Making Pleated Curtain Panels (The Easy Way)

I’ve always thought that curtains are the unsung hero of room makeovers because everyone’s quick to talk about how paint can make such a huge difference (agreed, it totally can) but I’d argue that curtains can rival the whole “wow, paint totally changed that room” because they can:

  • make a small window look twice as wide
  • draw the eye up and make ceilings feel taller
  • add a whole lot of color/pattern/interest (or not, if you just want something simple/breezy)
  • make any room feel more cozy by adding softness
  • add function (block light and drafts, provide privacy, absorb sound, etc)

So there it is. My name is Sherry, and I’m a fan of curtains. Just look at the nursery wall without any:

And here it is now with some happy green-apple deliciousness going on:

This room is still far from finished (we’re planning a colorful large-scale mobile for over the crib – maybe something like this – and the bare wall across from the crib still needs furniture and art). But back to the curtains. They make such a difference, right? I also tried a new pleated approach this time, along with an extra thick hem at the top and bottom to give them some added heft, and I’m a complete fan. It was really easy, so I’ll just stop yapping and dive into the details.

When it came to picking the fabric for the nursery, we knew we wanted something happy and colorful since the walls and built-ins are a neutral palette (Clara’s white-walled yet super colorful room has taught us that safer choices on those harder-to-change surfaces leave things wide open to layer in a lot more personality and color with other accents like textiles, art, and accessories). We considered everything from a bold pattern to a fun dip-dyed look or a band at the bottom, but thought one solid hue would be nice because we didn’t want anything that would look too busy next to our patterned rug and crib bedding.

We were actually really inspired by the different tones of green in the Target box that we recently grabbed for the built-ins, along with our old stacking tree game, which both showed us how great a vibrant apple green color could look with a darker kelly tone in the mix.

We hit up a local place (U-Fab) as well as JoAnn fabrics, and ended up falling for a cheerful apple green color at JoAnn. We thought it would layer in nicely with the kelly green bedskirt, bike art, and chair pillow without being too matchy or flat. I bought five and a half yards of fabric, which was listed at $6.99 a yard (it’s 100% cotton, and the color is Solid Apple if that helps you track it down at JoAnn) but I used one of those 50% off coupons so my entire purchase was $19.22, which means each of my panels breaks down to being under ten bucks.

The first thing I did when I got it home was pre-wash it (this helps you avoid shrinkage on the back-end, which can result in highwater panels if you wash them later). Then I laid my fabric on the floor and folded it in half (length-wise, not width-wise) and cut along the fold so I was left with two equally sized 99″ panels. My desired finished length was 88″ so that meant I could have a nice weighty 5.5″ hem at the top and the bottom. First I hemmed the top and bottom of the panel just about an inch from the edge with hem tape, like so:

Heavy duty Heat N’ Bond is a favorite of mine, just because I’ve made a few curtain panels with my sewing machine and others with hem tape and find that hem tape is easier for me to get a nice straight seam instead of a slightly meandering one. I’ve also had luck with durability (and washability) in a nursery/kids room with it over the last 3.5 years (all of Clara’s curtains have been hemmed with the stuff) so that made it an easy choice.

After making that first 1″ hem on the top and bottom of the panel, I folded each one of them over again to make a 4.5″ cuff, so I was left with a nice finished looking edge on each end (that’s why I did that little 1″ hem first). Even though it’s the back of the panel, it doesn’t take much time to make that extra little fold, and it ends up looking nice and clean.

Again I used hem tape to secure that flap of fabric at that 4.5″ mark.

After securing each of those top and bottom hems, I hemmed the sides (just with simple 1″ one) to keep the panel as wide as possible, but give it a finished edge. Here’s what one panel looked like on the floor with the backside-up, wrinkles and all.

Next I ironed each panel to get a bunch of the wrinkles out (they honestly still could use a steam-session now that they’re hanging in place) and then it was time to give the whole “pinch-pleat effect” a try. Instead of my usual MO of clipping rings to the top edge of the fabric (so the curtains hang like this or like this), I pinched the fabric in ten equal increments and secured the clip to the back of the top hem, about 2.5″ from the top of the panel. Burger was intrigued.

Here’s a close up for you of that top hem along the back of the panel (again, I just used ten ring hooks and spaced them out by eye in as-equal-as-possible increments).

This is John holding up the rod after I strung one panel on so I could snap a picture of the back for you guys.

And here’s what they look like from the front after hanging them with the anchors and screws that came with the rod we picked up at Home Depot:

Don’t those pleats add a little something extra? I like that they’re not super perfect & uniform (it’s more of a casual pleat if that makes sense) but they still feel a bit more upgraded than the regular old ring-hook look that I’m used to. If you’re at home thinking “I’d make those, but I wish each pleat was identical and super uniform” – fear not. You could probably stand on a stepladder and tweak the clips in the back to even everything out. John and I just thought they looked sort of effortlessly cool this way. Either that or we’re too lazy to break out the step-ladder.

Update #1: We’re getting a bunch of questions about if we’re planning to use blackouts and/or if these curtains can close to block light. They can close (they’re each 56″ wide) but we have light-blocking faux wood blinds on all of the upstairs windows (more on those here) so we typically just close those instead of the curtains. Although I might add some blackout panels to the back of these panels like we did in Clara’s room if this guy ends up loving total darkness like her. Will keep you posted!

Update #2: Also getting questions about where the chair’s from. We bought that from Joss & Main a few years ago (it used to be in the corner of the kitchen across from the fireplace in our old house, and was in our office at this house until we realized it made more sense in the nursery). The white pouf is a sale find from J&M too.

It’s definitely feeling a bit more like home (and making this baby on-the-way thing feel a bit more real) to see how much this space has changed since we bought the house.

I’m telling you, curtains make the difference. Ok, and a new floor, some wall paint, a pair of built-ins, crown molding, and furniture help too.

So that’s what’s new in the nursery. And Operation Homemade Mobile is actually in progress, so I hope to share that with you guys soon – along with some updates to the completely blank wall across from the crib. Have any of you ever done pinch-pleats, either with the sewing method or the ring-clip method? Do they make you feel fancy? Was your dog super interested the entire time?


    • cc says

      I second that! I tend to also end up making my own curtains, and I actually have been wanting to do something soon with all these old drapery hooks I have, but it would be SO MUCH EASIER to get the same effect this way.

    • Sarah says

      The curtain clipping is GENIUS! I have a pair of curtains I made that are too long due to my awesome measuring skills. This would be perfect to get the right height! Love this idea!!!

  1. says

    Love the green! Love the pleated look! And I also like the pulled back shot of the room – puts everything in context! Thanks for sharing your progress! As always – very inspirational!

  2. says

    This is looking really great! I agree, curtains can make all the difference in the world. I have a small window behind my sofa that’s driving me nuts, and I’m planning to use drapes to make it look a lot wider.

  3. says

    BURGER!!! :-) He was just trying to help you smooth out the wrinkles.

    I’m so over my panels in the living room. I want new ones but no clue what to do. We have sliding bamboo panels on the slider but I hate the lack of privacy. I’m wondering if I could do a liner on the back and paint them a different color or if that would look weird? Sorry, I’m now talking to myself in your comments. *blushing*

  4. Paula says


    Room looks beautiful and great job on those curtains. You certainly inspired me to make my own. And that chair looks so comfy.

  5. says

    Watching you guys complete your little barnacle’s nursery is taking me back to the excitement of decorating for my little girl 2 years ago. I know you are super excited about bringing home your little man, but until you can hold him in your arms, standing in the room that is decorated just for him must be an awesome feeling. Enjoy…what a fun time for all of you!

  6. Krissy says

    Murphy is always interested in everything we’re working on, until noisy power tools come out!

    I lovelovelove the color of the curtains! Such a fun, happy pop!

    • says

      Haha, same with Burger! Anything the squeaks or creaks or bangs or whirrs is a “RUUUUNNNNNN FOR YOUR LIIIIIIIFE!” moment for him, but if we’re just doing smaller projects he’s all “I wonder if this will result in something I can eat…?”


  7. says

    Looks fantastic! I am loving how you’re layering all this in and using it for inspiration on the big boy bedroom project I am working on in my head.

  8. says

    LOVING the pinch pleats! And the happy color. You did such an awesome job budget-wise, too. You said it was cotton… was this over in the home decor fabrics or the regular quilting fabrics? It looks thicker than the quilting fabrics…

    • says

      Yes, it was in the home decor/upholstery area (those bolts tend to be wider, and they’re a little thicker for some nice heft). I used a kelly green fabric from the quilting area for the crib skirt though!


  9. says

    I think they look amazing and you’re right, people totally forget how curtains can transform a room!
    I used to love when our dog would photo bomb every picture I was trying to take for the blog! :) She was totally into DIY.

    • says

      Thanks Amanda! That was from Joss & Main a while back (it was in our last house’s kitchen across from the fireplace, and lived in the corner of our office here until we realized it would be more useful in the nursery).


  10. Christine Anderson says

    Hey Sherry! Love the nursery! We are in the middle of doing ours right now and would love an updated source list for the room. I can’t seem to find where you bought the chair you have in front of that window, or that fabulous pouf for that matter! Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *