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The Drapery Diary: Tab and Tie Tops
2019-10-18

Tab-top and tie-top draperies are not necessarily the most common picks these days for dressing up windows. You’ll still find them in nurseries, to be sure, but not as much in grown-up living rooms and bedrooms. Perhaps it’s because of their soft flounces and slouchy gestures reminiscent of the Shabby Chic look. Still, there are few more graceful drapery options for a relaxed, soothing bedroom or living space. And there are even ways to coax this style into a more contemporary form.
The construction of tab and tie tops is nearly identical: Strips of fabric between a half and 2 inches wide are self-lined and sewn to the drapery as loops or ties, through which a decorative drapery rod will ultimately slide. They’re a favorite among DIYers because, unlike pleated varieties, they’re fairly straightforward to construct.

Virtually wherever there is a rod, there exists an opportunity for a tab- or tie-top drape. Any size rod can be accommodated since there are no fixed-width rings to contend with. This style isn’t limited to conventional hardware, though. It is also the most logical choice when mounting a canopy to ceiling hooks or a curtain to wall medallions instead of a rod.

The beauty of this style rests at least somewhat on how easy it is to customize. If you crave an extra-breezy, laid-back look, lengthier ties will give you that. Just be sure you don’t make your ties so long that the tops of your windows will peek out from the drapery top when closed.
You may have noticed a trend already: that sheer fabrics look especially divine as tie-top draperies. The soft flutter of gauzy textiles complements the natural looseness of the ties, and the ties themselves benefit from not having to pull lot of weight. Choosing a lighter-weight fabric preserves the many seams in the header and ensures that your drapery will stay in tip-top shape for decades.

Designer tip: Sheer draperies look their best at “three times fullness.” This means that to cover a 48-inch window, for example, you’d use 144 inches of fabric width. Yes, it costs more to use this much fabric, but if you’re going to the expense of having something custom made, it pays to get exactly what you want the first time. Well-made, properly lined draperies can last for decades.

Tabs are usually made 2 inches wide and 4 inches long, but the length depends somewhat on the proportions of your window. Seven tabs per width of fabric is a basic rule of thumb, though if you’d like a more relaxed drape, five tabs will allow the fabric to dip a bit more and pull less tautly between tabs. However many tabs you choose, ask your fabricator to “face,” or line, the top edges of your panels. Or carry the decorative fabric onto the first several vertical inches of the back to prevent your lining from showing when the top of the drapery cuffs forward.

More than perhaps any other window treatment, tab and tie tops all but require decorative hardware to be specified early in the design process to ensure that the tabs are constructed to fit your rod. Since much of the labor is devoted to making and sewing those tabs and ties, and most custom-cut rods aren’t easily returned, it would be a costly and dispiriting mistake not to consider hardware from the beginning.

You may have noticed a trend already: that sheer fabrics look especially divine as tie-top draperies. The soft flutter of gauzy textiles complements the natural looseness of the ties, and the ties themselves benefit from not having to pull lot of weight. Choosing a lighter-weight fabric preserves the many seams in the header and ensures that your drapery will stay in tip-top shape for decades.

Designer tip: Sheer draperies look their best at “three times fullness.” This means that to cover a 48-inch window, for example, you’d use 144 inches of fabric width. Yes, it costs more to use this much fabric, but if you’re going to the expense of having something custom made, it pays to get exactly what you want the first time. Well-made, properly lined draperies can last for decades.

Here’s how one designer made tab tops extra chic with an iconic black-and-white cabana stripe and the maximum possible of number of tabs to retain structure and minimize the droopiness for which this style is known.

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