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DIY Back Tab Curtain Tutorial

Today I’m excited to show you how to sew your own drapes, with the same easy DIY back tab curtain tutorial my Mom and I used to sew new drapes for my bedroom.

How to sew back tab curtains

I have previously demonstrated my unwavering commitment to sheer curtains, but the turquoise polka dot drapes in the laundry room re-awakened in me a passion for patterned curtains.  The last time I had patterned drapes I was in a red and cream toile phase so, suffice it to say, it’s been awhile.  I picked a bold Richloom Solarium outdoor fabric (Titan Peacock) to complement my vintage poster art.  Because I couldn’t find curtain rings to match the exact shade/diameter of my new white curtain rod, I decided to do back tab curtains instead:

Easy curtain sewing tutorial

What is a Back Tab on Curtain?

Instead of relying on curtain rings, back tab curtains (also called hidden tab curtains) have a series of small strip of fabric or ribbon sewn into the back of the curtain panel, near the top.  A curtain rod can be fed through these strips of fabric, the “back tabs,” to hang a curtain.  From the front, a back tab curtain panel drapes beautifully.  Back tab curtains are easy to sew but look very professional – and they’re a great solution if you can’t find curtain rings to match your curtain rod.

How to sew tab curtainsDIY back tab curtains

How Do You Make Back Tab Curtains?

Making back tab curtains is surprisingly easy!  Here are the basic steps for how to make back tab curtains – but keep reading for detailed instructions and step by step photos:

  1. Cut out each curtain panel and hem the sides and bottom as usual – leave the top un-hemmed
  2. Cut out 4.5″ by 6″ rectangles of fabric (we used 7 per panel)
  3. Sew the small rectangles into tubes (right sides facing)
  4. Turn the tubes right side out and iron flat, with the seam in the middle
  5. Sew the tabs into the top seam of the curtain panel as you finish the top hem

How to Sew DIY Back Tab Curtains:

Here’s the DIY back tab curtain tutorial accompanies by photos for each step.  For the first step of this DIY back tab curtain tutorial, we just hemmed the sides and bottom of the curtain panels as usual.  For the tabs, we cut out 4.5″ x 6″ rectangles of fabric, which were sewn into tubes (right side facing), flipped right side out and then ironed flat with the seam in the middle.  The finished tabs are approximately 2″ wide.  Once the tubes were turned into flat tabs, we folded and ironed each end of the tabs under.  These tabs were then hooked under, pinned onto and sewn into the top seam of the curtain panel, which is approximately 5″ wide.

DIY back tab curtain tutorialSewing back tab curtains

Here’s a close up photo of one of the finished curtain tabs:

How to sew tab curtains

How Far Apart are Back Tabs on Curtains?

6″ between tabs is typically recommended as the distance between back tabs.  Each of my curtain panels are approximately 53″ wide and we did a total of 7 tabs per panel.  My curtain rod has an overall length of 8 feet.  You can adjust the distance between back tabs: more tabs will create a fuller, more pleated look.

How to sew professional looking drapes

How to Hang Back Tab Curtains

With the tabs affixed, we just slid the curtain rod through the tabs.  I worried back tab curtains would stick and not open smoothly, but my fears were unfounded.  These curtains actually function better than curtains on rings, plus they look more polished.  The tabs result in soft pleats which control the drape of the fabric. I used to spend forever fussing with the office curtains in the townhouse, which Hubby would close nightly and fling open with wild abandon every morning.  I would then adjust the drape, pulling and fluffing the top so it would drape just so. When Hubby flings these open they fall perfectly.  I wonder how many hours I’ll save annually, thanks to these curtains.  It’s embarrassing to think about it.

Teal printed curtains

How to Control the Style and Drape of Back Tab Curtains:

Little changes in the construction of these DIY hidden tab drapes will change the drape and overall style, so here’s a brief explanation of what we did to achieve this particular look:

  1. We sewed the tabs very close to the top of the curtain, which creates a cleaner, more modern look than when the tabs are placed lower, which creates a soft ruffling at the top
  2. The number of tabs is up to you and will control the number of pleats – we used 7 tabs per panel
  3. Other folks use ribbon for the tabs, but using this fabric created a stiffer back tab, which holds its shape really well – I recommend taking the time to make fabric tabs

DIY curtain sewing tutorialChic back tab curtains

P.S. Want to See My DIY Back Tab Drapes in Different Fabrics/Colors?

How to Sew Back Tab Curtains with Stiffener/Drapery Tape

Recently we sewed silk DIY back tab curtains for my Mom’s dining room, pictured above and below.  Instead of using the same curtain fabric to sew tabs, we used stiffener, also called header taper or drapery tape.  Click here to find the tutorial for how to sew that version of hidden tab curtains.

My Colorful Bedroom Decor

Back to my colorful bedroom decor: I think the white and teal fabric looks great against the white walls, and the white curtain rod does a good job of letting the curtain steal the show – without being too skimpy.

How to sew your own curtainsWhite and teal bedroomDIY curtainsTeal print drapesRichloom Solarium Titan Peacock

In these photos the vintage Hungarian posters and silk pillows look really green and the fabric looks really blue.  I definitely think it’s time for a new camera, but for now you’ll have to trust me that the curtain fabric is really a good colour match for the posters – it’s very nearly identical to the background of the middle poster (the gal in the orange dress).  It’s more green/teal than what is depicted here and the difference in the colours of the art, the pillows and drapes is far more subtle in real life.  The green pillows look positively neon – I blame the sheen of the silk.

Richloom Solarium Titan Peacock FabricDIY sewing tutorial home decorWest German Pottery Vase Onion

Despite the fabulous curtains, the room still needs some tweaking.  I just tossed our former accent pillows on the bed, we’re still using a borrowed, too-small, too-light dresser – and don’t even ask about closet doors!  I did swap out the minty chair for the black one from the living room because the mint pattern was dulled beside this bolder teal, but a chair is a placeholder for the pair of dressers I’d like.  In addition to big-ticket items like closet doors and dressers, I have some smaller changes in mind.  The room could use some additional art and more thoughtful accessorizing.  It’s far from done, but I wanted to show you my DIY tab curtain tutorial and share the progress as it happens.

Green silk accent pillowsDIY curtains

I’ll keep you posted on the changes I make.  I still can’t get over what a difference these back tab drapes make!

Before

And here is the before-before, just for fun:

Colorful Bedroom Decor Update:

Since sharing this DIY back tab curtain tutorial, I’ve updated this bedroom many timesSee the bedroom decor evolution right here.  Here’s what the bedroom currently looks like:

Looking for More DIY Curtain Tutorials?

How to Sew DIY Euro Pleat Curtains

How to Sew a Closet Curtain:

How to Sew Silk Back Tab Curtains

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45 Comments

  1. Cassie @ Primitive & Proper
    August 18, 2014 / 2:01 pm

    they look gorgeous, tanya! love the color and fabric!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 18, 2014 / 2:47 pm

      Thanks, Cassie! I am so happy with them! The fabric is magic – it can be used indoor/outdoor and doesn't wrinkle. I pre-washed and pre-shrunk the panels and they came out of the dryer this smooth. But they just feel like cotton.

  2. Liana
    August 18, 2014 / 3:47 pm

    love the curtain rod – are there any more out there?

  3. Staci
    August 18, 2014 / 4:24 pm

    This looks great! Pinning for future reference. I am needing to tweak my living room curtains so they hang better, and this may be just the trick!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 18, 2014 / 4:59 pm

      Thanks Staci! I really, really like how these hang, but the curtain fabric itself is pretty sturdy so that helps too. But these back tabs are incredible – such an eye opener for me.

  4. brikhouse2
    August 18, 2014 / 4:59 pm

    Love these curtains……the pattern, color and style. The picture below the extreme close up of the pattern of the curtains, with just the edge of the curtains and the posters, you can tell they are a match in color. It must be all the light coming in playing games with your camera lol. I have been wanting to make some grey and white striped curtain but didn't want to do the clip curtain rings or tab tops (that's what I have now and am tired of them) so this would be an awesome alternative. Thanks for the idea.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 18, 2014 / 10:47 pm

      Thanks! The light definitely affected these photos, but also my camera wants to photograph every aqua/teal shade as blue which is, for me, incredibly inconvenient given my love of aqua. Grey and white striped curtains would be so pretty if you did end up painting your walls white (although they would look sharp with beige, too)…I spy some blog fodder πŸ™‚

  5. brikhouse2
    August 18, 2014 / 5:00 pm

    Oh and I forgot……did you consider just spray painting some other colored rods?

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 18, 2014 / 10:49 pm

      I did! But at the time I was still thinking curtain rings and I was worried they'd scratch the paint off. We even considered making our own rods with wood dowels and painting the doweling but the cost of materials was about the same as just buying them. But with this curtain style, painting rods is definitely doable and I might have tried it if I had settled on back tabs before ordering the rods. It's embarrassing how long I've had these rods, sans curtains…

    • brikhouse2
      August 20, 2014 / 9:52 am

      Ah ok, gotcha…makes perfect sense. Anything worth having is worth waiting for :o)

  6. Anonymous
    August 18, 2014 / 5:28 pm

    Those curtains look fantastic and make the window seem more proportional (it looks undersized without the curtains). Have you considered painting the window frame? Perhaps, lack for contrast and to tie in the headboard, or white for a seamless look.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 18, 2014 / 11:05 pm

      It is actually a very small window and it did look undersized, for sure. It's a shame there aren't larger windows on this side of the house, but I guess the builder used up the window budget for the giant ones on the lake side, lol! I agree: the window treatments help it look much less piddly.It's hard to tell in my blown out photos, but the window casing – the trim – has been painted out. It was originally 80s oak. I originally wanted to paint the inside sash as well (first I thought black, then white to let the views steal the show) but it was cold when I painted so I couldn't open the windows/remove hardware to do a proper job so I held off. Readers loved the touch of warmth from the wood and encouraged me to leave it this way. Now we have had a moisture problem and the window sashes have sustained some water damage so I'd like to repair them somehow – maybe paint will be part of the answer? In any case, I've left it for now while we diagnose the problem (we have a weird air exchanger system we are obviously misusing). I recently spotted black windows at the hardware store and am totally in love and thinking of black again. Either way, that decision is up in the air right now but while I've grown accustomed to the wood, I do think either white or black would be a nice look.Here's a post I wrote, chatting about it a bit. There are some great examples of the different options:http://dans-le-townhouse.blogspot.ca/2013/11/lets-talk-trim.html

  7. Anna Maddox
    August 18, 2014 / 5:31 pm

    It's amazing how curtains can transform a space! Beautiful.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 18, 2014 / 10:57 pm

      Thank you! Yes, it is amazing. The "before" window looks so naked and small in comparison.

  8. Rick
    August 18, 2014 / 5:58 pm

    Those curtains are awesome! I'm gonna have my wife take a look at this and see what creative curtains she can come up with.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 18, 2014 / 10:50 pm

      You know, these are so easy I'm sure you could give them a try…:)

  9. Miss Charming
    August 18, 2014 / 6:15 pm

    Great design on your curtains, but I'm totally crushing on the headboard!

  10. Dana@Mid2Mod
    August 18, 2014 / 6:25 pm

    Love the look you get with the back tabs!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 18, 2014 / 10:56 pm

      Me too! I feel so silly for not knowing how lovely back tab curtains could be. I just remember having regular tab curtains and not loving them as much as rings. I now want every curtain I ever have to be back tab.

  11. Michelle {Jarrah Jungle}
    August 19, 2014 / 1:05 am

    Eeeeek a screamed a little at the before before! It looks so much better now, and I love the fabric you picked for the curtains πŸ™‚

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 19, 2014 / 3:06 am

      Thanks! Yep, the former home owners had very different taste than us. It's sometimes amazing how little it takes to personalize a space.

  12. Lindsey @ A Pear to Remember
    August 19, 2014 / 1:32 am

    I this is are beautiful. I bought some pale teal retro-mod sheers for our sunny lounge and they are beautiful. I bought heavy black Nate Berkus curtains for our bedroom, but the light still comes in far too much in the morning (or weekend nap time)! Currently using clip rings from IKEA to hold these use, too small to hold another fabric behind the current suggestions.Are you bothered by the sunlight with your bedroom sheers? Any suggestions for creating a simple of a blackout effect modifying our current curtains? Thanks!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 19, 2014 / 3:13 am

      Hmmm, tough questions! The sun definitely came pouring in with our townhouse sheers. The curtains we have now only allow a little sunlight to come through and the fabric definitely doesn't block the sun completely. Sometimes adding fullness to curtains can help. Are the panels really taught when they're shut, as in there isn't a lot of gathering? Adding another panel to each side of the window (on their own rings) to increase the fullness when they're closed would help block more light. It's a no-sew approach, lol. You could also open up the seams on your curtains and sew in a lining – the video tutorial shows how – and then clip them back up on the rings.Sun never bothers me, so this isn't my area of expertise but either of these suggestions would help. Maybe you need to supplement your curtains with chic blinds?

    • Lindsey @ A Pear to Remember
      August 20, 2014 / 2:32 pm

      wow I LOVE the lining idea—hadn't thought of that. Thanks, Tanya!

  13. Emily @ Go Haus Go
    August 19, 2014 / 2:09 am

    Those look so lovely! I've stuck with the clip ring approach for awhile now, but only because all of the pleat stuff intimidated me. I love this approach! Pinning!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 19, 2014 / 3:06 am

      Thanks Emily! I was similarly intimidated – or worried anything else would look stuffy, because I kinda like the relaxed look of clip rings. Happy sewing πŸ™‚

  14. Jazmyn Strydom
    August 19, 2014 / 1:23 pm

    Beautiful as always!!!PS I flipped through the 2015 Ikea catalogue and that turqouise bathroom.. totally reminded me of you!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 19, 2014 / 10:48 pm

      I haven't seen the new catalog. I'm miles away from the nearest Ikea so I haven't bothered, but now my interest in piqued…

    • Jazmyn Strydom
      August 20, 2014 / 3:19 pm

      Ok I 'flipped' online πŸ˜‰ But go look!

  15. cred
    August 19, 2014 / 4:19 pm

    Wow! Love those curtains, the before really highlights how curtains can make a window appear larger. Your room is beautiful- has a crisp, bright look that's feels relaxing. I agree with your tab placement giving them a modern feel. I love back tabs- my favourite, cheap gauzy white curtains from ikea have back tabs. Currently we don't have any curtains in the new house (except my son's patio door in his room). All the windows have white wood blinds and I do love the convenience of them- the curtains will only serve as decor once I get to it. The blinds in our room block out just the right amount of light- I don't like to awake in the dark but also hate a beam of sunlight streaming into my eyes in the morning. I love that dresser, btw.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 19, 2014 / 10:51 pm

      I was pretty lucky in the townhouse with large windows in our bedroom so I have really been bothered by how wee the one we have now it. So happy that curtains made it seem larger and more substantial. I wish we could have blinds, but we have these awkward crank windows and the crank gets in the way. My Mom has some gorgeous silver blinds that I am so jealous of. I think blinds with curtains for decor is a perfect combination – form and function!I don't mind the dresser but it's way too small. We really downsized our space and I'm finding I need more storage!

  16. Dora C
    August 19, 2014 / 7:17 pm

    These look so amazing, Tanya! Love the aqua colour – it really brightens up the room

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 19, 2014 / 10:51 pm

      Thanks Dora!

  17. Anonymous
    April 9, 2015 / 2:13 am

    What fabric did you use to make these curtains? I can't find the pattern anywhere.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      April 9, 2015 / 4:45 pm

      Excellent question! I found it at fabricland and didn't have any info, but awhile ago I was browsing an online fabric store and found it! I'm on my phone and can't cut and paste, but it'so in my pinterest board under "fabrics". When I'm at my computer I will add the link here and in the post. But in case you're in a hurry, I wanted to reply ASAP!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      April 30, 2015 / 2:14 am

      Sorry it took me so long! I had mentally check this off my to-do list, forgetting that I hadn't sent you the link. Hopefully you found it on my Pinterest board. If not, I added the link to the post and will include it here: https://www.fabric.com/buy/0284200/richloom-solarium-outdoor-titan-peacockI'm actually swapping out these drapes for a green tweed (stay tuned), so it makes me happy to hear someone else loves this fabric. I will miss these curtains, for sure! The print is so cheery, and because it's an outdoor fabric, this fabric hasn't faded from the sun and it comes out of the dryer completely smooth – no need to iron!

  18. Donna Kupetz
    August 13, 2016 / 9:10 pm

    These are so beautiful! Great job! I am planning some sort of tab curtains for my kitchen. Yours look like exactly what I want for my living room. Maybe for the kitchen I will try attaching the tabs to the top for a more informal look. Thanks so much for the wonderful tutorial!

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      August 13, 2016 / 9:36 pm

      So happy I could help!

  19. Maxine
    May 21, 2018 / 12:00 pm

    So, how did you measure for how much fabric width you would need to cover these windows?

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      Author
      May 22, 2018 / 1:31 pm

      I was lucky, the width of the fabric was exactly enough in both cases. Which means I got if off the bolt and just hemmed! But to figure that out, measure the window, and how much you want the curtain to extend past it, then figure out the fullness you want.
      Here’s a great article on how to figure out the curtain width: https://www.wikihow.com/Measure-Fabric-for-Curtains

  20. Leah Bartlem
    August 28, 2022 / 4:16 am

    Hi Tanya,
    I have looked at your tutorial many times now and have finally decided to give the back tab curtains a go! I have looked at the wikihow website to work out the width I need and it is double dutch to me. I have also looked at other websites and really don’t want to make a mistake.
    I have a bank of louvres in my lounge room measuring 3.1 meters wide and 1.85 meters in length. My material is 1.2 meters wide.
    Your curtains really took my eye, they are lovely and you have made the tutorial easy to understand.
    Really hoping you can help me.
    Cheers Leah.

    • August 31, 2022 / 3:45 pm

      The width of fabric you need for a panel varies because people will adjust the spacing of the tabs to create a different look. Might be why it’s difficult to get a straight answer.

      Just so I understand the question: are your curtains decorative or would you like to open and close them?

      And are you saying you need the finished curtain panels to be exactly 3.1 meters wide?

      And you’d like to know how to figure out the calculations for two panels that will be 3.1 meters wide total?

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