Falling in love with French Pleats for Curtains
by Wana Che Ujang

Window treatments are often overlooked when it comes to decorating your space. However, they indeed serve a functional purpose, such as effectively filtering or blocking light and safeguarding your privacy by blocking people’s eyes out of your personal space. Even so, the quest for the right set may not seem as urgent as buying a sofa or a dining table. Yet, curtains offer a lot more than just privacy: they can also boost the visual appeal of the whole room and become an important decorative item that can add a touch of life to otherwise dull or lifeless décor. An ordinary space can be transformed into a magnificent one with the ideal curtains, providing texture and warmth.

In this article, we will deeply explore a type of curtain headings, known as French pleats. However, before we dive into the topic, let’s take a closer look at curtain fullness and different types of curtain headings:

Understanding Curtain Fullness

Curtain fullness is simply defined as the amount of fabric used to cover the width of your curtain rod or curtain pole. The curtain fullness can be tailored based on your use, budget, and your preference – whether you like your curtain to appear full or a little sparser. If there are more ripples or folds on a curtain when it is closed, it appears more “full”, the visual depth of field is increased, as well as more light and sound is absorbed. The general rule of thumb is for curtains to have two times the fabric or 200% times the fullness. In other words, the curtain fabric measures twice as long as the curtain rod. The amount of fullness or gathering can vary between 1.5 and 3.5 times, depending on the type of curtains and how you want your room to look. It is better to add more fullness to your curtain if you wish your room to look more luxurious.

When installing curtains in your room, you can either choose to use curtain tracks or curtain rods. In the curtain set, each of these serves a different functional and decorative purpose. Curtain rods serve both as holding devices and as decorative elements. They are made from a range of materials, including metal, plastic, and wood. The ends of curtain poles are capped with finials, and brackets that support the rods that are attached to the wall. There are a variety of curtain styles, including tab-top curtains that hang straight from the curtain rods while others are attached to curtain rings. Concealed curtain tracks are traverse rods made from metal or plastic, designed to blend into a wall or to fit behind decorative elements like pelmets and valances. Any odd window shape can be accommodated by customising and bending the shape of the curtain track. It has an internal tracking mechanism that can be corded, cordless, or motorised, all of which are concealed from view.  

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Different Styles of Curtain Headings

At first glance, all curtains may look similar, but upon closer inspection, you may notice there are different styles of curtain headings. A curtain heading, quite simply, is the top of the curtain and how it is attached to the track or rod. Each curtain heading has a unique appearance, and its construction requires a different amount of fabric. The heading style you select will have a significant impact on the final look of your curtains, as well as the type of rod or track you can use.

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One example of curtain headings is Single Pleat, also known as New York pleat curtains. This is a single-pinch pleat curtain that is fixed at regular intervals along the top of the curtain, producing a neat, contemporary look with little fullness. A curtain heading design with more fullness is Dutch pleat curtains. It contains double pinch pleats permanently sewn into the curtain headings and separated by flat segments of fabric in between each pleat. Goblet pleat curtains have a similar appearance to pinch pleat curtains. They are tucked, folded, and open at the very top to create a ‘goblet’ or ‘wineglass’ effect. With the use of opulent fabrics such as velvets or chenilles, this curtain design is perfect for a sophisticated and elegant aesthetic. An option for modern design lovers is the eyelet curtain heading which is hung from a curtain pole. The fabric at the top of the curtain is punched to make way for metal rings, which subsequently fold the fabric into huge and regular-sized pleats.

The wave pleat or otherwise known as the S fold or ripplefold curtain, produces dramatic waves in your material without any noticeable pleating or hooks. The curtain hooks are hemmed precisely at the edge of the cloth, giving a flat panel appearance that renders the curtains appear like blinds and provides a similar effect as eyelet curtains. Because of this sewing method, this curtain design needs to be hung on a curtain pole or curtain track compatible with wave gliders. Three different curtain fullness, particularly 200%, 250%, and 300%, can be chosen for the wave pleat curtain heading, which gives the impression that they are floating above the ground in soft, wide panels. Another type of curtain heading is the Swiss Pleat curtain heading which has a serene, floaty appearance. It may worth exploring this curtain heading if you have small space (measured from the front to the back of the curtains) as it has a thinner look compared to the wave pleat. Swiss Pleat curtains are produced by stitching single or double pleat into the top of the curtain, depending on the fullness that you are going for. The double pleat appear remarkably similar to the single pleat if observed from the front because the extra pleat is stitched inside the first pleat. However, double pleat curtain headings create a fuller look and thus require more fabric.

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Pencil pleat curtain headings are a more versatile option since they look good in both classic and modern settings. A pencil pleat heading tape is sewn onto the back of the curtain. Running along the top of the curtain is the cords which can then be pulled to collect the curtain material into clean pencil style pleats.

Falling in Love with French Pleats for Curtains

The French pleat is a traditional curtain heading that features groups of three pleats, sewn at regular intervals along the top of the curtain resulting in a fan shape. This design uses the 4-legged curtain hook, which is attached to the back of each pleat. Therefore, the curtains are hung by the pleats separated by flattened segments of fabric in between. You might have noticed that we emphasise the number of pleats when describing the French pleat because it would otherwise be called a Dutch pleat if only two pleats were sewn. French pleat provides the impression of grandeur and visual depth while remaining adaptable to different interior style, fabric selection, and functional requirements. Despite its enormous volume of fabric, the French pleat stacks nicely in places with little stacking space. The French pleat becomes a stylish curtain header that maintains fullness and, at the same time, enables the curtain to be completely functional.

This curtain may be installed in two ways: with hooks from any curtain track, or with rings and hooks from a curtain rod. The French pleats are designed to properly fit your curtain track or rod. Traditional and period-style homes frequently use French pleat curtains as part of their interior. However, nowadays, this curtain style is also incorporated in modern and post-modern designs, adding a touch of refined charm to neutral-toned materials that may otherwise appear bland. Their clean appearance is especially helpful if you wish to incorporate loud designs without making them appear too whimsical. The combination of the crisp look and bold patterns will complete the look.

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One defining characteristic of French pleats is their draping style – how they make large folds when they are closed and clean rows of tight folds when they are opened. This is a very functional form of draping due to its pleating design. The overall draping has a neat and elegant feeling to it, and it remains that for an extended period of time. You can tie the curtains at the waist in an hourglass shape.

The length and type of fabric used for French pleat curtains depend on the design concept of your room; but generally, they are often fashioned from a huge amount of material, approximately 2.5 times the width of the window. Heavier fabrics, such as velvet, suede, and damask, add a luxurious touch to the interior, and because they are dark-coloured and thick, they work best in bigger rooms or areas with bright walls or furniture. Furthermore, a heavier material also offers extra privacy to the spaces and ensures that no one can peer between the pleats. It also efficiently blocks out light and insulates from the gust of wind. In contrast, silk and satin are stylish lighter fabrics which can brighten up the space. They allow in more natural light than heavier fabrics, making them an excellent choice for nearly any interior.

How to Maintain French Pleat Curtains

Maintenance is a challenge when owning French pleat curtains. One of the problems is that they are made of heavy materials. When they become dirty, it is difficult to take them down and wash them. Apart from that, the pleats themselves are a source of inconvenience since they can accumulate dust and cobwebs if not cleaned on a regular basis.

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The easiest route to keep French pleat curtains in good condition is to vacuum them on a regular basis, giving careful attention to the wrinkles and folds. It is undeniably a tedious task to take down your curtains and put them back again. You may, however, vacuum the fabric while it is still hanging up, as long as it is not made from a delicate sheer material. When vacuuming, you should also make sure that the suction power is gentler by adjusting your vacuum to a lower suction mode or, if this option is not available, you can cover the nozzle with a knee-high nylon. Use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment on the end of the wand for optimal performance. Run the brush up and down the material of the curtain with a smooth sweeping motion, moving the wand among the folds and pleats. If you find it hard to reach certain area, you can use a step stool. Avoid pausing for too long over one area as the material may be drawn into the hose and becomes ruined. After you’ve finished vacuuming and switched off the machine, use the damp cloth to spot clean any filthy regions by gently rubbing the region. This vacuuming should be part of your weekly cleaning routine since it allows you to lengthen the time between needing to wash them.

Another maintenance tip for your French pleat is to give your drapes a gentle shake everyday. This can be done either in the morning when you are opening your drapes or in the evening when you are closing them.

While French pleat curtains need more care than other curtain treatments, most decorators feel they are worth the additional work. Dirt and debris cannot penetrate the material if they are kept clean. They add a special bit of grandeur to a space that other window treatments cannot match.

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