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How to Make Pinch-Pleated Drapery From Rod Pocket Curtains

Updated on January 7, 2018

Pinch Pleated Drapery


Why Would I Want Old-Fashioned Pinch Pleated Drapery? I'm About to Tell You

I know, you are probably thinking, "Why does she want pinch-pleated drapery instead of the stylish grommet or rod-pocket drapery?" Because with the newer styles of drapery, you must grab hold of the fabric to open and close them. Over time, the natural oils in your hands will soil the fabric. The living room curtains in our previous home were silk. They now have a spot from where I closed them too soon after putting lotion on my hands. Now I want the draw rods so I can open and close them with just the pull of a cord, never having to touch the fabric.

It's not the pleats I want as much as it is the draw cord for opening and closing the drapery, but my experience is that the draw (traverse) rods seem to work better with pleated drapery. These pleats will be covered with a topper/valance that I will make from a coordinating fabric shown below.

After searching everywhere for just the right pinch-pleated drapery for our new bedroom I gave up and made my own -- well, sort of. It was far easier than I thought it would be. So easy that I want to share how to make pinch-pleated drapery from rod-pocket curtains with you.

Aqua-on-Ivory Toile Fabric


The Fabric for the Valance

The valance is made from this aqua-on-cream toile and a brown-and-aqua fringe. I didn't really want to use the brown, as the rest of the room is aqua and cream. I also did not want fringe. I wanted a braided trim. Unfortunately, I could not find a solid aqua trim, nor an aqua-and-cream trim.

Tape for Making the Pleats


Tape for Making Pinch Pleats

How Much Do You Need?

This is the "pleat tape" used to make pleats with 4-pronged pins. The tape has little slender "pockets" for the prongs of the drapery pins. This photo shows the tape already sewn onto ready-made rod-pocket curtains that I purchased. After cutting your tape to the necessary length, simply sew the tape across the top of your drapery panels, making sure to position the tape so the opening of the little pockets open downward. Then follow the directions below.

You will need to decide how far apart you want your pleats to be. Skipping one of the little slender pockets between each pleat will set the pleats 3 inches apart (one inch = 2.54 cm). Each little pocket is 1/4 inch wide. You need 4 pockets for each 4-pronged pin. For the tape that I used, 5 and 1/4 inches was needed for each pleat.

These instructions assume you are using existing drapery, but if you are making drapery: you will need to measure the width of your window. Then add 12 inches: 3 on the outside of each drapery panel for turning toward the wall on each side of the window, and 3 on the inside of each panel for the overlap when the draperies meet in the middle of the window.

You can buy the pleat tape by the yard at most fabric stores or online. I bought mine at JoAnn's Fabrics because I wanted it "right now". JoAnn's price was reasonable at $1.99 per yard, but I would have gotten a better price, of course, on at $1.25 per yard.

The Pins Needed for Making the Pleats


These Are the Pins I Used

These are the pins you will need to use with this type pleat tape. Between each of the 4 prongs (or tines) will be 3 little folds of fabric that will become your pleats. This is shown in detail below. The single-pronged pins go on each end of each panel where pleats are not needed. These pins by Wright's are perfect. They are just what I needed, and do exactly what I expected.

I ordered these pins from Amazon. They came in just a few days, far sooner than the estimated delivery date given. With this order you get 3 little bags. Each bag holds 10 4-pronged pins and 4 single-pronged pins. This is enough for 2 standard sized windows.

Wrights Drapery Hooks Wall Pleater 3 7/8 (3 Pack)
Wrights Drapery Hooks Wall Pleater 3 7/8 (3 Pack)

For making your own drapery pleats, you can't go wrong with these. I've used the ones I ordered, and plan to order more.

Adir Professional Self Reversible Healing Cutting Mat, 18 by 36-Inch, Green/Black
Adir Professional Self Reversible Healing Cutting Mat, 18 by 36-Inch, Green/Black

I really enjoy using this self-healing mat. I don't quite know how I got along without it for so long.


All Drapery Should Wrap Around the End of the Rod


This is Where The 3 Inches on Each End Come Into Play

In order to prevent light from coming in, and people from seeing in, all drapery should be turned toward the wall on each side of the window. No pleat is needed at the point where the drapery meets the wall, so this is where you need the single-pronged pins.

Even with decorative rods, where the drapery hangs below the rod from decorative rings, the drapery should be turned toward the wall on each side of the window. These rods do have a little opening for a pin to be inserted, which will hold the drapery in place.

Inserting the Single-Prong Pin is Easy


This is the end of the tape that will meet the wall on one side of the drapery. You can see in this enlargement that I have had to make my own pocket, as the last pocket was not quite in the place needed, but the next pocket on the tape was too far away, and using it would have made the drapery too wide for the window.

Inserting Multiple Prongs Requires a Bit More Finesse


You can insert the pins into the pockets one at a time, but doing so is difficult, because as soon as you get one in, and begin on the next one, the first one slips out. See the next photo to learn how I solved that problem.

Holding Pockets Together


I have folded the pleat tape so that all 4 pockets for one pin are gathered together, with the pockets on top of the folds. I usually hold them close to the open end of the pockets (at the right side of the photo) until the tips of all 4 prongs are inserted, but for the photo, I kept my hand out of the way, so you can see the folds & pockets. With the tape folded like this, it is easy to get all 4 prongs started.

Partial Insertion


As soon as all 4 prongs are inserted into the pockets, you can let go of the folds. If you feel the need to hold them together longer, that's not a problem.

Improper Insertion


This is one of the 4-prong pins that is completely inserted, but the fabric of the tape has not been adjusted properly. The tape should be evenly spread over the prongs. In this case, the left-most prong is in good position, but the center and right-side prongs need to be inserted further. To leave it as shown in the photo will give you pleats that lean.

Proper Insertion


This photo was supposed to be for showing proper insertion of the prongs, but I see that the far right prong could be pushed in a tiny bit more.

A Poll About Sewing

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The Finished Drapery


These photos do not do justice to the beautiful aqua-blue color of this nubby silk-look fabric. It is a soft, medium-light blue with just a hint of aqua. It looks fabulous against the linen color of the walls in the master bedroom of our new home where the tray ceiling has been painted a robin's egg blue.

Another Poll About Sewing

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Drapery with Valance


This makes for a formal look, but I was going for a romantic Country French master bedroom. It is actually a bit more formal than I wanted, but I can live with it a while, then change out the valance.

I'm not thrilled with the fringe, but it was all I could find at the time. Since making this one, I have found fringe I like much more. Fortunately, I hadn't yet put it on all of the valances, so there is not much to remove when adding the new fringe.

Do you make your own draperies or clothes? I enjoy swapping tips with other seamstresses. If you make your own draperies, please share any tips you may have with the rest of us. Thank you for visiting this page. Please leave your comments and let me know you visited. Happy sewing!

© 2012 MariaMontgomery

Do you make your own draperies?

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    • MariaMontgomery profile image

      MariaMontgomery 4 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      @julieannbrady: Hi Julie! Thanks for the thumbs up and for your comment on this lens. Do you know that you can buy heavier grade sewing machine needles for use with heavy fabrics? I break them most often when sewing denim. See you around Squidoo.

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      julieannbrady 4 years ago

      An excellent tutorial. I haven't made drapes since about 1972! My biggest challenge was my sewing machine breaking needles.