Real World Makeover: DIY Hidden Tab Top Curtains


Our living room, while not huge, does boast a pair of oversize windows (well, technically it’s a sliding glass door, but doesn’t go anywhere.) The previous owners installed a nice set of Hunter Douglas Silhouette shades, which I adore. They can be fully open, fully closed, or half-open, which creates the most flattering diffused light.  While these shades set the mood for daytime lighting, they really do nothing for our decor.


We scoured stores for affordable curtains to fit our oversized windows, but couldn’t find anything we liked (and could afford!) So, we had our crazy DIY curtain idea and I decided to sew the curtains myself.  My mother, in her inifinite wisdom and years of sewing experience, advised otherwise, but I’m stubborn, and went ahead anyways.  Here are the results.

First, I needed an oversized curtain rod for the extra wide windows. Again, affordable options were limited and I searched for an alternative. I ran across this great DIY project from Shelterrific, where they used an electrical conduit as a curtain rod. As they suggested, I purchased two 10′ rods (for around $10) and had them cut to half of my window size. I then attached them in the center with a conduit connector. Voila! Instant extra long curtain rod. I used regular curtain rod brackets to keep the rod in place. Thanks for the idea, Shelterrific!

Next, the curtains. While vactioning in India last fall, we picked up some gorgeous rusty orange heavy-weight satin with a subtle sheen. For less than $100, we had curtain fabric, lining fabric and enough extra for matching pillows. It’s good to plan ahead when making trips abroad!


I chose to make hidden tab top curtains. I like the clean look-similar to grommets, but without the messy hardware installation. First, measure and sew the edges of the lining fabric. Then, attach the lining to the main fabric (right sides out) and finish the side edges neatly.


Next, sew the header and the tabs. For this, I basically made “belt loops,” which are sewn into the wide hem of the header. I found that a sturdy grosgrain ribbon makes a great tab (and you don’t have to sew the edges). I spaced my loops about 7″ apart. You should adjust based on the size of the window and curtain.


Here’s a close up of the tab.


Lastly, hang the curtain on the rod. Then, measure and pin the hem. I found it useful to hang the curtain and pin the hem, to ensure that the curtain just grazed the floor. Remove the curtain, sew the hem and you are all set! Here’s the finished curtain. I tied the panel in place for 24 hours to train the fabric. I imagine a light steaming with the iron would also help.


Check out how clean and nice the hidden tab top looks! I love the modern edge-not too fussy.


Sewing your own custom curtains may not be practical for everyone. Don’t despair, you still have options! Before I embarked on my project, I discovered that my local dry cleaner/tailor would sew curtains to my specifications. This is great option if you don’t have a access to a sewing machine (or the patience to do it). So, ask around before you settle on an off-the-shelf product.

Check out these similar posts:

The Subtle Shades of Spring
Vintage Eclectic Living Room
Living Like a Student in Barcelona
Impulse Purchase: Moroccan Brights
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  1. Kim


    These are beautiful curtains! The hidden tabs really do create a nice clean touch. Love your blog. Would certainly love to see more of your sewing projects on here as well. As I recall, you were always such a wiz with fabric!


  2. Joanna

    you just gave me the confidence (and permission to use ribbon) to make hidden tab curtains. Thank you thank you!

  3. june

    Thankyu for the graet tutioral and close up pics . I have finally found the correct color drape however they did not come with hidden tabs . I bought some ribbon and thanks to your great instructions was able to modify my new drapes to have hidden tabs .
    thanks Kingston, On

  4. Kathleen

    I am with Joanna. I have had my fabric for a few months now, but have been too afraid to start sewing. Seeing pictures of each step lets me know that I was thinking along the right lines for construction, so now I can get started with no fear! Thank you!

    Love the idea of using ribbon – consistent tab width, no edges to finish, and a little sturdier than my fabric.

  5. Kelly

    Hi–I just found your site and it is terrific! We (four of us) live in a 1950s small ranch house (1200 feet square). It has the typical “ribbon” windows (I think that is what you call them)–long windows (about 6 feet long) but only about 2 feet top to bottom. Right now I just have some homemade curtains on them but am looking for a better solution to keep the light out in the morning. Blinds won’t seem to do it and the curtains are just too much fabric bunched up a the ends when I have them open. Any suggestions or ideas are appreciated.


  6. carly


    Yes, I know exactly what kind of window you mean – very 50’s indeed. I think your best bet is to go for clean lines, maybe with a little retro modern look. My first thought is a fancy/decorative roller shade. The Shade Store has some great options with blackout shades (if you really want to get it dark) or light filtering shades, which come is some fun patterns.

    This one is super cute, though the patter may be too big for thin ribbon windows:

    But, you can check out their full collection here:

    The only other thing I can imagine is maybe a roman shade? You can google and find all sorts of Roman shades, but here are some ideas:

    If you go with shades of any sort, obviously they will bunch up on top, instead of 6 feet of material on the sides. I think you could also split the window – meaning install 2 36″ inch shades, rather than one huge 6′ shade. That would also give you more light filtering options.

    It’s hard to get windows just right, but I always find it’s worth the effort and worth the money to get a proper light filtering solution.

    Good luck! Send us a picture if you come up with a good solution.

  7. oryza

    Been looking around for ideas on curtains for my daughter bedroom. I am really glad I find it here. Very informative. Thanks a lot!

  8. Ali B.

    Love this tutorial! Did you make your drapery more than 100% full? And by that I mean, when pulled all the way across the window is there extra fabric to keep the folded look in the drapery? Let me know!

  9. carly

    Hi Ali-

    Good question! I only did about 150% (or 1 1/2 times the width of each window for each panel) for the amount of fabric. It’s not really enough for a good pleat when the drapes are fully closed. I would recommend doubling the width of the window at a minimum.

    I have some honeycomb shades behind the curtains, which I use for privacy, so I rarely actually close the curtains. When open, they have a good pleat without looking like I skimped on the width.

    Good luck with your curtains!

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