using gathering tape for curtains

A few months ago I posted photos of our living room. I received a few questions about the gathered curtains, so I thought I’d {finally!} show you how I made them.

living room

When I visited a friend in Texas, she had just had her living room curtains using gathering tape and I fell in love. She is starting a new blog very soon and I can’t wait for her to share her house with everyone : it is amazing. So thanks, Christi, for letting me steal your idea!

gathering tape

So this is gathering tape. You should be able to find it by the yard at your local fabric store.  It is basically a mesh ribbon with two strings woven through it. When you sew it to fabric and pull the strings, it creates a nice gather. It comes in many different widths {mine is 1 inch}.


I used my favorite IKEA curtains {they are long, cheap and a nice weight}, cut off the top tabs and then made a deep hem {approximately 4 inches with another 1 inch turned under}. Depending on how high you want your fabric to stand-up above the gather, you can adjust the hem.

Then you will stitch the gathering tape to the fabric along the top edge of the tape.

stitch to hold

Now add a small stitch {back and forth a few times on the sewing machine} to tack the bottom of the tape down.

drapery pin

Hook drapery pins through the tape in equal places where it will be hung on rings {in my case, I used seven rings, so I took the width of the curtains and divided into 7}. You can get drapery pins at your fabric store, or online here.

pull strings

Now pull the top string until you have your desired ruffliness to the curtains, then make a knot to hold in place.


Hook the drapery pins to your curtain rings {I used these rings}.

gathered curtains

And you are finished!

gatherd curtains in living room

I was hanging these velvet curtains in my office {beware : it’s being rearranged again}

ikea velvet curtains

and noticed that they also use gathering tape. Why I have never noticed this, I am not sure.

ikea gathering tape

So I put them up to see the difference between using it and not. On the left, I pulled the strings to gather:

gathered using tape

and on the right, I did not.

not gathered

It does make a difference in holding the gathers tight. I am not crazy about the rod going through the middle of the gathers, so I will probably do the same method in here as with the living room curtains.

I searched and searched for other tutorials on how to make gathered curtains and came up pretty empty-handed. I did find these three images from drapery-making companies in the UK. Apparently this style is more common in England.

gathered heading with stand up frill






I also learned that the technical name is not gathered curtains, but rather gathered heading with stand-up frill. Fancy, schmancy.

26 Responses to using gathering tape for curtains

  1. Nancy December 29, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    Hi Emily-
    I like this idea for the French doors in our bedroom but would also like them shut out light when needed. Since the ruffling will shorten the curtains, how do you recommend I hang the curtains…i.e. should I maybe hang a third and/or fourth in a coordinating color?


  2. Sarah August 13, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

    How exactly did you sew on the gathering tape? Did you stitch all along the top and bottom of the tape or just on the top and then the two edges of the curtain? Thanks. They are beautiful.

  3. Jenn July 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

    I was inspired by your tutorial to “make over” some IKEA panels for my home office/homeschool room! Today when I revealed my new space, I mentioned your blog as reference. Just wanted you to know how much I appreciate it! Thanks!

  4. Katina July 22, 2011 at 7:33 am #

    Thanks so much! I got my gathering tape yesterday! I can’t wait to try to make these!

  5. victoira July 22, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    hi emily, not sure I understand where you sewed the tape to the curtain. Did you attach it at the top an bottom of the tape in two straight lines or one line of sewing down the middle of the tape? Thanks Vicki

  6. Helaine July 20, 2011 at 8:24 pm #

    Emily, My husband and I are headed to France as missionaries, and already know we’ll be doing much of our home shopping at IKEA. Could you tell me the name of the curtains you like to use in your projects? I LOVE your blog- my husband thinks I’ve gone nuts, but I like trying the projects and I am planning on using a lot of the ideas for my cousin’s baby shower this fall. :) Thanks!! -H

  7. Kristel July 20, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    Love how your curtains turned out, I need to go to ikea soon! Another way to get that same look is to use rod rings, and clip each section as you go, saw this on the Internet somewhere. I did that on mine, and they look just like yours. Thought I share this for those of us who are not handy with sewing machines ;)

  8. Lemonade Makin Mama July 20, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    Well Miss Emily, you just rocked my craft world. Where on earth has this stuff been all my life???? Wow how fun!


  9. jami nato July 20, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    um, my new obsession. did not know there was such a glorious thing. considering i’m a no sew kinda gal.

  10. Sabrina Arave July 20, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    Wow, I am really glad that you shared this great idea! I, too, have these Ikea curtains (but mine are tan). I didn’t like the tabs, but thought that I would let that go to have the length, color, fabric, and price that I liked about the curtain. I have always liked gathered curtains, but didn’t feel like I could really get that look without having them custom-made, but now I feel like I can have the best of both worlds. Thanks!

  11. Northwest Texas July 20, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    I really do love these curtains. You did a wonderful job and the high contrast against the wall paint is stunning!

  12. Charlotte | Living Well on the Cheap July 20, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    How simple and beautiful! I love it and thank you for sharing your newfound wisdom with the internet! I think I’ll try using gathering tape to make a ruffled pillow, perhaps.

  13. Heidi July 20, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    I am an American living in England, I was mystified by the curtains someone had brought over to me and could not figure out how to put them up!! In our house, we have a flat strip of wood that hangs above the window, and from that hangs these little plastic hooks with holes in them. You then buy plastic hooks that fit through the curtain tape (as we call it here) and then those hooks fit through the holes and that is how the curtain hangs. Our walls just can’t handle heavy curtain rods! I love your blog by the way, although I have to hold myself back with envy on occasion because we are poor missionaries who can’t afford to decorate our house the way I would like :)

  14. Carrie July 20, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    I wish I’d seem this last week! I got curtains for my baby girl’s room but returned them because I didn’t like the look of the gather above the rod. I replaced them with grommet style instead which aren’t my favorite. Oh well. Next time, right?

  15. Marissa July 20, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    So cute….and there’s so many beautiful things to make that are really simple, if only I had a sewing machine!

  16. Courtney July 20, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    Great! I was waiting for this tutorial. So wonderful! Now I just need to find that gathering tape. What are your favorite fabric supply stores to shop? I know you have mentioned Ikea and Joanne’s. Anywhere else?

    • emily July 20, 2011 at 9:45 am #

      I usually go to Joann’s or my local fabric store called Benjamin Franklin. Pacific Fabrics is also great {if you are in the Pacific NW}. Fabric.com is a great online resource for fabric as well.

  17. Jessie July 20, 2011 at 7:34 am #

    I love it! Silly question, but can you use the gathering tape and still have the curtains be functional? What I mean is, pretty gathers by day and curtains closed at night? Thanks Emily!

    • emily July 20, 2011 at 9:44 am #

      You can pull them apart a little, but when you gather them, it does shorten their width. The solution for this would be to use a double width of curtains {or sew two together to create a double width}.

  18. Jenn July 20, 2011 at 7:31 am #

    Ahhhhhh!!! You read my mind! I have heard of, and seen, gathering tape at the fabric store and had been wanting to try it out. I am redoing my “office/momcave/homeschool room” this week and had planned on getting some cheap IKEA drapes and making them over. I am not a tab top panel type of girl (no offense to those who are…just not the look I am into), and I have been wondering how that tape works. YEAH for you (and in turn, yeah for me)! I am definitely doing this on my curtains. Thanks a bazillion!!!

  19. Vanessa July 20, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    ooohlala! Love them and all the pretty pictures!

  20. Bonnie July 20, 2011 at 7:19 am #

    I’ve been looking at your blog for a few weeks now, and really love it. My husband and I have been gathering pictures/designs/etc for a future house (we are in Germany right now, renting a home, but hope to have a house of our own soon to play around with). What decorating style would you say you use? I know very little about home design, but I know that I love your style!! I recently made your book wreath and put it on a barn ladder in my house, and it’s pretty much the one thing I enjoy looking at!

    • emily July 20, 2011 at 9:42 am #

      Hmmmm … my decorating style probably doesn’t have a name! But something like modern-country? Industrial-country? Hodge-podge of old, natural and shiny? This would be a fun post idea so I’ll see what I can come up with :)

  21. cailan July 20, 2011 at 7:16 am #

    That makes such a pretty ruffly gather – lovely tutorial, and can’t wait to see the “new” office. :)

  22. Sarah July 20, 2011 at 7:00 am #

    I’m wondering how I have been sewing all my life and never knew about gathering tip. So cool! Thanks for introducing me to a new product, and thanks for sharing how you used it. Your curtains look great!

  23. Andrea July 20, 2011 at 5:28 am #

    Great tutorial. I love the look of these. I’m thinking my daughter’s curtains would look fancy schmancy like this.

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