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Choosing the right curtain headings for your home

Melanie Whitehouse / 18 September 2015

Different curtain headings give different effects, so if you're planning on buying or making new curtains find out which heading works best.

Style Studio's Feather Noir curtains with a classic pencil pleat
Style Studio's Feather Noir curtains with a classic pencil pleat

Beautiful curtains can instantly transform a room from drab to fab. A simple way to add drama and interest to any space, a great set of drapes will give a room a finished, polished look. But it’s not just about the fabric. Different curtain headings give different effects and work better with some materials than others, so start by considering which one best suits your room.

Pencil pleats

Pencil pleats are the traditional standard heading for curtains and suit all types of track and pole and most fabrics, patterned and plain. Simple and versatile, the pencil pleats create a smart, formal window dressing but opened up a little, also suit a relaxed setting. Many ready-mades come with a pencil pleat heading, so you can buy off-the-peg.

Cottage pleats

Cottage pleats give a pretty, soft gather and are made by setting a one-inch tape two inches down from the top. This style is ideal for curtains with a shorter drop and suits a traditional country setting or a children’s bedroom, and fabrics such as gingham or florals. This heading can also be used with tracks or poles and has one row of pockets for the curtain hooks.

Double or triple pinch pleats

Double or triple pinch pleats use more fabric and are fuller than pencil pleats. The pleats are sewn by hand to a fixed heading and fitted with hooks and cannot be loosened, so do measure up accurately. Pleats create a more formal tailored look and because of the depth of the pleat, suit a long curtain and a bold pattern or sumptuous material like velvet.

Goblet headings

Goblet headings are used to create a formal, luxurious look that makes a statement with an opulent fabric. Slightly out of fashion at the moment because of that formality, they use more material than pencil pleats and need room to stack back at the side of the window, so are best for a lofty period property. Suitable for both tracks and poles.

Eyelet curtains

Eyelet curtains are a great way to create a modern look, particularly at French windows or bi-fold doors, and hang in wide, loose folds. Available off the peg from the big high street retailers in a multitude of fabrics, eyelet curtains are suitable for poles only but are simple to hang as the big rings slot straight on. If you’re having them made, measure from the top of the pole to where you want the curtains to finish, adding 3cm for the space from the eyelet to the top of the curtain.


Tab-tops are a contemporary heading suitable for all fabrics and curtain poles up to 45mm (1¾"). Tabs are usually made in the same fabric as the curtains. A plus point is that they don’t take a lot of fabric and are a good solution when you don’t want a heavy weight of drape at your window.

Wave curtains

Wave curtains allow fabrics to hang in wide, even folds. Mounted on a special track that gives this effect, they create a contemporary yet soft, rippling finish that is perfect for modern homes.

Pictured curtain examples are from Style Studio, find stockists at

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.