How to Make a Ruched Drapery Header

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Ruched drapery adds an air of elegance to a room.
Ruched drapery adds an air of elegance to a room. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Ruched drapery headers are the tops of drapes or curtains that are gathered along the curtain rod, giving the window treatment a more elegant look. It is an attractive alternative to having a separate valance or cornice. Ruching the header draws the material together into a tight bunch. Ruched curtains have a luxurious appeal that is ideal for hanging in formal rooms with high ceilings or distinct windows. Using thicker material like heavy cotton or damask for drapes will make the ruching look better. Avoid using lighter fabrics like silk or rayon.

Things You'll Need

  • Drape/curtain panels
  • Tape measure
  • Elastic
  • Scissors
  • Straight pins
  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine

Spread the drape or curtain panel out flat on a table with the back side of the panel facing up. Position a tape measure across the width of the panel along the top where it will hang from the curtain rod.

Cut a strip of elastic that is half the width of the curtain panel. Cut two lengths if using regular-width elastic, or just one for wide-width elastic, depending on the desired look. Using two lengths of regular-width elastic will create a ruffle along the top of the finished curtain panels when they are hung. Using one wider strip of elastic will ruch the curtain just under the casing or pocket where the hanging rod will slip through.

Fold the top of the curtain panel down, creating a pocket that the curtain rod will slide through after it is sewn. This pocket is called the casing. Push straight pins into the material to hold the folded edge securely to the backside of the curtain panel.

Measure about 6 inches down from the exact top of the fold in the panel. Lay one length of elastic across the width of the panel in this spot. If using two lengths of elastic, measure up 4 inches from the first to lay the other length across the width of the panel also, making two rows of elastic. Place the left edges of the elastic lengths even with the left edge of the panel. Pin the left edges together and set the sewing machine to a zig-zag stitch. This will be a tight stitch that will effectively pull the elastic together, causing the fabric to gather when done. Ruching will be along the rod pocket if using one strip of elastic. There will be ruching plus a ruffle along the top of the curtain above the rod pocket if using two strips of elastic.

Sew the elastic strip onto the curtain panel. Hold on to the free end of the elastic strip as you sew, stretching it out to the full length of the width of the panel while the machine sews it on. This stretches the elastic out so, when let go, it will bunch up and gather the curtain material, creating the ruched look.

Finish the end of the elastic by folding the left edge of the curtain panel over the strip. Sew a shirt tail hem (a skinny-width hem) into the left edge of the panel in order to secure the zig zag stitching. Repeat this for the right end of the strip and the right edge of the panel. Slip the curtain rod through the pocket or casing along the top of the curtain.

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