Love the look of custom drapes but can’t find what you want—here’s how to make back tab curtains.
Tab top curtains are some of the easiest curtains to make, but we’re going to dress them up by putting the tabs on the backside of the curtain.
Custom curtains add so much life to a room, and once you find some awesome fabric you love, why not make your windows happy?
In this post you’ll learn how to make back tab curtains with a lining.
We’ll talk about where to find good fabric for curtains, the interfacing you’ll need, then we’ll get stitching. I’m also sneaking in my easy, flawless method for matching vertical repeats on a pattern.
So start looking for awesome home décor fabric prints and let’s do this.
Table of Contents
How to measure for hidden tab top curtains
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I’ve covered this in how to make curtains with grommets, but here’s a refresher:
You need to know 2 dimensions when you sew curtains: width and length.
Calculating width for curtains
As a general rule, I like a curtain to be 1.5 times as wide as the window. Concealed tab top curtains also look just fine with about 1.25 times the width of the window.
This style of curtain is pretty forgiving.
So for a 36″ wide window, you’ll need fabric that is 45-54″ wide.
For reference, home décor fabric is all 45-54” wide. Super simple.
Calculating length for curtains
Now take your tape measure and measure a few inches above your window, straight down to the floor or wherever you want it to stop. I had a couch to contend with on this window, so I kept it shorter than usual.
Add 3-6″ to this number to account for hems.
Curtain Length = above the window to where you want the hem to sit + 3-6″
When you’re buying fabric, you might want to add in an extra 1/4-1/2 yard too because you don’t always get cuts that are 100% straight on grain.
What kind of fabric should I use for back tab curtains?
Go for impact. Big scale prints make awesome curtains that can be a focal point in a room.
Cotton canvas prints are really great for grommet curtains, but probably a little heavy for back tab curtains.
Also choose natural fiber fabrics. Cotton, linen, cotton/linen blends are all lovely. They’ll be easier to sew with and age much nicer than synthetics. For this project, I would shy away from rayon. The tab tops really benefit from a more structured fabric.
I’m using a cotton/linen blend from Hawthorne Supply Co.
For lining, I’m using this cotton flannel. A cotton voile or muslin would be excellent for lining as well. If you’re using lining, be sure that your lining is at least as wide as your outer fabric.
For more suppliers, check out this section from the Ultimate Jumbo Mega Guide to Online Fabric Stores.
Supplies for sewing hidden tab curtains
- 2-4 yards of 54″ wide fabric
- 2-4 yards of cotton voile, muslin or flannel for lining
- Turn it all tubes
- Buckram tape (iron on or not)
- Good fabric scissors (the ones I use everyday here)
- lightweight fusible interfacing for the hem
- matching sewing machine thread
- Universal 80/12 sewing machine needle
- blind hem foot
- fabric marker
How to make back tab curtains
Prepping your fabric
Take your time here. Making curtains means a lot of fabric wrangling. Prep everything well, and they’ll practically sew themselves.
Wash your fabric. If you have a serger you can serge off the raw edges of the fabric before washing. It’ll cut down on fraying, but it’s not 100% necessary.
Make a small cut near the top and pull. On most woven fabrics, you should be able to tear a straight line right across the top.
This is the cleanest way to trim up woven fabrics, and it’ll make for a curtain that’ll hang straight.
Repeat this for the bottom of the curtain as well.
Prep the lining fabric
Next, square off the top edge of the lining fabric. I’m using the Hanes cotton flannel drapery lining. It makes for a really insulating, heavy curtain, but I love how it supports the linen and makes a soft drape.
You’ll want to cut the lining a little shorter than the curtain fabric. For me, I cut mine 6″ shorter to allow for the hem.
From here, iron all of the outer fabric and the lining.
Do you need to make a double wide curtain panel?
You may be working with a fabric like mine with a very obvious and strong vertical repeat.
If you have a bigger window, you might consider making a double wide panel.
That means instead of two separate panels to fit the window, you’ll make one large panel sewn in the middle.
To get started on this:
Fold your fabric in half after you’ve straightened the grain and cut on the fold. Do the same for the lining.
You can skip this whole section and go on to “press the sides and hem” if you’re making just one narrower panel.
How to match a vertical pattern repeat
You’ll know you’re dealing with a vertical pattern repeat if you can look up and down the fabric and see the same pattern motifs after several inches.
It can be tempting to cut the fabric off the roll and just sew away. If you take a little extra time though and match the pattern, you’ll create an unbroken visual line that will look just beautiful.
I promise this is easy…it’s just a little time consuming. Get this, and the sewing is a piece of cake.
First, press the selvage of one of the pieces of curtain fabric to the wrong side.
Working on a big flat surface (sorry, the floor is probably best here. Chiropractors save us!), lay the pressed edge so it covers the selvage of the second piece of curtain fabric.
Take your time here, lining up the motifs so that the fabric’s print lines up vertically and horizontally. Place pins through both layers to hold things in place.
From there, hand baste the layers together with a contrast thread. Make basting stitches about 1/2” long. Skip the pins here. The hand basting will keep the fabric from shifting while you sew.
You will probably have a little extra fabric when you overlap this fabric. That is okay—we’ll use that to make the tabs. Let the extra fabric alone at this point.
Sewing the double wide curtain panel
From here, set up your sewing machine with a blind hem foot. Move your needle all the way to the left. Set your stitch length to 2.8mm in length.
Sew through the layers, letting the blade of the blind hem foot ride next to the fold. Remove the basting stitches.
Flip the panel over and press open the seam. Fold the seam allowances on each other. Make a small slit in seam allowance with the the wide extra fabric that’s the same width as the second seam allowance. Pull to tear the seam allowance down. Cut the first seam allowance in half.
Wrap the wider seam allowance around the narrower one.
Finish up by stitching the seam allowance down through all layers. You’ll see a second line of stitching on the right side of the fabric.
Make a double wide lining panel
Switch back to a regular presser foot.
Bring the lining pieces right sides together along two selvage edges. Sew them together with a 3/8” seam. Press the seam open.
Press the sides and hem
After this, fold the selvage of the curtain panel towards the wrong side and press.
Cut strips of fusible interfacing the width of the hem. Fuse on the interfacing to the wrong side of the hem.
Press up the hem along the top of the line of interfacing.
Cut down the width of the lining
If your lining is wider than your outer fabric do this.
Place your lining on the wrong side of the pressed curtain panel, matching up the edges. Add a couple pins to hold things down.
Slide one long end of the lining so that it’s 1/2” past the pressed line you made on the curtain panel.
Line up the lining and fabric to the other edge, then make a small vertical slit in the lining that’s 1/2” past the pressed line on the other side of the curtain panel.
Pull on the lining to tear a straight line down the length of the fabric.
Now it’s time to assemble these hidden tab curtains.
Sew the tabs
Cut a piece of fabric 3” wide x the length of the leftover fabric. Fold the fabric right sides together along the long edge. Sew along the long edge with a 3/8” seam allowance.
Use the large Turn-it-All tube to turn the tube.
Wiggle the seam to the center of the tube, then press.
Cut the tube into 4.5” lengths.
Adding buckram [important]
You need buckram to support the weight of the curtain and for the tabs to sit well. Do not use another type of interfacing or header tape unless it’s specifically for curtains.
Press the buckram in place along the top wrong side of the curtain panel.
If you don’t have fusible buckram, you can either use a glue stick or a couple lines of fusible web like Steam a Seam 2.
Mark the tabs
Mark along the top of your curtain every 5 1/2”.
I’m actually using the same manila envelope template from how to sew curtains with grommets for this.
Pin a tab at each mark with the right side of the tab facing the right side of the curtain top.
Sew the top of the curtain
Next, put the lining and the outer fabric right sides together.
Sew the top edge with a 1/2″ seam allowance.
Press the seam towards the lining, then flip the lining towards the inside of the curtain. You won’t be able to see the buckram anymore.
Press the top well, then sew 1/8” from the top edge, leaving the tabs hang open.
Sew the hem to the lining
Bring the right side of the hem to the right side of the lining and pin.
Sew the hem to the lining with a 1/2” seam allowance. Press the seam open. Turn the curtain back through the sides.
Sew the sides
Working on the floor again, slide the long edges of the lining under the pressed sides of the curtain. Smooth everything out really well, then pin both sides so that the voile is secure under the outer hems.
From here, stitch down the hems on the long edges through all layers, near the selvage edges.
Stitch in the ditch along the seam between the lining and the hem.
Finishing up the hidden tabs
To finish up, draw a line with your ruler and marker 3.5” from the top of the curtain. Fold under the raw edge of each tab by about 1/2”, then pin it in place. The tab should sit just past the line.
Stitching from the lining side, stitch across your line. Backstitch after your first few stitches. When you get to a tab, stitch back and forth across the tab to secure it, then keep stitching to the next tab.
Finish off by backstitching as you get to the other side of the curtain.
Give the curtain a good press before you hang it.
How to hang back tab curtains
To hang your back tab curtains, slide a rod through the loops on the back and hang up your curtain.
If your curtain rod is not mounted into a stud, be sure to use drywall anchors.
I’m using a curtain rod from Home Depot, but here’s another one that’s similar with a different end cap.
You’ll probably need to fuss with the top a little so that the curtain hangs evenly, but then you’re good to go.
And that’s all there is to knowing how to make back tab curtains! You can hang up your new curtain and tie it back with a simple piece of ribbon if you’d like.
More easy sewing projects with a home decor twist to try:
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.