diy tab top curtains

How to make tab top curtains for a cozy DIY casual look

Ever thought about how to make tab top curtains?

Custom curtains are one of the best ways to put your own personality stamp onto your house. The good news is that tab top curtains are super easy to sew.


Tab top curtains make for a casual look you can use and love in kids’ bedrooms, for DIY camper curtains, simple kitchen curtains and more.

We’ll talk about what tab top curtains are, the best fabrics for tab top curtains, and how to measure for your curtains. After that, I’ll finish up by showing you how to make tab top curtains from start to finish.

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Supplies for DIY tab top curtains

What kind of fabric should I use for tab top curtains

Tab top curtains look great in most home décor fabrics. I would skip sheer home décor fabrics because they don’t have enough weight for the tabs to hang well on your curtain rods.

Good choices are:

  • Cotton sateen
  • Duck cloth
  • Canvas prints
  • Cotton/linen blends
  • Denim
  • Twill

All of these fabrics are easy to work with and will require minimal care.

If you can, try to get 54” width fabric. 45” width fabric is often too narrow for a lot of windows. Just something to note, but it’s not a dealbreaker, and of course, only buy fabric that you love no matter the width.

Where to buy fabric for tab top curtains

I’ve personally been really impressed with the cotton ducks at my local Hobby Lobby. Per yard, they’re a great price, especially with sales, and they come in a lot of fun prints.

I think either this camper print duck fabric or Route 66 duck fabric would make such cute DIY camper curtains!

For living room tab top curtains, this cowhide print is pretty cool. There’s also some great choices for kitchen curtains.

Looking through Hobby Lobby’s inventory online and in the store of these particular cotton ducks, I don’t think there’s a better deal around if you want to make your own curtains. After all, curtains eat up a lot of yardage, so this is a huge win for saving money!

pinning tabs on tab top curtains

For this project, I’m using this plane routes print. It’s perfect for my boys’ room!

Definitely check out the Ultimate Jumbo Mega Guide to Online Fabric Stores for some more great places to find home decor fabrics.

How much fabric for making curtains?

How to measure windows for width

Before we get into talking about how to sew tab top curtains, you need to know how much fabric to buy.

Use your tape measure to measure your window from side to side. Multiply that measurement by at least 1.5 times. If your window is 36” wide, you’ll need 54” of fabric.

Don’t skimp here. Remember how I said that a 45” wide fabric could be too narrow? That’s because curtains look best with some natural folds. Our tabs at the top of the curtains will create these natural pleats. Give them some room to breathe.

How to measure windows for curtain length

Measure your window vertically. It’s always a good idea to give yourself some space above and below the window, but it’s really up to you how long you want your DIY tab top curtains to be.

Floor length curtains will always provide a lot of drama in a room and make your room look taller. That being said, you might not need or want curtains that long.

In my case, I needed to cover some short windows that are just above my boys’ bunk beds. The other curtains cover the large window in their room, and it too is behind a bed.

I typically like to drop curtains to the floor, but there was no space here for that.

The same is true for DIY camper curtains or DIY kitchen curtains where you probably want to just have a valance so you can see out your window.

Whatever your length you decide for your curtains, add 8” in length for each panel you make.

Here’s a recap of the measurements:

  • Width of curtain = window width x 1.5. Decide how many panels you’ll need.
  • Length of curtains = desired length + 8”. Divide by 36 to get the yardage you’ll need for each panel.
  • Add the total yardage for all the panels you’re making, then add another ½ yard. This extra yardage will give you enough for straightening the grain on your fabric and making the tabs.

Pro tip: Don’t skip the buckram

I’ll keep saying this until I die. Your curtains need buckram. It’s the header tape that will give your tabs the support that they need and help the curtain’s top drape well.

Buckram is cheap per yard and it’s absolutely essential for DIY curtains whether you’re making grommet curtains, tab top curtains or some other kind.

How to make tab top curtains

Now that we’ve figured out the preliminaries, it’s curtain sewing time!

Prep your fabric

To start off, pre wash your fabric and dry it. I like to use a cold cycle to preserve all the colors.

Next, iron the whole length of the fabric to get out any wrinkles.

After that, lay your fabric on a gridded cutting mat. Line up the selvages to on both sides so that they’re covering the same number of squares.

Next look at the cut end of the fabric. Use a ruler to draw a line perpendicular to the top edges of the selvage ends. Cut on this line.

Alternatively, if your fabric will tear, make a snip into the selvage and tear the fabric from selvage to selvage. Because of how woven fabrics are made, it will tear right along the grain.

It’s important to take the time for this step because curtains cut on the grain will hang properly.

Use your gridded mat to measure out the entire length of your panel you recorded earlier, then tear at the final length from selvage to selvage.

Now we have a nice actual rectangle of fabric which will make the sewing much better.

Cut curtain panel facings and tabs

For each panel you make, cut a piece of fabric 3.5” wide x the width of the fabric. You can snip and tear just like you did on the panel for maximum accuracy. This will be a curtain panel facing.

For the tabs, cut 3” strips that are the width of the fabric. Don’t worry about the finished length of the tabs. We’ll cut that later.

Pressing the sides and hem

Next, press the selvages vertically in towards the wrong side of the fabric. The printed edge of most home dec fabrics is where the selvages start.

pressing hem on tab top curtains

If you’d like, you can fold the width of the selvage over again and press to create a double-turned hem. I left mine raw to cut down on the bulk.

Repeat for the second selvage edge.

For the hem, press up 4” on the bottom of your curtain panel with a hem gauge like Clover’s Hot Hemmer. Alternatively, you can use file folders cut to specific widths for easy pressing.

Unfold the hem, then press back 1/2”-3/4” just to conceal the raw edge. You’ll have 2 folds in your hem. Fold the hem back on itself and press again.

Sewing the hems and sides

From here, sew the curtain sides down from top to bottom with a 3.0 mm straight stitch close to the pressed edges. An edgestitching foot is a good choice to help you sew bang on that edge! Also stitch up the hem.

where to stitch hems on tab top curtains

Make the curtain facing

Cut a length of buckram as wide as the curtain panel.

Place the buckram against the wrong side of the curtain facing, then wrap the selvage around the end of the buckram. Be sure to line up the raw edge with the top edge of the facing.

Set your machine to a long basting stitch, then stitch from selvage to selvage. When you get to the second selvage, cut off any extra buckram so you can wrap the selvage around the end of the selvage. Now your facing should be the exact width of the curtain itself.

To finish off the facing, wrap the extra fabric around the bottom of the buckram, then stitch across with a basting stitch.

Set the facing aside.

How to make curtain tabs

Fold the strips of fabric you cut for the curtain tabs in half lengthwise with right sides together. You can use clips here for an easy way to keep the edges even while you sew.

Set your machine back to a 3.0mm long stitch.

Sew down the long edge with a 1/4” seam allowance. If you’d like, you can press the seam open, but it’s not 100% necessary.

From here, use the large tube from your Turn-it-all tubes to turn the tube right side out. If you don’t have a tube turning set like this, you can also use a safety pin.

Rotate the seam so that it’s in the middle of one side of the tube, then press.

To finish off the tabs, cut 8” lengths with a ruler from your tube. You’ll need 8 tabs for each curtain panel.

Mark your panel

Use a ruler and a fabric marker to mark an even distance at the top of your panel to accommodate your 8 tabs. If your curtain is wider than 45”, use 10-12 tabs.

marking curtains for tabs

I like to use a Simflex gauge here to make my measuring easy.

Sew the tabs

Fold each tab in half vertically. Pin a tab to the curtain at each mark you made so that the tab’s seam is face up.

Place the facing on top of the tabs and clip in place with the right side of the facing on top of the tabs.

Sew across the top of the curtain through the facing and tabs with a 1/2” seam allowance.

Press this seam towards the facing, then press the facing to the inside. Be sure to press the top edge well.

Finish off the top of the curtain by sewing down the facing along the bottom edges and sides. Then sew across the top of the curtain, close to the edge to flatten out the tabs.

And that’s how to make tab top curtains. I love how these ones turned out and how pretty the light looks filtering through them!

Yield: Makes as many curtain panels as you'd like

How to sew tab top curtains for custom home decor you'll love

How to sew tab top curtains for custom home decor you'll love

If you want custom curtains without the custom price, here's how to make tab top curtains for any space in your home.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Active Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $-$$$

Materials

  • Home decor fabric: 45”-54” wide
  • 3” wide Buckram tape, iron on or not
  • matching thread

Tools

  • tape measure
  • gridded cutting mat
  • quilting ruler
  • rotary cutter or scissors
  • Turn-it-all tubes
  • Simflex button sewing gauge (optional)
  • fabric marker
  • Clover Hot Hemmer (optional)
  • Pins or Clover wonder clips

Instructions

  1. Wash, dry and iron your fabric, then cut panels the length you want + 8"
  2. For each panel you make, cut a piece of fabric 3.5” wide x the width of the fabric. This will be a curtain panel facing.
  3. For the tabs, cut 3” strips that are the width of the fabric.
  4. Next, press the selvages vertically in towards the wrong side of the fabric.  Repeat for the second side.
  5. For the hem, press up 4” on the bottom of your curtain panel.  Unfold the hem, refold it, and press again, making sure the shorter width is enclosed.
  6. Sew the curtain sides down from top to bottom with a 3.0 mm straight stitch close to the pressed edges.  Stitch across the hem.
  7. Place the buckram against the wrong side of the curtain facing, then wrap the selvage around the end of the buckram. Be sure to line up the raw edge with the top edge of the facing.
  8. Baste through the buckram and fabric from selvage to selvage. Wrap the selvage around the end of the selvage, then  wrap the extra fabric around the bottom of the buckram, and stitch across to finish the facing.
  9. Fold the strips you cut for tabs in half lengthwise.  Stitch down the long side with a 1/4" seam allowance.
  10. Use your Turn it All tubes to turn the tube right side out.  Press. Cut the tabs into 8" lengths.
  11. Fold the tabs in half and pin them to the panel at even intervals with raw edges of the tabs even with the raw edge of the panel.
  12. Place the facing right side down on top of the tabs and pin.
  13. Stitch across the top of the curtain through all layers with a 1/2" seam allowance. Press the seam towards the facing.
  14. Flip the facing inside and press along the top edge. Finish off by stitching down the facing at the top, sides and bottom, close to the pressed edges.
  15. Enjoy your new beautiful DIY tab top curtains!

Notes

You can make curtains any length you'd like, but be sure that the width of your fabric is at least 1.5 times as wide as your window. If it's not, simply sew as many tab top curtain panels you need to get to that measurement.

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