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Decorative Curtain Swags and Tails

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Swags and Tails

Among the most sophisticated and luxurious window dressings, are swags and tails. Which complement and enhance the look of functional curtains.

To benefit from their full decorative effect, swags and tails should preferably be hung over a long window in a room that has a high ceiling.

Swags and tails are constructed individually and then attached to the pelmet board above a window to form an independent curtain finishing.

It is appropriate to make them up in the same fabric as the curtain - the edges of the tails can be highlighted with a frill, contrasting piping, or a ribbon.

Making up a Swag

For the swag and binding, you will need the same fabric as that was used for the curtain. You will also need a lining fabric, masking tape, a pelmet board and the basic sewing kit.

Measure the front panel of the pelmet: this will be the width of the finished swag. To calculate the drop, measure the height of the window.

The drop at the deepest point of the finished swag should be between one-sixth and one-eighth of this measurement.

1. Drawing Template Using the diagram as a guide, draw a pattern on paper to the proportions shown for use as a template, adding 1.5 cm for seams. You will need to cut out the template and pin it in place on the bias of the fabric.


2. Cutting Fabric Cut out the lining fabric around the template. Remove the template. Pin the lining fabric to the main fabric, again on the bias. Cut out the main fabric, making joins, if necessary, make it on the straight grain with plain flat seams.


3. Turning Hem Remove pins. Turn 1.5 cm hem to the wrong side along all edges of the main fabric. Tack and sew, using herringbone stitch. Clip the seam allowance along the base curve to reduce its bulk. Turn a 1.5 cm hem to the wrong side along lining fabric edges, and press.


4. Tacking Fabric With the wrong sides together, tack the lining fabric to the main fabric along the three straight edges.


5. Stitching Base Curve On the finished swag, the base curve will be visible. Make sure the lining does not show on the right side of the swag by slip stitching panels together along the base of the curve.


6. Hanging Fabric Using masking tape, attach a strip of spare fabric longer than the ultimate width of the swag to the edge of the table. Mark the centre and the ultimate width of the finished swag on the fabric strip as a guide. Pin the central point of the top edge of the swag to the marked centre of the fabric strip. Pin the outer edges of the swag to the marked width points of the fabric strip.

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7. Folding Fabric Working towards the centre, make even folds up one long side of the fabric, allowing the fold nearest to the centre to lie over the top edge of the center swag. Repeat on the other long side, mirroring the fold at the centre to create a symmetrical swag. Pin all the folds securely in place. It may also be helpful to mark the fold edges at the top with a vanishing-ink pen. Remove the pins securing the swag to the tabletop fabric.


8. Sewing Folds Tack and sew along the tops of the folds to hold them firmly in place. To bind the top edge of the swag, cut a strip of the main fabric 5 cm wide, and to the same length as the pelmet, plus 3 cm. Lay one edge of binding against the top edge of the swag, right sides together. Sew the binding 1.5 cm from the edge.


9. Stitching Binding To complete the swag, fold the binding over the edge of the main fabric. Tuck in the raw edges of the binding, and slipstitch across the edge to secure.


Making up Tails

Tails are fitted to the pelmet board and fall at each side of the swag. They can be self-lined or lined with contrasting fabric.

As well as the tail and binding fabrics, you will need a staple gun and a basic sewing kit. Make the tails in pairs, Mirroring each other.

Decide on the finished length of tails (A). The length of the shorter edge (B) should be about 15 cm.

Estimate the width of the top edge (C), allowing for returns on the pelmet to be covered.

Double the number of pleats, and multiply this figure by pleat width, to give the finished width of the top edge.

1. Making Template Draw and cut out a full-size paper template to the required dimensions for a tail, adding 1.5 cm all around for seam allowance. Use a set square to draw the corners.


2. Cutting Out Fabric Pin the template to the straight grain of the lining fabric. Cut out the fabric. Remove the template from the lining fabric, and pin it in place on the straight grain of the main fabric, aligning patterns, if necessary. Cut out the fabric. Make the piping to the length of the leading edge.


3. Trimming Piping Pin and tack piping to the right side of the main fabric, after that trim the ends. Lay right sides of the main and lining fabrics together. Pin, tack and sew along three edges. Leave the top open for turning out. Use the zip foot to sew along the piped edge. Turn the right sides out, and press. Tack along the top edge.


4. Marking Folds Lay the fabric on a flat surface, with the right side facing up. Starting from the short edge, measure and then mark the positions for the folds with pins along the top edge.


5. Pinning Folds Pin the folds in place, leaving the last fold open in order to position it around the return of the pelmet board. Tack and sew along the top edge to secure the folds. Cut out a strip of the same fabric 5 cm wide by the width of the top edge for the binding. Attach the binding as in steps 8 and 9 above.


6. Fitting Swag and Tails Secure the swag and tails to the pelmet with staples, or by tacking them with gimp pins. Ensure that the swag is correctly centred, and staple or pin it in position along the top edge of the pelmet front. Attach the tails to the top edge of the return and front of the pelmet.


The Finished Swag and Tail


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Temoor Dar

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