• - Fabric
  • - Lining
  • - Thread
  • - Buckram
  • - Wadding
  • - Weights
  • - Curtain Hooks
  • Tools
  • - Sewing Machine
  • - Needles
  • - Pins
  • - Clamps
  • - Scissors
  • - Set Square
  • - Straight Edge
  • - Invisible Marker
  • Step 9: Form the Pleats
    Printable Worksheet
    Printable Worksheet


    To do this we already know:

    • The finished width of the curtain (FW)
    • The width of the made up curtain panel to be pleated - measure now. (PAN)

    Now Choose:

    • The width of your RETURN* - we recommend 8cm. (R)
    • The width of your LEADING EDGE - we recommend 8cm.(LE)

    *Note if you are returning to the wall make this the distance from the pole to the wall plus 1cm.



    To calculate the width of fabric available to form pleats simply subtract the Finished Curtain Width (STEP 2) from the width of the panel to be pleated.

    • WFP = PAN - FW


    You now know how much fabric you have to form pleats (WFP). Next you need to decide how many pleats you want your curtain to have (NP).

    If working with the 1.9 fullness ratio (STEP 2) we used in the videos we suggest using 6 pleats for every fabric width used to make the curtain panel. For example if you have used 2 widths of fabric to make your panel we would recommend 12 pleats, if you have used 1.5 widths we would recommend 9 pleats etc. You may want to vary this depending on the size of pleat you want, this number is usually a good place to start.



    To calculate your pleat size divide the fabric available for pleats by the number of pleats.

    • PS = WFP ÷ NP


    You will always have one space less than the number of pleats. For example 12 pleats - 11 spaces, 10 pleats-9 spaces. To find the size of the space between pleats

    • Subtract the size of the RETURN and LEADING EDGE from the finished curtain width
    • Divide the result by (the number of pleats minus 1)
    • SS = (FW - LE - R) ÷ (NP-1)

    You should now know

    • The width of the fabric panel to be pleated
    • The number of pleats per curtain.
    • The size of each pleat
    • The space between each pleat
    • The size of the RETURN
    • The size of the LEADING EDGE


    If you are new to curtain making fold a sample pleat with some lining or spare fabric the size of the pleat you have calculated (see STEP 9b - How to fold the Pleat). If you are not happy with size of pleat and the space sizes start the calculation again using a smaller number of pleats for a larger pleat, or a higher number of pleats to make your pleats smaller.


    • Lay the curtain down, right side facing up.
    • Mark along the top of the curtain where each pleat will start and stop with a pin
    • Check the size of your RETURN, LEADING EDGE and the spaces between the pleats add up to the finished width of the curtain.
    • With a vanishing marker draw a vertical line down from each pin to the bottom of the buckram to mark the edge of each pleat.
    • Remove the pins
    • Pinch the back of each pleat together so the lines match up.
    • Machine stitch down the line to the bottom of the buckram (to hold the back of each pleat together).
    • Once you have sewn in all the pleats check the width of the heading is now the finished width of the curtain.
    This video shows you
    • How to mark out your pleats
    • How to deal with small errors
    • How to sew in your pleats
    • Where to start your stitching (important)

    Extra Help & Comments

    At Step 9.2 you wrote "when working with the recommended 2 to 2.2 fullness ratio (Step 2) we suggest using 6 pleats for every fabric width used..."
    However, in Step 2 you recommend a fullness ratio of 2.5!
    Assuming you have cut and pasted this from your double pleat tutorial, how many pleats do you recommend for triple pleats when using a 2.5 fullness ratio?
    Sew Helpful
    Thanks for pointing that out, it was a typo using the details from the double pleat. I have updated the text to the 2.5 fullness ratio and 4 pleats per width.
    Margaret Craig
    Hi there, I just took out the 28 day subscription to follow your instructions on marking out spaces and pleasts and have just found the same video paid for on here free on utube?
    Was a bit surprised by this.
    Sew Helpful
    Hi Margaret 

    It is not the same video as you purchased. 

    We give out masses of FREE stuff, for example ALL our written instructions are FREE including popup definitions, example calculations and diagrams. There are some FREE videos on this site as well as on YouTube indeed the first 2 videos in this tutorial are FREE. We have also put a FREE blind fold calculator and 2 FREE curtain pleat calculators on this site. We then give FREE advice answering questions about the tutorials and quite often give FREE design advice based on our years of experience. 

    All the pay videos on our site will not be found elsewhere for free with the exception of the "How to join Paterned Fabric video" which you will find on youtube and FREE on this site in a mini tutorial on how to join patterned fabric.

    If you feel you haven't had value for money from your subscription (I see you have already watched 5 videos) then please contact us for a refund.
    margaret craig
    Thanks for your response. The video showing inserting the buckram and the calculations for working out the space and pleat is shown on u tube but is on here as paid. No need to refund as I am using other aspects of the video for this particular job. Will check in future tho. Thanks again.
    In step two for curtain return to wall your example calculation stated the measurement is the wall to pole centre which for me is 11.5cm but in step nine you say it is from the pole to the wall plus 1cm which would make it 12.5 cm for me. can u clarify which it is.
    Sew Helpful
    Make it the size stated here in STEP 9  - pole centre to the wall plus 1cm. Your is RETURN will be slightly longer than the distance measured in In STEP 2 (pole centre to the wall) to give a bit of ease and stop the Pleat being pulled around at the corner.
    laura annable
    what is the perfect size space?
    I assume the space can be to big and not look right
    Sew Helpful
    10cm to 15cm for spaces, 15cm to 20cm for pleat sizes works well.
    My leading edge is 11cm and not 8cm. Would that be too big to leave. The curtain is 3 widths wide.
    Sew Helpful
    We wouldn't make it that wide.
    Toni Cumming
    Just found your web site.
    I have 4 large printed velvet curtains I made back in the 60's yes I know pretty old. I would like to revamp them as apart from needing new lining and headings they are immaculate, no weak parts and note a fade mark, they were very expensive to make that many years ago. I would like to use a heading with pinch pleats of a good depth as they are very heavy, and hang them on a wooden pole, I have 2 1/2 widths in each of
    the 4 curtains, do you think pinch pleats
    would work and is there enough width?taking a risk as I do not want them to like
    old curtains (although I know they are)
    Sew Helpful
    It will depend on the width of the pole. For triple pleat we ideally use a fullness ratio of 2.5. ie the panel to be pleated is 2.5 times wider than the finished pleated up width of the curtain.

    You talk about pinch pleats, that is a double pleat, for that we use a fullness ratio of 2.0 to 2.2.

    There is a tutorial to make pinch pleat curtains on the website as well. 
    Hi my rail is 216 (108 for each curtain). Total fabric per curtain is 273, deducted 108 finished width leaving 165 fabric for 12 pleats at 13.75. Spaces: 108 minus 8(R) 9(LE) dividdd by 11 spaces at 8.27. Is this right? I thought the pleat/spaces should be similar. Thanks!
    Hi my rail is 216 (108 for each curtain). Total fabric per curtain is 273, deducted 108 finished width leaving 165 fabric for 12 pleats at 13.75. Spaces: 108 minus 8(R) 9(LE) dividdd by 11 spaces at 8.27. Is this right? I thought the pleat/spaces should be similar. Thanks!
    Sew Helpful
    For a triple pleat we recommend 4 pleats per width (so 8 here not 12). Pleat sizes approx 15-20cm and spaces approx 10-15cm.
    Many thanks Sew Helpful, your site is amazing - I've re-read and re-calculated.
    Is it possible to have 9 pleats? What about the join on my 2 widths being inside a pleat rather than a space?
    Sew Helpful
    Yes you can do that. 

    We try and avoid a pleat on a join as it can be a bit bulky (especially on interlined curtains), but sometimes you just have to work with what you have got. 
    I just don't understand how to create a triple pleat. Can you help please?
    Sew Helpful
    Have you watched the video?
    I loved your origianal web site for triple pleat calculations. Please could you help me. Finished pole 2.45cm. Fabric for one drop 2 metres wide (French fabric) please could you let me know pleat and gap size. I'm sorry I am very stupid!
    Sew Helpful
    Sorry we dont do calculations for people.
    What size of needle do you use in a domestic machine? I’ve broken 2 so far!
    Will my janome 2200 get through it with the right needle? If not could I hand sew but can’t imagine that’s a easy option.
    Sew Helpful
    I’m sorry we don’t know as we don’t have a Janome 2200. You need a strong needle ( i’ll Post what size we use when I’ve got a chance to check). Hand sewing that part would be very hard on the hands.
    I would appreciate that, I am desperate to get them finished and see how they have turned out.
    Thanks again for the very detailed videos and for having this comments section to ask questions.
    Sew Helpful
    We have a selection of needles and I'm afraid I dont know the exact size we use for the back of pleats as they are not in size marked packs. Generally if we are sewing thicker fabric we fit a thicker needle and just go on what looks right. You are baiscally going to need a thicker needle than you have currently been using. (sorry I don't have an exact answer to hand at the moment)
    I love using your videos they have been so helpful to a novice curtain maker. I have a question about spaces and returns. I am making cartridge pleats, but because the window is very narrow the pole goes beyond the edge of the frame and is fixed to the wall. The return at the end needs to go back to the wall (so distance from pole to wall plus 1 cm) However the pole then goes across a very old thick and wide wooden window frame so then the distance from pole to frame (which I guess is treated as a wall?) is 2.5 cm less than pole to wall). Would like the end to go to the wall (neater and keeps out the light) but how do I calculate the "return" so as to prevent the curtain hitting the frame? Sorry - bit convoluted but hope it makes sense.....Thanks
    Sew Helpful
    Basically you need the distance from the pole (ring eyelet) to where you want the curtain to touch the wall at the ends of the pole. 

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