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  • Writer's pictureSusan Woodcock

Mountain Chic: Breaking the Rules

When sewing custom window treatments, there is a set of well-known, professional standards for pleated, lined draperies. If you own a workroom then you are probably familiar with "the rules".

Rule #1: 4 inch doubled bottom hems

Rule #2: Allow at least two and a half times fullness

Rule #3: Spaces between pleats should be between 3 - 4 inches.

Rule #4: The amount of fabric used in each pleat should between 4 and 6 inches.

Rule #6: Use five pleats per width of fabric

By following the rules you will create perfect, consistent draperies every time. But what if you bend or break the rules? Will your draperies look skimpy, awkward and unprofessional? Maybe they would, but maybe... just maybe achieving the goal, no matter how you do it, is better than following the rules. I believe that is exactly what "custom" is all about. Plus, breaking the rules from time-to-time helps to develop new ideas and trends, allows for greater creativity and encourages problem solving.

Draperies with sheer roman shade

I recently made draperies and a sheer Roman shade for the front, living room window in our new home in the mountains. I had a limited amount of fabric for the draperies and originally thought that decorative, non-working side panels would be the solution. I did plan for a functional Roman shade to cover the window for privacy. Side panels would be a cinch following the rules: seven, 5-inch pleats 4-inches apart, and doubled 4 inch bottom hems. Once the temperature dropped I was wishing for traversing, interlined draperies that could be drawn closed on cold winter nights, insulating the window and keeping the room cozy and warm. But I didn't have enough fabric if I followed the rules! Yes, I could have made grommet draperies, or other styles that use minimal fullness but I was hoping for something with more detail, and texture.

In order to make my wishes come true, I had to start breaking rules. In addition, I thought that adding a little detail would be fun... if I could "make it work"! The following photos show how I did it, the rules that were broken and the joy of having custom, rule-breaking window treatments in our new home.

Creating fringe by fraying the edges

To allow enough fabric for a short, attached valance, I used smaller sized bottom hems (breaking rule #1) and a single fold heading. The attached valance was made from the fabric cut off when the length was measured. A line of stitching was sewn 1 inch above the bottom edge and the fabric was then unraveled to create the fringe.

Adding the valance

The fringed valance piece was serged along the top edge, with 1/2-inch pressed under and placed on the front of the drapery fabric 8 inches from the top. The valance piece was sewn to the drapery fabric on the underside and then flipped back over and pressed. It was secured with pins so that it would stay in place while the linings were added.

The drapery was completed with lining and interlining and hand sewn side hems. In order to have a functional, pleated drapery with less than two and a half times fullness (breaking rule #2), the spaces between the pleats had to be 5 1/2-inches (breaking rule #3) and tiny pleats using only 2 inches each (breaking rule #4). Each panel has one and a half widths with ten pleats (breaking rule #5). The greater number of pleats creates an illusion of greater fullness.

On the sheer Roman shade, I placed the seam right in the center (breaking yet another rule!). This might not be the best idea for all windows, but for a double window like this, the seam is hidden when light shines through the fabric.

I hope you have enjoyed learning about my rule breaking window treatment. It's always good to try new things, and there is no better place to experiment than in your own home.

Best Wishes,

Susan AKA Home Dec Gal


Drapery and shade fabrics - Mary Jo's Cloth Store

Lining and interlining - Hanes Fabrics

Hardware - Helser Brothers

Shade lift system - Dofix

Shade cord safety components - Safe-T-Shade

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