Step 9: Form the Pleats


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).

When working with the recommended 2.5 fullness ratio (STEP 2) as a guide we suggest using 4 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 8 pleats, if you have used 1.5 widths we would recommend 6 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)

Questions & Comments

Jane Matthews transaction 0080

I am unable to view the videos on how to make triple pleated lined curtains. After ‘this video shows’ e g 1

2 etc

pay per view hosting appears.

Please advise as I have paid for 3 months access and need help to finish my curtains. My access no. Is xxxxxxxxx Jane


Please check your email


I am making triple pinch pleat curtains for a pole 540cm wide. Each curtain has to have 27 pleats as the gaps between pleats will be 10 cm due to space behind pole for folding. How do I calculate the space 27 pleats will take up when the curtains are open? Thanks


There is no accurate way of calculating how wide the stack back will be as it will depend on the thickness of the fabric and the size of your pleats.


I would like to know is it okay to have more than 9 cartridge pleats for a curtain measuring 195cms ( 1.5 widths )for half a pole measuring 90cms , the fabric is very thick and interlined.


Sounds ok, we normally work on about 6 pleats per width.

Alison Hildred

Morning. Can you let me know if your cartridge pleat calculator allows for a bit of 'springback' on the finished width required. Hope that made sense? I've only ever manually calculated and the calculator is a godsend .



No the calculator makes no adjustment for ease. Ease is taken into account in STEP 2 of the curtain tutorials when the finished width is calculated.


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.


Make it the size stated here in STEP 9  - pole centre to the wall plus 1cm. Your iRETURN 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.

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)


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!


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.


Is it possible to have 9 pleats? What about the join on my 2 widths being inside a pleat rather than a space?


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?


Have you watched the video?


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


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. 

Carol Ayers

I am struggling to follow the pleat part. I just can't get it. I have 110 inches of fabric for half a window measuring 108 inches. How many pleats do I need, of how many inches and how many spaces. Can anyone help. Sorry for being such a muppet.


It sounds like you haven't got enough fabric for triple pleats as your fullness ratio wont be enough, but I'm afraid you haven't really given relevant information.

    1. What is the pole length?

    2. Is 108 inches the width of your made up flat fabric panel for one curtain?

Add Question/Comment

Drag & drop images (max 3)