In episode 9 of The Sew Much More Podcast: 30-Minutes with Workroom Tech (air date February 13, 2019), Ceil DiGuglielmo and Susan Woodcock talk about box pleated valances.
Current trends are for more simple and tailored styles with clean lines, which means as far as top treatments go… box pleated valances are still very popular.
Boxed Pleated Valance Basics
A basic box pleated valance is when you have a straight hem across the bottom, and the finished width is divided into sections. Usually it’s equal sections or "boxes", but you can get creative with the sections to have some larger than others. The fullness is folded to the reverse side. See the sketch below of a basic box pleated valance.
If it’s a solid or non-directional print or weave, then you can railroad the fabric for no seams, or only one seam hidden in a pleat. That’s a winner!
With a print fabric, it's more complicated. Susan recommends a scale drawing on graph paper which can then be blown up to full size pattern paper. "That’s when I get out the graph paper, roll out the fabric and start making a cut plan" said Susan, adding "if the fabric is a floral for example, then I will map out the motif to see how it will fit on the sections or boxes”.
You may need to adjust the size of the boxes to fit the pattern motif. In the drawing below, you can see the difference between using three boxes or four boxes for the same width and length on a box pleated valance with a scalloped bottom edge.
There are many options for using pattern motifs. If there’s more than one flower in the fabric to choose from, then it might look better to mix them up, especially if there’s an odd number of boxes. For example; if the valance has five boxes or sections, mark the sections on the pattern as A-B-A-B-A. On the fabric you will select three “A” motifs, and two “B” motifs.
Seams and Pleats
Paper patterns allow you to mark seams and folds, and other notes for cutting and sewing. Susan shared that it's better to make a mistake on paper that you can tape back together, or throw in the recycling bin, than on the client’s fabric. "I like the pattern paper from Rowley Company that is marked in 1 inch increments, but you can also use craft paper", she shared. The scale drawing blown-up to full size on the pattern paper. You will add for the pleats, and mark the seams.
Seams are to be hidden behind a pleat, and not in a fold. Susan suggests marking seam lines with a color marker, so they are not confused with fold lines, adding "my patterns have all kinds of notes and reminders on them". The seam line is where you cut the pattern apart to create individual pieces. Add notes on the pattern pieces like “add a seam allowance” or "add board mounting allowance". Susan enjoys making patterns and likes sharing this in classes. "It helps students to understand the process before cutting fabric. Pattern making is a great way to learn" Susan said.
Cutting the Face Fabric
The pattern pieces are used to cut the face fabric. Mark the centers of each piece and place the paper pattern pieces on each flower or design on the fabric, adds seam allowances, hem allowance, and the top allowance for board mounting or sewing a banding piece.
It's very important to remember… the CENTER of the paper might not be the CENTER of the valance because of the hems and allowances. Mark that on your pattern!
Sewing the Hems
For a straight valance hem, sew the lining and face fabric together with a seam that is the size that you want the hem to be. For example; for a 1-inch hem allow 2” extra for the face fabric and sew the face fabric and lining right sides together with a 1-inch seam allowance. Turn the fabric over and around and press with an iron for a 1” reveal of fabric on the back. This creates a neat, doubled hem. For valances where the inside of the side edge will show, Susan prefers a pillow cased seam. See the video below for a quick how-to sewing tutorial.
For shaped box pleated valances with a scalloped or arched hem, Susan recommends that you add micro welt cord in the edge. "That’s just a given. It is so much easier to turn and press with micro welt" said Susan, adding "it’s not an option for my clients. If they order a shaped bottom style then they get micro welt cord. If the designer doesn’t choose a specific fabric then I will use the face fabric for a self welt”.
Another thing to remember with shaped bottom edges on valances is that you will see the lining when it is viewed from below, so a neat finished bottom edge and back is important.
Lining vs. Facing on Bottom Edges
Susan prefers to completely line the back with a complimentary fabric. This could require blackout as lining, or interlining. Sometimes a common white sateen lining works fine if the fabric is a white background print. Susan shared that "It’s just so much easier to add a lining out of a contrast or complimentary fabric than cutting and sewing pieces and adding them to the lining to create a facing". She explained that when you add a facing to the back edge you have shadowing to deal with. "Yes, I’ll do it, but it’s not my first choice and it takes longer which adds to the overall labor cost".
Measuring the Finished Length
After the lining is sewn, press the hem or bottom edge, and over the entire valance so it’s neat and square and then mark the finished length. "I love the gridded worktables for this, and also the clear quilters rulers", Susan shared. "I’ll mark the ruler with blue tape so it’s easy to see for marking the cut line and use a fabric stapler to secure the fabrics together at the top, instead of pins".
Before board mounting, the valance is folded up on the worktable to make sure it looks okay, and the width is measured. The pleats can be lightly pressed with an iron.
If the valance is stapled to the board, a cover of matching fabric is attached face down with tack strip, flipped and wrapped around to the very front edge of the board, so the staples will be hidden under the front of the valance. There are many different approaches to covering the board. However you do it, the goal is to not see any wood, staples or cut edges after the valance is installed.
You can also attach box pleated valance to the board with Velcro®. Susan recommends this for large windows. "You can install the boards butted end-to-end instead of hinging, and then attach the valance to the boards. You just walk in with your stack of boards and a nice, folded valance in a bag". It's much easier than hinging boards with valances attached.
If the valance is installed on the top of the board, a top band is sewn to the valance, and the loop strip is sewn to the band. Hook strip is stapled to the board.
For ceiling mounted valances, or valances on a shaped board or bow, Susan will sew welt cord to the top and sew the loop strip to the welt cording seam allowance; fold down and hand tack here and there, and on each end. The hook strip is stapled to the ¾” edge of the board. The welt cord also helps fill in gaps at the ceiling.
If you would like to learn how to make box pleated valances, this style is included in
Step-by-step instructions can be found in Susan's book
Singer Sewing Custom Curtains, Shades and Top Treatments.