Curtain headings 101: know your tab top from your eyelet

curtain headings 101

I started my interior design career as an assistant in the design offices of Laura Ashley in London. I made sample boards for clients day in and day out for an entire year, and that is where I learned everything there is to know about the softer side of interior design: curtains, upholstery, soft furnishings and all things pretty.

People are often overwhelmed about the different types of curtains available to them because let’s face it, there are PLENTY. Here is a breakdown of the most common types of curtains. This is by no means an extensive list and some names may differ from one company or country to the next but you should be able to find your way around armed with these!

Let’s take a look at hardware options from Finishing Touches before we dive into the curtains.

curtain headings 101

Pelmet Poles: An innovative product, this pole allows the curtain to be hung below it, acting as both a decorative pelmet and pole. Available in both 33mm and a wider 105mm, this pole comes in a variety of lengths and adds a sophisticated touch to your interior.

curtain headings 101

Wooden Poles: Natural wood looks great in any setting, especially since it has a large variety of finials to match your decor. These 34mm poles are available in a variety of colours and finishes and come in lengths of 1.5 to 3m.

Steel Poles: Finished in black, pewter, silver, bronze, and gold with a vast selection of finials to add some glam to your room. The new Grecian Double Ash range is just beautiful!

Clippa Track: made from steel with plastic wall brackets, this track is suitable for light-weight curtains. The track is lipped which ensure smooth gliding of the gliders.

Supa C Track: Another steel track, this comes with steel wall brackets and the same lipped track to allow for smooth gliding. This track is also suited to lightweight curtains.

Raider Track: this is an aluminium track with steel wall brackets, making it suitable for light to medium-weight curtains. It comes with deluxe wheeled runners for ease of use.

Curtain Headings 101

Pencil Pleat

A very traditional and probably one of the most used curtain tops. Curtain tape is stitched to the top and then the fabric is gathered by pulling the strings that are woven through the tape. Plastic or metal hooks allow the curtain to be hung to a pole or track. Easy. The fullness of the curtain will depend on how tightly the fabric is being gathered.

curtain headings 101

Coco Lapine & Sew Helpful

Deep Pencil Pleat

curtain headings 101

Sarah Wittenbraker & Curtains Curtains Curtains

Same principle as the pencil pleat, but using a wider curtain tape that results in a much deeper pleat. This is especially suited to very long curtains. The fullness of the curtain again will depend on how tightly the fabric is being gathered.

Double Pleat /  Pinch Pleat

curtain headings 101

Budget Blinds & Restoration Hardware

A more formal look where the curtain tape is pinned using 3 prongs resulting in 2 pleats per pin. The pinches can also be sewn by hand.

Triple Pleat

curtain headings 101

Nell Hills & Sew Helpful

A formal curtain style where the curtain tape is pinned using 4 prongs resulting in 3 pleats per pin. These pleats can also be sewn by hand. This type of curtain is very full and is suitable for a heavy drape with interlining.

Cartridge Pleat

curtain headings 101

Curtain Menzilperde & Sew Simple

A little pocket is created with a special cartridge tape. The curtains have a beautiful linear quality and are especially suitable for tall windows.


curtain headings 101

Very popular and lovely in an informal setting, eyelet curtains are available from most retailers and are simply popped onto a pole.

Tie top

curtain headings 101

Ebay & How Do I Know

Ribbons at the top make for a very pretty formal or informal window dressing. Dress it up with a pole and decorative finials. This style of curtains works very well with wispy sheers.

Rod Pocket

curtain headings 101

Busy Door & Country Curtains

The easiest way to DIY a curtain: sew a pocket and slide the pole through it. This curtain heading works equally well with formal dress curtains and cafe curtains.

Tab Top

curtain headings 101

Etsy & Kirey

Another informal and widely available heading, the tabs can be either above the main part of the curtain or concealed behind it. The design allows for a lot of creativity if you want to DIY a pair!

Box Pleat

curtain headings 101

Jane Lockhart & Window Dressing Inc.

The gather is at the back of the curtain to create a flat “box” on the front resulting in a no-fuss curtain with clean lines.

This should give you a simple overview to help simplify your curtain choices.

Happy decorating!

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