A ruffle-top curtain adapts to many decor styles.

How to Make a Ruffle Topped Curtain

by Linda Erlam

Also called a head and case curtain, a ruffle-topped curtain is a chameleon in the drapery world. You can use sheer fabric with lots of fullness and make it extra long to puddle on the floor for a romantic, princess look. It can be short in a primary-colored plaid to suit a playroom or in a baby-print quilting fabric for a nursery. Use your beginner sewing skills and create a new ruffle-top curtain for any room.

Measure the circumference of your curtain rod. Hang the rod, according to the installation instructions, and measure the length of the rod on the wall.

Measure from the bottom of the rod to the proposed length of the curtain for the first length measurement.

Determine the depth of the ruffle. Typically, ruffles are the same depth as the rod pocket. For example; if the circumference of the rod is 3 inches, the rod pocket must be 2 inches deep, and a well-balanced ruffle should be no less than 2 inches. It can be more or less, depending on your design. Lightweight fabrics may not be stiff enough to hold a ruffle straight if the pocket is over 3 inches. If in doubt, make a small sample first.

Calculate the cut length of the fabric: Add together the length measurement, 6 inches for the bottom hem, the circumference of the rod, 1 inch for ease, twice the ruffle amount, and 1/2 inch for the cut length of the curtain fabric. Following the rod example with a first length measurement of 36, and a ruffle depth of 2 inches, the cut fabric must be 36 plus 6, plus 3 inches, plus 1 inch, plus 4 inches, plus 1/2 inch, for a total cut length of 50 1/2 inches.

Calculate the width of the piece of fabric for the curtain. Multiply the rod length by the fullness you want. Typical curtain fullness is 2 1/2 times the rod length; sheers are typically three times; and heavier fabric may be two times. Divide the result by the width of the fabric and round the number up for the number of widths of fabric you need to make the curtain.

Cut the fabric pieces to the measurements you calculated. Join the sections as necessary to get the size of panels needed.

Turn the bottom hem up 3 inches, turn again and press the folds. Sew 2 7/8 inches from the bottom edge to make the bottom hem. Turn the side edges over 3/4 inch twice and press the folds. Sew 5/8 inch from the edge to make the side hems.

Turn the top edge over 1/2 inch and iron the fold. Turn again a distance equal to the sum of: 1/2 the rod circumference, the depth of the ruffle and 1/2 inch. Following the example, this second fold will be 4 inches from the 1/2-inch fold -- 1 1/2, plus 2, plus 1/2.

Pin across the curtain, placing the pins perpendicular over the 1/2-inch fold. Sew close to this fold, securing the bottom of the rod pocket. Remove the pins. Sew again 2 inches from the top fold, creating the top of the rod pocket, which is also the bottom of the ruffle.

Insert the rod through the rod pocket and arrange the gathers evenly across the rod.

Items you will need

  • Curtain fabric
  • Curtain rod
  • Tape measure
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Straight pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Matching thread


  • Wash and dry the fabric before construction to prevent shrinking later.

About the Author

Linda Erlam started writing educational manuals in 1979. She also writes a biweekly newspaper column, "Design Dilemmas," in the "Lakeshore News" and has been published in "Design and Drapery Pro" magazine. Erlam is a graduate of the Sheffield School of Interior Design and is a practicing interior decorator and drapery workroom operator.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images