Tab Top Curtains

Image of finished simple unlined tab top curtainsIf you want a less formal, modern look to your window treatments then tab tops are the answer. They can be made in any weight of fabric from the finest sheers to heavyweights such as velvet and brocade.

These stylish curtains need at least 1.5 times the width of the window. The stack back width is the combined width of all the tabs.

The tabs are positioned at approximately 8" (20 cms) intervals across the top of the curtain, with one at each end (6 or 7 tabs per width of fabric). The length and width of the tabs can be adjusted to suit your own preference, however to obtain the best effect, the top of the curtain should cover the top of the window frame.

There are a number of styles of tab top curtain including, button tabs (both lined and unlined), box pleated and gathered which are usually lined.

The instructions below are for simple unlined tab top curtains, this style has both ends of the tabs stitched into the top hem and needs a fullness ratio of at least 1.5. The tabs have a finished width of 1.25" (3 cms) but this width can be adjusted for your own preference.

The other styles are fully covered in our e-book.

Image refers to colour code key for diagrams


  • Decorative curtain pole.
  • Suitable curtain fabric.
  • Matching, coordinating or contrasting fabric for the tabs.
  • Matching thread.

Measuring and Estimating Fabric Quantities:

  1. Fit the pole above the window in the required position.
  2. To calculate the number of widths of fabric required, measure the pole between the finials and multiply by the fullness ratio. Divide this number by the width of the fabric to be used and round up to the next whole number.
  3. To calculate the cut length of the fabric for the curtains, measure from the top of the pole to the required length. Deduct the length of the tabs, this should be the length from the top of the pole to 1" (2.5 cms) above the top of the window frame. To this figure, add 7" (17.5cms) for hem allowances. If pattern fabric is used, extra will be needed for pattern matching.
  4. To calculate the amount of fabric, multiply the number of widths by the cut length.
  5. To estimate the number of widths of fabric for the tabs, decide on the number of tabs required for both curtains and multiply by the cut width of each one [3" (7.5 cms)]. Divide this number by the width of the fabric and round up to the next whole number.
  6. To calculate the cut length of the tabs, take the finished length and double it. To this figure add 4" (10 cms) for seam allowances.
  7. To calculate the amount of fabric for the tabs, multiply the number of widths by the cut length.

Making the Tabs:

  1. Image refers to making the tabs for tab top curtainsCut the required number of pieces of fabric, each measuring 3" (7.5 cms) wide. Cut the length to twice the length required plus 4" (10 cms) seam allowance. Example: if the required finished length of the tabs is 3" (7.5 cms), the tabs need to be cut 10" (25 cms) long.
  2. Fold each piece in half width ways, right sides together, pin and stitch 0.25" (6 mm) in from the raw edges down the length.
  3. Turn right side out and press with the seam in the centre of one side.

Making Simple Unlined Tab Top Curtains:

  1. Cut the fabric to the required size, allowing 4" (10 cms) for side hems and adding 8" (20cms) to the length for top and bottom hem allowances. If more than 1 width is required join widths together with a 0.5" (12 mm) French seam, matching the pattern on the fabric where necessary and adding any half widths to the outside edge of each curtain.
  2. Turn in a double 1" (2.5 cms) hem at each side and pin.
  3. Turn up a double 3" (7.5 cms) hem at the lower edge and pin.
  4. Mitre both bottom corners.
  5. Image refers to making simple unlined tab top curtainsMachine or slipstitch all the hems and press.
  6. Lay the curtain on a flat surface, wrong side up. Turn down a double 1" (2.5 cms) hem at the top edge and pin.
  7. Fold the tabs in half lengthways to make loops, with the seamed side innermost and pin at approximately 8" (20 cms) intervals along this edge slipping the raw edges into the hem. There must be a tab at each end with the others spaced evenly and at right angles to the top of the curtain.
  8. Check the length of the curtain including the tabs and adjust if necessary.
  9. Machine stitch or slipstitch the tabs in position close to the top and bottom folds of the hem.
  10. Repeat for the other curtain, making sure to add any half widths to the opposite edge.
  11. Thread the pole through the tabs and hang the curtains, adjusting the folds if required.

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