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Pleated Window Valance

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If you already have blinds or shades in your room, a pretty little valance is an easy way to add a bit of color and style to your window treatment. Our pleated valance tutorial finishes at 44", which is a great standard width, but the clever panel construction means it's easy to add or remove inches to make the valance wider or narrower. 

You'll pick two coordinating quilting weight cottons in colors and prints to match your décor plus a solid cotton for the lining. The added lining adds a bit of weight that not only helps the valance take on some sun-blocking duties, it also allows the pleats to press into crisp folds that hold their shape. 

Two stripes of grosgrain ribbons add the finishing touch.  

Our valance finishes at approximately 44" wide x 18" high.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • 1⅛ yards of 44"+ wide quilting weight cotton for the valance skirt
  • ¼ yard of 44"+ wide coordinating quilting weight cotton for the valance rod pocket
  • 1¼ yards of 44"+ wide quilting weight cotton for the lining
  • 3½ yards of ⅝" wide grosgrain ribbon in a color to accent the main skirt fabric
  • All purpose thread to match fabrics and ribbon
  • Long see-through ruler
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Straight pins
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Hand sewing needle

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric for the rod pocket, cut ONE 7" high x width of fabric (WOF) strip: 7" x 45" in our sample
  2. From the fabric for the main skirt, cut the following:
    TWO 18½" high x 7" wide rectangles; these will be the pleat panels
    TWO 18½" high x 17½" wide rectangles; these will be the outside panels
    ONE 18½" x 27" wide rectangle; this will be the center panel
    NOTE: To conserve fabric, you will cut these widths side by side across the 44"+ width of the fabric, allowing you to stack two rows of 18½" high panels. One row will be 17½" + 17½" + 7 = 42" of the 44" width, and the second row will be 27" + 7" = 34" of the 44" width. You can do the same with the lining below, adding a third 7" high row there for the rod pocket.
  3. From the lining fabric, cut the following: 
    ONE 7" x WOF strip
    TWO 18½" x 7" rectangles
    TWO 18½" x 17½" rectangles
    ONE 18½" x 27" rectangle
  4. Cut the ribbon into one 45" length and one 72" length.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Find the FIVE rectangles cut from the main valance skirt fabric.
  2. With right sides together, pin ONE 18½" x 17½" outside panel to the LEFT side of one 18½" x 7" pleat panel. Align the two panels along one 18½" edge. Stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance.
    Diagram
  3. With right sides together, pin the 18½" x 27" center panel to the remaining RIGHT raw 18½" edge of the pleat panel. Stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance.
    Diagram
  4. With right sides together, pin the remaining 18½" x 7" pleat panel to the remaining RIGHT raw 18½" edge of the center panel. Stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance.
  5. Finally, with right sides together, pin the remaining 18½" x 17½" outside panel to the remaining RIGHT raw 18½" edge of the second pleat panel. Stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance.
  6. You should now have FIVE panels sewn together in the following order: outside panel 1, pleat panel 1, center panel, pleat panel 2, outside panel 2.
    Diagram
  7. Press all seam allowances open and flat
    Click to Enlarge
  8. Repeat these steps to create an identical five-panel unit with the lining cuts.
  9. Lay the completed front panel flat and right side DOWN on your work surface.
  10. Lay the completed lining panel on top of it right side UP. The two layers are wrong sides together.
  11. Align all the seams front to back as well as all the raw edges so both layers are nice and smooth.
  12. Pin the layers together.
  13. Machine baste the layers together along the top edge only, keeping your basting seam within the ½" seam allowance. This seam is just to help keep the layers from shifting during the pleating process.

Hemming the valance

  1. Rather than simply sewing front to back, resulting in a seam along both sides and along the bottom, we wanted to have a pretty hemmed edge with clean corners. This way, when our valance flutters in the breeze, it looks pretty from the front and the back.
  2. Using your see-through ruler, draw three lines on the back panel: one 2" up from the bottom edge, one 2" in from the left side, and one 2" in from the right side.
    Click to Enlarge
  3. Press along the 2" marking across the bottom and then along both sides.
  4. Unfold all three sides so you can see your crease lines.
  5. Tuck in each raw edge so it lines up along its corresponding crease line and press well. Do the bottom first, then each side.
    Click to Enlarge
  6. Fold in again, in the same order, along your original crease lines and press well.
    Click to Enlarge
  7. You now have a nice clean double turn 1" hemmed finish (1" and then an additional 1"). But what about the corners?
  8. Unfold a corner so you can see the the crease lines of both turns.
  9. Fold the corner down at a 45˚ angle so the point of the corner lines up with the intersection of the second set of fold lines. Press.
  10. Re-fold the sides of your first 1" turn along their original fold lines and press well.
  11. Trim back the point of the corner to 1" so it lines up with the sides.
    Click to Enlarge
  12. Refold the sides along your second 1" fold line and press. This second re-fold will create a diagonal line where your two finished edged meet, making a neat split diagonal point corner.
  13. Repeat at the other corner.
  14. Hand stitch the hems in place along both sides and across the bottom. Then hand stitch along the diagonal  at each corner (see photo below in the Applying the ribbon section for a more detailed finished shot of this step).
    Click to Enlarge
    NOTE: If you are new to this hemming and mitering technique, check out our tutorial. It features ¼" turns, but the technique works equally well with the 1" turns of this project.

Applying the ribbon

  1. Find the 72" length of ribbon.
  2. Measure 1½" from the bottom hemmed edge of the valance and place the bottom of the ribbon at this height across the entire width of the valance.
    Click to Enlarge
  3. At either end, wrap the ribbon around to the back. Fold under the raw edge of the ribbon to create a clean finish, aligning it with the edge of the side hem. Pin in place from the front.
  4. Re-thread your machine with thread to match the ribbon in both the top and to best match the lining in the bobbin.
  5. Edgestitch the ribbon in place along both sides.
    Click to Enlarge
  6. Your edgestitching will catch the ribbon you wrapped around to the back (and, look, there's that pretty diagonal point corner we talked about above).
    Click to Enlarge

Pleats

  1. Find the center point of each 6" pleat panel. You can do this by folding the panel in half and marking with a pin, or measuring side to side with your see-through ruler. Place a pin at the center point.
  2. Then, measure 3" out from each pleat panel seam. In other words, 3" to the right of the right seam and 3" to the left of the left seam.

    Click to Enlarge
  3. Pull the seams on either side in towards the center marked line to form a box pleat. Press flat.
  4. Pin at the top and bottom to hold the pleats in place while you finish.

    Click to Enlarge
  5. Set aside.

Rod pocket

  1. Find the 7" x WOF strips of print fabric and lining fabric. Press each long strip in half to set a center crease line. Then, unfold so the crease lines are visible. 
  2. Place the print fabric and lining fabric right sides together, aligning all the raw edges and smoothing until both layers are nice and flat.
  3. Pin together along both 7" sides.
  4. Re-thread your machine with thread to match the fabric in both the top and bobbin.
  5. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both 7" sides. Press the seams open.
  6. Turn right side out. Pin the print and lining layers together along the long raw edges.
  7. Along both the top and bottom of the sewn strips, sew the raw edges together with a finish stitch. You could serge them or use a zig zag or overcast stitch. We used a serger.
    NOTE: Check out our tutorial on machine sewn seam finishes.
  8. From the right side, fold under the double layers of one long finished edge ½" and then an additional ½", as if making a double turn hem, and press well.
  9. Align the opposite long finished edge (the non-folded edge) with the top raw edge of the valance. The two pieces (the valance and the rod pocket) should be right sides together. Pin in place.
    NOTE: We apologize for the photography here; it is hard to tell that you are looking at the lining and it is hard to see our seam finish. So you'll have to trust us a bit here. At this step in the process, you are working with two layers. Both ends are seamed, the layers are sewn together along the long sides with a zig zag or other seam finish, one long edge has a double fold finish (the bottom) and the other long edge is just the finished layers, which is aligned with the top raw edge of the valance. Got that? Okay then, onward we go.
    Image
  10. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch in place across the top of the valance through all the layers. Press the seam allowance toward the rod pocket.
    NOTE: This seam also secures the pleats in place at the top.
  11. Bring the folded edge of the rod pocket piece around to the back. This folded edge should wrap around and match up with the seam line, covering the seam allowance. The original center crease line is now the top of the rod pocket – the top of the valance.
  12. Edgestitch in place through all the layers (don't worry about the seam showing on the front, you are covering it with a ribbon).
    Click to Enlarge
  13. Turn over the valance to the right side and mark 3½" down from the top fold of the rod pocket
  14. Place the top of the ribbon at this height across the entire width of the valance, covering the seam. Pin in place.
    Click to Enlarge
  15. Tuck under the raw ends of the ribbon so they are flush with the side openings. Pin the ends place.
  16. Re-thread your machine with thread to match the ribbon in both the top and and to best match the fabric in the bobbin.
  17. Edgestich the ribbon in place along both sides.
  18. Take out the pins holding the bottom of the pleats together.
  19. Press and hang.

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Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas 
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild

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