Tab Top Curtains DIY

Tab top curtains are popular for their unfussy look.  They also require less fabric than other styles, so can be cost effective too!

If you fancy having a go at making tab top curtains, but are unsure exactly how to contract the tabs, and how to join them to the fabric, then this DIY tutorial should be of help.

This example shows how I make button-through tab tops, which I think look a lot more elegant and sophisticated than plain tab tops.  It gives you a chance to mess around with contrasting colours and button styles.

Tab Top Curtains DIY

You will need:

  • Face fabric (aka your pretty curtain fabric!)
  • Medium weight, fusible interfacing in a suitable colour for your face fabric
  • Self-cover buttons
  • Button covering tool
  • Button-hole foot (unless you are very patient and plan to stitch the button holes by hand)
  • Knitting needle
  • Basic sewing kit of co-ordinating threads, scissors, soft tape measure, pins, sewing machine and an iron and ironing board.


Step One: Working out the measurements

Make up your curtain fabric and lining and join together at the sides, just like in this picture of the world’s smallest curtain (probably).

You want a tab right in each top corner, and also at about every 6-8″ along the top of the curtain.  If you leave a gap any wider the curtain will sag.

So, measuring along the top of your half made-up curtain, work out the total number of tabs you will need and make a note.

Now, go to your curtain pole and loop your soft tape measure over it to make ‘tab’.  Once you’ve gauged the length of the tab, add on 1″ to the measurement and make a note.  This is the total length of each tab.  Mine worked out to 8″+1″=9″ total.

A good width for a curtain tab is 2 inches, so add on 1/2 an inch for seam allowance.  So the total width for each tab is 2 and a half inches.


Step Two: Cutting out

Using the measurements you’ve noted down, mark your tabs out on your face fabric and cut out DOUBLE the total number needed.

Be careful to think about pattern direction here – you don’t want anything ending up upside down on the tabs!  This is something to be aware of all the way through.

Mark out the the tabs on the interfacing.  You will need only one per tab.

Press all the tabs, then press the all interfacing onto the back of half of the face tabs.

So you should now have double the amount rectangles than required tabs – half interfaced, half not interfaced.

For example, if your curtain requires 10 tabs you should have 10 interfaced rectangles and 10 non-interfaced.

Interfacing the tabs helps them maintain their shape, as well as making them draw more smoothly, so it’s worth the extra effort.


Step 3: Sewing the tabs up

Place one interfaced tab and one non-interfaced tab right sides together. Sew a 1/4 inch seam allowance along one long edge, one short edge and the other long edge.  Leave one short edge open.

Remember to reverse and the beginning and end of your stitching!  This is important as it adds strength when you turn the right side out.

Do this for all the tabs, then trim the corners to reduce bulk when you turn them out.

Snip off any tails of thread, then turn the tabs right side out, using the blunt end of the knitting needle to help you at first, then use the pointy end to carefully push the corners out.

Getting the corners as sharp as you can will contribute to a more professional finish.  

However, be careful not to put the needle through the seam or the fabric by using too much force!

They should look something like this…

Press all the tabs and try ensure the edges are as straight as possible.  Line them up and make sure they are all exactly the same length.

It might help to switch to a walking foot from now on, as the tabs can get a little bulky, especially in the corners.

Now, topstitch your tabs for strength and to discourage the tabs from rolling when the curtain is drawn.  Use whatever seam allowance looks pleasing.  I used a 1/8″.  Accuracy and neatness is imperative!

They should look a little like this:

Step 3: Button Holes

Work out where you want the button holes to be placed and mark the start point.  They should start fairly near the top stitching, so that they stay within the first inch of the tab.

Don’t mark them with a pencil like I did!  I used a pencil because I was not making a real curtain, and was too lazy to go and get a fabric pen! A tailors chalk pencil also works well.

Sew the button holes in, following the instructions for your sewing machine.  I like this rounded button hole!

Then, very carefully, use a stitch ripper to open up the button hole.  Do not catch the threads of the button hole, and make sure you slice through all of the layers.

Your tabs are now complete!  Hurrah!

Step Four: Attaching tabs to the curtain

Get your partially made up curtain and lay it out flat on the table so that you can get to the heading.  It should be RIGHT SIDE OUT and FACE FABRIC UP.

You may find it helpful to put small chalk marks along the seam allowance of the face fabric to mark the centre position of each tab.

Place each tab right side down (this may not matter- it depends on your fabric’s pattern – e.g., my bird pattern has a definite correct direction, but stripes don’t have a top or bottom, so it doesn’t matter which side up they are placed) in its position along the face fabric.

Pin in place with two pins.

**IMPORTANT!**  Ensure you pin ONLY to the face fabric, NOT the lining.

Now, baste the tabs in place with a 1/4″ seam allowance.  Do not stitch to the lining!








Cut off and tails of thread, and turn the whole thing inside out.  Your tabs should be inside the curtain, not dangling out the top.







Now, pin along the raw edges of the heading, then stitch with a 3/4″ seam allowance.  You should now have an inside out bag, tabs inside, that is open only along the hem edge, as pictured below

Turn right side out, press the top edge neatly, ensuring the lining does not roll to the front.  If you want to you can understitch the seam to help stop this.  I was too lazy on this occasion…

Hey presto, you’re tabs are all neatly sewn into your curtains!  You’re nearly there…

Step 5: Buttons!

Using either the face fabric offcuts, or other fabric of your choice, cover the buttons using the tool.  Instructions for this should come with the tool.

Any style of button can be used here really, but I think the shanked buttons work best, as they allow for the thickness of the fabric.

Mark the position of the buttons on the face fabric, making sure they will line up with your tab and it will look how you want it to look.

You can always mark the fabric through the button hole to make sure everything is in the right place.

Then sew the buttons on, going through the face fabric and the lining.  This will make the curtain hang nicely.  You just need to ensure you are very neat on the back of the curtain.

And ta-da!  Your personalised button-through tab top curtain is all finished and ready to hang!

Here’s what my example looked like once hung on a curtain pole.  Yours will come out looking just as lovely!  I’d recommend making up a couple of practise tabs first to work out the bugs and get used to your fabric, and away you go.