Tips for Adding Trim to Your Curtains - dummies

By Mark Montano, Carly Sommerstein

A coordinating or contrasting trim for your new window treatment adds style and covers up unfinished or not-so-perfectly-sewn hems. Use trim to soften the look of a crisp fabric or to draw the eye upward or downward.


If you can, buy your trim at the same time you buy your fabric, simply because mixing and matching is easier when you have the fabric and trim selections in front of you. If you must use two sources, keep samples nearby.

Trim needs to enhance the look you’re trying to achieve without overwhelming it. Here are some ideas for trims that complement various fabrics and styles:

  • If you want to add a bit of festivity to curtains made from Mexican blankets or from fabric that resembles a serape, try ball fringe.

  • If you have Victorian-style formal velvet draperies, bullion fringe is great (and your cat will love it, too!).

  • If you’re going for a Louis XIV look with ornate brocade fabric, add some tassel fringe to complement it.

  • If hanging fringe doesn’t suit your taste — if you’re afraid your toddler will make a day of pulling it off — consider adding a ribbon trim. It adds a bit of interest but doesn’t sway in the breeze (and can’t be tugged at by curious little hands).

    Rickrack is another great option. This wavy-shaped, lightly textured edging material comes in many sizes and gives an old-fashioned or country feeling. It looks great on informal treatments; gingham cafe curtains with rickrack are a kitchen classic.

  • If you want to elongate your windows, add trim to the top and bottom of a treatment to draw the eye up and down. You can magnify this effect by choosing a trim with hanging threads, such as fringe or tassels. The longer the trim and the more it hangs down, the stronger the enhancement.

If you plan to wash your window treatment, you have to preshrink your trim. Some trim is washable by hand, but much of it shrinks a great deal when washed — for example, trim with rayon content is especially notorious for shrinking — which pushes your budget up a bit, because you need more than expected.

Test a sample first before you commit to your total yardage. Some trim isn’t washable under any circumstances, especially those trims with delicately fringed or tassled skirts or beads of any sort. Sequins that are glued on instead of sewn may pop off when exposed to water. When in doubt, ask a salesperson to evaluate your potential trim purchase, and bring along your project book that contains your fabric swatch and care information from the bolt or cylinder tag.

The following are some quick tips and tricks that can make your job working with a trim much easier:

  • Don’t be afraid of corners. Going around corners to add trim is easy. You may have to fold your trim a bit if the curve is tight; simply take the heading and pin a small pleat in it at the corner and stitch it in place.

  • Don’t stress out your trim! Never stretch decorative trim to gain length because doing so can cause the area where the trim is attached to pucker or buckle.

  • Don’t cut your trim until you’ve sewn it all the way onto your window treatment. You may find that you need a bit extra at the ends, so you can wrap the trim from the front around the edge onto the back of your fabric for a more finished look. If your trim is too bulky to wrap around, clip it at the edge and overcast it by hand.

  • Don’t remove the chainstitch on trim with ornate fringed skirts. The stitching keeps the skirt yarns flat. Don’t remove it until you’re finished attaching it, because the stitching keeps the fringe out of the seam when you sew, and it also keeps it from getting unruly around hot or even regular glue.