Soft Window Treatments… Draperies, Etc [Part 2]

In your grandmother’s day, soft window treatments usually meant pinch- pleat draperies and sheers. Those days are gone!
Basically a “soft window treatment” is any window covering made with fabric. Pinch-pleat draperies and sheers are still around, but they have been joined by numerous, innovative styles.

An abundance of fabrics, hardware, and trims await your creativity. The same abundance can also make your head spin and leave you feeling overwhelmed.

If you missed the first part of this post, here is it: Window Treatments… How to Give Your Window the Properly Treatment [Part 1]

Where do you start?

Chances are, you already have!

Usually, by the time you are ready to tackle soft window treatments, you have finished carpeting, painting and arranging furniture.

The hard part is done!

You have already established:

  • the room’s mood (casual or formal)
  • the color scheme and
  • your decorating style (country, contemporary, traditional, etc.)

Now, decide if your window treatments need to serve a practical purpose, as well as being decorative.

Soft window treatments can be both!

With that done, consider:

  • size
  • placement of windows in the room
  • number of windows and
  • any architectural details around the windows 

1. Decorator Lingo

Drapery: A tailored window treatment that is usually pleated, lined and floor length. It is hung on a traversing rod by hooks. It opens and closes using a cord mechanism.

A decorator will know you have done your homework if you use the words “drape ” and “drapery” properly. “Drape” is a verb.

It is how the fabric falls. “Drapery” is a noun. It is the actual window covering.

Curtain: Fabric window treatment hung on a rod through a rod pocket casing, rings ties or tabs. Usually stationary, but if opened and closed, it is done by hand.

Valance: Fabric treatment usually hung at the top of a drapery or curtain to conceal non-decorative hardware.

Top Treatment: A decorative treatment hung at the top of a window. Often refers to a window treatment that is not hung over another treatment. However, the term is often used interchangeably with “valance”.

2. Traditional/Formal Window Treatments

Traditional, more formal window coverings are typically more than one layer. Sheers are under the draperies, and the draperies have a valance or cornice board over them.

Luxurious fabrics, such as silks, brocades, velvets, damasks, and tapestries enhance the formality.

Pinch-Pleated Drapery: This is an industry staple. The heading of the drapery or curtain has 3 distinct folds tacked together at the bottom and repeated at fixed intervals across the entire panel.

Goblet Pleats: This as an elegant heading. The sewn folds of fabric are cinched at the base of the pleat forming a shape similar to a champagne flute. A goblet-pleat treatment is stationary because opening and closing it would crush the goblet.

Goblet pleats enhance the luxury of any fabric.

goblet pleat illustration, soft window treatment, draperies
Swags and Cascades: Swags remain a classic in traditional decorating. One advantage of this treatment is it can frame the window without obstructing the view.

Although they appear to be a continuous length of fabric, they are actually carefully constructed.

A classic swag is cut on the bias to allow for softer folds. Both ends are arranged into pleats and mounted on a board or rod falling into soft semi- circles.

The cascade is a tapered piece of fabric that is vertically folded and hung over the side of the swag.

Take care when selecting your fabric for swags. You want a fabric that is soft and will drape without creasing in the center of the swag.

Think also of the fabric’s print. When cutting on the bias, linear prints will run diagonally across the swag.

Swag & Cascade illustration, soft window treatments, draperiesFormal Kingston, soft window treatments

M’Fay Patterns has a great selection of swag & cascade patterns, as well as many other styles. Visit their well-illustrated website. 
Click here to view their soft window treatments. 

3. Informal Window Treatments

“Soft window treatments” is a great phrase to describe less formal window coverings.

Casual treatments are less fussy and less structured. The fabrics used tend to be easier to care for and lighter in weight.

In recent years swags and cascades have been adapted for more informal settings. “Pole swags”, “poor boy swags”, and “scarf swags” are all terms used to describe more casual swag treatments.

Don’t be fooled into thinking they have simply been thrown over a rod. It takes a lot of folding, time and patience (sometimes Velcro, staples and a glue gun!) to achieve the casual “just thrown over the pole” look.

kingston pole swag, soft window treatmentcasual pole swag


Tab-Top Curtains

Tab-Top Curtains were once thought suitable only for a “country” look. That is no longer the case. The right fabric and trim now allow this carefree treatment to adapt to almost any style.

Valances, in many styles, remain a favorite. They are simple in design but very practical.

A wood blind or shade, when raised, can easily disappear under a valance. It doesn’t obstruct the view, but it does add a finishing touch.

Murphy valance


Country Curtains has a wonderful selection of casual window treatments. Their online and printed catalog can be a real source of inspiration for casual styles. Browse their selection of soft window treatments here. 


Whatever your style, remember your soft window treatments should enhance your room’s décor, not overwhelm it. They can soften hard lines and add color, texture, and pattern to a room. Consider all the elements of your space before making a final decision for your window treatments. 

Custom-Tailored or Ready-Made Window Treatments

…Which Will It Be?

Custom-Tailored or Ready-Made Window Treatments?

There are two frequently asked questions regarding window treatments. The first is if there is really a difference between custom-tailored window treatments and ready-made treatments. The second is why do custom-tailored treatments cost more?

Whether to buy Custom or Ready-Made Window Treatments, is easier to answer than the second.

Yes, there is usually a noticeable difference between the two.

Most drapery workrooms have quality standards they follow. Most may appear to be little things, but little things often make a huge difference in the finished product. Some of the standards they adhere to are:

  • Minimum 2½ times the window width for fullness with medium weight fabrics ·
  • 3 times fullness for light-weight and sheer fabrics ·
  • Patterns are matched at seams ·
  • Horizontal pattern repeats are lined up if more than one width of fabric is used ·
  • Pinch-pleated treatments have a 4- 5 inch heading with buckram stabilizer ·
  • Side hems are double, 1½” inch blind-stitched ·
  • Bottom hems are double 4 or 5 inches blind-stitched ·
  • Bottom of corners and seams are weighted ·
  • Seams are hidden when possible (i.e. pinch-pleated draperies & box-pleated valences) ·
  • Trims are applied without “lip” showing ·
  • If treatment is floor length, it ends 1/2’” above floor ·
  • If the lining is used, it is a 2-inch double hem 1 inch shorter than the treatment

A Ready-Made Treatment

A ready-made treatment uses 2 times fullness and no extra effort is made to hide the seams. Side seams and hems are a single thickness and the stitching is often quite obvious.

Patterns don’t always match and buckram heading stabilizers and hem weights are seldom used.

If you did a side-by-side comparison of the same style window treatment made with the same fabric, one custom and one off-the-shelf, the differences would be visible.

One of the most noticeable differences is a result of the “fullness” factor.

Greater fullness treatments use more fabric to form each pleat and leaves less space between each.

The result is a fuller, more luxurious finished product.

It may now be a little easier to understand why custom-tailored treatments cost more. More fabric and time is involved in fabricating the custom treatment.

Adding “the little things” increase the cost of the raw materials and the man-hours involved in fabrication. The fabrics used are often of a higher quality, usually resulting in an increased cost per yard.

The fabric and style a decorator helps you choose usually can’t be found ready-made. You have a one-of-a-kind finished product designed to complement and enhance your home’s decor.

Picture how each treatment would look if it were custom-tailored or ready-made. Imagine those treatments with less fullness and visible hems and side seams.

Will a ready-made treatment enhance your decor as much as a custom-made treatment will?

Are you getting good value for your money? Only you can answer that question.

So…what will it be? Custom-Tailored or Ready-Made Window Treatments?

      Pin It on Pinterest