How to Make Tab Top Curtains

Kate Miller-Wilson
finished curtains

Tab top curtains offer a clean-lined, modern alternative to traditional window treatments and fortunately, they're easy to sew. All you need to make these curtains are a few basic supplies and a couple of hours of your time. Creating your own curtains gives you a great deal of flexibility in terms of fabric, color, and design, allowing you to perfectly match any type of decor.

Things You'll Need

To make a pair of curtains, you'll need a few basic supplies:

  • Fabric of your choice with enough yardage to fit your window
  • Thread to match
  • Sewing machine
  • Pins and safety pin
  • Measuring tape and/or cutting ruler
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Iron

How to Measure and Make Tab Top Curtains

Making tab top curtains is a simple process if you follow these steps. You can customize these instructions to fit your window and fabric choice.

1. Measure Your Window Width

Start by measuring the width of your window. You'll need to know this dimension in order to select the right amount of fabric for your project. In general, tab top curtains are not especially full when closed, although this is a matter of personal preference. If you want your curtains to be loosely gathered when closed, add a few extra inches to your window width. Divide this number by two to get the width of each curtain. You'll also need a bit of extra fabric for hemming, so add two inches to the measurement for each curtain.

2. Decide on Curtain Length

Your curtains can be as long as you would like them. You may choose to mount the curtain rod near the ceiling or right above the window frame. Measure from the top of the curtain rod to the desired length for your curtain. Subtract 3.5 inches for the tabs. If you want your curtain to "puddle" slightly on the floor, add about three inches to the length.

3. Calculate Your Fabric Yardage

If possible, purchase fabric with a width that is equal to or greater than the measurement you decided upon for each curtain. That way, you won't have to piece your fabric together. Most home decorator fabric is between 54 and 60 inches wide, and this accommodates most tab top curtain projects. To determine the length you need, multiply your curtain length by two (to make two curtains) and add one extra yard for making tabs and hemming.

4. Cut the Fabric

cutting

You'll need three main pieces for your curtains:

  • Main panels - Each panel will be the width you determined in step 1. The length should be the measurement you found in step 2 plus six extra inches for hemming. You'll need two panels.
  • Curtain facing - From the remaining fabric, cut the curtain facing. This will be a strip exactly the width of the curtain panel and three inches tall. You'll need two facing strips.
  • Tabs - You'll be creating the tabs from a continuous strip to make the process faster and keep the tabs consistent in width. You'll need a strip that is three and a half inches wide and long enough to make all your tabs. Each tab will be eight inches long, and you'll be spacing the tabs every six inches along the top of the curtain. To find out how long the tab piece needs to be, multiply the number of tabs by eight. If necessary, you can cut your tabs from multiple strips of fabric.

Cut each piece you need and set aside.

5. Hem the Panel Sides

Use your sewing machine to create a half-inch-wide rolled hem on both sides of each of the curtain panels. Carefully press each panel and set aside.

6. Make the Tab Strip

tab strip

Fold the tab piece in half lengthwise with the right sides together. Sew a quarter-inch seam along the raw edge, creating a long tube. Turn the tube right side out using a safety pin. Use your iron to press the tube flat with the seam at the back. The tab strip should be one and a half inches wide.

7. Cut the Tabs

Measure and cut the tab strip every eight inches to create the desired number of tabs. Don't worry about the stitches unraveling, since the raw edges of the tabs will be neatly covered in your finished curtain.

8. Arrange the Tabs

arranged tabs

To arrange the tabs, spread out your curtain panel on your work surface with the right side up. Fold each tab in half, matching up the raw ends. Place the first tab with the raw edges lined up with the raw edge of the panel and the tab loop facing downward. Pin it in place, and continue placing tabs every six inches along the top of the curtain panel.

9. Sew the Tabs in Place

Lay the facing piece on top of the tabs with the right side down and the raw edge lined up with the top of the curtain panel. Pin it in place, being careful not to disturb your placement of the tabs. Sew a seam half an inch from the raw edge, removing the pins as you go. Fold the facing down against the back of the curtain panel, revealing the tabs. Press with the iron.

10. Finish the Facing

Fold the raw edges of the facing under and pin in place. Top stitch to secure the facing to the back of the curtain panel. Then top stitch the panel just below where the tabs attach to further secure them.

hem

11. Hem Your Curtains

Hang the curtains in the window and check the length. Use pins to adjust the hem as desired. Then use your sewing machine to create a wide rolled hem at the bottom of each curtain. Press with the iron to give it a crisp finish.

Helpful Tips

Keep these tips in mind to help make your project a success:

  • You can make your curtains from any fabric, but they look best with a medium-weight material. Consider cotton twill or linen.
  • If you choose a light-weight fabric, use interfacing along the facing piece to make sure the curtains hang properly and don't droop between the tabs.
  • If you don't want to sew the tabs, you can substitute ribbon for the material. You'll need ribbon that's about one and half inches wide and sturdy enough to hold up to the weight of the panel. Grosgrain would be a good choice.
  • To accent your tabs, consider adding a large button to the front side of the curtain panel where each tab meets the curtain.

Custom Curtains You'll Love

You'll find that making your own custom tab top curtains is a quick and easy home sewing project. You can choose the perfect fabric for your decor and decide on the curtain length and fullness that's ideal for the look you hope to achieve. If you take your time and concentrate on keeping your seams neat and even, you'll have beautiful curtains that will receive lots of compliments.

How to Make Tab Top Curtains