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Drapes can almost be made into anything you want them to be. They can be a focal point, a frame, a contrast or a compliment, but they have to be well thought out and beautifully designed to say exactly what you want them to say. A curtain is simply not ‘just’ a sheet of fabric stuck on your wall. It’s a statement.

Well-designed window coverings usually have a facing fabric and a liner. There are a particular set of dimensions to each panel to make the curtain look beautiful at your window, but the fabric and liner have to be hung from ‘something’. That ‘something’ can be a pole or automated track that can be programmed by your ‘Nest’ system, but the way it is hung makes all the difference.

The way the drapes hang from the track or pole is called the ‘heading’. It can be elaborate or unpretentious but speak volumes about the individual style of the homeowner, and their attention to detail. Even though they often go unnoticed, they can have a profound effect on the atmosphere of the room.

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Common Curtain Headers



The pencil pleat is the most common header for curtains. It’s also referred to as a ‘tape top’ or ‘3 inch pleat’ due to the placement of a 3 inch header tape sewn on to the top of the panel with three strings running through it. When the tape is secured, the strings are then pulled to gather to drapes to right width. It is widely used as it is as it is suitable for any type of material, curtains or rods.

The pencil pleat header gives an even finish that makes it useable in any room. The only drawback is also its strength, the impression it gives is not a detailed one, but a regular, uniform look that does not draw attention to itself. It looks great on working curtains, automated tracks or stationary panels so it is really versatile. If you want something that blends in with your décor and makes the fabric the star – the pencil pleat is for you.


Pinch pleats are one of the most traditional curtain headers that have been used, but they are so popular they will never go out of style. The header is created by ‘pinching’ three folds of fabric together and sewing them so that they form one pleat. By spacing the pleats closer together the curtains look more full and luxurious making this header a must for full bodied fabrics or those with an elegant sheen.

This type of header has been used for centuries for formal rooms such as living and drawing rooms, ball rooms and hotels receptions, but a modern twist of gathering only one or two pleats in each fold, has opened it out to suit most high traffic rooms.


Rod pocket curtains are the most simple way to hang a panel. A ‘pocket’ is sewn at the top of the drape and a rod inserted all the way through, allowing the fabric to be gathered on the pole. You often see this type of header in cafes or bars, and usually with sheer curtains. The reason for this is that although it is cost effective it makes the panel hard to draw open or closed, so impractical.

The effect of a rod pocket header is casual but detailed which is great for bathrooms, kitchens and mudrooms, with the cost being the major factor that many people use it. If you want a heavy weight of fabric on a rod, or to use it in a room with higher traffic that needs the drapes closing, then pull the pocket on to the rod, gather to a degree that you like, then pull the fabric to the side a secure with some kind of detailed tie back so that curtains can be ‘opened’ and drawn without trying to pull the fabric along the rod.


Metal grommet or eyelet panels are very popular. They are a very simple sewn panel with a row of large eyelets or grommets fixed through the fabric, which then are strung on to the pole. The grommets are spaced to give a uniform fold in the fabric, giving the window coverings a relaxed look which is great for family rooms, guest rooms and home offices.

Like rod pocket headings, eyelet and grommet styles can be hard to pull open and closed, so favor low traffic areas. They are easier to manoeuver than rod pocket curtains, but this ‘awkwardness’ factor needs to be taken into account when choosing fabric and window treatment styles.


The goblet pleat is another beautiful, traditional pleat that gives an elegant and formal look to drapes. The name comes from the shape of the pleat, which is formed by creating a ‘cone’ of fabric that is pleated at the desired length to form a goblet shape. The effect is detailed and attractive making it the perfect curtain header for living and dining rooms, as well as offices or bedrooms with a classic theme.


Although box pleats are a gathered header for drapes, they are best used when the curtain is stationary, or in other words, not drawn. They are beautifully tailored to give the impression of fullness, but with a smooth, flat header that is sewn down permanently that sets off heavy weight fabrics perfectly. It is this ‘flat’ effect that lends the box pleat to make very sophisticated valances for any window.

The overall effect of a box pleat is very elegant, contemporary look that is especially suitable for guest rooms, living rooms and offices where you need a modern atmosphere.


Rustic and country interiors heavily feature tab top drapes as they give a chic, but playful, cottage look. They are great for children’s rooms or to match a vintage style as they are eclectic but versatile. This type of header has been around for centuries, but more for practical reasons than for style. Modern interior design has launched the tab top as the ultimate in cottage drapes and it has caught on quickly.

The ultimate in shabby chic is a tie top panel that is similar to a tab top, but each tab is tied together.

The choice of the header for your drapes is important to the overall look of your room, so consider it carefully and find out what your options are before you make a decision. With so many wonderful variations, it’s good to know what you can do. Visit Normandeau Window Coverings and check out our available products just for you!