Interior Design: Curtains, Pelmets and Tie Backs
Curtains can be given added impact if you dress them with pelmets (cornices) and fabric tie-backs. Both of these details are practical as well as decorative — pelmets hide the curtain heading and track, while tie-backs hold curtains in place when they are open.
Other effects can be created using fabric; you can drape lengths of material over a decorative pole, or you can make swags and tails, either to frame a window or to add a special flourish.
There are two types of pelmet: flat, shaped ones, usually attached to a pelmet board, and gathered ones (valances) which are headed or gathered like curtains and suspended from a special rail mounted just above the curtain track.
Flat pelmets have three layers: facing fabric (which can coordinate or contrast with the curtain), stiffener and lining. The lower edge can be shaped.
Gathered pelmets have a softer appearance, the folds of fabric flowing elegantly into the curtain drapery. As with flat pelmets, the lower edge can either be left straight or can be curved or castellated to frame the window. Gathered pelmets are made by attaching heading tape to pleat up the fabric in the required pattern.
Making a Pelmet
1. Make a flat pelmet from 1cm/1/2in, 10cm/4in deep, and long enough to extend 5-7.5cm/2-3in at either end of track. Fix it to the wall using brackets.
You will need enough fabric to cover the front and sides of the board. Make a paper pattern of the pelmet shape: either draw one half of the design on folded graph paper which you can then open out to achieve a symmetrical shape or use a ready-made template or pattern. Allow 1cm/1/2in for the seams.
2. Cut out the pelmet stiffener to the shape of the finished pelmet, and place on the wrong side of the facing fabric, peeling off the backing.
Fold over the edges of the turnings, clip the curves, and press into place.
Press in the seam allowance on the lining, clipping curves, and lay the lining on the pelmet, wrong sides together. Slip-stitch in place. Fix the pelmet to the board with Velcro or with tacks concealed by braid.
Swags and Tails
Swags and tails are essentially draped pelmets (valances) but, unlike flat or gathered pelmets, they can be used on their own — for example, for hall windows, or wherever curtains are not desired. The swag is a draped length of fabric fixed to a board; it hangs in a graceful curve across the top of a window. At either end are pleated tails, which frame the window. A wide window can be dressed using a series of swags, with shorter tails at each tie-point.
Where the tail meets the swag it is usual to add some type of trimming, often a bow or rosette. Swags and tails can also be frilled, fringed or lined in a contrasting fabric and decorated with braid, cords or tassels.
Making a Swag
1. Cut out a pattern, as shown in the diagram. Mark pleat lines 10cm/4in apart. Cut out the main piece of fabric and lining following the pattern. (If the curtain fabric is not too heavy, you can use it for lining, too.) Sew the lining to the main fabric down the sides and along the bottom, right sides together. Trim corners, finish seams and turn right-side out.
2. Transfer the pleating points to the main fabric. Starting at the top, pin and then sew in place. Turn under the raw edge at the top and tack to the top edge of the pelmet board.
* Practise first using an old piece of material.
Line the tails in the same fabric, in a contrasting colour or a lining fabric.
1. Cut out the pattern, as shown in the diagram, and mark pleating lines across the top. Cut out the main piece of fabric and lining and sew them together, right sides facing, around the sides and bottom. Trim the corners and turn right-side out.
2. Fold the fabric into the pleats. Pin and sew in place. Turn under the raw edge at the top and tack to the top edge of the board. Reverse the pattern and make the tail at the other side.
Making a Tie-back
Like pelmets, tie-backs can be made of fabric, shaped in various ways and coordinated or contrasted with the curtain fabric. They can also be trimmed (with braid, piping or frills) or plaited. A simple, tie-backs are particularly useful for curtains that do not draw.
To calculate how long the tie-back should be, hold a tape measure around the curtain, and drape it loosely. Position a hook on the wall, andit into place.
Make a pattern of the shape you want. For a symmetrical shape, place the pattern on a double thickness of fabric, with the centre of the pattern aligning with the fold. For each tie-back you will need two pieces of fabric, 1cm/1/2in larger than the pattern all around.
1. Cut a piece of fusible interfacing to fit the pattern, and iron to the wrong side of one piece of fabric.
2. Place the second piece of fabric over the first, right sides together. Pin, tack (baste) and stitch all round, leaving an opening of about 10cm/4in for turning.
3. Trim the corners and seams and turn the tie-backs right-side out. Slip-stitch the opening and stitch onto each end a curtain ring to loop onto the hook in the wall.