How to Add Length to Drapes: My Top 5 DIY Methods

Knowing how to add length to drapes is a necessary skill for the avid thrifter. More often than not, I’ve found so many good pieces throughout the years and at phenomenal prices too. 

And although 84” and longer is generally what I find, once in a while I’ll get a great deal on a pair of panels that are just a little too short.

It’s easy to shorten drapery, but how do you make them longer? In this post, I’ve compiled my 5 go-to methods to add length to drapes without making them look like you’ve Frankensteined them. These tips will save you from letting go of those secondhand drapes you found for a great price!

Borrow Length from the Hem

My first tip is to some steal length from the hem. This process is not too difficult and will require minimal materials.

Most drapery is made with a 3-4” hem, folded over twice. This means that when unfolded you will have six to eight inches of spare fabric you can work with. You can rip out the seam yourself and rehem to an appropriate size. Alternatively, you can take your drapes to a seamstress or dry cleaners and they will do the work for you.

This option is best for those who only need a few extra inches on their drapes. Anything more than 3-4 inches will require an alternative method.

Adding length from the hem is an easy process if you have some sewing experience. The most difficult part will be hand-stitching the finished hem closed and repositioning the weights at the corners.

To add length to your drapes from the hem, you will have to seam rip the hem. Measure the length of fabric you need your finished panel to be. Then with the leftover fabric, hem your drapery panel once again. You can decide whether to double fold the leftover fabric or single fold with a small ½” or 1” double fold at the top to prevent fraying.

Add a Contrasting Band

Drapes with Contrasting Band

Another way to add length to secondhand drapes is to add a contrasting band to the bottom. This option will add a good 12” or more to most drapes. A contrasting band looks best when they are about 1/5th the size of the total length of your drapes. This will make the finished drapery design look intentional.

When selecting fabric for a contrasting band, stick to fabrics that have a similar weight to the drapery panel. If your contrasting fabric is too lightweight, then the bottom of the drapery panel will not hang as well as the top. Alternatively, if the fabric on your band is too stiff then it will affect how the drapery panels pleat or gather.

To calculate the size of your banding, use the finish length of your drape. For example, if you need drapes that are 96”, then divide this number by 5. Your banding should be about 19.2” in width. When cutting your panel, remember to add extra fabric for stitching and hemming.

Add a Ruffle

Ruffles are charming and feminine when done right. And they can save you from letting go of drapes that are just too short for a space.

The most crucial detail to pay attention to when adding ruffles to pre-owned drapes is fabric selection. As mentioned earlier, you need to select a fabric that has the same weight as the fabric on your curtains. Something too light or too heavy will distort the look of your curtains.

To get good, full gathers you’ll want a length of fabric that is twice the width of your curtain panel. If you want something less impactful, then go with 1.75x the width of your panel. Also, account for finished edges.

You may have to pick out the hem of your drapes before sewing your ruffles. And depending on the weight of your ruffle, you may or may not need a curtain weight.

Add Length with Trim

Trim is great when you want to introduce texture to otherwise simple drapes. Alternatively, it can also add some length to thrifted drapery panels.

Bullion and tassel trims are definitely the easiest to DIY. You can sew bullion and fringe trims with a sewing machine. The only skill you’ll really need is knowing how to sew in a straight line.

For this method, you’ll be able to add about 4-5” in max length.

Important to note however is that by adding trim to your panels, your washing methods may be limited to dry cleaning. 

Use a Cornice

Cornices are a staple in the Grandmillennial style. And luckily you can use them strategically to give the illusion that your drapery panels are an appropriate length.

You have some options on how your cornice is finished. Cornices can be painted, stained or upholstered. For solid-colored drapery, you can color match the cornice to the color of your drapery panels. 

Otherwise, you can go for a contrasting look. You can draw colors from the panels or select new patterns that work well with your drapes.

If you can get your hands on spare matching fabric, you can make a matching upholstered cornice. This will make your window treatments look cohesive. And it’s very reminiscent of something Mario Buatta and other traditional designers would do.

When you go to hang your drapes, you can bring them down just enough to where the cornice conceals a few inches from the top. The cornice will thus act as a crown and will create the illusion that the drapes are longer than they appear.

That’s all I have for you. Hopefully, these tips will help you solve your design dilemmas. If you have any questions, let me know below!

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