0cms) per overlap.

But what about overall proportions? How many swags should you include in your swag window treatments? There a some guidelines for arranging swags on this page.

Window swags example

swags on board

Two swags in position over window

Here's an example of using swags on a typical window (A). The swag depths are one fifth of the finished length. Two swags are in position, meeting at the center. Note that cascades (details in another section) would cover the ends of the board and partly cover the outsides of the swags.

The obvious problem here is the gap in the middle. You would be able to see not only the wall space above the window, but probably the board as well.

There are three solutions to this.

  1. Use a jabot, which looks like a small double cascade.
  2. Use a small swag, but that might look a bit strange.
  3. Use three swags.
three swags

Changed to three swags (same size as previous example)

Remembering my advice to use an uneven number for your swag drapes, we'll go with the third one. We'll keep all the swags the same size.

This illustration (B) shows the effect. The window frame is now hidden, and the cascades on the sides (indicated by the dashed lines) will overlap the outer swags as before.


three smaller swags

Three smaller swags

This is perfectly acceptable. But I prefer swags which don't overlap too much. I think they look best when you can see as much of them as possible. (Mind you, not everyone shares my view on this!).

By reducing the width of each one - keeping the depth the same - the result is a more 'open' effect, which I prefer (C). There is just a small section of window frame showing, but that's quite acceptable.

Remember, everyone's taste is different, so you go with what you like best! But hopefully you can appreciate you can adjust and adapt to get a finish you like.

For example, my preferred choice is to have the center swag on top of the two side ones. You'll often see this design with the center one behind the others.

To summarize...

  1. To begin with, keep the swag widths within the suggested measurements.
  2. Follow the recommended depth of the swags as a proportion of the curtain length.
  3. Make a scale drawing of your window. Cut out the swags to scale on paper and play around with them on the drawing until you get a design you're happy with.
  4. To complete the design, take a look at the swags and cascades page, and make cascades to scale out of paper as well.

And finally ... yes, you can make great window swags!

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