Converting Rod-Pocket Drapes to Pinch Pleats

I wrote a "tutorial" about converting rod-pocket drapes to pinch pleats years ago. Back then, I stitched pleating tape (you can find it at JoAnn's Fabric) to some drapery panels by hand. It took me days and days to do and my hands were sore after I was done. I was quite proud of the finished project, but I cringe a little when I look back at those drapes.

In searching for drapes for our current living room, I exhausted every fabric resource I could find both online and in person. Nothing was quite right. Lesson learned: pick fabric first and then paint. I painted the living room first, mostly because it was such a depressing room for me. The pink made me so much happier.

I turned to ordering swatches from catalogs that sell pre-made drapes and the one store I didn't want to deal with was the winner. Some pink drapes from Restoration Hardware's baby line gave me the tone-on-tone look that I wanted.

The discount program RH put into place about a year ago made me so irritated that I almost didn't order anything. If you aren't aware, they want people to pay $100 to get a 20% discount for one year. Their usual sales are pretty much over, per the articles about the move. I found someone selling a discount code on ebay, but it had expired by the time I was ready to purchase. Amazingly, though, RH announced a 20% sale on everything in February. The sale only ran for a week or two, but I was ready and placed my order right away.

When the drapes came, I was pretty happy with them. They had a nice lining and came with drapery pins. I guess they thought people would just shove the pins in the rod pocket to cover them? Anyway, I slide the panels over my Ballard Designs acrylic curtain rods and liked what I saw...

Converting the rod pockets to a simple, two-finger pinch pleat was much easier with a sewing machine. The preparation took longer than the actual sewing.

First, you have to figure out how many pleats you can make with your fabric. I made my pleats with 5 inches of fabric and had about 4 inches of space between each.

I marked my pleats with colored pins. The start of forming each pleat is sewing down the panel so that each set of colored pins meets. You wind up forming "loops."

Once the loops are formed, ironing will help train the fabric to fold in the right place.

The line of stitching will hold the drapery pins eventually, so these stitches have to be strong and tight.

This looks like a lot of nothing until you get to the next stop. You smush your loops down evenly and iron again.

At this point, you marvel at how quickly this has come together and pat yourself on the back.

Now you lift each side of the smushed loop and form the pinch pleat. 

I used binder clips to hold the pleats together and I hand sewed to bind the pleat in two spots: where the pleat meets the fabric at the very top of the panel and where the fabric is pinched about 4 inches down.

I was pretty amazed that they actually looked like drapes. Of course, there are more ornate pleat styles, but this is about as much as I could handle with the fabric that I had. If I had wider panels, I might have got for a three-finger pleat.

 I have do spend a little more time training the fabric to hang properly, but I'm pretty happy with the results!


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