Journal Insight #2: Curtain Headings


In my last Journal Insight we looked at the big questions around stack-back, during the course of this topic, we raised the options of different types of headings, and so I thought maybe now is a good time to delve into this topic and explain curtain headings.

Headings refers the myriad ways the top of a curtain can be finished and has impact on the cost, production timescales, how the curtains stack-back, and hang.

Broadly speaking I’ve split ‘headings’ into four types:

  • Tape headings
  • Hand headings
  • Modern headings
  • Informal headings

So many headings…

Tape Headings

Starting with Tape headings, these are often what you get buying online or from those shops who sell curtains off the peg. Using a machined-on tape, the heading is formed by drawing up strings to bunch up the heading and create pencils – thus they sometimes they get called pencil pleats – they’re the same thing! Tape headings are what many people make for their own homes, as with limited skills and a sewing machine you can run something up that looks pretty good. It’s also what the factory workrooms churn out in bucket loads, and you can see why – they are quicker, with less opportunity for mistakes and frankly a lot less skill required. On the plus side, they are robust and a lot cheaper to supply. They are also a good option if you just want the curtains to sit there unobtrusive and discreet; voiles are often made this way for just that reason.

We don’t make many tape headed curtains, and largely it’s because of the way they hang; it doesn’t matter how hard you try they just won’t dress as neatly as other styles of curtain, often billowing as they drop. Not every maker will agree with me, but that’s my take on the subject.

Hand Headings

The vast majority of our work is with hand headed curtains. These are more clearly structured and sewn in by the maker, to form perfect pleats – either single (also called cartridges), double or triple pleats. Once set in place the curtains will fall in beautiful corrugation, but only if hung and dressed properly when installed. For most people thinking about hand-made curtains, they are picturing hand headed tops.

You may not realise that you can specify the depth of the pleat too, which really helps scale the curtain to the room. You will see loads of 5″ headings, but we prefer 6″ and 8″ headings too, as they help elongate the curtain; particularly useful for a tall room.

The difference between these is largely aesthetic and down to the look you are after, from more contemporary unfussy single pleat, to the height of classic with a triple pleat. It also affects the amount of fabric required, and on jobs with either cost or stack-back constraints, this can be a worth reviewing carefully.

Modern Headings

Modern Curtain Headings

Under modern headings I’m talking about wave and eyelets. Wave curtains came from the hotel industry, where they were keen to standardise the look and ensure even the clumsiest of bell hops could close them and they’d still look great. The tops are not gathered like tape or hand headed curtains, by ‘waving’ back and forth beneath the pole or track. The gliders have cords between them making sure they are exactly the same distance apart each and every time. It’s a super clean look, used widely on big expanses of glass and in contemporary architecture – when people want the hotel look, this is your go to heading. Because they aren’t as gathered at the top, they require less fabric than double or triple pleats and stack neatly. You do need to be careful of the length of the curtains though. As the drop increase the ‘wave’ starts to drop out and so you must always check with the maker if the fabric is suitable for a wave curtain at all, and if so for the length you are after. For example, fabrics with metal content are a known problem as they spring out of the wave after a few feet.

Eyelets can get a bad press, but used properly and creatively can look amazing. The smallest stack of any heading, the easiest to hang, and the least fabric required – all key plus points. With an unfussy modern look they are ideal if blackout is required as the curtains can reach above the pole and reduce the amount of light bleeding into the room. You can also have big or small eyelets, and we’ve made and seen plenty of giant eyelets that looks very designer indeed.

Informal Headings

Finally, what I call informal heading. These are ones the maker might get grumpy about as they often take more work to complete and get right. Cottage headings are those big floppy tops reminiscent of the 80’s but they are having a resurgence now. For less structured looks there is a pin hook heading, which is hard to describe, but allows the fabric to droop a little at the top and can work for linens, in particular heightening the relaxed feel of the fabric. It can be a tricky look to achieve and talk to your maker, but remember that in general ‘structure’ is there for a reason, and informal headings need a lot of thought and planning to get right.

There are more, but even I’m running out of concentration after that lot, and what I’ve talked about so far covers the vast majority of your options. Remember though, you can also email us, pick up the telephone for a chat or book an appointment.

If you’ve found this helpful, please share, we would appreciate it.

Next time… linings!

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Journal Insight #1: Stack-back
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Journal Insight #3: Curtain Linings

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